In the eventful Galactica
Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili reporting about the second round of the Women's World Championship.
The Grand Hotel Polyana and SCC Galactica became visibly emptier. Fewer chess players walk in the alleys, fewer people visit the restaurant, and the number of tables in the playing hall is quartered – just 16 players out of 64 remain in contention.
Dmitry Medvedev's visit was a big event of the second round. The Prime Minister talked to the Russian players, walked around the playing hall, examined the exhibition of the RCF Chess Museum brought to the venue from Moscow, met the broadcasting team and played a friendly chess game with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
The first day of the second round coincided with a rare event of a full sun eclipse, and another rare event happened – 11 games out 16 were drawn. Grandmaster Ilya Smirin, the Russian-speaking commentator compared such percentage to a men's supertournament. He also said the quality if games improved significantly compared to the first round.
Gunina, Kosteniuk, Galliamova, Koneru, and Cmilyte won their first games. None of the losers – Girya, Shen Yang, Kosintseva, Lei Tingjie, Kovalevskaya – were able to come back on the next day.
In an approximately even position Valentina continued in her typical manner, organizing dangerous activity out of the blue. She sacrificed a knight on g6, however, Black could dodge the attack by the cool-blooded 29…Qc7! White would keep the initiative, but a piece is a piece. However, Olga miscalculated something, and after 29…Bxd6? 30. Qxe6+ Kh7 31. Rxd6 Black's position was torn to pieces.
A nice knight jump 23…Nc5! did not give Alexandra an immediate material advantage, but helped to open the central files and obtain a big positional edge.
24. dxс5 Bxd2+ 25. Kxd2 Qxe5 26. Kc1 d4. In the forthcoming game Black did not miss her advantage and celebrated a victory.
The second day decided the fate of six more matches that were drawn on the first day. Natalia Pogonina defeated the second seed player Ju Wenjun, Anna Muzychuk eliminated Alexandra Goryachkina, Zhao Xue defeated Salome Melia, Pia Cramling outplayed Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant, Meri Arabidze won against Yanet Marrero Lopez, and Lela Javakhishvili tricked Tan Zhongyi in a dramatic encounter.
White just blundered, placing her king on g2. This allowed Black to take on f6 and after 53. gxf6 simply promote a pawn, and if 54. f7+ Kf8 55.g7+ then just 55…Qxg7. Perhaps the Chinese player overlooked this long backward move. She played 52…Rd1?, and resigned after 53.Rc5 Rd6 54.Rc1! Re6 55.Rh1.
Five matches proceeded to the tie-breaks, and not everybody managed to avoid drama.
It all started with Anna Ushenina coming a couple of minutes late for the first game and received a loss by default according to the notorious zero tolerance rule. Marie Sebag managed to defend a difficult position in the second game and advanced to the 3rd round.
Mariya Muzychuk easily eliminated Monika Socko, obtaining a serious advantage already after the opening.
Antoaneta Stefanova skilfully utilized overzealous play of Inna Gaponenko in the endgame of the second game, and also advanced to the next stage.
Irina Krush and Harika Dronavalli played two nervous games. Harika won the first one, Krush had a big advantage in the second one, but after her slight inaccuracy the Indian defended perfectly.
The second dramatic episode occurred in Khotenashvili-Huan Qian. The players made four draws in a row and proceeded to blitz. Bela won the first game, which was very long and sharp. In the return game Huan Qian showed excellent endgame skill and got a totally winning position along with a big advantage on the clock.
Such events happen only in bad dreams – or in blitz games...
Black's passed pawns were stopped easily, and Khotenashvili made a draw that gave her a seat in the 3rd round.
It worth mentioning that there was a similar episode in Huan Qian's career: at the 2010 Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk she blundered a queen to Valentina Gunina, which helped the Russians win the key match and the gold medals.
Four Russian players advanced to the next stage: Gunina, Kosteniuk, Pogonina, and Galliamova. There are also three Georgians – Khotenashvili, Arabidze, and Javakhishviki, two Ukrainians – the Muzychuk sisters, two Indians – Koneru and Dronavalli, Zhao Xue from China and three Europeans – Cmilyte (Lithuania), Stefanova (Bulgaria), and Sebag (France).
We would also like to mention a big blitz tournament for children that was organized on the tie-break day for 40 pupils of the Sochi Olympic Reserve Sports School #11 .