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Vladimir BELOV, grandmaster. The Round Two Review
September 2, 2008

The second round offered great struggle in the most encounters. The following game seemed clear and instructive at the first glance, but deeper analyzes showed the picture as the opponents were competing in the amount of mistakes. That is the tension of the World Championship and that is what makes it so unique.

Sicilian Defense B67

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.f3 (another well-known alternative is 9.f4) 9...Be7.

10.g4. Undoubtedly the pawn attack on the King's side is in White's plans, but in this concrete case the bishop's uncomforted position on g5 pushes Black to standard 10. ... h5, ruining White's aggressive approaches. 10.Kb1 or 10.h4 seemed more logical for White.

10...h6. One should be beware of making this move in Sicilian Defense. If Black does not manage to win the initiative than this hitch at the position would help opponent's attack to grow. As already mentioned, 10...h5! was stronger.

11.Be3 b5 12.h4. Now and on the next move, White passes by the typical idea: Nxc6 with following Nc3-e2-d4, making the marsh of «b» pawn pointless.

12...Rc8 13.Bd3 (13.Nxc6!) 13...Ne5. Black rightly decides to keep a pare of knights on board, as she has a clear plan of trading the white-squared bishops by occupying the c4 square.

14.g5. 14.Kb1 was vainly ignored by White. Experts say that in Sicilian set-ups with long castle this move is always good. It can only be added that in the moment this move would also be a nice preventive resource - after   Nxd3 White could take with a pawn and strengthen the center.

14...Nxd3+ 15.Qxd3 Nh5. Not the best spot for a Knight, but what to do? By the way, the minuses of 10...h6 are getting clearer - Black should always take gxh6 into consideration.

16.Rdg1 (16.gxh6 looked interesting) 16...g6 17.f4?! White hurries too much for a rendezvous with the Black's king. 17.a3!? could demonstrate the profit of precautions during the attack. Though, it is still not easy to value the position after: 17...hxg5 18.hxg5 Qc7, with the idea Qc7-c4 with b5-b4.

17...b4! 18.Nce2 e5! One can see with the naked eye how the train of the play is changing its direction. White's knights are driven out from their positions and now Black has serious initiative.

19.Nf3 Bb5 20.Qd2 Bc6?! It is difficult to understand the meaning of this move. Most probable, Chinese player missed the capture of b4 pawn...In case of right  20...Qc7! White would also have bad times.

21.Qxb4 a5 22.Qc4! d5 23.Qb3? There is such an observation: when a queen is losing its way deep into the opponent's position there is no need to return it back home immediately. And now White could cause a lot of inconveniences for the rival by leaving it in the "hot spot": 23.Qa6!?

23...a4 24.Qd3 exf4 25.Nxf4 Nxf4 26.Bxf4.

26...a3? This "subtle" intermediate move could cost a lot for Black. Of course simple 26...dxe4 was stronger, bringing clear advantage.

 27.b3? Bluffing succeed. But how Black should have played after: 27.Qd4! axb2+ 28.Kb1? I did not find an answer. For example: 28...0-0 (28...Rf8 29.Ne5) 29.gxh6 Bf6 30.Be5 and White wins.

 27...dxe4 28.Qc3 0-0 29.gxh6 Bf6 30.Ne5 Bb7 (30...Bb5! was better) 31.Qe3 Qe7.

32.Ng4? Wrong direction! This knight confused something. Now White's king is a helpless victim of Black's pieces. In the time, White had even two possibilities to find an adequate play.

First and more computerized is 32.Nc4!

 32...Rxc4 seems very strong here, but as was found during the deeper analyzes White's position holds. More than that, soon Black's monarch would be irritated too. For instance: 33.bxc4 Ba6 34.h5 Bxc4 35.hxg6 fxg6 36.Rxg6+ Kh8 37.h7 Bb2+ 38.Kd1.

Personally, I prefer the second way when White is ready to give an exchange to save the magic construction in the center: 32.Rg5 Rfd8 33.Rf1 and so on.

32...Rc3 33.Qb6 Rc6 34.Qe3 Rc3. I think, it was played with the idea of collection some seconds on the clock. Logical 34...Rfc8, was making White to face unsolvable problems: 35.Rg2 (35.c4 Ba6 with capturing on 4) 35...Rc3 36.Qb6 R8c6 37.Qa7 e3 with win.

35.Qe1?! Ah that is how! White does not want to agree draw as we see! It was worth checking Black by playing 35.Qb6.

35...Rfc8 (Black's play is easy and effective) 36.Rh2.

36...Rxb3! (the best way of realization) 37.axb3 a2 38.Qa5 a1Q+ 39.Qxa1.

Next moves were probably made by Mongontuul under her own momentum: 39...Bxa1 40.h5 Kh7 41.hxg6+ fxg6 42.Rd2 e3 43.Bxe3 Qa3+ 44.Kd1 Bf3+ 45.Ke1 Bxg4 46.Rxg4 Bc3. White resigned.

It seems that with the help of this victory Hou Yifan almost guaranteed herself a ticket to the next round. But if we would see the same surrealism in the next game between these opponents, one cannot dare to bet on the result. At the time-trouble the Chinese player was operating in a more convincing manner though.

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