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Women's World Ch. 2017 Final G2: Good Night, Bad Knight!

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 01/03/2017

In the second game of the four-game finals for the Women's World Championship 2017, Tan Zhongyi managed to put immense pressure on birthday-girl Anna Muzychuk with the white pieces. She played a technical game, perfectly suiting her style, and won thanks to the bad knight in her opponent's position. Illustrated report by GM analysis by Jacob Aagaard.

Women's World Ch. 2017 Final G2: Good Night, Bad Knight!

Photos by David Llada


After an insipid fight in the first game where Anna Muzychuk got absolutely nothing with the white pieces, it was Tan Zhongyi's turn to put pressure on the Ukrainian. Muzychuk will end up creating some notable records if she becomes the world champion—she will become one-half of the only pair of siblings to have been world champions in the same sport, and additionally, she will also be the only female to hold the world title in three different time controls of the game.


For China's Tan Zhongyi, it would be a story of grit and merit to become the world champion despite starting the tournament without a GM title. She has eliminated most of the big guns playing the event, two of them in an Armageddon, and has reached the finals.


FIDE, in order to avoid a unique situation (embarrassment?) where a non-GM becomes the World Chess Champion, has bestowed the GM title on Zhongyi. (Kidding, it is a rule). But this is in keeping with the tradition of such KO-world championships where almost anyone of the 63 players playing could become the champ, mathematically.

Meanwhile, Evgeny Miroschenko and Anastasia Karlovich were celebrating Anna's birthday—she turned 27.

So how did Muzychuk crack under pressure? Explaining in his lucid notes is:

Image result for jacob aagaard

World-class trainer and currently the MVP in chess writing, Jacob Aagaard, is our guest analyst commentating on the game. In this picture, he is receiving the ECF Book of the Year Award in 2010 from Viswanathan Anand. Read more about his upcoming book tour in India that begins on March 25 in Mumbai.

Tan Zhongyi-Anna Muzychuk (Annotations by Jacob Aagaard) 

