Queens hold their ground on day 2

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

After yesterday’s domination by the Kings, the ladies came to today’s matches ready for revenge. If the men thought that every day would be a rout, then after the chess960 round there was a definite ‘uh oh’ feeling setting on them. Initially, it looked as if the confidence at the Kings’ camp was justified, when both Nakamura and Finegold won convincingly, but the women responded with three straight wins in the remaining games to send a message that they were not planning on going quietly.

By Aviv Friedman

[More info on this event can be found here]

To determine the chess960 position for day two, GM Susan Polgar rolled a giant die to determine the starting position for each piece.

GM Hikaru Nakamura’s game against IM Anna Zatonskih was reminiscent of his convincing win in round one on Saturday. He needed exactly two moves to declare his intentions: after 1.e4 e5, he played 2.f4, which Zatonskih declined. When he advanced his strong center, the current U.S. Women’s Champ tried to muddy the water with a two-pawn sacrifice, one of which she later recovered.

In the ensuing endgame, Nakamura underestimated his opponent’s drawing chances, especially the pseudo-exchange sac ...

... 31...Rxe3! 32.Rxe3 Nxd5, which should have drawn. In time trouble things went sour for black, and white managed to score the full point.

The rapid game was a total mad house! A quiet opening went wild, as Nakamura played very provocatively, trying to win white’s center d-pawn. Unperturbed, Zatonskih kept a cool head with plenty of compensation for her pawn.  

When the highest ranked U.S. player blundered with 16...Bg7? ... she pounced with the devilish 17.Bg6! with the intention of playing 18. Nxe6 (after 17...fxg6 ) where white has incredible initiative. Black kept a poker face with 17...Qe7 and was rewarded when white went for 18.Nxf7 0-0! After the game Nakamura said if she had played 17.Bxf7+!, then he would have had to part with his queen. In the game after the time scramble, white ended up giving a perpetual check.

In the game between GM Ben Finegold and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, Finegold, with white, developed his pieces, queen included, much faster than his opponent’s, and executed one of the longest possible castling moves in chess960 ...

...11.0-0 which means white’s king moved to g1 and the h1 rook moved all the way to f1! By the time black tried to consolidate, white built a menacing attack—one from which black could not recover. Amusingly, Finegold took a full minute before playing 25.Nd7 mate, not because he was admiring his position, but rather because there were so many appetizing continuations, he said he didn’t initially realize it was there!

Kosteniuk made her best effort to avenge this loss in their rapid encounter, throwing her entire kingside at her opponent’s castled king. Black did not sit and wait to get mated, however, and cooked up a nice exchange sacrifice of his own ...

...15...Rxc3!? 16.bxc3 Qc7, not even bothering to recapture the exchange. Both players were consuming much of their allotted time, and eventually after the queens’ trade it was unclear who was better. In a blitz-like photo finish the last pawn was captured, and so a draw was agreed.

IM Marc Arnold tried an interesting piece offering versus GM Kateryna Lahno, but the latter ‘one upped’ her opponent with

22...Nd4! and after 23.exd4 Nxc4 (23...Nf3! would have been even better). When the dust cleared, the white king was inconveniently exposed, and the combo of threats to win a rook and mate proved too much for the New Yorker. Game two between the same opponents started as a bit of a yawner, with a calm Catalan on the board. Just as spectators were considering looking elsewhere, the Ukrainian GM uncorked 13.Bf4?? ...

... and after 13...g5, wining material was a rude shock. White fought on hard, and after some mutual inaccuracies managed to steer the game to a position where white had a queen and black three minor pieces. Usually the queen is no match for such firepower, but the time factor and some neat stalemate tricks enabled Lahno to ‘steal’ a well-earned half a point!

IM Martha Fierro played a fine positional game against IM Jacek Stopa and reached a considerable advantage on the board. Very low on time, she reluctantly invited a three-fold repetition, which in retrospect Stopa should have accepted. Eager to cash in on her time shortage, he played on but the position was just too easy to play for white. She increased her advantage, and won the rook endgame with convincing accuracy.

Stopa evened up the score in game two, when the Ecuadorian IM went on a fishing expedition with her knight (Nc6-b4 and back to c6 just three moves later), which cost her vital time. Stopa nursed his bishop pair and space advantage, squeezing black in a boa-grip till the black position cracked—1-0 in 40 moves.

The chess960 game between IM Irina Krush and NM Kevin Cao started as vintage Krush. She got a slight pull in the opening and was on the right path, but allowed her young opponent to return to the game. After some maneuvering, she picked up an exchange for a pawn and cashed in without much effort. The rapid game put Cao on the scoreboard for the first time. After several early trades, black gave up a pawn in order to leave the white king vulnerable in the center of the board. Perhaps she could have presented Cao with some tougher problems had she played 18...Rb2! ...

... when white is tied down completely despite his extra pawn.. Eschewing this in favor of 18...Rd5 in the game allowed white to give back the extra pawn and castle away from his headaches, and thus the game ended peacefully.

And so yesterday’s margin remains the same after today. It is indeed a comfortable lead, but as the guys said in unison: one bad day and it could all be erased! Have the Queens regained some of their lost confidence? Will the Kings cement their lead? Stay tuned!

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