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Women's World Championship Final: Tan Zhongyi is the 16th World Chess Champion

by Elshan Moradiabadi - 05/03/2017

The dramatic final tiebreaker of the Women’s World Championship ended with a victory for the one with steel-like nerves: Tan Zhongyi from China. As we expected, the Chinese showed a great control over her nerves to bring the best of her game forward and defeated yet another favorite to win the tournament, Anna Muzychuk, to win the coveted title. Illustrated report and analysis by GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

All photos by David Llada

Tan Zhongyi is the fifth Chinese to become women’s world champion, keeping the title in China after world No.1 and now ex-world champion, Hou Yifan, dropped out of world championship cycle in protest to FIDE's approach. Similar to their close encounter in the classical games, the rapid games were all about white pieces. Being as it was only a mini-match of two games, the players had to maintain a high level of focus and show a lot of resilience to keep themselves in the match.

The tiebreaker begins

In the first game, Tan Zhongyi played an odd variation from the black side of a Petroff and soon found herself in deep troubles. The position should be winning for Anna on several occasions but the latter was a bit fussy and too concerned with stopping black’s counterplay. This gave Tan enough time to create activity on the kingside and the game ended in a draw soon after.

Anna Muzychuk - Tan Zhongyi (annotated by Elshan Moradiabadi)

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"] [Site "ChessBase"] [Date "2017.03.03"] [Round "50.1"] [White "Muzychuk, Anna"] [Black "Tan, Zhongyi"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2558"] [BlackElo "2502"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "121"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2003.06.08"] [WhiteTeam "Ukraine"] [BlackTeam "China"] [WhiteTeamCountry "UKR"] [BlackTeamCountry "CHN"] [WhiteClock "0:01:05"] [BlackClock "0:01:10"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. dxc3 Be7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Qd2 Qe8 9. Bd3 Nc6 10. O-O-O Ne5 11. Nxe5 dxe5 12. c4 Qa4 13. Kb1 Be6 14. f3 Rfe8 15. Qe2 Qa5 16. Bd2 Qc5 17. Bc3 f6 18. Qe4 g6 19. Qxb7 (19. h4 Qc6 20. Qxc6 bxc6 21. Ba5 Rac8 22. g4 {could have been a possible endgame with a lot of suffering for black.}) 19... Bxc4 20. Bxc4+ Qxc4 21. Rd7 Bd6 22. Rd1 Rab8 23. Qd5+ Qxd5 24. Rxd5 Rbd8 25. Rxd8 Rxd8 26. a4 Rd7 27. Ra5 c5 28. Ka2 Rb7 ( 28... f5 {and active play on the kingside was necessary.}) 29. Rb5 $6 {This misses a great winning chance.} (29. Ra6 $1 Be7 30. Rc6 Kf7 31. a5 h5 32. Ka3 Rd7 33. Ka4 Bd6 34. Kb5 f5 35. Rc8 e4 36. fxe4 fxe4 37. Kc6 Ke6 38. Bd2 { and white completely dominates. The game is close to over.}) 29... Rc7 30. Ba5 Rc6 31. Kb3 c4+ 32. Kc3 e4 $1 {This creates good practical chanced but black's problems are not fully solved yet.} 33. fxe4 Bxh2 $2 (33... Be5+ $1 {was necessary} 34. Kd2 (34. Kb4 Bd6+ {This is the key. White king cannot proceed.} 35. Kc3 Be5+) 34... Bxh2) 34. Kd4 (34. Rb7 $1 {Frees b5 and gives white excellent winning chances.} Bg1 (34... Be5+ 35. Kb4 Bd4 36. Rd7 Bf2 37. Rc7 { looks losing.}) 35. Rc7 Ra6 36. Kb4 Re6 37. Rxc4 h5 38. Rc8+ Kg7 39. Rc7+ Kh6 40. c4 Rxe4 41. Kb3 {and white seems faster but it requires thorough evaluation.}) 34... a6 35. Rb7 Bg1+ 36. Kc3 {Black is safe now but...} Bh2 $2 { Black should not give up on b6 square.} 37. Bb6 $1 {Now white is close to winning.} Bg3 38. Be3 $2 (38. a5 $1 {[#] Looks completely winning.}) 38... Re6 $1 {best practical solution!} 39. Kd4 $2 {This throws away most of white's advantage} (39. Kxc4 Rxe4+ 40. Bd4 Re2 41. Bxf6 Rxc2+ 42. Bc3 Rxg2 43. a5 { and white should win because his pawns are much more advanced and her king is very active.}) 39... f5 $1 {resourceful play by Tan Zhongyi. Anna's position is still in good hands but she is too worried about her kingisde.} 40. exf5 ( 40. Kxc4 Rxe4+ 41. Kd3 Rxa4 42. c4 {should still gives white excellent winning chances}) 40... gxf5 41. Bg5 h6 42. Bd2 f4 43. Kxc4 Re2 44. Bc3 Rxc2 45. Rg7+ Kf8 46. Rh7 Rxg2 47. Rxh6 Ke7 48. Kd5 Re2 49. Rh7+ Ke8 50. Be5 Rh2 51. Rxh2 Bxh2 52. Ke4 Kd7 53. Bxf4 Bxf4 54. Kxf4 Kc6 55. Ke5 Kc5 56. a5 Kb5 57. Kd5 Kxa5 58. Kc5 Ka4 59. b4 Kb3 60. Kb6 Kxb4 61. Kxa6 {A sad draw for Anna. She only had five minutes to recover and prepare for the second game.} 1/2-1/2

