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Sergey SHIPOV , grandmaster. The Round Five Review
September 14, 2008

The women's championship is far more interesting than men's! Women always play aggressive chess. Nobody is over-cautious or uses the defensive approach. Being a man, it is a bit offensive for me to admit that the girls are much closer to the great medieval ideals than the stronger gender is...

 

Kosteniuk - Cramling. That was a difficult game. There were so many tactical and positional opportunities that one can look at the same position from different angle. There was only one serious mistake in the game, which speaks for the high quality of play.

 

Aleksandra KOSTENIUK - Pia CRAMLING
French Defense

 

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nc6. An old move. Famous English master James Mason used to play it 120 years ago. Black combines development with pressure on White's center. The big drawback of the Black's knight position on c6 is that c7 pawn remains backward. Nowadays this line is not popular and is played for surprise value. It also helps to avoid the opponent's home preparation in the main variations like 4...Nf6 or 4...Bb4. However, Aleksandra was not affected by this a bit unusual move, and reacted in a right way.

4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e5 (the most ambitious continuation is 5.Bg5) 5...Ne4 6.Bd3. White opts to get rid of the strong knight on e4 and keep the other Black's pieces on passive positions.

6...Bb4 7.Bd2. The practice shows that the sacrifice on 3 (by playing 7.0-0) does not give White sufficient initiative: the position is closed and getting to the Black's king is hard.

7...Nxd2 8.Qxd2.

8...f6. The only way to use the strength of the knight on c6! There were games where Black started from 8...Bd7.

9.a3! The precise move order! In the variation 9.exf6 Qxf6! Black returns the bishop to d6 and gets a comfortable game.

9...Bxc3 (on 9...Ba5, 10.exf6 is good) 10.Qxc3 fxe5 11.dxe5. Declining all the temptations! The following nice play on the dark squares brings White nothing: 11.Bb5 exd4 12.Nxd4 0-0! 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.Nxc6 Qf6! 15.Qxf6 gxf6 16.Ne7+ Kf7 17.Nxc8 Rfxc8, and Black equalized in Babula-Matlak, Czech Republic 2005.

11...Qe7. A flexible move. Cramling keeps the opportunity to castle both sides. Of course it was possible to make the choice right now: 11...0-0. However, Black is still far away from equality. For example, in Hjartarsson-Rozentalis, Tilburg 1994, Black made several natural and logical moves, but did not get any counterplay: 12.h4 Qe7 13.Qd2 Bd7 14.Qe3 Be8 15.c3 Bh5 16.Nd4! Nxd4 17.cxd4 Qf7 18.Rc1 c6 19.f3 Bg6 20.Be2! h6 21.g3 Bh7 22.Kf2 Qe7 23.Kg2 Rf7 24.Rc3 Raf8 25.b4 a6 26.h5!, and White develops strong positional pressure on the opponent.

12.h4. Kosteniuk does not reveal her plans, too. It is always useful to gain some space on the kingside.

12...Bd7 13.b4. A large-scale play on the whole board. If Black won, I'd "White overextends herself"! However nothing is too much for the winners. It is not the greed time yet: 13.Ng5 0-0-0 14.Bxh7? g6! 15.Bxg6 Rdg8, and White loses a piece.

13...a6. One cannot ignore the b4-b5 threat: 13...0-0 14.b5 Rxf3! 15.gxf3 d4 16.Bxh7+! Kxh7 17.Qd3+ Kh8 18.bxc6 Bxc6 19.0-0-0 Rf8 20.Rh3, and the resulting position is in White's favor as Black's king is not safe.

14.h5. A new move. In the encounter between Kuczynski and Bany in Warsaw 1990 Black missed several good opportunities: 14.Kf1 0-0-0 (14...0-0!) 15.Rb1 Na7 16.Nd4 Rdf8 17.g3 Nb5 (17...g5!) 18.Bxb5 Bxb5+ 19.Kg1 Bc4 20.a4 Qf7 21.Rh2 Qh5 22.f4! Qg4 23.Qe3 h6 24.h5 g5 25.hxg6 Qxg6 26.Rh4 Rfg8 27.Kf2, and Black was slowly overplayed.

