Hou Yifan Takes Lead In Game 2 World Championship

Hou Yifan Takes Lead In Game 2 World Championship

| 47 | Chess Event Coverage

On Thursday, Hou Yifan grabbed the lead in her world championship match with reigning champion Mariya Muzychuk. The challenger won the second game after drawing the first.

From March 1-18,  the Women's World Championship between Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine and Hou Yifan of China takes place in Lviv, Ukraine. It is a 10-game match, so two games fewer than their male colleagues.

The match is only two games old, but so far the more experienced Hou Yifan (22) is confirming her status as strong favorite. The challenger had no problems whatsoever in game one, and won game two both on the board and on the clock.

Also in her first two world championship matches, which she both won, Hou took an early lead. In her match with Humpy Koneru (India) in 2011 she won the third game after two draws; against Anna Ushenina (Ukraine) two years later she immediately won the first game.

Huge media interest for the first game of the match. | Photo Vitalyi Hrabar.

Mariya Muzychuk (23), who only played training matches and who won her title in a knockout tournament a year ago in Sochi, played the Giuoco Piano in the opening game. After all bishops had left the board, she seemed to have the more flexible position where White could play both on the kingside and on the queenside.

She went b2-b4 where g2-g4 was also interesting. After more trades, the players agreed to a draw in a totally equal queen ending. Both players called it a normal result. “I can't say I'm happy or disappointed,” added Muzychuk.

Here's the press conference of the first game:

In today's second game the opening went OK for Muzychuk, but at some point she lost the thread. Playing the Open Ruy Lopez was not a bad choice, and after 15 moves Black seemed fine.

Both players spent quite some time right after the opening. “I guess it proves that the position is not clear at all,” said Hou.

Muzychuk's Rd8-d7 and Nc6-d8 were creative but perhaps too extravagant. With 19.a4! Hou Yifan opened up the a-file for her rook, and then she found the queen maneuver to g4, playing on both flanks.

An Open Ruy Lopez in game two, won by Hou Yifan. | Photo Vitalyi Hrabar.

With 25.f5 Hou added more pressure on her opponent. “Definitely after f4-f5 it's hard to play,” said Muzychuk, who was also getting low on time there. With 27...Bc5?! and 29...Bxf2?! she went astray, and Hou showed tactical alertness with 30.Bb3! which decided the game immediately.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

Here's the press conference of the second game:

The match is held in Lviv's Potockis’ Palace, quite an impressive building in late 19th century French Neorenaissance style. Usually it's used for conferences, presentations, chamber concerts, and political meetings. However, the games are played in a small room without spectators.

Potockis’ Palace in Lviv, Ukraine.

Most fans are following the match online, but they cannot do that in real-time. The games and the commentary on the official website are being broadcast with a 30-minute delay. Why exactly the organizers went for this draconian anti-cheating measure remains unclear, despite the words of GM Ian Rogers who is in Lviv:

The game broadcast will be delayed for half an hour, as an anti-cheating measure. FIDE has been reluctant to implement broadcast delays (which are hated by broadcasters, sponsors and fans alike) but the possibility of undetectable radio receivers is becoming worrying.

Anti-cheating measures were the main point of contention between the Chinese team and the organisers, though it appeared to be more a misunderstanding about the measures to be implemented. (A number of security measures had been agreed between FIDE and the Chinese but were inexplicably not included in the players’ contracts.) In the end, scanners, mobile phone blockers and transmission delays were all imposed. A Chinese security guard patrols the access area to the playing room and photographers have been requested to hold back sending their pictures of the start of the game until half an hour has passed.

The situation became even stranger when the first game ended, as IM David Martinez writes on Chess24, who transmits the moves and video on one page.

It also seems the delay on the PGN file used to broadcast the moves was removed the moment the game ended. While that makes some sense as cheating is no longer possible, of course, it resulted in the absurd situation that the “live” video commentary was half an hour behind the action fans could see on the board!

Hou Yifan was in fact asked but declined to comment about the transmission delay. She did seem to have some grudges against FIDE. After her first game she said: “Actually I played all matches since FIDE changed the system for the women's title. Definitely I cannot say that I am 100 percent satisfied with the current system that every time I need to play the match like this happens right now.”

After the second game Hou pointed out that FIDE had changed the dates of this match (like they did with the knockout world championship last year, which she therefore had to skip due to prior arrangements) so that it interfered with her original plans.

2016 World Championship | Score After 2 Games

Name Rtg Perf 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 Score
Hou Yifan 2673 2744 ½ 1 1.5
Muzychuk,M 2554 2483 ½ 0 0.5

Friday is a rest day. Games three and four will be played over the weekend.

Mariya Muzychuk can hardly permit herself another loss. | Photo Vitalyi Hrabar.
Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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