Muzychuk wondering what has gone wrong

With only five minutes remaining for the next game to begin, Anna Muzychuk seemed to have a difficult time to recover.  Nevertheless, she managed to achieve an equal position out of the opening and quickly achieved a desirable set up for her pieces. However, once her pieces achieved maximum activity, she started to stall instead of going after a bit risky but right plan in my opinion.

Anna feeling the heat in her first tiebreaker in the tournament.

Consequently, she started losing ground gradually to Tan Zhongyi, who played extremely conservatively but followed a specific plan. Nevertheless, the game was going on in a balanced fashion until around move 35, Anna started to play slightly erratically and lost objectivity towards her position. On move 38, however, she made her final blunder, running with her king into a mate, from which she had no chance to escape.


One move later she had to resign due to inevitable mate and the resilient Tan Zhongyi became the 16th women’s world chess champion thanks to her steel-like nerve, and objectivity in this match, and the entire tournament.

Tan Zhongyi - Anna Muzychuk (annotated by Elshan Moradiabadi)

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"] [Site "ChessBase"] [Date "2017.03.03"] [Round "51.1"] [White "Tan, Zhongyi"] [Black "Muzychuk, Anna"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D11"] [WhiteElo "2502"] [BlackElo "2558"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2003.06.08"] [WhiteTeam "China"] [BlackTeam "Ukraine"] [WhiteTeamCountry "CHN"] [BlackTeamCountry "UKR"] [WhiteClock "0:08:12"] [BlackClock "0:00:19"] 1. d4 {The beginning of the most important game in Anna Muzychuk's and Tan Zhongyi's career. The winner of this game will be named 'Women's World Champion'!} d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 {Anna Muzychuk remains faithful to her choice of Slav.} 4. g3 $5 {followed by Qb3 this could transpose to a game similar to the final round of classical games. However, it is obvious that Tan Zhongyi is up for anything but a fast draw in this game! After last round somewhat lucky save, she wants to make the most out of her white pieces.} Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 {a safe choice by Muzychuk. Obviosuly, she does not want to take so much risk.} 6. Nh4 dxc4 {Muzychuk chooses a very solid structure. The other bishop moves are solid too but they could lead to 'easy to play' position for white.