One Blow, Then Another, and Another!

The battles in the Women’s World Cup are quite fierce. The “heavy artillery”, main rating favorites, joined the fray in the round 2. The main sensation of this round was the young Bibisara Assaubayeva defeating her famous compatriot Zhansaya Abdumalik who won the recent FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Gibraltar.

B. Assaubayeva – Z. Abdumalik

Slav Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Rc1 g6 9.Bd3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Bg7 11.0–0 0–0 12.e4
One of the main positions of the Moscow Variation. Black is considered to be in no trouble after 12...е5, but Zhansaya decided to go for a more complicated position.
12...Qe7 13.Qe2
Perhaps the immediate 13.e5 was more precise.
13...b5 14.Bd3 Bb7 15.e5 c5 16.Be4 Bxe4 17.Qxe4 Rab8
A novelty, but not quite a good one. In all other known games in this line, Black played a more precise 17...a6. The point is that if White plays 18.d5, like in the game, Black has a tactical blow 18...Nxe5 19.Nxe5 exd5, winning material in all possible lines.
18.d5! exd5
Now that the rook is on b8, importantly, 18...Nxe5 19.Nxe5 exd5 doesn’t work anymore because of the intermediate move 20.Nc6, attacking the black rook.
19.Nxd5 Qe6 20.Rfe1 c4 21.b4!
Bibisara takes the c5 square away from the opponent’s knight and creates the threat Nf4 and е6.

A significant positional error. Abdumalik weakens her king without getting anything in return.
22.Qd4 Nb6 23.Nf4 Qc6 24.Rcd1 c3 25.Qe3
Assaubayeva attacks quite energetically.

The decisive mistake. Now the black king’s position is hopelessly compromised, and White’s attack basically plays itself.
26.Nh5 c2 27.Rd6 Qc4 28.Rg6 Rb7 29.e6 Kh7 30.e7!
The decisive blow!
30...Kxg6 31.exf8=Q Bxf8 32.Ne5+
The knight fork finishes the game.
32...Kxh5 33.Nxc4 Re7 34.Ne5 Black resigned. An impressive achievement by the young Kazakh player!
Zhansaya won the second game on demand.

Z. Abdumalik – B. Assaubayeva

Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Qd2 g6 6.b3 Bh6 7.f4 f5 8.Bb2 Nf6 9.Bd3 Qa5 10.exf5 Bxf5 11.Nge2 0–0–0 12.0–0–0 Rhe8
One of the key positions of the line that became popular after the famous game Carlsen – Wojtaszek, Shamkir 2018.
A good novelty. In the only other game in this line, there followed 13.h3, but after 13...e5 Black had no trouble in the opening and eventually won, Ibarra Jerez – Sarana.
Probably too rash. Black should have mirrored her opponent with 13...Kb8. Perhaps 13...Bxd3 14.Qxd3 and only then 14...e5 is even more precise.
14.Bxf5+ gxf5 15.Qd3
An inaccuracy, even though it’s hard to find a good way here. White should have played the subtle 15.Qe1 with the idea to meet 15...exf4 with 16.Qh4.
Now the pawn is lost, and it’s not easy to get it back.
16.Qh3 Bg5 17.Rhf1 Re3 18.Rf3 Rde8 19.Nc1 Kb8 20.Rxd6 Qc5
20...Re1 was even stronger.

Black successfully solved her opening problems, but then made an oversight.
21...Nd4 22.b4!!
A stunning blow that’s easy to miss.
The point is that after 22...Qxb4 23.Rfxe3 fxe3 24.Qg3+, Black can’t play ...f4, protecting the g5 bishop.
23.gxf3 Qxb4 24.a3 Qc4 25.Rxd4! Qxd4 26.Ne4 Qg1 27.Nxf6 Bxf6 28.Bxf6
After a tactical shootout, White won material and then successfully converted it.
28...Qe3 29.Bb2 a6 30.Qh5 Rd8 31.h4 Ka8 32.Qg5 Re8 33.Qg2 Qe1 34.Qg5 Qe3 35.Qh5 Rd8 36.Nb3 Qg1+ 37.Bc1 Qd1 38.Qxh7 Qxf3 39.Qxf5 Qh1 40.Qf6 Rc8 41.Nd4 Qd1 42.Qxf4 Rc4 43.Qf8+ Ka7 44.Qf2 Ka8 45.Nb3 Qh1 46.h5 Rc8 47.h6 Qe4 48.Qd2 Qh4 49.Qd3 Rd8 50.Qf5 Qh1 51.Kb2 Re8 52.Qg6 Rc8 53.Be3 Qh2 54.Bd4 Black resigned.
Nevertheless, Bibisara handled this setback well and won the rapid tie-breaks.
Russian players show great confidence. Aleksandra Goryachkina won both games against Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, who recently transferred to United States chess federation; Polina Shuvalova crushed Mönkhzul Törmönkhiin from Mongolia in her characteristic positional style; Alexandra Kosteniuk left no chances to Deysi Cori, who represents Peru, and Kateryna Lagno outplayed Teodora Injac (Serbia) and won the pawn endgame in an elegant style.

