Natalia's attempt to unbalance the position with:
offered Black too much material for the queen. Nana slowly but surely converted her material advantage, thus catching up with Natalia Pogonina in a tied first place.Valentina Gunina - Natalija Pogonina 1/2-1/2
Valentina and Natalija know each other very well, as they had played many games previously. This didn't prevent the theoretical positional Exchange Queen's Gambit from becoming a fierce combat. None of the players was happy with her play in this game, but this is more of a sign of their maximalism and permanent strive for improving. The first critical moment occurred on move 12, when White spent 21 minutes on 12.Rce1
and Black answered 12...Ne4
after 24 minutes.
Shared first with Nana Dzagnidze but with an inferior tie-break
Natalija took over the initiative and won two pawns, but Valentina found a way to fish in muddy waters, culminating with the objectively not strongest, but psychologically molesting:
Obviously, the exclamation mark stands for the good timing of the piece offering, which paid off in the end. Had Natalija had just a bit more time and energy, she would have probably played what she initially intended: 28... Rxe5. But the clock is there too and sometimes it runs faster than it should...28... Rf8
came on the board 29. Nf5
and now the ever funny computers suggest 29...b5!? (I bet that during a game, not many players would come up with this move, certainly not in time trouble!). Natalija chose:29... Qxe5
and now the strong 30. g4!
appeared out of nowhere, with unclear position.
Valentina confessed she understood she had to do something special to get chances to save the game (which she succeeded), but when playing:
(instead of 43. Kh4, which would have repeated the position after 43... Qf6+) her mood to the outside world appeared as an 'unjustified' change, given the inferior position she was previously forced to defend. At first sight and objectively speaking, yes, a draw should have been welcomed with open arms. However, I believe that winning isn't everything but wanting
to win is...
This is the moment Natalija could have hit the jackpot by playing 43... Rf8, threatening Rf3+ and all sorts of mating ideas or material gains, since White's Rxh7+ is in fact only a swan song... However, after playing long games and many tournaments in a row, tiredness does play a role and somehow the king should always feel safe (or the player). Therefore:43... Rg7
was played, which allowed White to eliminate the rooks from the board and any winning hopes for Black.All or nothing...
Regarding her uncompromising attitude, Valentina mentioned during the press conference that this is the way she is built, she always wants to continue playing and the word "draw" is not really a part of her vocabulary. Today she could have been punished though but Natalija didn't take advantage of the favourable occasion and the game ended in a draw.
Zhao Xue - Harika Dronavalli 1-0
This was before the game but we can vouch that Harika's smile didn't change dramatically after that...
In Zhao Xue - Harika Dronavalli, the Indian player adopted the Stonewall Dutch structure in an attempt to generate counterplay as soon as possible, irrespective of the inherent strategic risk. Her approach seemed to pay off when Xue played the rather slow plan 7.h3
(White usually waits for a good moment for carrying out g2-g4 without wasting time with h2-h3, as Harika pointed out during the conference). But Black committed a similar mistake with:
instead of her own suggestion during the postmortem analysis 11...b5!?, a move bearing some similarity with her b7-b5 from her previous round game against Koneru. Xue reacted accurately with:12.c5
(underestimated by Harika) and the Indian GM eventually had to pay with the full point for her hesitation.
I cannot help noticing the players' transparency and sincerity during the press conferences. They do not hide their weaknesses, an attitude that in fact makes them stronger in the long run.
China vs India: 2-0
Humpy Koneru - Ju Wenjun 0-1
China also won the other game of the mini-match against India, Humpy Koneru - Ju Wenjun. In a sharp 4.f3
Nimzo, Humpy didn't remember her analysis well and without noticing, entered a line which is known to be winning for Black. After 9.Nf3?
instead of the better alternatives: 9.a3 or 9.Be3, Wenjun was just too happy to sacrifice a piece a move later with:
10...Nxe5, following her analysis and inviting the white king to a long walk which, despite the doctors' recommendation, did not prove healthy at all. A fitting win for Wenjun and a painful loss for the Indian player.
Shared 3rd with Zhao Xue, with 4/6
Nino Batsiashvili - Sarasadat Khademalsharieh 0-1
In a critical line of the Ragozin, Nino's:
(instead of the better 12.Nd2 suggested by, for instance, our live commentator Miroshnichenko) allowed Sara spoiling the white structure with 10...h5 11.h4 Nxg3
, which proved an irreparable handicap for the Georgian.
Not the best day in the office for Nino
But a good one for the young Iranian talent
After several missed chances in the previous rounds, Sara scored a full point, leaving the "honourable" 50% level. It many times happens that the theoretically less strong player displays too much respect for her opponents, quite an inhibiting feeling, but during the press conference Sara was smiling and confidently stated that she felt in advance she could win today. Nino remains on 1.5/6, a result that could be caused by the demanding Tata Steel Challengers too, where she played right before coming to Tehran.Antoaneta Stefanova - Pia Cramling 1/2-1/2
A classical player will always remain in fashion: Pia.
Climbing to the top is difficult enough, but staying there is even harder. And the hardest of them all is getting back up after you fall. Antoaneta Stefanova - Pia Cramling was a game between two players to whom the tournament fate didn't smile much in Tehern, but they seemed determined to play a creative and hard fought game from the very beginning. In a peaceful symmetrical English, the dialogue of original moves was initiated with:
, leading to hard-to-predict plans, possibilities of castling on either side for both opponents and curious piece trajectories. The game eventually ended in a draw by repetition.
During the press conference, when the problem of theoretical preparation was mentioned, Antoaneta confessed she loves chess and loves creating, thinking, reinventing the wheel... For the ultra-experienced Pia, preparation is important but she finds it refreshing playing without loading your hard-drive to the maximum.
This is when extra fuel is needed...
And tea helps too!
Some of the best your press officer ever drank comes from this kitchen
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade - they say... quite a good piece of wisdom for the less fortunate players.
But they may face an additional challenge: the Iranian lemons are sweet and not sour! (Tested and hooked forever!)
The tournament enters the second half with two leaders, making the fight even more interesting. Will Natalia Pogonina manage to renew her string of victories or will Nana Dzagnidze's final "sprint" prevail? Everything is possible, so do stay tuned with us for round seven!Meanwhile, our chief arbiter IA Ashot Vardapetyan makes sure the venue will be ready, together with...... his hard working team!
By the Press Officer Alina l'Ami