[Event "FIDE Women's Chess Championship 2017"]
[Site "Sharjah"]
[Date "2017.02.25"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Zhongyi, Tan"]
[Black "Muzychuk, Anna"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D43"]
[WhiteElo "2502"]
[BlackElo "2558"]
[Annotator "Jacob Aagaard"]
[PlyCount "111"]
[EventDate "2017.02.18"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "UAE"]
[SourceDate "2017.03.01"]
[SourceVersionDate "2017.03.01"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Qd3 {White is currently struggling
to prove any advantage against the Semi-Slav, so this choice is certainly no
better than any other.} dxc4 {The most commonly played move.} (5... b6 $5 {
is very interesting} 6. cxd5 cxd5 {is probably playable for both sides.}) 6.
Qxc4 b5 7. Qd3 a6 $5 (7... Nbd7 8. e4 b4 {is more theoretical, but I see
nothing wrong with Muzychuk's move.}) 8. e4 c5 {I think this is a
psychologically poor decision by Muzychuk. Tan is a typical Chinese player
with a great technique, who does not really make mistakes or poor decisions.
On the other hand, her games can be a bit uninspiring and it is unlike to see
her outplay grandmasters with big strategies, wild attack or great opening
preparation. But play a few inaccurate moves against her in the endgame and
you are in with a shot.} (8... Bb7 {was the flexible choice.} 9. e5 Nfd7 10. a4
c5 $1 11. axb5 axb5 12. Rxa8 Bxa8 {with even chances is just one possible
direction such a game could take.}) 9. dxc5 $1 {This is both the best move and
the one that benefits White's strengths the most.} Bxc5 10. Qxd8+ Kxd8 11. Bd3
Bb7 ({For those interested in opening theory, the best way to equalize here is
} 11... Nbd7 $1 12. O-O Bd6 13. Re1 Ng4 {but there is nothing spectacular
wrong with what Black played in the game.}) 12. e5 Ng4 $2 {This is a common
pattern in chess. A few inaccurate moves ends with a real mistake. There are
two patterns. A general lack of feeling for the position that leads to poor
decisions, of which one of them is greater than the rest.Or a bad plan, where
everything would be fine if the mistake was not a mistake, but otherwise
would not make sense. I have a feeling that this belongs to the first category.
The move is bad because the knight is somewhat lost in space after this. It is
not going to e5 or f2, which would be one of the dream directions, but instead
to h6, which is an awful square.} (12... Nd5 13. Ne4 Nd7 {would still keep the
position more or less in balance.}) 13. Ne4 $5 ({Stockfish 8 comments that} 13.
Be4 $1 {is even stronger. But in any case, the position is unpleasant for
Black, even in the move Zhongyi chose.}) 13... Bb4+ ({I seriously doubt that
Muzychuk believed she was about to win material. But I still think we should
have a look at} 13... Bxe4 14. Bxe4 Nxf2 15. Bxa8 Nxh1 16. Bg5+ Kc7 17. b4 $1
Bb6 18. Ke2 Nf2 19. Rc1+ Kd7 20. h3 {and the knight is trapped. Bh4 is coming.}
) 14. Ke2 Nd7 15. Bf4 Nc5 $6 (15... f6 16. exf6 gxf6 {would be a serious
structural concession. But it is only one weakness and all the black pieces
are playing.}) 16. Nxc5 Bxc5 {The position has clarified somewhat. White has a
slight space advantage, mainly through control of the d6–square, a lead in
development, because his king is on the second rank and it is his move and
finally, Black has not managed to solve her problems with the knight on g4.}
17. Rhc1 $1 Bb6 18. Ng5 $1 {Tan reacts with great active moves.} Ke7 (18... Kd7
$5 {is perhaps marginally better, but this is not a very human move.}) 19. Be4
Bxe4 20. Nxe4 Rhc8 21. f3 Nh6 22. g4 $6 ({A normal move for a technical player.
White prevents the knight from rejoining the game. But it was stronger to
exploit the lead in development with:} 22. Bg5+ $1 {forcing the king back} Kf8
23. Bxh6 gxh6 24. Nd6 Rd8 25. Kd3 {and White's position is overwhelming.})
22... Ng8 23. Nd6 Rxc1 24. Rxc1 Kd7 $6 {This is either a simple blunder in a
difficult position or an attempt to bring the knight back into the game, at
the cost of a pawn.} (24... Kf8 $5 {with a passive and unpleasant position was
probably a better try.}) 25. Nxf7 {When you can take a pawn, you do it, of
course.} Ne7 (25... Rf8 {does not work on account of} 26. Rd1+ Ke7 27. Nd6 $1 {
, which it is possible Muzychuk missed the first time around.}) 26. Be3 Bxe3
27. Kxe3 Ng6 $6 {This is a big moment for White. She has won a pawn and if she
manages to fend off the counterplay, she will simply win the game.Tan spent
four and a half minute on this, but did not manage to solve the problem.} ({
Black is also in a bad way after} 27... Nd5+ 28. Kd4 Rf8 29. Ng5 Rf4+ 30. Ne4 {
, where she cannot take on f3:} Rxf3 $2 31. Nc5+ Ke7 32. Nxe6 Kxe6 33. Rc6+ {
and the resulting rook endgame is winning for White. But she could try 30...
g5!?, asking White to show how she wants to progress. White has an extra pawn,
but the conversion is non-trivial.}) 28. h4 $2 ({The winning line was} 28. Ke4
$1 Rf8 29. Ng5 Rf4+ 30. Ke3 {Black has to do something before the knight goes
to h3.} Ra4 31. Rd1+ Ke7 32. Rd6 {White is winning. For example:} Nf4 33. b3
Ng2+ 34. Kf2 Rxa2+ 35. Kg3 {and damage will happen briefly.}) (28. f4 $5 {
also works.} Nxf4 (28... Rf8 29. f5 {sort of transposes, except the h7-pawn is
on g6.}) 29. Kxf4 Rf8 30. Rd1+ Ke7 31. Rd6 Rxf7+ 32. Ke3 {and the rook endgame
appears to be winning for White, although the margin is not immense.}) 28...
Rf8 $2 {Muzychuk misses her chance to create resistance. At the moment the
game is going from bad, to worse, to awful, to "get out of my way, I need to
leave this place" for Black. She must have been on the lookout for a chance to
change this narrative. Here it was:} (28... Nxh4 29. Rh1 Ng2+ $1 (29... Nxf3 {
would have been worth contemplating for the human eye, had it seen it. White
is better after} 30. Rh3 $1 Ne1 31. Rxh7 Rc8 32. Rxg7 Rc2 {but things can
still go wrong.}) 30. Kf2 Ke7 $1 {This is, of course, the key move.} 31. Nd6 $1 {
It turns out this is the only way for White to keep some advantage.} (31. Ng5
$6 h6 $1 {is funny. Black continues to harass the white knight.}) (31. Kxg2
Kxf7 32. Rxh7 {also does not win. Black has} Rd8 33. Kg3 Rd5 34. f4 Rd3+ {
(therefore not in the c-file)} 35. Kh4 Rd2 {and Black has enough counterplay
to make a draw.}) 31... Nf4 32. Rxh7 Nd3+ 33. Kg3 Nxe5 34. Ne4 {Black should
make a draw with decent play.}) 29. h5 $1 Ne7 (29... Rxf7 30. hxg6 hxg6 31.
Rd1+ Ke7 32. Rd6 {and White wins.}) 30. Ng5 Nd5+ 31. Kf2 h6 32. Ne4 Ra8 (32...
Nf4 33. Rc3 {and White keeps control.}) 33. a3 a5 {The position has clarified
and White has an extra pawn for nothing. What follows is a perfect display of
technique from Tan Zhongyi.} 34. Nc3 $1 {The exchange of knights will make
everything simpler. The basic idea in endgames is to exchange pieces if you
are material up and pawns if you are material down.} Rc8 35. Rd1 Ke7 36. Nxd5+
{Played rather quickly. Tan knew she was winning.} exd5 37. Rxd5 Rc2+ 38. Ke3
Rxb2 39. Ke4 a4 40. f4 Rb1 41. Kf5 Rb3 42. Rc5 Kd7 43. Kg6 b4 44. axb4 Rxb4 45.
Kf5 Ke7 46. Rc7+ Kf8 47. Ra7 Kg8 48. g5 hxg5 49. fxg5 Rb6 50. Rxa4 g6+ 51. hxg6
Rb1 52. Ra8+ Kg7 53. Ra7+ Kg8 54. g7 Rf1+ 55. Kg6 Ra1 $5 {Just asking!} 56. Rf7
{There will be no stalemate, so Black resigned.} 1-0

With two more games to go, Muzychuk will look forward to making the most of her white in the next game. She surely won't opt for another French Rubinstein. What will she come up with this time?

(GM) Tan Zhongyi is in the driver's seat now? Will she join the illustrious list of Chinese female players to have become the world champion?

Watch all games from the tournament; download them to your ChessBase 14 and enjoy the games and improve your chess:


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