T. Injac – K. Lagno

The position looks like a puzzle from Ivashchenko’s Manual of Chess Combinations, which was extensively studied by the author years ago. It’s obvious that the black king has to get to the pawns and help them, but how to do it? Kateryna finds a very precise way.
71...Ke5 72.Kf2 Kf4 73.g5 Kf5 74.Kg1 Kg4
Threatening ...Kg3.
75.Kh2 Kh5!
White is in zugzwang. 76.Kg1 is met with 76...Kxh4 77.g6 Kg3 78.g7 f2#, so the Serbian player resigned.
The young Leya Garifullina and the experienced Olga Girya also played a very interesting match. There was a fascinating tactical shootout in the first game.

L. Garifullina – O. Girya

Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 Bc5 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.Nbd2 Be6 8.0–0 Nd7
White didn’t gain any advantage in the opening, and after the inaccurate 9.b3, Olga reacted with the very principled
The immediate 9...g5 looked even stronger.
10.Bb2 0–0–0 11.Bc3 g5 12.b4 Ba7 13.Qb1 g4
Black’s attack is developing very swiftly.
14.Nxe5 Rhg8 15.Qb2

White’s position is obviously poor, but how is Black supposed to play?
Very logical, but precisely after this move, White finds an incredible defense. Black won with the straightforward 15...g3 16.Kh1 (16.hxg3 Rxg3 is even worse) 16...Nxe5 17.Bxe5 Qh6 18.Nf3 (18.fxg3 Qxd2–+) 18...gxf2, and the white king is absolutely defenseless.
16.Nxd7 loses to 16...g3.
16...Nxe5 17.Bxe5 Qxd2
White is a piece down, it looks like she might as well resign, but…

18.Bf4! Qe2 19.Rae1 Qf3 20.Qc1!!
The trap is sprung! Now the black queen can’t come back, and Leya consolidates her position.
20...f5 21.Re3 Bxe3 22.fxe3 fxe4 23.Rxf3 gxf3
Girya still had some winning chances in the subsequent struggle, but Garifullina managed to save the game with accurate play.
24.d4 Bc4 25.Kf2 Rd5 26.a3 Rh5 27.Qg1 Rg4 28.a4 b6 29.Be5 Kb7 30.a5 bxa5 31.bxa5 Kc8 32.h4 Rhxh4 33.gxh4 Rxg1 34.Kxg1 h5 35.Kf2 Kd7 36.Bf4 Be2 37.c3 Bc4 38.Bg3 Bd3 39.Bf4 c5 40.dxc5 c6 41.Bg5 Ke6 42.Bd8 Kd5 43.Bb6 Kc4 44.Ba7 Kxc3 45.Bb6 Bb5 46.Ba7 Kb4 47.Bb6 Bd3 48.Ke1 Draw.
Leya’s nerves proved to be stronger in the second game, and she deservedly progressed to the third round. A very interesting match against Russian vice-champion Polina Shuvalova awaits her.
Elsewhere, Azerbaijan’s Gunay Mammadzada played a very inspired attack against Laura Unuk from Slovenia.

G. Mammadzada – L. Unuk

Caro-Kann Defense

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.Bd3!?
Gunay goes for the main line of the Caro-Kann, but with the pawn on h4. We should point out that White will play h5 later in the game anyway.
8...Bxd3 9.Qxd3 e6 10.Bd2 Ngf6 11.0–0–0 Be7 12.Ne4 0–0 13.Kb1 Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Nf6 15.Qe2 Qd5 16.Be3
An interesting typical endgame could occur after 16.Ne5 Qe4 17.Qxe4 Nxe4, but Mammadzada had something else on her mind
16...Qb5 17.c4 Qf5+ 18.Ka1 Ng4 19.Bc1 Rad8 20.h5!
Threatening Nh4.

