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Glory at the finish line
Closing-1The eleventh and last round was as dramatic as the previous ones, with no less than four decisive games and two 'amiable' results. By drawing with White against Harika Dronavalli, Ju Wenjun ensured the tournament win as the other co-leader, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, lost to Natalia Zhukova with White, thus dropping on the second position.
The other Chinese player occupied the remaining place on the podium after drawing with Black against Valentina Gunina. The game between the two former leaders, Natalija Pogonina and Nana Dzagnidze ended with the former's win and both players finished on a shared 4th-5th.
As for the other hard fought matches: Humpy Koneru – Antoaneta Stefanova and Pia Cramling – Nino Batsiashvili, they did not cause any major changes in the classification.

Round 11 results:

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

When the stakes are high, the players still survive, strive & thrive!

Final ranking:

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

Money prizes:

Rank SNo.   Name Pts Price
1 7 GM Ju Wenjun 10000
2 9 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 7 7500
3 2 GM Zhao Xue 7 7500
4 8 WGM Pogonina Natalija 5375
5 4 GM Dzagnidze Nana 5375
6 11 GM Koneru Humpy 6 4500
7 3 GM Zhukova Natalia 4250
8 10 GM Gunina Valentina 3625
9 5 GM Harika Dronavalli 3625
10 6 GM Cramling Pia 4 3000
11 1 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2625
12 12 IM Batsiashvili Nino 2625
      Total:   60000

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh – Natalia Zhukova 0-1

The center of gravity in Round 11

I am sure it is not mistaken saying that Sara – Natalia became the epicenter of the whole tournament, as for the organizers and the local spectators nothing would have been more desirable than a tournament win for their player. And for the reporters covering the event, the triumph of the lowest rated player in the tournament would also have been something quite sensational to comment on.
Thwarting Sara's plans... 

In a Cambridge Springs Queen's Gambit, Natalia Zhukova slowly took over the initiative, reaching a superior endgame. Sara plentifully proved that her previous achievements were not casual by displaying great defensive skills and will power, but all her fantastic efforts came to nothing when she resigned in a drawn position according to the tablebases...


This type of endgame is known from an old game Rubinstein-Tartakower Vienna 1922 (with reversed colours) with the difference that Sara's bishop was not on the optimal b1-h7 diagonal. But even so, Black could have made no progress(!) against the most accurate defense:
75. Kf2! Should have been played (since the key square is e3 and the white king has to keep his enemy at a respectful know what they say: keep your friends close and your enemies closer). Of course Black can still try with 75... Rh2+ where the reply has to be prompt: 76. Bg2 (76. Kf3 loses in view of 76... Rb2 and at some point check on the 3rd rank, followed by the king's march into White's territories via e3, all caused by the poor placement of White's bishop – I kindly advise playing through this endgame with tablebases!).

In case the black rook would choose a different plan, in an attempt to confuse matters with, for instance 75... Rb3, the square to which White should retreat the bishop becomes of vital importance: g2 and h1 have written on them "bingo" while all the others would 'secure' White a zero on the scoreboard. The point is the same e3 square, which can be guarded from either f2 or f3, therefore the white king must be able to juggle between those two. If White's bishop would be on b7 or c6 instead, with some clever rook and king moves, Black will eventually succeed to first chase away the minor piece and then pave the way via e3 towards the f4 pawn.

This somewhat tragic end can be explained by the fact that, tired after 6 hours of play, both players thought the endgame was won for Black.

Encouraged and supported throughout the entire event
Happy-end for Sara, in spite of the last round loss...

R11-54 least until the moment she realised her resignation was premature.

I remember Gelfand once told me that he doesn't understand people when they speak about the additional pressure when one is in the lead of the tournament. He never feels 'any' stress, on the contrary, it is great having more points than the others. But for Sara things must have been different, the perspective of winning the tournament probably was much higher than her wildest expectations before the first round...

Ju Wenjun – Harika Dronavalli 1/2-1/2

This final draw ensured the Chinese player the win in the tournament
and also the title of being the only one undefeated!