14...0-0-0. Not an obvious decision. The queenside does not look safe.14...0-0! with the idea of sacrificing an exchange on f3 followed by capturing the e5-pawn seems good. If it is impossible right away, then Black can increase pressure on the f-file. I did not find the advantage for White in my analyses.

15.Qd2. This is a good maneuver: the queen goes to 3 to strengthen the center, while the c3-square would be useful for c2-pawn.  

15...Kb8. After 15...Rhf8 16.Qe3! it seems that Black cannot convert her development lead into something more. On 16...d4 White has 17.Qe4!, and on 16...Be8 there is 17.c3! The risky 15...g5 dosn't work due to 16.Qxg5 Qxg5 17.Nxg5 Nxe5 18.Bxh7!

16.c3 (d4 is under White's control) 16...Rdf8. Is it the right rook? Moving the other looks more natural: 16...Rhf8 17.Qe3 h6.

17.Qe3.

17...Na7? This knight maneuver is a very poor move which has no connection to the previous one. Black basically provokes White's mating attack. The calm 17...h6 was the move to play. On 18.a4 Black counterattacks: 18...Rxf3! 19.gxf3 d4!, and White can collapse very quickly. In case of 18.Nd4, 18...Qg5! looks very strong. If 18.Rb1, Black could react by 18...Na7, and there is no a3-a4 anymore.

18.a4! (of course b4-b5 is on the agenda) 18...c5. The only practical chance.

Building some kind of a fortress doesn't work: 18...Qe8 19.b5! axb5 (19...a5 20.b6!) 20.axb5 Nxb5 and White goes straight ahead: 21.Bxb5 Bxb5 22.Qa7+ Kc8 23.Nd4 Ba6 (23...Bc6 24.Qc5!) 24.Rxa6! bxa6 25.Qxa6+ Kd7 - Black is helpless. White can even play the slow 26.g3 in order to avoid the return exchange sacrifice: Rf8-f4xd4. Then White castles, develops the rook and wins.

After 18...Nc8 White should not attack immediately. On 19.b5 there is 19...a5! That is why it is better to start with 19.Nd4! Important to notice that White has an advantage on both sides of the board.

19.bxc5. On 19.0-0 Black can change the pawn structure to her favor by 19...d4! 20.cxd4 cxb4! The continuation 19.Qxc5 gives White a solid advantage in the complicated endgame due to a strong maneuver Rh1-h4-g4. However, it is almost impossible to make such a move from the psychological point of view. How can one trade the queens when the files leading to the opponent's king are getting opened?

 19...Rc8 20.Rb1

20...Qxc5. Cramling helps the opponent to solve the psychological problem. 20...Ka8 provides more practical chances, though here Black has big problems too: 21.Rh4! Rxc5 (in case of 21...Qxc5 22.Qxc5 Rxc5 23.Kd2 the threat Rh4-g4! is very unpleasant. The move 21...Nc6!? is impossible to make for a human being) 22.Rhb4 Rc7 (22...Bc6 23.Nd4!) 23.Qb6 Qd8 (23...Bc8 24.Bxa6!) 24.Ng5! Rf8 25.Bxa6 bxa6 26.Nf7! Qc8 27.Nd6 Qd8 28.Qxa6 Qg5 (28...Bc6 29.Rb7!) 29.Rb7 Qxe5+ 30.Kf1 Qe3 31.Rb8+! and White wins.

However, you should agree that not everyone can find these variations at the board.

21.Qxc5 Rxc5 22.Bxa6 Rc7. Black kills the intrigue by turning to passive defense. A bit more persistent is 22...Bc8 23.Rh4 Rc6! 24.Bd3 Rxc3 25.Kd2 Ra3, and so on.

23.Kd2 Bxa4 24.Rb4 Bd7 25.Rhb1 Bc8 26.Nd4 Re8 27.f4. Black defended the weaknesses, but it seems all her pieces are totally stoned and can only stay and wait for the death to come...

27...Ree7 28.Rb6 h6 29.g3! This is the move of an experienced player! There is no need to hurry.