Perhaps it was better to prefer 20...c5 21.Ne5 Nxe5 22.dxe5 f6 23.exf6 Bxf6, like in the game Kravtsiv – Akopian.
The call to attack!
A significant error. Of course, Black is in great danger after 21...Bxh4 22.Rxh4, but still, after 22...Nf6 23.g4, she has 23...Qe4, and Black holds for now. Now, however, Gunay starts a crushing attack
22.f3 Nf6 23.g4 Qa5 24.g5
Energetic play! Still, 24.f4 was good too.
The decisive mistake. Of course, it’s hard to go for 24...Nh5 25.gxh6 Bf6, but this line was Black’s only hope.

One blow, then another, and another!
25...Nh7 26.Ne5 f6 27.Nxc6
Now Laura loses material.
White’s win after 27...bxc6 28.Qxe6+ Kh8 29.Rxh7+ Kxh7 30.Qf7 Rxd4 31.Qh5+ Kg8 32.Qxe8+ Bf8 33.Rxd4 is rather elegant.
28.Nxd8 Rxd8 29.Be3
White won an exchange and easily converted the material and positional advantage.
29...Nf8 30.Bf2 Bd6 31.d5 b6 32.dxe6 Nxe6 33.Bg3 Be7 34.Rxd8+ Bxd8 35.Re1 Kf7 36.Qd1 Qc5 37.Qd7+ Qe7 38.Qc6 f5 39.Rd1 Qe8 40.Rd7+ Kf6 41.Be5+ Kg6 42.Rxg7+ Black resigned. A fiery game!
Of course, we can’t overlook the game Guichard – Atalik, where Pauline also played a brilliant attack.

P. Guichard – E. Atalik

Queen’s Gambit

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bf4 dxc4 6.e3 Nd5 7.Bxc4 Nxf4 8.exf4 Nf6?!
A significant inaccuracy that gives White various tactical possibilities. The correct move was 8...Nb6 9.Bb3 Bd6 10.g3 Bd7 11.0–0 0–0 with complicated play.
The immediate 9.f5 was not bad too.
9...Be7 10.f5!
A blow in a strong point! Now Black faces very unpleasant pressure along the а2-g8 diagonal.
10...exf5 11.Qb3 0–0 12.Ng5!?

A desperate counterattack that suddenly changes the situation!
White shouldn’t have distracted herself with pawn-grabbing. After 13.Bxf7+ Kh8 14.Be6, there’s a lot of bleeding wounds in Black’s position.
And now it’s not all that simple.
14.Nxf7 Rxf7 15.Bxf7+ Kf8! 16.a4?
Leads to material losses. White should have played 16.Qc4 Rxb5 17.Qxb5 Kxf7, getting a position with a very unusual material balance. It’s hard to evaluate the occurring position, but I think that it’s roughly equal.
16...a6 17.Rfe1 axb5 18.a5
White’s position is difficult, but Pauline is ingeniously searching for counterchances.
18...Ra8 19.Qf3 Ra6 20.Bb3 Bd7 21.Qc3 Bd6 22.Ba2 Ne4 23.Qb3 Qf6
The first warning bell. Black easily won with the typical 23...Bxh2+ 24.Kxh2 (declining the sacrifice, 24.Kh1, also didn’t save White due to 24...Be6 25.d5 Qh4–+) 24...Qh4+ 25.Qh3 Qf4+ 26.Kg1 Qxf2+ 27.Kh1 Rh6.
Now White, at the very least, has an active queen.
24...Ke7 25.Qxh7 Kd8?!
After 25...Qxd4, Black’s position was still won, but now White gets serious counterplay.
Guichard seizes her chance.
26...c6 27.Bxe4 fxe4 28.Rxe4 Kc7 29.Qg8 Kb7 30.h3 Ra8 31.Qb3 Rf8 32.a6+ Ka7 33.Qe3

An inaccuracy that leads to big trouble. Black still retained control with 33...Bf4.
34.d5+ c5 35.b4 Qb6
Another inaccuracy. 35...Qc7 was more precise.

And now White delivers a crushing blow:
36.Re7!! Rd8
The decisive mistake. After 36...Bxe7 37.Qxe7 Rd8 38.bxc5 Qf6 39.Qe1, it was very hard to spot the hidden tactical blow 39...Bxh3, but still, Ekaterina could take a chance there. Now, though, it’s simple for White.
37.Rxg7 cxb4 38.Qxb6+ Kxb6 39.a7 Bf5 40.Rf7 Be4 41.Rd7 Ra8 42.Rxd6+ Kc5 43.Rc6+ Kxd5 44.Rb6 Kc5 45.Rb8 b3 46.Ra5 Black resigned.
Swedish veteran Pia Cramling still delights her fans – she defeated Monika Soćko, another experienced fighter, on the tie-breaks.