Harika deviated from her beloved King's Indian, preferring a provocative version of the Queen's Gambit declined.
Wenjun chose the practical approach for the last round: to play in the slow mode, keeping a pleasant position all over the game with no risk at all. Both players agreed that Black's position had been difficult all the way, but eventually the drawish tendency yielded by the opposite-coloured bishops prevailed.

Ju Wenjun's solid last round strategy paid off after Sara stumbled against Natalia Zhukova.

Natalija Pogonina – Nana Dzagnidze 1-0


Pogonina-Dzagnidze was a game between players who shared a similar tournament fate, as both were in the lead for a determined period and had a less fortunate final part of the event.

Moreover, Natalija's win against Nana leveled their score regarding the number of consecutive losses: 3.

Just as yesterday, Nana couldn't explain how she could ruin the game in just one move:


17...Bxc6, concealing the d5-square. 17...bxc6 would have led to a normal Bogo-Indian structure, but this opening brought her bad luck as she lost in it with both colours.

When the tournament gave Nana a hundred reasons to cry,
she showed that she has a thousand reasons to smile!

Valentina Gunina – Zhao Xue 1/2-1/2

The bronze medal goes to Zhao Xue

Zhao Xue must have been content with her position in the 5...b5 fianchetto Queen's Indian line from the earlier game against Nana Dzagnidze, as she repeated the system against Valentina again. But this time her opponent reacted better, obtaining an advantage and there was even a moment when White could have started throwing projectiles in Black's camp:


16.exd5 cxd5 17.Nxd5 exd5 18.Bxd5 with the double threat Bxa8 and e5-e6.

Less aggressive, for a change

Valentina saw this surprising resource and thought tactics should work out well for her, but contrary to her approach from the previous games, decided that the last round requested a more calm treatment. After her solid
16.Qd4 the game entered a better ending for White, eventually petering out into a draw. None of the players was happy with her own play, but they agreed that the draw was a fair enough result.

Humpy Koneru – Antoaneta Stefanova 1-0

Sixth place and 4500 Euro prize but some rating loss too

Ending up the tournament with a win always brings a bit of blessing, irrespective of how bad things went all the way.  Humpy stepped on +1 after breaking Antoaneta's 4...a6 Slav, a game which was crowned tactically with:


24. Bxf6 Bxf6 25.Bxf7 Kxf7 26.Rxd7 Kf8 27.Qc4. Despite being known as always inventive and resourceful, the Bulgarian couldn't avoid the defeat.

Pia Cramling – Nino Batsiashvili 0-1

In Pia – Nino, White obtained an advantage in a Catalan/Chigorin hybrid, punishing Black's ambitious and creative plan of castling long. But somewhere in the middle of the game and then towards the ending, Pia lost the thread allowing Black to improve her position bit by bit.

Nino scored in the final round

At some point the Georgian seemed to be close to winning but the final part of the endgame must be drawn, even though highly interesting and instructive. At least this was the conclusion of both players but if you wish analyzing a bit deeper... be my guest!

Move 64 - chosen on purpose:) - White to play: fortress or not?

After several missed chances for half a point, even in the very end, White achieved quite a curious fortress... not sure about the outcome in the over the board play but I get the feeling you will have some fun figuring that out!

That was it from Tehran. We close one chapter just to open another one in the never ending chess book...

The podium ruled by China

The environmental symbol of Iranian Chess Federation - the pelican

More awards and presents - a great place to be as the Iranians are friendly and generous!

The finish line of the Tehran FIDE Women Grand Prix is in fact a new start as most of the players are flying directly to China for the next tournament, IMSA Elite Mind Games. The happiest of them must be Ju Wenjun, as she returns to her homeland with the gold medal, while other players may look into the near future with the desire to take their sportive revenge.

In fact, the winner doesn't take it all - that's the spirit!

I cannot end without thanking you all for following us, expressing my gratitude to the organizers, sponsors and the wonderful team who all made this event possible. And of course: good luck, my dearest friends and players for the next quest in China & Bundesliga!


By the Press Officer Alina l'Ami

Round 11 photo gallery

Closing ceremony photo gallery

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