29...Re8 30.Rd6 Ree7 31.Bf1 (it's time!) 31...Bd7 32.Bh3 Nc8 (the threat to the rook on d6 is not for real) 33.Bxe6 Nxd6 34.exd6 Bxe6 35.dxe7 Bd7.

36.Nf5! it is impossible to take care of e7 and not to lose many pawns. On 36...Be8 the easiest continuation is 39.Re1. Black resigns.

Hou Yifan - Koneru. This game was divided into two parts: before Black's 21st move and after that.  An equal game was replaced by the one-way onslaught.

Ruy Lopez C95

HOU YIFAN - Humpy KONERU

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 (the Breyer variation) 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 c5 13.d5 g6 14.Nf1 Nh5 15.Bh6 Re8.

16.b3! A standard move in this structure which excludes two opportunities: c5-c4 and Nd7-c5. The Indian recently played 16.Qd2 Bf8 17.Bg5 Be7 18.Bh6 Bf8 19.Bg5 Be7 20.Bh6, and here it was drawn in Hou Yifan-Koneru, Krasnoturinsk 2008. So the young Chinese was fully prepared for the game and as we would see she felt the nuances of the position better than her more experienced opponent.

16...Bf8. I have to refer to the old material: 16...Bf6 17.a4 Bg7 18.Bg5 Qc7 19.g3 Nhf6 20.Qd2 Nb6 21.Ne3 h5 22.a5 Nbd7 23.Ng2 Nh7 24.Be3 Ndf6 25.c4 Bc8 26.Kh2 bxc4 27.bxc4 Bd7 28.Ng1 Rab8 29.Reb1 Kh8 30.f3 Ng8 31.Ne2, and the game Hartston-Gligoric, 1973, ended in a draw.

17.Be3 (it is clear that exchanges are good for Black, who needs more space) 17...Nb6 (the idea of the move is probably transferring the bishop from b7 to d7) 18.a4! (quite in time) 18...bxa4. It is not a mistake yet, but a rather responsible move. There was no need to open the. 18...Qc7 looks more reliable. For example, on 19.Bd3 Black can surprise the opponent with 19...f5! And if White attacks the b5 pawn with 19.Qe2, Black gets extra tempi comparing to the actual game: 19...bxa4 20.bxa4 Nf4! 21.Qd1 a5!, and the passive bishop finds his luck on 6.

19.bxa4 Nc4.

20.a5! I would not be afraid to say this is a stroke of a genius! Hou Yifan wins some space, leaves Black's pieces with no counterplay on the queenside and offers a poisonous gift to the opponent.   

20...Bc8 21.N3d2 Nxa5? And Koneru takes the poison! This is a fatal positional mistake. I cannot find the explanation to such a move of the highly skilled Indian player. A sheer blowup!

21...Nxe3! gives Black a decent game: 22.Nxe3, and here Black should find a place for the rook by 22...Rb8! before starting the attack on the kingside. If White gets overexcited by the queenside play, where she has an advantage, a counter attack against her king can be very refreshing...

22.Ra3! Bd7. After 22...c4 Black's structure becomes incredibly weak: 23.Qb1! Nb3 24.Nxc4 Nc5 25.Bxc5! dxc5 26.Ba4, and so on. And 22...Nb7 23.Qa1 a5 24.Rb1 Nf4 25.Ba4 Re7 26.Bc6 Qc7 27.Nc4 leads to an extremely passive set up.

23.Qa1 Nb7 (a typical example for the Ruy Lopez: the knight on b7 is a symptom of an incurable disease) 24.Rb1! Qc7 25.Rxa6 Rxa6 26.Qxa6. White approaches Black's home fronts.

26...Nd8. The knight cannot reach f7. 26...Rb8 runs into 27.Qa7!

27.Nc4! White stresses a weakness in Black's position: the d6-square.

27...f5.  27...f6 is a bit more persistent. White would have to put some corrections into the plan: 28.Nb6! Nf7 29.Nxd7 Qxd7 30.Ba4 Qc8 31.Qc6! Rd8 (31...Qxc6 32.dxc6!) 32.Rb7 Ng7 33.Nd2!, and another knight on c4 will complete the picture of full domination. Such positions cannot be saved!  28.Qb6! (the most accurate decision - Black loses material in all the variations) 28...Qxb6. On 28...Qc8 it is possible to capture the pawn on d6, but 29.Qa7!, threatening Nc4-b6, is more beautiful.

