Hou's On 1st, Dominates Monaco Women's Grand Prix

Hou's On 1st, Dominates Monaco Women's Grand Prix

GM Hou Yifan scored an impressive 9/11 to finish two points ahead of the field in the Monaco Women's Grand Prix.

Entering the event, Hou was already the clear women's world number one (2671). In Monaco, she gained an impressive 11.7 rating points vaulting her to a rating of 2682 and a 99 point lead over the women's number two, GM Humpy Koneru.

Despite her undeniably impressive final result, Hou's start was a bit sluggish. She lost in round two to Koneru, and she was held to a draw in round four. Sitting on a modest plus-one to begin round five, Hou then ripped off an astonishing six-game winning streak.

phpoGB4pq.jpeg

GM Mariya Muzychuk and GM Hou Yifan prepare for their 10th round battle. All photos from the official site courtesy of FIDE.

Entering the 10th and penultimate round, Hou was paired against Women's World Champion Mariya Muzychuk. Muzychuk had White and plus-four while Hou had plus-six. With a win, Muzychuk, and potentially Koneru, could catch Hou and produce a drama-filled last round.

Against script, Hou who won a brutal attacking game in 29 moves. Muzychuk's anti-Sicilian strategy looked suspicious early and by move 19, it was clear that things had gone awry. Muzychuk had to address the threat of f4, but her chosen method only encouraged it.

Prior to the tournament, Hou had already won the right to a world title match with Mariya Muzychuk at dates to be announced in March of 2016. Hou's strong play only affirms that she is the odds on favorite. Their individual game in Monaco is the second time Hou has punished an anti-Sicilian line from Muzychuk. One of the highest match priorities for Muzychuk must be to find some way to a White advantage against Hou's well-prepared Sicilian.

As Hou displayed such fine form, perhaps the real final round suspense was to be found in the battle for second place between Koneru and Mariya Muzychuk. Each was having a strong tournament, and each had claimed the sole tournament lead briefly before Hou began her run. In their round-eight encounter, Mariya won after Koneru missed an intermezzo.

Entering the last round, Koneru had a half-point lead over Mariya Muzychuk and White against GM Anna Muzychuk (Mariya's older sister). It would seem that the challenge would be for Mariya to press for a win in the hopes of catching Koneru should she draw.

However, things backfired horribly for Koneru after an early queen exchange in an Exchange Slav. Despite the reduced pieces, Koneru struggled with underdevelopment and king safety while Anna's rooks infiltrated on the second rank and soon claimed a win. The game is a boon to chess coaches seeking to demonstrate the dangers of initiating exchanges in the opening. Anna's victory meant that Mariya caught Koneru on 7/11 and took second place on tiebreaks.

php9Prlfz.jpeg

The top three finishers, Mariya Myzychuk, Hou Yifan, and Humpy Koneru, attending the prize ceremonies.

A fan favorite in the event was WGM Natalija Pogonina, a popular chess writer. Pogonina began the event as the 10th seed but had a strong finish with a shared fourth place. Here she defeated GM Nana Dzagnidze with a series of aesthetic tactical blows.



2015 Monaco Women's Grand Prix | Final Standings

# Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Pts SB
1 Hou,Yifan phpfCo1l0.png 1 0 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 9.0/11  
2 Muzychuk,M 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 7.0/11 36.00
3 Koneru,H 1 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 7.0/11 36.00
4 Cramling,Pia 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 1 1 6.0/11 29.00
5 Pogonina,N 0 ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 0 1 1 ½ ½ 1 6.0/11 28.25
6 Kosteniuk,A ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 5.5/11 27.25
7 Stefanova,A 0 0 1 0 1 1 phpfCo1l0.png 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 5.5/11 26.75
8 Dzagnidze,N 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ 1 1 5.0/11  
9 Muzychuk,A ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 0 ½ 4.5/11 26.50
10 Zhukova,N 0 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 4.5/11 22.25
11 Skripchenko,A 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 4.5/11 20.25
12 Khademalsharieh,S 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/11  

Hou Yifan won € 10,000 and gained 160 GP points. The Women's Grand Prix consists of four tournaments in total. The winner qualifies for a match against the women's world champion in the third quarter of 2017 in a 10-game match.

Should the overall winner of the Grand Prix also be the world champion at the end of the Grand Prix series in 2016, then the challenger rights will go to the second placed overall in the Grand Prix, according to the FIDE regulations (in PDF here).

More from NM SamCopeland
Vachier-Lagrave Shines In St. Louis As Nakamura, Mamedyarov Still Lead

Vachier-Lagrave Shines In St. Louis As Nakamura, Mamedyarov Still Lead

IM Minh Le Wins August Titled Tuesday

IM Minh Le Wins August Titled Tuesday