Xue vs Sara was one of the most dramatic games of the tournament, with the advantage bouncing from one player to the other much to their trainers' despair alternated with
ecstasy. The Chinese player chose an inspired opening, the Reti, thus taking her opponent out of her usual excellent preparation. Sara played relatively slowly, but quite well the early phase. She soon obtained an advantage and even a won position had she played:
22...Qxe3+ (23. Rf2 is met by 23... Bg3), followed by 23...Qg3 trapping the h4-knight or with a mate in sight on h2.
After 22... Qxg4
, the queen exchange suddenly yielded White an advantage, especially during the "lottery", aka the rather unpleasant time trouble... One of the favourable moments missed by Xue was when she played the natural:30.Ba3
. Instead, the pin created with 30.Bc4 could have decided the game in White's favour as the Chinese pointed out: 30... Kh7 31. Ba3 Ree8 32. Rd7 and the bishops are not bishops anymore but lethal rifles.
The chess tombola continued, White had several ways of achieving a draw, but the winner's attitude betrayed the Chinese who pushed things too far and eventually lost.
Zhao Xue shares the fate of her round 9 co-leader Nana Dzagnidze, dropping on a shared 3rd-4th, while Sara advances on a shared first with Ju Wenjun.Sara cannot withhold her happiness and she shouldn't!
Shared 1st and tomorrow White against Natalia ZhukovaNatalia Zhukova - Natalija Pogonina 1-0
In the game between the two Natalias, Zhukova-Pogonina, the latter deviated from the main course of theory, probably in an attempt to change the unfavourable trend created by her two consecutive losses the days before.Favourite pieces for Natalia? Perhaps the knights...
The Ukrainian didn't expect 6...Nb6
as 6...Bd6 is the main variation at top level, but in principle the position with two white knights vs two bishops remained interesting. Natalia Zhukova mentioned:
16...c5 as the best way to reach counterplay with Black, but Natalija Pogonina played slowly and somewhat passive with:16... Bd7
, eventually overlooking White's winning combination:21. Nxg6! fxg6
(obviously 21... hxg6 runs into 22. Qe5) 22. Qxe6+ Bf7 23. Qxe7
and there was nothing more for Black to do but clutching at straws.Antoaneta Stefanova - Valentina Gunina 1/2-1/2
We are used already with Antoaneta's habit to pull out a new rabbit from her magician hat, but this time the 37 minutes spent on 5.0-0
in a Reti Opening was quite confusing. On move 9 she had only 14 minutes left on the clock! Antoaneta confessed that she was so tired that she simply didn't feel how and when the time was flying away. True, the line she played, implying an early pawn sacrifice, requires high accuracy, which she proved with the strong:14.Qc4
, which threatens (as played further on in the game), Nxb7, getting the pawn back and weakening Black's structure further.Valentina is not the type of player to sit and wait, so after the energetic:14...e5
the position became messy for the time trouble, as it started to demand clear answers from White... with the seconds ticking away, choosing between various promising lines is not so easy, therefore Antoaneta went for the most rational and straightforward solution: simplifying until an obvious draw.Nino Batsiashvili - Humpy Koneru 1/2-1/2
For the fourth time in this tournament, Humpy played the Tartakower Queen's Gambit in her today's game against Nino Batsiashvili. The Georgian didn't create the hanging pawns with dxc5, but this allowed Humpy to obtain a mobile queenside majority with ...c5-c4
. She confidently stabilized the kingside position, repelling White's attacking attempts and both players agreed that Black should have won, given the very far advanced black c-pawn. Just one more square and the little pawn would have metamorphosed into a gorgeous lady, hadn't been Humpy's severe time trouble which made her hesitate.The best defense is a good offense
Nino's stubborness in defence was noteworthy as well and the game eventually ended in a draw... not without what could have been a hair rising moment for Black:
Nino played:60. Rc3
allowing Humpy the forcing 60... Rxc1 61. Qxc1 Qxe4+ 62. Rf3
(if 62. Kg3 Ne7) 62... Ne5 63. Qc8+
and a draw was agreed by perpetual. But White had another square available for the rook:
60. Rb3! and all of a sudden, 60... Rxc1 is no longer dangerous, since 61. Qxc1 Qxe4+ 62. Kg3 Qe5+ 63. Qf4 is possible and the rook on c3 is no longer hanging, while 62... Ne7 resource is no longer there either, as the b3-rook is pointing at b8...Harika Dronavalli - Pia Cramling 1/2-1/2Always focused & determined
The Queen's Gambit Accepted in Harika-Pia soon transposed to a reversed French Isolani structure. In a more or less stable position, Harika managed to squeeze water out of dry stone reaching an ending with space advantage, but according to her own confession, she found it harder to hit on the right plan than in positions with concrete play and attacking ideas.Good save for Pia
Pia's equivocal knight retreats ...Nf6-g8
caught Harika off guard. However, even in the final position, she could have tried playing on for a while but Harika didn't notice that she allowed a three-fold repetition and a draw had to be agreed.
Most of the players show signs of tiredness, but tomorrow there will be the last handshake, the last effort and, who knows, maybe the last shuffle at the top?!
By the Press Officer Alina l'AmiRound 10 photo gallery