29.Nxb6 (bishop on d7 is in trouble) 29...f4. Unlike the variation with the pawn on f6, Black could not play 29...Re7 due to 30.Bg5!

30.Nxd7 (30.Bxc5 is not bad too: 30...Bxh3 31.Ba4!) 30...fxe3 31.Nxe3. White won a pawn and keeps the pressure. The rest is just a matter of technique.

31...Bh6 32.g4! (and of course the tactics!) 32...Re7 33.Ba4 Nf4 34.Rb8! (the piece responsible for the defeat of the Black is killed first) 34...Kg7 35.Rxd8.

The following play can be explained only by Koneru's disappointment of: 35...Rf7 36.Nd1 Nxh3+ 37.Kg2 Nf4+ 38.Kf1 Bg5 39.Rb8 Nd3 40.Rb6 Rf4 41.Bb5 Nxf2 42.Nxf2 Bh4 43.Rxd6 Rxf2+ 44.Kg1 Rf4 45.Nxe5 Rxe4 46.Rd7+ Kg8 47.Nf3 Rxg4+ 48.Kf1 Bf6 49.Rc7 g5 (49...Bxc3 50.d6!) 50.Rxc5 Rf4 51.Kg2 g4 52.Nd4 h5 (52...Bxd4 53.cxd4 Rxd4 54.Kf2! h5 55.Ke3 Rd1 56.Be2 with the victory) 53.Rc8+ Kf7 54.d6 h4 55.Be8+. And Black finally resigns.

Which square on the board is the most important? The semi-final match of two best players from the East provided us with the answer - a5! The most crucial events of the both games happened exactly on a5. In the first game Koneru made a positional blunder by capturing a pawn on a5 with the knight. In the second game Hou Yifan decided to repeat exactly the same, took the pawn on a5 with the knight and immediately lost. The rule is: never get down to a5! 

 

Koneru - Hou Yifan. Shortly speaking, the Chinese girl went through all wars and storms to make a blunder while being with both legs in the final. The last and least difficulty suddenly was impossible to overcome. Of course, I speak about the temptation of taking the poisoned a5-pawn...

 

Humpy KONERU - HOU YIFAN
English Opening A35

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Nc2 Bg7 7.e4. With some effort from both sides, the opponents reached the Maroczy system. White gains space, Black gets active pieces in return. 

7...d6 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Be6.

10.b3 (here begins creative play; a standard central set-up looks simpler and more reliable - 10.Be3) 10...a6. A good way to start the counter play. The possibility of blowing the queenside with b7-b5 will always be a headache for White. The attack on e4-pawn is parried easily: 10...Nd7 11.Bd2 Nc5 12.f3!, or White could pretend to play on the Black's side - 11.Qd2 Nc5 12.b4 Bxc3 13.Qxc3 Nxe4 14.Qe3 Nf6 15.Bb2, achieving strong initiative on the dark squares.

11.Rb1 Rb8 (there is a right time for everything) 12.Bb2 (now the time has come!) 12...Qa5 Surprise! Most probably, this novelty will go unnoticed. The main line is known for a quarter of a century: 12...b5! 13.cxb5 axb5 14.Nxb5 (14.Bxb5 Nxe4!) 14...Nxe4 15.Nbd4 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 Bd7, and Black got at least an equal game in Prie-Donnenfeld, Val Thorens 1982.

13.b4 (one should not ask Koneru twice to attack) 13...Qd8. Hou Yifan believed her opponent and did not go deep into the calculation, but we will check it for her: 13...Nxb4!? 14.Nxb4 Qxb4 15.Nd5 Qc5 (15...Qa5 is not bad, too) 16.Bd4, and now several possibilities emerge.

