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Dzagnidze stumbles, Zhao advances
1The second rest day did not have the same effect on all the players. Some of them returned to the chess board with renewed forces, while others seemed to be taken out of their rhythm. Round 9 maintained the high percentage of decisive games (4 with 2 draws) and marked some spectacular changes in the top configuration.
Nana Dzagnidze lost an important point with Black against Pia Cramling and was caught up by Zhao Xue who won with Black against the former leader, Natalija Pogonina. Sarasadat Khademalsharieh obtained her first GM norm by defeating Antoaneta Stefanova with White and Humpy Koneru reached the floating level 50% by winning her second Tartakower QG against Valentina Gunina. Ju Wenjun - Natalia Zhukova and Harika Dronavalli - Nino Batsiashvili ended in draws after fierce defence from Black in the former and White in the latter.
The tournament has two leaders, Zhao Xue and Nana Dzagnidze, both on 6.5/9, being trailed by half a point by Ju Wenjun and Sarasadat Khademalsharieh.

Round 9 results:

SNo.   Name Rtg Res.   Name Rtg SNo.
5 GM Harika Dronavalli 2511 ½ - ½ IM Batsiashvili Nino 2485 12
6 GM Cramling Pia 2521 1 - 0 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2529 4
7 GM Ju Wenjun 2558 ½ - ½ GM Zhukova Natalia 2484 3
8 WGM Pogonina Natalija 2454 0 - 1 GM Zhao Xue 2506 2
9 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2403 1 - 0 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2509 1
10 GM Gunina Valentina 2496 0 - 1 GM Koneru Humpy 2583 11

After a well deserved rest day, time to go back into the tournament hall

Rank SNo.   Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pts
1 2 GM Zhao Xue 2506 CHN * ½ ½   1 0 1   1 1 ½ 1
2 4 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2529 GEO ½ *   ½   ½ 0 1 1 1 1 1
3 7 GM Ju Wenjun 2558 CHN ½   * ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½   1 ½ 6
4 9 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2403 IRI   ½ ½ * ½ ½ ½ 1   ½ 1 1 6
5 8 WGM Pogonina Natalija 2454 RUS 0   ½ ½ * 1 1 ½   1 0 1
6 11 GM Koneru Humpy 2583 IND 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 * ½ 1 ½ ½    
7 6 GM Cramling Pia 2521 SWE 0 1 0 ½ 0 ½ * 0 1   ½  
8 10 GM Gunina Valentina 2496 RUS   0 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 * 0 ½   1
9 3 GM Zhukova Natalia 2484 UKR 0 0 ½     ½ 0 1 * ½ ½ ½
10 5 GM Harika Dronavalli 2511 IND 0 0   ½ 0 ½   ½ ½ * 1 ½
11 1 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2509 BUL ½ 0 0 0 1   ½   ½ 0 * ½ 3
12 12 IM Batsiashvili Nino 2485 GEO 0 0 ½ 0 0     0 ½ ½ ½ * 2

Pia Cramling - Nana Dzagnidze 1-0

Playing with White against Nana Dzagnidze, Pia Cramling declined the invitation to the Vienna, transposing to the Rubinstein system in Queen's Gambit Accepted.

Pia chose a good moment to advance her Isolani with:


15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.d5! obtaining a dominating position despite the symmetrical structure. On the way to convert her advantage Pia was as ruthless as in her best days.

The rest day took Nana out of her rhythm.

The Georgian confessed she didn't feel sharp today, missing many of her opponent's moves, which costed her the one point advantage in the classification. She is now surpassed by Zhao Xue, who has a superior tie-break.

Natalija Pogonina - Zhao Xue 0-1

The game Natalia Pogonina - Zhao Xue can be summarized in one word: "Bh3",
a move which would have spared White lots of troubles in several moments and
even be painful for Black in one of them.

The Chinese chose very inspiredly the opening - the Leningrad Dutch, which she hadn't played in the last 10 years! Surprised from the early beginning, Natalija burned the time on her clock, which eventually cost her dearly. Black obtained a favourable position out of the opening, but confronted with several tempting continuations started hesitating and opted for a less favourable plan.


17... Rd8 was played by Xue, aiming to free the road for the c8-bishop and bring it to a better square - g4. During the press conference, she mentioned the improvement: 17... h6 18. Nf3 Rf7, with the same idea but with a better execution, since it stops any counter ideas White might have. In the game:
18. Ne2! was played, a very strong defensive move, which works tactically too.
18... fxg3 19. fxg3 Bg4 20. Nxd4 Bxd1 21. Nde6 Rd7 and now... in the mutual time trouble, the clock betrayed Natalija and allied with Xue instead:


The Russian said she considered 22.Bh3 but with little time on the clock played imprecisely the final phase of the game and lost the second game in a row.

