Ni Shiqun Knocks Out Gunina, Pogonina In Tehran

Ni Shiqun Knocks Out Gunina, Pogonina In Tehran

JovankaHouska
IM JovankaHouska
Feb 19, 2017, 12:00 AM |
49 | Chess.com News

WGM Ni Shiqun of China is the sensation of the women's world championship so far. In the last two rounds the 19-year-old Chinese player eliminated both GMs Valentina Gunina and WGM Natalija Pogonina.

The first round in the women’s world championship left us with the feeling that we were watching a typical blockbuster movie: lots of action, some surprising twists but a not entirely surprising ending.

First of all, let’s recap the results.

Round 2:  The classical victories.

GM Ju Wenjun

1.5-0.5

GM Zhu, Chen

IM Kashlinskaya Alina

0.5-1.5

GM Muzychuk Anna

GM Kosteniuk Alexandra

1-1

IM Gaponenko Inna

IM Saduakassova, Dinara

1-1

GM Harika Dronavalli

GM Dzagnidze, Nana

2-0

IM Zimina Olga

WGM Ni Shiqun

2-0

GM Gunina Valentina

GM Stefanova Antoaneta

1-1

IM Melia Salome

GM Padmini, Rout

1-1

GM Zhao Xue

WGM Tan Zhongyi

1-1

GM Ushenina, Anna

IM Khurtsidze Nino

1-1

IM Batsiashvili Nino

IM Pogonina Natalija

1-1

WGM Huang Qian

IM Savina Anastasia

1.5-0.5

IM Shen Yang

WGM Buksa Nataliya

1-1

IM Guramishvili Sopiko

GM Cramling Pia

1-1

IM Paehtz Elisabeth

WGM Goryachkina Aleksandra

1.5-0.5

IM Pham, Le Thao Nguyen

IM Girya Olga

2-0

IM Bodnaruk Anastasia

Seven of the matches were determined by the classical games. Tournament favorite Ju Wenjun had a very lucky break when her opponent, 2001 women’s world champion Zhu Chen (now representing Qatar), committed an absolute howler in the opening—due to the danger of knowing a little bit but not enough theory!

[Editor's note: As it turned out, Zhu was very ill during this tournament so this probably affected her play as well.]

Second seed Anna Muzychuk also qualified by virtue of a fine attack after her opponent confused opening theory and over-extended.

GM Anna Muzychuk has been in powerful form | Photo David Llada.

International masters Shen Yang and Olga Girya also progressed smoothly by knocking out the Russian Anastasias, IMs Savina and Bodnaruk. Georgian grandmaster and fifth seed Nana Dzagnidze recovered from her first-round marathon to defeat IM Olga Zimina in round two.  

There were two major surprises, with 2016 women’s world universities champion WGM Ni Shiqun defeating sixth-seeded Russian GM Valentina Gunina 2-0.

The russian talent Alexandra Goryachkina also left the competition in a rather tragic way after failing to make the correct choices in her match against Vietnamese IM Pham Le Thao Nguyen


 

Vietnamese IM Pham, Le Thao Nguyen | Photo David Llada.

Tiebreak 1: 25+ 5: The big cat theory "stalk and pounce."

Tiebreak 1

Kosteniuk Alexandra

1.5-0.5

Gaponenko Inna

Saduakassova, Dinara

0.5-1.5

Harika Dronavalli

Stefanova Antoaneta

1.5-0.5

Melia Salome

Padmini, Rout

1.5-0.5

Zhao Xue

Tan Zhongyi

1-1

Ushenina, Anna

Khurtsidze Nino

1-1

Batsiashvili Nino

Pogonina Natalija

1-1

Huang Qian

Buksa Nataliya

1-1

Guramishvili Sopiko

Cramling Pia

2-0

Paehtz Elisabeth

With nine matches going into the tiebreaks, it was entirely expected that the day would be filled to the brim with tension, and nerves that seemed to escalate in proportion to the decrease in clock time!

The tiebreaks all started off calmly with the experienced grandmasters Alexandra Kosteniuk, Antoaneta Stefanova, Pia Cramling and Harika Dronavalli all employing a technique reminiscent of how big cats stalk their prey—the "stalk and pounce" technique.

All of the mentioned grandmasters started their games in a slow and stable manner before pouncing on their opponents' mistakes to secure those decisive victories. The following example was typical of the strategy they employed.

The biggest upset in these tiebreaks was Padmini Rout sensationally defeating grandmaster Zhao Xue from China with some resilient defense and great counterattacking skills.

Tiebreak 2 and 3: 10+10 3+2

"It is a gross overstatement but in chess, it can be said I play against my opponent over the board and against myself on the clock."

Tiebreak 2

 

 

Tan Zhongyi

1-1

Ushenina, Anna

Khurtsidze Nino

1-1

Batsiashvili Nino

Pogonina Natalija

1.5-0.5

Huang Qian

Buksa Nataliya

1-1

Guramishvili Sopiko

The above quote by the late grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi is absolutely apt for rapid chess and it could have been the motto for the four matches that made it all the way to the faster time controls.  The pace of these matches was undoubtedly emotional, frenetic and in turns, shocking.