It is possible to go to a3 with a queen, but in that case White keeps some initiative by capturing on e7 with the knight followed by Qd1-c2. The queen sacrifice seems much more interesting: 16...Nxd5 17.Bxc5 Nc3 18.Qc2 dxc5 19.Rb6! (19.Rbc1 b5! or 19.Rb3 Nxe2+ 20.Qxe2 b5! is dangerous for White) 19...Rfd8 20.Re1 Be5. Black has only two minor pieces and a pawn for a queen, but it seems she is ok. The rook will be slowly removed from b6 (for example, after 21.Bf1 Bd7 22.g3 Na4) and the "weaker" side will get the initiative on the queenside.

Of course all this is far too much for a key game.

14.f4.

14...b5! (otherwise 14...Rc8 15.f5 Bd7 16.g4!?) 15.cxb5 axb5 16.Kh1. The necessary prophylactic. Dubious is 16.Bxb5 Nxe4!, and 16.Nxb5? is just bad due to 16. ... Rxb5 17.Bxb5 Qb6+.

16...Qd7. Black should compensate for the weakness of the d5-pawn with energetic play. The young Chinese brought the most perspective plan into life - the d6-d5 breakthrough!

17.Qd2. A very important moment that is difficult to notice. By 17.Bd3! White could force Black to change the plan. 17...Rfd8 18.Qe2 d5 19.e5! leads to structural problems for Black. 17...Rfc8 is stronger: 18.Qe2 (in the variation 18.f5 Bc4 19.Bxc4 bxc4 20.b5 the Black's knight gets the way to d3 - 20...Ne5!) 18...Qb7!, and the b5-pawn stays alive thanks to the tactical resources of the position: 19.Bxb5 Nxe4! 20.Qxe4 Bxc3 21.Bxc3 Qxb5, and Black has no problems.

17...Rfd8 (the canon is charged) 18.Ne3. No shooting could be expected after 18.a3 d5 19.e5 d4! 20.exf6 dxc3 21.Qxd7 Rxd7 22.Bxc3 Bxf6 23.Bxf6 exf6, and activity of Black's pieces is enough for to equalize.

18...d5! It happened! The center opens and a very complicated play starts.

Already here both players were in time trouble. It was absolutely impossible to go through such a position without mistakes.

19.exd5. 19.f5?, which seems dangerous, is met with the very simple 19...Nxe4! 20.Nxe4 dxe4, and trading the queens helps the e6-bishop to escape the death.

 19...Nxd5 20.Nexd5 (20.Ncxd5 is more accurate) 20...Bxd5. When you have no time to think, such moves come automatically. The move is objectively good, but it increases the tension. Meanwhile, the fatal position for the Indian player could be reached after 20...Nxb4!? 21.Bxb5 Qb7 22.a4 Nxd5, and Black doesn't risk to lose.

21.Bxb5 (understandable risk; 21.Nxd5 is too calm: 21...Qxd5 22.Qxd5 Rxd5 23.Bf3 Rd6) 21...Qb7. A "great" exchanging combination 21...Bxc3 22.Qxc3 Bxg2+? 23.Kxg2 Qd2+ 24.Rf2 Qxc3 25.Bxc3 Rxb5 26.a4! leads to a difficult endgame for Black. 21...Qf5! was the strongest here, after which White not only has to return the pawn, but also switches to difficult defense.

22.Nxd5 Qxb5 23.Bxg7. The move 23.Rfd1 fails to 23...Bxb2 24.Rxb2 e6 25.Nf6+ Kg7!, and Black's king captures on f6.

23...Rxd5 24.Qc3 (24.Qb2 is not better: 24...f6!) 24...Rd3 25.Qa1. The queen is tied up to the bishop.

25...f6! 26.a4 Qd5 (Black gets the main central squares) 27.Bh6! Humpy doesn't lose her breath. The desperate piece sacrifice 27.Bxf6 did not provide with any attack: 27...exf6 28.Qxf6 Rd2 29.Rg1 Rxb4 30.Rbe1 Re4!

27...Rxb4! Fewer passed pawns, less worries. Sometimes missing some tactics is for good. If Hou Yifan would notice a nice mate in the variation 27...Rd2 28.Rg1 Nd4 29.f5 Nxf5 30.Bxd2? Ng3+! 31.hxg3 Qh5# , she could be tempted to it, but the game would become extremely sharp after 30.Bf4! 