Two loses in a row brought Natalija on the 5th position

After an excellent start, Natalija Pogonina had a less fortunate second half of the tournament, while Zhao Xue already waves her hands to the group from the shared first place!

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh - Antoaneta Stefanova 1-0

Massive support -> excellent result: first GM norm for Sara!

The swords were sharpened from the early opening in this game, which  entered the paths of the Noteboom Slav after a rather unconventional transposition. Obviously surprised, the Iranian player had to think on her own from an early stage, much to Antoaneta's joy who stated that her position was favourable for a long time and Sara entirely agreed during the press conference. This may be one of those cases when the players are tuned through invisible vibes, as the engines claim the fight was double-edged all the way. The critical moment appeared in the mutual time trouble on move 37, when Antoaneta advanced her h-pawn one square too far...

37... h5 caused too many weakness, paving the way for White's army towards the Black king. (37... h6 would have been not only more restrained but also the right way to proceed, as the Bulgarian mentioned)

Shared 3rd, 6/9, GM norm, 2641 performance, +29 rating points...and still two rounds to go!

Although disappointed by the result, Antoaneta found the strength to smile at the news that her "generosity" yielded Sara her first GM norm!

Valentina Gunina - Humpy Koneru 0-1

The Tartakower Queen's Gambit seems to be a lethal weapon in Humpy's hands, as today she obtained her second victory with it against Valentina.

White's attack - a storm in a glass of water

The Russian confessed she didn't have the time to check the earlier game Zhao-Koneru where White played the correct move 13.c6.


After her uninspired 13.Na4 (13 may be the lucky charm of Kasparov but not for Valentina today), she started losing ground, landing into a similar position as in the famous Bernstein-Capablanca game. Faithful to her chess credo, Valentina tried to work out some fireworks, but her attack fired back decisively.

Humpy returns on the 50% level, but also noteworthy:
Valentina doesn't seem to lose her cheerfullness and bonhomie.

Ju Wenjun - Natalia Zhukova 1/2-1/2

This game had an interesting course from the very beginning. Black played bravely, opening the center even if she had lost a tempo with ...c7-c6-c5. Wenjun believed this was all home preparation, but Natalia denied it, as she was playing her (very nice!) moves over the board. If checking with an engine (luckily we play humans):


11...e5 may look not entirely sound and yet, as Natalia pointed out, White was asking for it, given the uncastled king.


The central breakthrough is a dynamic decision based on strategical considerations, but White could have, indeed, applied a bit more pressure with:


18.Qd4  instead of 18.Bxh7+.
I would invite you, dear reader, to check this position as it is filled with surprising ideas! For example, after 18. Qd4:
18... Qf6 (this is what Wenjun didn't like) but here Natalija was worried about 19. Qd3, followed by Rc1, trapping the knight. There are ideas with 19... b5 or 19... Re8, but analyzing in depth the lines would be beyond the scope of this article. A very interesting moment, nevertheless!

In 3rd position with 6/9

White retained an advantage anyway, but Natalia defended like a lioness and both players left the board with half a point in their pockets. Ju Wenjun maintains a good position in the tournament, trailing the leaders by just half a point.

Harika Dronavalli - Nino Batsiashvili 1/2-1/2

Asked about the way she keeps her general vision over the frequent irrational positions from her games, especially with the computers scanning all the hidden corners of chess theory, Harika answered with her trademark sincerity: " I got lazy...if before I liked a lot playing concrete chess and calculating everything, in time I started to count more and more on simple and natural moves, based on intuition, as otherwise calculating everything would be simply exhausting." I would make a remark, though: isn't intuition supposed to be developed by hard work?!

No matter the standings, the players are always giving their best

In her game with White against Nino, Harika tried to surprise her opponent with the Trompovsky, but the Georgian reacted well and enjoyed an advantage all over the game.

Like a professional surgeon, Harika knew how to sew her positional wounds and
defend her weaknesses, finally saving half a point.

Chess is a complex combination between hard work, passion, heart, intuition and other factors in a, perhaps, random percentage, but if we follow the games from the Tehran FIDE Women Grand Prix the feeling is that the total must be around 110%. Whose extra 10% will prevail in the decisive rounds? There is no better way to find out than following the next two last rounds!

While waiting, you may want to have a look at how the rest day looked like or discover Tehran's myriad attractions with its bustling bazaars, ancient sights, beautiful architecture...

Preparing for the customers: tea is absolutely great in this country
(and your press officer is an inveterated coffee drinker!)

Life on the streets of Tehran

Wonderful rest (yet active) day thanks to my dear friends: Mohammad and Mojdeh
Visiting Golestan Palace - a must see and the oldest of all the historic monuments in Tehran. And very colorful too!

Shah-Abdol-Azim shrine is as beautiful outside...

... as it is inside!

For more photos from the rest day, kindly visit the gallery

By the Press Officer Alina l'Ami

Round 9 photo gallery

Second Rest Day photo gallery

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