Having won the principal game against Antoaneta Stefanova, with whom she had divided the first place before the round, Chinese Zhao Xue took the leadership at the 5th FIDE Women Grand Prix.
Zhao Xue – Stefanova Antoaneta. 1 - 0
Slav defense was played. White sacrificed a pawn to take the initiative during the shift to the middlegame. White regained a pawn and had space advantage in the middlegame. After 15…h5 both moves: 16.h4 – to provide a Knight’s position, and 16.f3 – to open lines for the attack – deserved attention.
24…Rd8 was dubious. White transferred their play from queenside to kingside, broke the coordination of Black pieces and won.
Zhao: It was a very interesting game, and the opening was also interesting. I sacrificed a pawn, attacked in the middle, took initiative and finally got a piece. Move e4 was an interesting step. Antoaneta did not find good defense and committed several errors.
Antoaneta: I agree with Zhao, I didn’t play well. 7. e4 is a typical move. I probably did a mistake by 14…b5, 14…b6!? deserves attention. My pieces got paralyzed, then timing problems began and I lost. 25. Rd8 also was very bad.
Q: Zhao, have you thought out 7.e4 on the board or it is a home prepared variation?
Zhao: 3… Bf5 was unexpected for me – that is why I found it on the board.
Q: Antoaneta, why did you get a pawn back and decided not to defense it by 21…Nf6?
Antoaneta: I thought that my position was normal at that time.
Q: Zhao, during previous press conferences you used to say that you were “lucky”…
Zhao: Today I played well.
Yildiz Betul – Hou Yifan. 0 – 1
The game was played in Moscow Variation of Sicilian defense. In the middlegame the struggle was centered around d5 square. White should’ve occupied d5 with a piece and press onto pawn d6, 22.Bd2 was a mistake. After exchanges were made on d5, Black started to counterattack at kingside. Critical mistake was made before the timing: after 39.f4 the position transformed into Queen endgame where Black had some extra pawns.
Hou: The opening was equal, but then I played better. After 40th move Queen endgame began and I realized the advantage.
Betul: 22.Bd2 was wrong. There was a pressure on d6, I played on queenside, while Hou attacked on kingside. I should’ve chosen 22.c4
Xu Yuhua – Batkhuyag Munguntuul. 1 – 0
Sheveningen variation of Sicilian defense was played. After the opening Black simplified with early 9…e5; parties made some piece exchanges and entered endgame basically in equal positions. Lack of early planning by Black and move 20…Bc6 caused their position to deteriorate. Then White played on disconnected Black pawns and won.
Xu: We early exchanged Queens and White had a slightly better position. In middle game I played weakly and did not make good moves.
Munguntuul: The opening was equal, then we exchanged Queens and position seemed good. I did not see 18.Nc5 Ne5 19.Bb5 with an initiative. Opponent tried to spread an attack and I should not let her Bishop to move to d4, her King also shifted to action, my pawns got disjointed, lost a pawn and the game as well. I think I should have played differently and used my King in center.
Q: Munguntuul, after exchange of Queens didn’t you get too confident?
Munguntuul: Maybe. It was a mistake to disconnect pawns.
Q: Do you often take risks and play without much calculations?
Munguntuul: It depends on the situation, though I prefer not to risk much. It was Tal who played by intuition, and of course I am not Tal.
Xu: Of course, in some situations you have to take risks and move fast to gain initiative, especially in timing. But I prefer to calculate my every move.
Shen Yang – Kosintseva Tatiana. 1/2 – 1/2
The game was played in Nimtsovich defense. If 10.Qc7 move was made, Black would given away a pawn and in compensation got better outlook for piece development: 10…Qd5 11.Rc1 Rc8. Zhu Chen and Koneru played exactly this opening yesterday. Kosintseva has applied a novelty 14…c5, which equalized the game. After the middlegame endgame rook-bishop-versus-rook-knight appeared. White sacrificed a pawn to play actively, but it was incorrect. The material advantaged Black failed to realized and game finished as a draw.
Yang: We repeated Zhu Chen and Koneru game that was played yesterday, until 14…c5. It was very interesting move. Though I calculated 15.d5, after but 15… Qb5 I did not like the position – so I exchanged pieces. In the Endgame I tried to complicate the game but Tatiana played very well and I played for the draw.
Tatiana: The game was played in Nimtsovich defense, and we received an equal position. After 14…c5 a difficult position ensued. White began to play too actively, especially with pawns on king side. Probably they should’ve played g4 and h4. As for me, instead of 37… h6 I could’ve included 37…Rd6 38. Ke3 h6 39. Bb4 Rd4 with unclear play. However, both sides did not make any serious mistakes and we drew.
Q: Yang, why did you sacrifice pawn e5?
Yang: It was a mistake.
Sebag Marie – Zhu Chen. 0 – 1
The game was played in Smyslov variation of Spanish opening. In the middlegame around the 15th move White had advantageous piece position, and on kingside had better pawn structure. Black could counterattack with heavy pieces and equalize position in endgame. Though 26.g4, 27.h4 moves seemed to be active, actually they led to inferior game. Black entered endgame with a winning position and did not waste this chance.
Koneru Humpy – Chiburdanidze Maia. 1 – 0
Nimtsovich defense was developed. White move 5.e4 enabled to play sharply. After 16. Rac1 White gained advantage, Black King was in disadvantageous position. White pieces got an opportunity to move freely. To display active play, Black sacrificed an exchange, concentrated their forces and got two Bishops. In the endgame White had a winning position, it seemed they should have waited for move 37.b4. In the endgame White had Rook, Bishop and two pawns, Black was left with Bishop, Knight and three pawns. Though White had advantage, they failed to devise a winning plan and conditions for a draw were ripe. Black committed a mistake by providing an opportunity to exchange White Rook for Bishop. Move 99.Bc2 was right and after a long play White won.
Humpy: The opening was normal. I think Re4 was the bad move. The position is very tactical but all the time I had counterchances. I don’t bc8 move, bf5 is much stronger after sacrificing of the exchange. The game much easier for me but I placed the pawns on the wrong squares and I gave a grip of white squares. It were difficulties I faced in the game b ut I managed to win.
Maia: I though I received some compensation after sacrifice I did not see exact moves. But I suppose the sacrifice was correct. Later my opponent gave me chances I did not realize, I should not have exchange Rooks on c5. She tormented me for long time. I do not know if there was a possibility for a draw, only computer can provide answers.