- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Leaving little doubt that she is the dominant female player of our time, Chinese GM Hou Yifan easily reclaimed her women’s world crown with a Game 9 victory over Ukrainian GM Mariya Muzychuk in Lvov, Ukraine on Monday.

Hou, who briefly relinquished her title when Muzychuk won the 64-player world championship knockout tournament last year, was never in serious trouble in the scheduled 10-game match, winning 6-3.

Muzychuk’s last best hope came in the match’s critical Game 6, when she still trailed by just a point. She actually obtained a promising position out of this Giuoco Piano and had a chance to obtain a clear advantage after 18. exf5 Bc5!? (better was 18…Nxg3 19. hxg3 Nc8!, heading for the strong defensive post on d6), when 19. f6! Qxf6 (Nxf6 20. Bxe5) 20. b4 Nxg3 21. hxg3 Bd6 22. Qxg4+ would have given White a clear initiative.

Again, the f-pawn push would have been strong after 22. Qe4 Rab8; e.g. 23. f6! Qxf6 24. Qxg4 Rbd8 25. Qe4, with good pressure. Instead, after the game’s 23. Be2? h5 24. Rad1 Ng8 25. Kh2 (better here was 25. a5) Qg5 26. Bc4 Nf6, suddenly Black is pushing the play and White has to cover up.

White fails to adjust her thinking, and a nice combination by Hu gives her an insurmountable 2-point lead after 33. Bc2? (Bc4 sidesteps the coming tactic) exf3! 34. Rxe7 Rxe7 35. Rxe7 f2! 36. Rxf7 (36. Bd3 Bxe7 37. b4 Ne5!, and the passed pawn will soon cost White a piece) f1=Q 37. Ng6+ Kg8 38. Rxf6 (Bb3 Bxg3+! 39. Kxg3 Ne4+ 40. Kh2 g3+ 41. Kh3 Qh1 is mate) Bc5!, and after 42. Rf8+ Kg7 43. f6+ Kh6 44. Rh8+ Kg5, White has to sacrifice the house just to stop mate at g1; Muzychuk resigned.

Across the border, the FIDE candidates’ tournament resumes with Tuesday’s Round 4 in Moscow, with GM Sergey Karjakin of Russia, Indian GM Viswanathan Anand and GM Levon Aronian of Armenia sharing the early lead.

The revived George Washington Open, back on the local calendar after a six-year absence, saw New York GM Aleksandr Lenderman take solo first with an undefeated 4½-½ the weekend of Feb. 26-28. Lenderman defeated second-seeded GM Sergey Erenburg of Virginia in their critical Round 4 pairing on his way to the title.

Col. David A. Hater, an old friend of the column, has a great write-up of the tournament on the Chess Life Online site, including a nice account of the strong tournament by rising Virginia junior WFM Jennifer Yu, whose only loss in the event came against Lenderman.

Yu also took down Maryland GM Akshayraj Kore in a sharp, entertaining struggle during the tournament. Against Black’s Hedgehog formation, Yu strikes on the kingside when Black finds himself with too many pieces marooned on the other wing: 13. d5 Na5 14. b3 Rad8 15. g4 Bc8 16. f5!? exf5 17. gxf5 gxf5 18. Bh6, and Kore’s queen and knight are badly missed as White’s attack builds.

Yu cracks open the shaky Black defenses with a powerful combination after 24. Qh6 Ne5 (see diagram) 25. Nxh7! Rxf1+ 26. Rxf1 Ng4 (Qxh7 27. Qf6+ Kg8 28. Qxc8 mate) 27. Nf8+! Nxh6 28. Ng6+ Kh7 29. Nxe7 Bg4 30. Be4+ Kh8 31. Rf6!, when 31…Ng8 (Bxh5 32. Rxh6+ Kg7 33. Rxh5) 32. Ng6+ Rf7 is mate; Kore resigned.

Muzychuk-Hou, Women’s World Championship, Game 6, Lvov, Ukraine, March 2016

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 O-O 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 g4 10. Nh4 Nh5 11. a4 a6 12. Na3 Qg5 13. Nc2 Ba7 14. Ne3 Ne7 15. d4 Qg7 16. dxe5 dxe5 17. Nef5 Bxf5 18. exf5 Bc5 19. Re1 Nxg3 20. hxg3 Kh8 21. Qe2 Bd6 22. Qe4 Rab8 23. Be2 h5 24. Rad1 Ng8 25. Kh2 Qg5 26. Bc4 Nf6 27. Qe3 Qxe3 28. Rxe3 e4 29. Re2 Rbd8 30. Bb3 Rd7 31. f3 Re8 32. Rde1 Rde7 33. Bc2 exf3 34. Rxe7 Rxe7 35. Rxe7 f2 36. Rxf7 f1=Q 37. Ng6+ Kg8 38. Rxf6 Bc5 White resigns.

Yu-Kore, George Washington Open, Herndon, Va., February 2016

1. c4 b6 2. Nc3 Bb7 3. e4 e6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. Nge2 Ne7 7. O-O O-O 8. d4 d6 9. Be3 a6 10. f4 c5 11. Qd2 Qc7 12. Rac1 Nbc6 13. d5 Na5 14. b3 Rad8 15. g4 Bc8 16. f5 exf5 17. gxf5 gxf5 18. Bh6 fxe4 19. Nxe4 f6 20. N2g3 Ng6 21. Bxg7 Qxg7 22. Nh5 Qe7 23. Nexf6+ Kh8 24. Qh6 Ne5 25. Nxh7 Rxf1+ 26. Rxf1 Ng4 27. Nf8+ Nxh6 28. Ng6+ Kh7 29. Nxe7 Bg4 30. Be4+ Kh8 31. Rf6 Black resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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