P. Cramling – M. Soćko

This position occurred after a complicated battle. The position is approximately equal here, but then Monika blunders.
30.Qe5 c4!
Black wins because of a double attack on e4 and b3.
31.e3 axb3 32.axb3 cxb3 33.Rxc8+ Bxc8 34.Qxe4 b2 35.Qc2 Rc7 36.Qb1 Bb7 37.Nxg6 Qc6 38.e4 Qxe4 39.Rd8+ Kf7 40.Ne5+ Kg7 White resigned.
In the second game, Monika was close to equaling the score with Black, but missed a hundred-percent chance.

P. Cramling – M. Soćko

English Opening

1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.e3 Nf6 5.Be2 Be7 6.0–0 0–0 7.d4 d6
Black needs to win, so Monika goes for the King’s Indian pawn structure.
8.d5 Nb8 9.e4 Nbd7 10.Ne1 Ne8 11.a3 Bg5 12.Nd3 g6 13.g3 Ng7 14.Bxg5 Qxg5 15.Qc1 Qe7 16.f4 exf4
White kept her advantage with 17.Qf4, but the game move was a mistake.

17.gxf4 f5
The complications are in Black’s favor.
18.e5 dxe5 19.fxe5 Nxe5 20.Qe3 Re8 21.Nxe5?!
21.Qxc5 was the only move. Now Black has a formidable attack.
21...Qxe5 22.Qxc5 f4 23.Qf2 Bh3! 24.Rfe1 Qg5+ 25.Kh1 Nf5

White’s position is clearly worse, but after 26.Rg1, there’s no direct attack in sight. In the game, however, Pia overlooked a crushing blow.
26.Bf1 Ng3+!! 27.hxg3 fxg3 28.Qc2 g2+ 29.Bxg2 Bxg2+ 30.Kh2 Rxe1
Black could finish the game immediately 30...Bf3 — the unforgiving computer promises a mate in 12! Still, winning the exchange doesn’t spoil anything.
31.Rxe1 Qh4+ 32.Kxg2 Qxe1 33.Ne4 Rf8 34.Nf2 Qe3 35.b3 Qe5 36.Qd2 Rf6 37.c5 Rf5 38.d6
Cramling is trying to create some counterplay.
38...Qxc5 39.Ne4 Qb5 40.Qd1 Qd7 41.Qd4 Kf7 42.Qc4+ Kg7?
Allows for an unexpected perpetual check structure.
A return courtesy. White could immediately draw with 43.Qc7 Rf7 44.Qc3+ Kh6 (44...Kg8 45.Nf6+ Rxf6 46.Qxf6 is dangerous) 45.Qd2+, and the black monarch has nowhere to hide.
43...Kf7 44.Qc4+ Kf8 45.Qc3
Black’s position is obviously won, and the simplest winning move was 45...Qс6. Monica was probably in severe time trouble, and so she decided to obtain some time on the clock, but after 45...Kf7 46.Qc4+, the position repeated for the third time, and Pia Cramling progressed to the next round, where she is going to face Alexandra Kosteniuk. A dramatic finish!
Elisabeth Pähtz (Germany) defeated Nurgyul Salimova (Bulgaria) in blitz. A true drama unfolded in the match between Olga Badelka (Belarus) and Ana Matnadze (Spain). The Belorussian player had to win on demand multiple times, and they ultimately got to the Armageddon…

O. Badelka – A. Matnadze

After a complicated struggle, both sides have chances, but Olga blunders a rook.
45.Rb4 Rxb4
Badelka probably thought that the e6 queen was undefended. Now White is a rook down, but time decides everything...
46.Qxe6 Rxe6 47.Rd8 Re7 48.Rc8 Kg8 49.Nd6 Rbb7 50.Ne4 Rb6 51.Nc5 Rbe6 52.Re8
There’s literally no time on the clock...
52...Kf7 53.Nb7 Kxe8 54.Na5 Kf7 55.Nc4
Black’s position is absolutely won, but the Spanish player lost on time. Olga won this nail-biting encounter, and now she’s going to face the world vice-champion, Aleksandra Goryachkina.
The battles are very fierce in this tournament! Let’s see what surprises the third round has in store for us.