The first to escape the mania and reach the third round was Russian IM Natalia Pogonina, who outplayed Huang Qian from China in their sixth game. Second to escape into the third round was IM Sopiko Guramishvili who defeated Natalia Buksa after an emotional eight rounds.

The turning point came for Guramashvili in game six. She had lost her fifth game and was on the brink of leaving the contest after having reached the easily drawn rook-and-knight-vs rook position. After pressing for a while, on the 126th move the following position occurred:

This game poses an interesting training question—is it most useful to practice endgame studies so that creative patterns become automatic? Or is fitness and stamina the key? The answer probably lies in all both these two things—hard work usually pays! Guramashvili went on to convincingly win her eighth game to enter round three with a huge sigh of relief.

Armageddon.

Ushenina, Anna

0.5-0.5

Tan Zhongyi

Khurtsidze Nino

1-0

Batsiashvili Nino

Two matches reached the bitter end: winner-take-all games, and NIno Khurtsidze and Tan Zhongyi would emerge the victors. However the current European women’s champion Anna Ushenina must have been bitterly disappointed not to convert the following position.

Tan Zhongyi from China beat Ushenina in the Armageddon. | Photo David Llada.

Round 3: Waving farewell to the underdogs Guramishvili, Pham, Padmini.

There is no doubt, round two was a head rush and in comparison round three was a tranquil affair with everything more or less working out for the favorites.   

Classical results

GM Ju Wenjun

1-1

IM Girya Olga

WGM Tan Zhongyi

1-1

IM Padmini, Rout

IM Guramishvili Sopiko

1-1

GM Harika Dronavalli

GM Dzagnidze, Nana

1.5-0.5

IM Shen Yang

IM Pham, Le Thao Nguyen

0-2

GM Muzychuk Anna

GM Stefanova Antoaneta

1.5-0.5

IM Khurtsidze Nino

GM Kosteniuk Alexandra

1-1

GM Cramling Pia

IM Pogonina Natalija

0.5-1.5

WGM Ni Shiqun

The classical round saw four people secure early spots into round four. Decisive victories in the first games were enough for grandmasters Anna Muzychuk, Antoaneta Stefanova and Nana Dzagnidze to breeze through into round four.

Both Muzychuk and Dzagnidze showed some excellent opening preparation to put in a powerful performance.

The second game in the classical match saw the relatively unknown 19-year-old WGM Ni Shiqun defeat 2015 finalist WGM Natalija Pogonina with some shrewd middlegame play.

WGM Ni Shiqun. | Photo David Llada.

During the press conference Ni gave away the secret to her success: working on her openings with her boyfriend! Although after discussion with her translator it was agreed that the best thing to do was to keep the name of the boyfriend a mystery!

The remaining four games were very close and unsurprisingly went to tiebreaks.

The Tiebreaks.

Ju Wenjun

2.5-1.5

Girya Olga

Tan Zhongyi

2.5-1.5

Padmini, Rout

Guramishvili Sopiko

1.5-2.5

Harika Dronavalli

Kosteniuk Alexandra

3-1

Cramling Pia

While the round-two tiebreaks had taken on a rather emotional aspect, everything felt a lot more logical in round three—even if it did take the second stage of the tiebreaks to decide the outcome in all four matches!

The critical moments:

Ju  Wenjun vs Olga Girya

Olga Girya had been successfully holding back top seed Ju Wenjun for much of the match. Girya had even bounced back from a disastrous loss in the third game by striking back to win game four to reach the 10+10 tiebreaks. After unsuccessfully pressing in all of game five the match all boiled down to the following endgame in game six.

Ju Wenjun takes a power nap. | Photo David Llada.

Tan Zhongyi vs Padmini Rout

Plucky Indian IM Padmini Rout had captured the hearts of the audience by defeating grandmasters Elina Danielian and Zhao Xue. After the first tiebreak game it looked like she would continue her winning streak after defeating Tan in a very well-played endgame rook and pawn endgame.  However, it was not to be as Tan Zhongyi struck back in a devastating manner to level the match. This was the turning point when the momentum of the match turned in the Chinese WGM’s favor.

 

Sopiko Guramishvili-Harika Dronavalli

The Indian grandmaster Harika seems to have worked out a successful strategy; draw the classical games and then place all her energy into winning just one of the tie-break games.

GM Harika Dronavalli. | Photo David Llada.

Fortune was on her side when she clinched her place into the fourth round with this chaotic game.

Kosteniuk-Cramling

Swedish grandmaster Pia Cramling is probably one of the nicest grandmasters you will ever meet. With a legion of Scandinavian fans cheering for her on Facebook, things looked to be going well until the curse of fatigue struck and Cramling was simply unable to recover.

The quarterfinals. 

Round 4     
Ju Wenjun   Tan Zhongyi
Harika Dronavalli   Dzagnidze, Nana
Muzychuk Anna   Stefanova Antoaneta
Kosteniuk Alexandra   Ni Shiqun

Eight people remain in the quarterfinals with some interesting match-ups.

In particular I am interested in how Ju Wenjun will fare against her compatriot Tan Zhongyi and also how Anna Muzychuk will match up against former world champion Antoaneta Stefanova, a very skilled match competitor.


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