Humpy and Harika in Tehran
The second leg of FIDE women Grand Prix 2015-16 is being held in Tehran, Iran. India's top two players Humpy Koneru and Harika Dronavalli are out there looking to win some crucial Grand Prix points. Alina l'Ami who is the press officer has analyzed some key moments from the games of the players for the official website which we now reproduce here. We also have the format of the FIDE Grand Prix and what exactly is at stake at this event.
The FIDE women’s Grand Prix cycle for the year 2015-16 began with the first leg being held in Monte Carlo, Monaco from the 3rd to the 15th of October 2015. The second event is now in progress in Tehran, Iran, from 10th to the 24th of February 2016. The Grand Prix (GP) cycle consists of four tournaments being held in period of 2015-16. The schedule for these events is as follows:
- Monte Carlo, Monaco, 3rd-15th October 2015
- Tehran, Iran, February 10-24th February 2016
- Tbilisi, Georgia, May 2016
- Chengdu, China, July 2016
The players have to select any three of the above events, and their aggregate points from those three events will decide the eventual winner. The GP champion qualifies for the World Women’s Championship Match (Challenger) in 2017. In case the World Women Champion and the winner of GP cycle are the same then the second place in the GP standings gets a chance to challenge the World Champion.
16 players will be playing in the Grand Prix cycle. Four are from World Championship, Sochi 2015
- Mariya Muzychuk (World Champion)
- Natalija Pogonina (World Championship finalist)
- Pia Cramling (Semi-finalist)
- Dronavalli Harika (Semi-finalist)
Six players by rating
- Hou Yifan
- Koneru Humpy
- Nana Dzagnidze
- Ju Wenjun
- Anna Muzychuk
- Valentina Gunina
Two nominations by FIDE President
- Alexandra Kosteniuk
- Antaoneta Stefanova
For the remaining four players, one player will be nominated in each leg by the organizers.
The first event in Monte Carlo was convincingly won by Hou Yifan. Humpy had finished third while Harika did not participate in that one. The Iran leg is particuarly important for Indian fans as both Humpy and Harika are participating in this one. After two rounds this is how things stand:
Round 1: Harika loses to Pogonina (Notes by Alina l'Ami)
After a very interesting strategic fight, implying a pawn sacrifice for initiative by her opponent, Natalija Pogonina, Harika's clock started to run too fast.
Harika - Pogonina
With the seconds ticking away, she went for the concrete 32. Rd1 which failed in view of 32...Rxe2 33.Rxd4 Qxd4! (this is what Harika missed) 34.Qxd4 Rxc2 and a long term advantage for Black, which was eventually converted into a point.
Had the Indian GM had just a bit more time, she would have gone for the more solid 32.Qa5 or 32.a4 but today it was not to be.
Round 1: Humpy overcomes Zhao Xue (Notes by Alina l'Ami)
17. b4 was not the most fortunate plan as 17... b5 is a very strong counter-move, stopping White's ideas on the wing and preparing to jump with the knight to c4 via b6.
18. Qb3 a5 19. a3 Nb6 20. Ne1 Nc4 21. Ra2 After the first success on the queenside, Black will soon establish a domination on both wings, which was rewarded in the end with the coveted point.
Round 2: Sarasadat Khademalsharieh - Harika Dronavalli 1/2-1/2
Quite often in chess, as in life, one move has the power to demolish all your hard work....at least this is what happened in Harika's game of yesterday. However, she has found the strength to stand up and fight back, taking risks and entering theoretical Benoni territories instead of adopting a more solid approach: "I wanted to have a game, to enjoy chess and forget about results and what is at stake".
Harika remembered the fashionable exchange sacrifice on f4 and played:
12... Rxf4 but found herself on her own soon, trying to figure out how exactly she could prove Black's compensation. After a well played middlegame part she had one crucial moment:
30... Qf5 was played, which is very logical, protecting the d-pawn but that handed Sara the initiative after 31. Re4 Rc8 32. d6. This was indeed a turning point in the game, as 30... Qh6!! (such a surprising move somehow) would have kept the advantage, since 31. Qxd3 runs into 31... Nf4.
The Iranian IM suddenly found herself in the driver's seat and only the tenacious defence by Harika ("never give up is one of her recommended mottos) brought her half a point.
And yet, the question whether material would prevail over initiative or vice-versa remained open until the very end when it was left... undecided! The draw looked like a fair enough a result. Almost...
Of course, the engines spoil the fun but it brings the truth into the spotlight too. Here Sara could have kept a serious advantage after: 40. Rf4! since 40...Qxe5 is not possible due to 41. d7!
The scoresheet witnessed a more restrictive move:
40. Qxc5 after which the time control was reached but also a rather drawish endgame without the ladies on the board...we can conclude it was a hard fought draw, with the inherent ups and downs.
Humpy Koneru - Natalia Zhukova 1/2-1/2
The Benko Gambit from this game led to an interesting positional and dynamic struggle in a true King's Indian style. Both players were content with their positions, but the draw was probably the most logical result. The square attracting the most attention was e5, being successively occupied by a black, then white and again(!) a black pawn, as Black tried stabilizing the position and White opening it.
12... e5 13. dxe6 fxe6 and now Humpy played what she thought was a good strategical decision, while her opponent was taken by total surprise, a pleasant one, as they commented after the game.
14. e5 dxe5 15. Nc3 sacrificing the pawn temporarely for a good cause: blocking the g7-bishop and freeing the e4-square for the knight. After good moves displayed by both sides the draw became inevitable.
Report taken from the Official website