28.Rxb4 Nxb4 29.f5 (the door for the bishop opens only for a second) 29...g5. Who could think that a prisoner would become an executioner?

30.Qc1 (White's queen's goal to reach 8-th rank seems unreal) 30...Nc6 31.a5! (here it is, the last chance for White - the bait is ready!)

 31...Rd2 32.Rg1. The passivity of the rook leaves White's attack without power. And here something horrifying happened...

32...Nxa5? This is suicidal.

Black had a wide range of moves to guarantee herself a solid advantage without any risk. For example, 32...Ra2 or 32...Kf7. The a5- and f5-pawns are falling, and the game comes to an end.

33.Qc8+ Qd8 34.Qe6+! (an unnoticed zigzag) 34...Kh8 35.Qf7! (the murderers approach the house of the Black's king, and there is no escape) 35...Qg8 36.Qxe7. No piece can protect on f6. Black resigns.

A tragic ending! Koneru proved her high skill once again, because only very strong players can get that lucky!

Cramling - Kosteniuk. Pia played intentionally calmly in the opening and slowly started to increase the pressure. Sasha played well until the time trouble, when she gave her opponent great chances. And then Kosteniuk heroically took the situation under the control! Probably, the Russian player's better physical condition played its role.

Pia CRAMLING - Aleksandra KOSTENIUK
Slav Defense D37

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 d5 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e3 (a very calm move; one should learn for 20 years to play the Vienna variation - 5.e4 Bb4) 5...a6 6.Bxc4 b5 7.Be2. 7.Bd3 is more ambitious.

7...Bb7 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.b3 c5 10.Bb2 Bd6. The calm position appeared, which is quite characteristic for the Queen's gambit. Black doesn't have the slightest problem!

11.a4 b4 12.Nb1. White gets the c4-square, which is good. But White takes a responsibility not to let Black's pieces on c3, and this is bad. 

12...0-0 13.Nbd2 Rc8. The text move is a novelty. Slipak-Shulman 2003 went on 13...Qe7 14.Nc4 Bc7 15.Nfe5 cxd4 16.Nxd7 Nxd7 17.Qxd4 e5 18.Qd2 a5 19.f3 Rfd8 20.Rad1 Rac8 21.e4 Ba6 22.Kh1 Nb6! 23.Qe3 Bxc4 24.Bxc4 Nxc4 25.bxc4 Rxd1 26.Rxd1 Rd8, and Black got a slight advantage.

14.Rc1 Bb8 15.h3. The standard approach 15.Nc4 Qe7 16.Nfe5 does not bring anything due to 16...Rfd8!

15...Qe7 16.Nc4 cxd4 (sooner or later this exchange had to happen) 17.Nxd4. 17.Bxd4 is provocative but dubious: 17...e5 18.Ba1 e4 19.Nd4 Rc5!, and when the Black's rook appears on g5, the White's king is in trouble.

17...Nc5! The weakness of b3 is troublesome for White.

18.f4! What else to advise? The problem is that White cannot move the queen from the starting position: 18.Qc2? Be4! More than that, Cramling has to fight for a win somehow. That is why she cannot escape some sharp moves...

18...Ba7 (18...Be4! followed by Nf6-d5 seemed strong) 19.Kh2. The king avoids the diagonal opposition and... speaks for the opportunity of the pawn attack on the king's side.

 19...Be4 (now this move is not that good; 19...Rfd8 is more accurate - the e4 square could be also used by the knights) 20.Ne5! Finally White gets some prospective. c6 square looks like an ideal spot for her knights. There is also an idea to place the bishop on c4, strengthening b3 pawn and clearing the way to the king's side for the queen.

20...Rfd8 21.Bf3. Cramling is consistent in her desire to make Black some trouble on c6. I wouldn't be able to stop myself from 21.Bc4, but this is a matter of taste. 

21...Qb7 22.Bxe4. Inaccuracy is the result of time-trouble. The pressure should have been kept with 22.Qe2! In case of capturing on f3 White should take with the g2-pawn to create practical chances on the g-file.

