Elshan on the Women's World Champs: Kudos to Those Who Make it!

As CLO editor Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade covered in her article, Grandmaster Irina Krush eliminated her first round opponent International Master Inna Gaponenko from Ukraine in the first round of  the Women’s World championship 2018, in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia. The seven-time US Women’s champion controlled her nerves in tiebreaks after somewhat uneventful draws in the classical games to advance to the second round. Irina started the first game of tiebreak in a good fashion and obtained a clear edge out of the opening. Things looked good for Irina until things got messy.
[pgn]

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"]
[Date "2018.11.05"]
[White "Krush, Irina"]
[Black "Gaponenko, Inna"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E94"]
[WhiteElo "2434"]
[BlackElo "2420"]
[Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi "]
[PlyCount "143"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Ukraine"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "UKR"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O c6 8. d5 Na6
9. Be3 Ng4 10. Bg5 f6 11. Bh4 c5 12. Ne1 Nh6 13. f3 Qe7 14. Nd3 Bd7 15. a3 Nf7
16. b4 b6 17. b5 Nc7 18. a4 a5 19. bxa6 Rxa6 20. Qc2 Rfa8 21. Rfb1 Bh6 22. Bf2
Nd8 23. Ra2 Ne8 24. Bd1 Nb7 25. Rab2 Qd8 26. Qe2 Na5 27. Nc1 Bxc1 28. Rxc1 Nc7
29. Rcb1 Rb8 30. Bc2 Ne8 31. Bd3 Nc7 32. Be3 Ne8 33. g3 $1 {Preparing a
decisive breakthrough while black's pieces are totally paralyzed.} Ra7 34. f4
exf4 35. gxf4 Bc8 36. e5 $1 {Absolutely!} fxe5 37. fxe5 dxe5 38. Bxc5 Rab7 {
[#] After a Petrosian-like Performance where Irina completely outplayed and
out-classed her experienced opponent, things got a bit interesting!
I am sure this game would have been over in few moves had it not been a rapid
game!} 39. Bf2 {Still winning!} (39. Bb4 {was simpler.} Nd6 40. Ne4 Nxe4 41.
Bxe4 Ra7 (41... Rf7 42. Bxa5 {loses a piece.}) 42. Kh1 Bd7 43. Qd3 Bxa4 44.
Bxa5 Rxa5 45. Bxg6 {and blak will be mated soon.}) 39... Nd6 40. Nb5 (40. Ne4 {
was more forceful.}) 40... Bf5 41. Bxf5 Nxf5 {White is still totally winning
but things are always messy in time pressure.} 42. Qxe5 $2 {This gives life
the a5 knight which for a long time Irina had kept out of the game.} Nxc4 43.
Qe6+ Rf7 44. Re2 Ncd6 $2 {This move returns the favor.} (44... Qg5+ 45. Kh1 Ng7
46. Qh3 Nh5 $1 {And knight}) 45. Nxd6 Qxd6 $2 {Another serious error which
runs into a deadly pin. It was necessary to capture back with the knight. From
here on, Irina did not give a second chance to her opponent.} 46. Qxd6 Nxd6 47.
Rxb6 Rxb6 48. Bxb6 Rf5 49. a5 $1 {An important decision in time pressure. This
move demonstrates the value of quality of the pieces over the basic value of
the pieces!} Rxd5 50. a6 Nc4 51. Bf2 Rg5+ 52. Kh1 Ra5 53. a7 Kf7 54. Rc2 Nd6
55. Rc7+ Ke6 56. Rxh7 {Irina takes her time. She knows she is winning now as
the a7 pawn is untouchable!} Nb5 57. Rb7 Nxa7 {desperation but Rxb5 was an
imminent threat.} 58. Rxa7 Rb5 59. Kg2 Rb4 60. Be3 $1 {A neat way of bringin
the king forward by using the bishop as a shelter.} Kf6 61. Kf3 Rc4 62. Bf4 Rc5
63. h4 Rc6 64. Bg5+ Ke6 65. Re7+ Kf5 66. Rf7+ Ke5 67. Kg4 Rc4+ 68. Rf4 Rc6 69.
Bd8 Rc1 70. Kg5 Rc2 (70... Rg1+ {would be met by} 71. Rg4) 71. Bf6+ Ke6 72.
Kxg6 {A clean and well-deserved win. It would have been unjust not to win this
game after a great middlegame demonstration of how to stop black from
developing an attack in King's Indian defense.} 1-0[/pgn]
After winning the first game of such matches, professional players usually try to play solid dry lines to force a draw and qualify to the next round. However, this was not the case for Irina at all. Being an aggressive Sicilian player, she opted for a dubious line which is not easy to refute in a practical game if one is not familiar with the line. Her mild gamble paid off. Right out of the opening, White’s hasty attack had no merit but to force a draw. Gaponenko’s endeavor to keep the game going just let Grandmaster Krush to mobilize her pieces for a strong counter-attack which she converted into a win masterfully.
[pgn]

