Hou Yifan Maintains Lead Vs Muzychuk With Two Draws

Hou Yifan Maintains Lead Vs Muzychuk With Two Draws

20 | Chess Event Coverage

Hou Yifan maintained her one-point lead against Mariya Muzychuk in the world championship match in Lviv as games three and four both ended in draws.

A ten-game match is over before you know it and so the draws in games three and four aren't bad for Hou Yifan. The Chinese player, who is the clear number one in the women's ratings now that Judit Polgar has retired, leads the Lviv match 2.5-1.5 with six games to go.

For the third game, played on Saturday, Muzychuk switched from 1.e4 to 1.d4. “I believe really to make progress in chess one must be able to play both moves,” she said.

Muzychuk changed openings but didn't get much as White. | Photo Vitalyi Hrabar.

The game became a Closed Catalan where the players followed a game between two Chinese players from 2014. Muzychuk wasn't aware, and had her doubts about the move that deviated from that encounter: 17.a4.

Hou's subsequent play on the queenside led to all pawns there being traded, and after a few more accurate moves she had completely equalized.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

Here's the press conference after game three:

After her win in game two Hou Yifan saw no reason to change her opening. Game four on Sunday saw another Open Ruy Lopez. The Chinese, who is the challenger in this match, did change systems: from 9.Be3 to the old main line 9.c3 this time around.

The reason most probably was the recent game Caruana-Wei Yi, Wijk aan Zee 2016 which was witnessed on the same stage by Hou, who also played in that tournament. In that game White got a promising position out of the opening.

Muzychuk however was very well prepared today. She not only improved upon that game, but continued with a series of tactical blows that forced a perpetual at the end.

Although she got the chance two answer the question twice, Hou Yifan didn't want to reveal at which point her preparation had ended. “It's pretty forced although there are many options for both sides,” was all she said.

“I had this variation analysed at home,” Muzychuk admitted. “I thought for half an hour because I sacrificed a piece and so the variations were very sharp and I had to be precise.”

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

Here's the press conference after game four:

On both weekend days Svyatoslav Vakarchuk visited the tournament. He is the lead vocalist of Okean Elzy, one of the most successful rock bands in Ukraine. (His father Ivan Vakarchuk happens to be a professor of physics at Lviv University and the former Minister of Education and Science in Ukraine.) Vakarchuk made a symbolic first move for white, and his father made the first move for black.

The Vakarchuks at the board at the start of the game. | Photo Vitalyi Hrabar.

The two couldn't hang around at the board though; to remind you, the match is played in a small room without spectators. Both players expressed their slight disappointment about this in today's press conference.

Here's a well-known song from the band: "Veseli, brate, chasy nastaly..." (Oh, brother, merry times came...) from 2006.

The World Championship match between Mariya Muzychuk and Hou Yifan takes place March 1-18 in Lviv, Ukraine. It is a 10-game match and if needed a rapid/blitz tiebreak.

2016 World Championship | Score After 4 Games

Name Rtg Perf 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 Score
Hou Yifan 2673 2649 ½ 1 ½ ½ 2.5
Muzychuk,M 2554 2586 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1.5

Monday is a rest day. Games five and six will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday.

More from PeterDoggers
Vladimir Fedoseev Wins February 23 Titled Tuesday

Vladimir Fedoseev Wins February 23 Titled Tuesday

Open Source Community Critical Of Chessbase, Fat Fritz 2

Open Source Community Critical Of Chessbase, Fat Fritz 2