Hou Yifan Closer to Grand Prix Victory After Beating Humpy Koneru
On Thursday, Hou Yifan of China came one step closer to overall victory in the 2013-2014 Women's Grand Prix Series after beating her closest rival, Humpy Koneru of India, with the black pieces.
The women's world champion needs to finish ahead of Koneru in the final Grand Prix tournament in Sharjah, UAE.
The first round of the Grand Prix in Sharjah went Hou Yifan's way, as she won her own game while Humpy Koneru lost. However, in the next two rounds the Indian grandmaster, who is Hou's biggest rival in the overall Grand Prix standings, got a half-point closer as she scored 1.5/2, while the women's world champion had to settle for two draws.
In the second round, Koneru beat Alina l'Ami, who served as (an excellent!) press officer at previous events, but entered as a substitute player for this tournament.
So far, l'Ami (who is married to GM Erwin l'Ami), is having a rough time in Sharjah: she lost all of her first four games. There is perhaps some consolation in the fact that she's not the only one. Former women's world champion Zhu Chen, who lives in Qatar and is married to GM Mohamed Al-Modiahki, is also on 0.0/4.
@ChessVibes Yes, it is tough, what can I say? But I will drink the humiliation cup till the bottom and hope to perform better at some point!— Alina l'Ami ( @alinalami) August 28, 2014
Thursday's round four saw the big clash between Humpy Koneru and Hou Yifan. The Indian committed an early inaccuracy (8.cxd5 instead of 8.e3) and then another one on move 14, after which she got into a slightly worse double rook ending. Slowly but surely the Chinese GM made progress, and just before the time control she was going to win a pawn.
At the press conference the players both thought that Black was already winning there, but instead the final mistake was made on move 40 as the analysis shows:
“Everywhere I just slipped out slightly and finally it became worse and winning [for Black],” said Koneru.
After four rounds, it's one of Hou Yifan's compatriots who tops the standings: Ju Wenjun. She beat the aforementioned Zhu Chen in round two, then the third Chinese participant (Zhao Xue), and on Thursday she won against Elina Danielian, who blundered after many hours of play:
2014 Sharjah Grand Prix | Round 4 Standings
The Grand Prix in Sharjah is the last of six tournaments in the 2013-2014 Women's Grand Prix Series. Hou Yifan will win the overall series if she finishes ahead of Humpy Koneru, and thus secure a place in the 2015 women's world championship match even if she loses her title later this year in the knockout championship.
Women's GP 2013-2014 | Standings After 5 Tournaments