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"]
[Date "2018.11.05"]
[White "Gaponenko, Inna"]
[Black "Krush, Irina"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B60"]
[WhiteElo "2420"]
[BlackElo "2434"]
[Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi "]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Ukraine"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "UKR"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 Qb6 7. Nb3 g6 $6 {
(!!)  I give this two exclamation points for its practical value where
it confuses the white player who is desperate for a win to balance the match.
We will see its great psychological effect on Gaponenko in just a few moves.}
8. Bxf6 exf6 9. Qd2 $146 {Already out of the book!} Be6 10. O-O-O O-O-O 11. Nd5
$6 (11. f4 Bh6 12. g3 {with slight edge for white is probably has more merit
in a situation where white is desperate to play for win.}) 11... Bxd5 12. exd5
Ne5 13. f4 Bh6 14. Qc3+ Kb8 15. Rd4 f5 $1 {An important move! Now white should
either prove that she has something concrete against black's king ( which she
does not). In the long run black's dark square bishop would dominate the board
thanks to a1-h8 diagonal.} 16. Be2 Nd7 (16... Rhe8 {was probably better but
Nd7 is also good enough.}) 17. Rb4 Qc7 18. Rc4 Qb6 19. Na5 $2 {A blunder but
white didn't have anything better than the perpetual.} (19. Rb4 Qc7 {draw?! be
my guest!}) 19... Rc8 (19... Bg7 20. Nc6+ (20. Qxg7 Qxa5 21. Kb1 Rhe8 {and
back rank mate is decisive.}) 20... bxc6 21. Qxg7 Qe3+ 22. Kd1 Rhe8 23. Bf3 c5
{and black pieces would start to dominate the board starting immediately with
Nb6 next move!}) 20. Qa3 $4 {This just loses on spot!} Rxc4 21. Nxc4 Bxf4+ 22.
Kb1 Qc5 23. Qb3 Re8 24. Bf3 Nb6 25. Na3 Bxh2 $1 {Greedy but good!} 26. c3 h5
27. Nc2 Bg1 $1 {Classic! reminds me of Arnoson-Tal 1957!} 28. Nb4 Re1+ 29. Bd1
Qe3 30. Qc2 Nc4 31. Nd3 Rf1 32. a4 Qe4 33. Nc1 {don't know whether white
resigned or ran out of time but now black can simply pick up the bishop on d1.}
0-1[/pgn]
Tomorrow Irina will face none other than the current world women’s champion Ju Wenjun, who had a day off as she simply managed to outclass her first round opponent from Australia with two wins.
Ju Wenjun, Photo Cathy Rogers
Things didn’t go as sweet for the other American player, WGM Sabina Foisor who had a rough Olympiad and shared that sentiment with others on social media. Determined to turn the table here, Sabina (full disclosure: she is my fiancé, and I coach her!) buckled up and fought hard against former Women’s World champion Antoaneta Stefanova. Sabina was a heavy underdog, outrated by over 200 points. Still, things seemed promising for the rapid play off. Nevertheless, single moves and moments decide these matches. The crucial moment came in the following position, where despite black’s advantage, Caissa favored the Bulgarian GM.
[pgn]

