Women's World Chess Championship: Tokhirjonova, Abdumalik Shine; Lagno Wins In Armageddon
Kateryna Lagno eliminated her compatriot Natalija Pogonina in the Armageddon game. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

Women's World Chess Championship: Tokhirjonova, Abdumalik Shine; Lagno Wins In Armageddon

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The women's world championship is down to just eight players as another eight got eliminated in the third round. The biggest names packing their bags were Harika Dronavalli, Antoaneta Stefanova, Natalija Pogonina and Valentina Gunina.

The legendary trainer Mark Dvoretsky once told me that there were two types of chess players: the highly theoretical academics and the practical street fighters. In a funny sort of coincidence the same can be said for the two concurrent world championships. While the big match in London is running at a rather genteel pace (cup of tea please!), after the end of round three of the women's world championship it truly felt like a street brawl had broken out. Neither the players nor the spectators managed to emerge emotionally unscathed.

Day 1 and 2:  The last 16

Pairings and results after two games of classical chess:

Zhai Mo (CHN) ½-1½ Ju Wenjun (CHN)
Zawadzka Jolanta (POL) 1-1 Abdumalik Zhansaya (KAZ)
Pogonina Natalija (RUS) 1-1 Lagno Kateryna (RUS)
Muzychuk Anna (UKR) 1-1 Stefanova Antoaneta (BUL)
Harika Dronavalli (IND) 1-1 Kosteniuk Alexandra (RUS)
Galliamova Alisa (RUS) 1-1 Lei Tingjie (CHN)
Alinasab Mobina (IRI) ½-1½ Muzychuk Mariya (UKR)
Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (UZB) 1-1 Gunina Valentina (RUS)

Round three kicked off with a combination of topsy-turvy moments and solid play. Four games ended with decisive results; Ju Wenjun, Anna MuzychukGulrukhbegim Takhirjonova and Jolanta Zawadzka defeated Zhai Mo, Antoaneta Stefanova, Valentina Gunina and Zhansaya Abdumalik respectively.

The reigning world champion Ju Wenjun once again showed genius in her simplicity.

For Ukrainian GM Anna Muzychuk, it appeared that the stars were aligning when her opponent GM Stefanova of Bulgaria horribly misplayed the opening.


Anna Muzychuk started the event with an impressive 5/5. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

Polish IM Jolanta Zawadzka had already produced a stunning victory against one of the tournament favourites Humpy Koneru in round two. In round three she faced off against young talent Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazakhstan and continued her winning ways in a perfect game on the white side of the Giuoco Piano.

Perhaps the most unexpected result was the victory of 19-year-old WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova of Uzbekistan over Valentina Gunina. The match strategy was clear: Tokhirjonova would meet complication with complication.

nullGet ready to remember the name Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova! Victorious against Gunina. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

It is said that little thieves are hanged but great thieves escape. Once again it was Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine who escaped the death knell in her game against Iranian star Mobina Alinasab.

A story of revenge: "Appear weak when you are strong, strong when you are weak."

The first to advance to the quarterfinals were the reigning world champion Ju Wenjun (who easily held her second game against compatriot Zhai Mo) and Mariya Muzychuk, who defeated tournament sensation Alinasab with to some great opening work. It was magnificent for the young Iranian while it lasted.


Natalia Pogonina is unsure of Mobina Alinasab's position against Mariya Muzychuk. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

On the subject of openings, it was a fantastic novelty that allowed Gunina to win her game and equalize her score in her match against Tokhirjonova.

nullSecond Igor Lysyj happy with Valentina Gunina's play. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

In other decisive results, Abdumalik and Stefanova managed to dig deep to win their games and level their match scores. Stefanova's victory was especially theoretical.



The Chinese delegation cheering on Lei Tingjie in her match against Alisa Galliamova. | Photo: Ugra Chess.


Zawadzka Jolanta (POL) 1½-2½ Abdumalik Zhansaya (KAZ)
Pogonina Natalija (RUS) 4-5 Lagno Kateryna (RUS)
Muzychuk Anna (UKR) 2½-1½ Stefanova Antoaneta (BUL)
Harika Dronavalli (IND) 2½-3½ Kosteniuk Alexandra (RUS)
Galliamova Alisa (RUS) 1-3 Lei Tingjie (CHN)
Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (UZB) 3-1 Gunina Valentina (RUS)

If the classical matches had been an interesting blend between the tepid and the tumultuous, the tie-breaks gave the audience some of the most scintillatingly instructive moments. 

Rule number 1: Do not lose control of the initiative.

This is what IM Alisa Galliamova of Russia learned in her devastating rapid game against China's Lei Tingjie.


Although it doesn't look like it, Shanghai university student Lei Tingjie cruised into the quarterfinals | Photo: Ugra Chess.

Rule number 2: Do not walk into preparation; duck and dive.

Not following this rule caught out two victims. In her second rapid game, Antoaneta Stefanova fell foul to some fiendishly tricky preparation from Anna Muzychuk. For those fans of the London system please avert your eyes now.

nullA hard lesson for Antoaneta Stefanova. | Photo Ugra Chess.

Coach Zahar Efimenko from Ukraine told reporters that his job at the event was to give his student Zhansaya Abdumalik not just an excellent understanding of the opening and middlegame but also a good mood! His philosophy was certainly successful if the following game against Jolanta Zawadzka is anything to go by.

An emotional day for Jolanta Zawadzka. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

Rule number 3: In the midst of chaos there is always opportunity.

The match between heavyweights GMs Harika Dronavalli and Alexandra Kosteniuk was a tense affair. The two had met in the 2015 women's world championship where it had been Harika that emerged victorious. This time it took a visibly relieved Kosteniuk six games to establish a decisive result in her favor. The following game was especially instructive:

nullA tense match between Alexandra Kosteniuk and Harika Dronavalli. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

Rule number 4: "Bang, bang your moves and hope it pays off."


A visibly shaken Kateryna Lagno emerged victorious after a gruelling nine-game match against Natalija Pogonina. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

The gruelling marathon between Kateryna Lagno and Natalija Pogonina went right down to the wire with both players often making moves on their very last second. For the players and the audience it was a heart stopper.

It was perhaps fitting that such a frenetic match should be decided in an Armageddon game, and as everyone knows the secret to that is to bang out the fastest moves in the most sensible way possible. 

Round 4 pairings:

 Ju Wenjun (CHN)  Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (UZB)
 Muzychuk Mariya (UKR)  Abdumalik Zhansaya (KAZ)
 Lagno Kateryna (RUS)  Lei Tingjie (CHN)
 Kosteniuk Alexandra (RUS)  Muzychuk Anna (UKR)

Games via TWIC.

Previous reports:

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