 22...Nfxe4! (Probably, White mostly calculated 22...Qxe4 23.Qf3!, and her knights reach 6)  23.Qe2 Bb8! (the rook looks for serious targets...) 24.Nc4 f6. Balck took the key squares in the center under the control and created the prerequisites for the attack. White's king feels not comfy under the eye of the bishop on b8.

25.Rc2.

25...e5. Kosteniuk doesn't want to prepare anymore. She makes the move, considering opponent's problems with time too. However, bravery has the flip side: time-troubles can finish, but the positional changes are there to stay.

26.fxe5 fxe5 27.Nf5 (both opponents could worry for the kings here!) 27...Kh8 28.Kg1. You can't change your own style - Cramling prefers to prevent things rather than sorting them out.

 The energetic 28.Qg4 demanded consideration. Though after the principled reply 28...Nxb3 the king should be removed from the dangerous diagonal in any case: 29.Kg1! Now 29...Nf6 30.Qh4 Rc6 31.Nxg7! Qxg7 32.Nxe5 Rxc2 33.Nf7+ Qxf7 34.Bxf6+ (34.Rxf6? Qg7!) 34...Kg8 35.Qg4+ Qg6 (35...Kf8 36.Bg7+) 36.Qe6+ Qf7 37.Qg4+ Qg6 ends in a repetition.

28...Nc3. This is already a false note. In case of 28...Nxb3 White could continue with the line from the previous comment after 29.Qg4, but she should have considered  29.Bxe5 Bxe5 30.Nxe5 - it makes an impression. But black has her own knights -  30...Rxc2 31.Qxc2 Nbd2 and the sharp attack here 32.Nh6 gxh6 33.Nf7+ Kg8 34.Nxh6+ (dangerous for White is 34.Nxd8 Qb6!) 34...Kh8 35.Nf7+ Kg8 again leads only to the perpetual check.

29.Qg4. Neither during the game, nor during my analyses I could understand why Sasha allowed 29.Bxc3 bxc3 30.Rxc3, but Pia rejected it! 30...Nxb3? leads to a disaster: 31.Ncd6! Bxd6 32.Nxd6 Rxd6 33.Qf3!, and Black gets mated on the 8th rank or loses the queen.

29...Rf8.

30.Rcf2. Again Pia trusts her opponent too much! Again 30.Bxc3! is very strong: 30...bxc3 31.Rxc3, and there is no need to show the following variation: 31...Nxb3? 32.Rxb3 Qxb3 33.Qxg7#

30...Nd3! (causes the final countdown) 31.Nfd6. 31.Rf3 seemed stronger to me during the game, but afterwards the beautiful variation came to my mind: 31...e4 32.Nfd6 exf3! 33.Nxb7 Ne2+ 34.Kh1 Ng3+ 35.Kg1 Ne2+ and everything is on it's place. There is no way to escape a draw in sharp variations!

31...Bxd6 32.Nxd6 Nxf2 33.Rxf2 Qd5! (a precise reply) 34.Nxc8 Rxf2 35.Kxf2.

35...Qd2+! Noticing this resource in advance isn't easy. The point is not the bishop on b2, but the attack! By winning the piece back 35...Nd1+? Black proceeds to a lost endgame: 36.Kg3! Nxb2 37.Qxb4.

36.Kg3? When draw and defeat are of the same value, there is nothing to be afraid of. 36.Kf1 gives a draw: 36...Qd3+ 37.Kf2 Qd2+.

36...Qe1+! (White's king cannot escape) 37.Kf3 (in case of 37.Kh2 Ne2! White can avoid the mate only by giving a queen on e2) 37...Qe2+. Practical and human decision. Advancing to the final is the main goal! The winning line 37...e4+! 38.Kf4 Qf2+ 39.Kg5 (39.Ke5 Qf6#) 39...Qf6+ 40.Kh5 Qh6# did not appear in this game.

38.Kg3 Qe1+ 39.Kf3 Qe2+ 40.Kg3. Game drawn. Here she comes, the first lady to the final of the championship!

 

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