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"]
[Date "2018.11.05"]
[White "Stefanova, Antoaneta"]
[Black "Foisor, Sabina-Francesca"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A07"]
[WhiteElo "2490"]
[BlackElo "2264"]
[Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi "]
[PlyCount "113"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Bulgaria"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "BUL"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Bf5 4. O-O c6 5. d3 e6 6. Nh4 Bg4 7. h3 Bh5 8. Qe1
Be7 9. f4 Nfd7 10. Nf3 Bxf3 11. Bxf3 Qc7 12. e4 dxe4 13. Qxe4 Nf6 14. Qe2 Nbd7
15. Nd2 Nb6 16. Bg2 g6 17. Nf3 Nh5 18. Kh2 Bf6 19. Ne5 O-O 20. b3 Bg7 21. Bb2
a5 22. c4 a4 23. Ng4 Nd7 24. Bxg7 Nxg7 25. b4 h5 26. Ne3 Nf5 27. Nxf5 exf5 28.
Rae1 Nf6 29. Qb2 Kg7 30. Re5 Rad8 31. d4 Qd6 32. d5 cxd5 33. Rxd5 Qc7 34. Rc5
Qd6 {[#] The position is balanced. White has the initiative on the queenside
but her king is too weak which prevents her from activities on the queenside.
Despite this cold assessment which roots in engine-based home analysis.
Stefanova gambled her way through...} 35. Bxb7 $2 {This move is almost losing
but....} Qd2+ $2 {This doesn't lose but it returns the favor. As Sabina
mentioned to after the game she simply forgot about Rf2.} (35... a3 $1 36. Qxa3
Qd4 $1 {Now black dominates the central e-d files while h4 could even further
weakens white's king. The position is on the verge of collapse for white
although it is not losing yet.} 37. Bc6 h4 38. gxh4 Rfe8 $1 39. Re5 (39. Bxe8
Qd2+ 40. Kg1 Rd3 {and black is winning.}) 39... Rh8 $1 {And it is hard to keep
white's pieces together despite her being three pawns up.}) 36. Rf2 Qxb2 $2 {
Post-shock syndrom. Black is still now losing but obviously been shocked by
missing Rf2. Usually in these situations it is hard to find strong moves like
the one Sabina had to save her game.} (36... Qe3 $1 37. Rc6 {This was Sabina's
concern but...} (37. Re5 Qb6 38. Bd5 a3 39. Qd2 Ne4 {And black in the game
with equal chances!}) 37... h4 $3 {This does not save but wins the game for
black!} 38. gxh4 (38. Qxf6+ Kg8 39. Rg2 hxg3+ {and mate is inevitable.}) 38...
Rd3 {and again mate is inevitable.}) 37. Rxb2 Rb8 38. Bg2 h4 39. gxh4 Rfd8 40.
b5 a3 41. Rf2 Rd4 42. Rc7 Ne4 43. Rc2 Rd3 44. Ra7 Nc5 45. Bd5 Re8 46. Rxf7+ Kh6
47. b6 Ree3 48. Bg2 Rd6 49. b7 Rb6 50. Rc7 Ne6 51. Rc8 Nd4 52. Rd2 Nb3 53. Rf2
Na5 54. b8=Q Rxb8 55. Rxb8 Nxc4 56. Bd5 Nd6 57. Rb3 1-0[/pgn]
Sabina tried her best in the second game but she had less experience in the position than her opponent. Despite the final result Sabina told me that she feels optimistic about her coming months and felt that it was the turning point she needed to start playing better. The two Americans celebrated Irina’s victory at a nearby Georgian restaurant. As for other matches, in most of them the higher-rated player prevailed. The biggest upset was Girya’s 2-0 loss to her Chinese opponent Mo Zhai, where she was over a hundred points higher rated than her young opponent. After losing in the first game when she got a totally winning position out of the opening, Girya’s second game didn’t go according to plan either. When the game seemed to fizzle out to a draw a blunder led a nice victory for the Chinese! https://twitter.com/chess24com/status/1059077880175570947 Tomorrow the round starts at 5 am EST!  Kudos to those who make it!

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