- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chinese WGM Hou Yifan used a dominating performance to reclaim the women’s world title from overmatched Ukrainian WGM Anna Ushenina last week.

The 19-year-old Hou wrapped up the scheduled 10-game match in Taizhou, China with three games to go, recapturing the crown she had held from 2010 to 2012. Hou is the fourth Chinese woman to hold the world title in the past 22 years, starting with the breakthrough win by the great Xie Jun in 1991. She will put her title on the line in FIDE’s next title knockout tournament set for October 2014.

Ushenina, a surprise winner of FIDE’s knockout title tournament last year, never had a chance in Taizhou, finding herself outmatched tactically and constantly in severe time trouble. Three straight losses with the White pieces in Games 1, 3 and 6 pretty much sealed the Ukrainian’s fate, and the Chinese challenger applied the clincher with a convincing Game 7 win Friday.

With nothing to lose, Ushenina as Black tries a rare sideline in the Najdorf Sicilian (6…Nbd7) in a bid to change her luck. But after some intricate middle game maneuvering Hou again seizes the initiative after 19. Bd4 Be5 20. Bxe5 dxe5 21. h4! gxh4 22. Qe1, and White will use the openings on the h- and c-files to penetrate into Black’s position.

Desperate to keep her hopes alive, Black instead walks into a powerful counterpunch on 29. Rc3 Qd8 (IM Elisabeth Pahtz suggests here 29…Bxe4!? 30. Rxc8+ Nd8 31. Qxh6 Kd7 32. Rc3 Bg6, maintaining the tension) 30. Qf2 Qd4? (allowing a decisive infiltration for White) 31. Qf6! (with the dual threats of 32. Rc7 and 32. Qxe6+) Qd6 32. Nf2 Kf8 33. Rf3 Rg7 34. Qxh6, and the White pieces are circling the Black king for the kill. It’s over on 37. g5 Nxg5 38. Ng4 Nf7 (Qe7 39. Rd8+ Be8 40. Ra8 and White is winning) 39. Qxe6 Qg1+ 40. Rd1 and Black relinquished her crown facing lines like 40…Qb6 41. Qc8+ Kh7 42. Rh1+ Kg6 43. Qf5 mate.

Yu-Salem after 30...Nd7.
Yu-Salem after 30…Nd7. more >

It’s been a banner month for Chinese chess, with 19-year-old GM Yu Yangyi scoring a tie for first with Russian GM Alexander Ipatov at the World Junior Championships that concluded Monday in Kocaeli, Turkey. Yu, the top-rated player in the field, got off to a blazing start with 6½ points in his first seven games, but needed a last-round win over Serb IM Aleksandar Indjic to match Ipatov at 8½-1½. One of Yu’s best efforts was a dominating positional win in Round 4 over GM Saleh A.R. Salem of the United Arab Emirates.

White nurses the tiniest of space advantages out of this Scotch Game, never letting Salem get the break he needs to develop his pieces. The bind becomes paralyzing on 25. g3 fxe4 26. Bh3! Re7 27. Rxd6 Nge8 (Bxh3 28. Rxf6 Be6 29. Ned5+! cxd5 30. cxd5, and if 30…Bg8, 31. d6+ wins the rook) 28. Rd8 exf3 29. b5, and Black is running out of useful moves.

A Black defensive lapse seals the victory for White: 30. a5 Nd7?? (see diagram; 30…bxa5! 31. b6+ Kxb6 32. Rxc8 Rxc8 33. Bxc8 Kc7 34. Bh3 Nd6 and Black can fight on) 31. Rxc8+! Kxc8 32. Ned5! cxd5 33. Nxd5, when Black is lost on 33…Kd8 34. Nxe7 Kxe7 35. Rxd7+ Kf6 36. a6 bxa6 37. bxa6 Ra8 38. a7.

But Black lands in a mating net on 33…Rg7 34. Nxb6+ Kc7 35. Nxd7 Ra8 36. b6+ Kc6 37. Rd5 (threatening 38. Ne5 mate) Rxa5 38. Rxa5 Rxd7 39. Bxd7+ Kxd7 40. Kxf3 and Salem resigned facing a hopeless endgame.

There’s always a wealth of interesting — if less than perfect — games at the World Juniors, with a chance to see rising male and female talents before they become established stars. Case in point: the back-and-forth battle between expert Maria Gevorgyan of Armenia and WIM Chelsie Sihite from Indonesia, with Black finally finding the killer combination to claim the victory.

Gevorgyan wins a pawn in this Ruy Lopez Steinitz Deferred, but throws away her advantage on 32. c4 Re7 33. Ba1? (pushing forward with 33. e5! Kg8 34. exf6 Rxe3 35. Bxe3 Qxf6 36. Bxf4 gxf4 37. Re4 keeps White in charge) Red8, and suddenly there’s no way to keep the Black rooks from infiltrating to the second rank.

But the advantage shuttles back and forth across the board in the ensuing play: 36. Kh2 h6? (R8d3! 37. Rxd3 Rxg2+ was the way to go) 37. e5?? (Rf1! — defending against the queen check on f2 — R8d3 38. Rxd3 Rxg2+ 39. Kh1 is fine for White) R8d3!? (not bad but 37…Nxg2! 38. Rxg2 Rxg2+ 39. Kxg2 Rd2+ 40. Kf3 Qf2+ 41. Kg2 Qf4+ 42. Kh5 Qh4 mate was a more satisfying conclusion) 38. exf6+ Kf8 39. Rxd3 Rxg2+! 40. Kh1 Rh2+!, and now there’s no escape for White as 41. Kxh2 Qf2+ 42. Kh1 Qg2 is mate; Gevorgyan resigned.

Hou-Ushenina, Women’s World Championship Match, Taizhou, China September 2013

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 Nbd7 7. Be2 e6 8. g4 h6 9. f4 g5 10. f5 Ne5 11. h3 b5 12. a3 Qe7 13. fxe6 fxe6 14. Nf3 Nfd7 15. Qd2 Nxf3+ 16. Bxf3 Ne5 17. Be2 Bg7 18. O-O-O Nf7 19. Bd4 Be5 20. Bxe5 dxe5 21. h4 gxh4 22. Qe1 Ra7 23. Rxh4 Rd7 24. Rh5 Rg8 25. Kb1 Qc5 26. Rh3 Qb6 27. Qh4 Rxd1+ 28. Nxd1 Bb7 29. Rc3 Qd8 30. Qf2 Qd4 31. Qf6 Qd6 32. Nf2 Kf8 33. Rf3 Rg7 34. Qxh6 Kg8 35. Qf6 Bc6 36. Rd3 Qc5 37. g5 Nxg5 38. Ng4 Nf7 39. Qxe6 Qg1+ 40. Rd1 Black resigns.

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