} (6... Bg4 7. Qb3 Qb6 8. h3 Bh5 9. g4 Bg6 10. Nxg6 hxg6 11. Bg2 Na6 12. Bf4 Qb4 13. O-O dxc4 14. Qc2 O-O-O 15. Rfd1 Bd6 16. Bg5 Nc7 17. Ne4 Be7 18. Bd2 Qb5 19. Ng5 Rhf8 20. Nf3 Ncd5 21. Rdc1 Bb4 22. Bg5 Nb6 23. e4 c5 24. a3 cxd4 25. axb4 d3 26. Qd1 Qxb4 27. Rxa7 Nxe4 28. Bxd8 Rxd8 29. Ne5 d2 30. Bxe4 dxc1=Q 31. Bxb7+ Kb8 32. Qxc1 Qd2 33. Nc6+ Kc7 34. Qf1 Rd6 35. Ba8+ Kc8 36. Ne5 Qc2 37. Bf3 f6 38. Nc6 Qxb2 39. Rxg7 g5 40. Kg2 Rd2 41. Qe1 e5 42. Qe3 Nd7 43. Qa7 Rxf2+ 44. Qxf2 c3 45. Qxb2 cxb2 46. Be4 {1-0 (46) Gelfand,B (2734)-Inarkiev,E (2730) Magas 2016}) (6... Bg6 7. Qb3 Qb6 8. Nxg6 hxg6 9. c5 Qc7 10. Bf4 Qc8 11. Bg2 Nbd7 12. O-O Be7 13. Qc2 O-O 14. b4 Re8 15. b5 Bd8 16. bxc6 bxc6 17. e4 dxe4 18. Nxe4 Be7 19. Rab1 Nd5 20. Nd6 Bxd6 21. Bxd6 Qa6 22. Rfe1 Qa5 23. h4 Rac8 24. Rec1 N5f6 25. Rb7 e5 26. Bh3 Rcd8 27. d5 Qa6 28. Qb3 cxd5 29. Bf1 Qc6 30. Qb5 Qxb5 31. Bxb5 Re6 32. Rxa7 Nf8 33. Bxf8 Kxf8 34. c6 Rc8 35. c7 Ke7 36. Ba6 Rxa6 37. Rxa6 d4 38. Rb6 Nd7 39. Rb7 d3 40. a4 Kd6 41. a5 d2 42. Rd1 Kc6 43. Rb2 Rxc7 44. Rbxd2 Nc5 45. Rc2 Ra7 46. Ra1 Kb5 47. Rb1+ Kc6 48. Rb6+ Kd5 49. Rb5 {1-0 (49) Mamedyarov,S (2765)-Wang,H (2710) Beijing 2014}) 7. Nxf5 exf5 8. e3 Nbd7 9. Bxc4 Nb6 10. Be2 $6 {Not a very strong novelty in my opinion and in fact it really does not impress me at all. However, at least it gets Muzychuk out of her auto-pilot mode. Now, She has to deal with this equal, and comfortable position over the board by herself.} (10. Bb3 h5 11. Qd3 Qd7 12. Bd2 h4 13. O-O-O O-O-O 14. f3 Bd6 15. Rhg1 hxg3 16. hxg3 Bc7 17. Kb1 Kb8 18. Bc1 Rhe8 19. e4 fxe4 20. fxe4 Qg4 21. Bf4 Re7 22. Rgf1 Qg6 23. Bc2 Red7 24. Qe3 Qg4 25. a4 Bxf4 26. gxf4 Nc4 27. Qf2 Qe6 28. Qg1 Qe7 29. Bb3 Na5 30. Bc2 Nc4 31. Bb3 {1/2-1/2 (31) Mamedyarov,S (2764)-Tomashevsky,E (2701) Baku 2014}) 10... Bd6 11. Bf3 O-O 12. O-O Re8 13. Qc2 Qd7 14. b3 Re7 15. Na4 $5 {This is an interesting exchange offer. Most of the players would not opt for Nxa4.} Rae8 16. Nc5 Qc8 17. Bd2 Nbd5 (17... h5 {is an interesting move and practically worthy of trying.}) 18. Rac1 Ne4 $6 {Anna plays it too safe.} ( 18... h5 $5 19. b4 a6 (19... Bxc5 20. Qxc5 a6) 20. a4 {looks a bit double-edged.}) (18... Bxc5 $5 19. Qxc5 (19. dxc5 Ne4) 19... Ne4 20. Bxe4 fxe4 21. Qxa7 Qh3 {with more than enough compensation for the sacrificed material.}) 19. Bg2 g6 (19... Bxc5 20. dxc5 Qe6 {with the idea of h5-h4 would have given black excellent chances in a rapid game.}) 20. b4 Qc7 $2 {serious waste of time. an Unforgiven mistake for Caissa!} (20... Bxc5 21. bxc5 h5 22. Rb1 h4 23. Rb3 hxg3 24. hxg3 Kg7 25. Rfb1 g5 $132 {black is very much alive and in the game.}) 21. Nxe4 fxe4 22. b5 Ba3 23. Rb1 cxb5 24. Qb3 Qd6 25. Qxb5 Rc8 26. Qb3 Kg7 $2 {After managing to equalize matters, Anna lost objectivity once again, it was essential to prepare for whites central response.} (26... Rc6 27. f3 Rb6 {would have maintained the balance.}) 27. Bc1 $2 {Tan Zhongyi returns the favor.} ({Stockfish believes that after} 27. f3 exf3 28. Rxf3 {e4-e5 is unstoppable and white has a close to winning position. I cannot agree any more!} ) 27... Bxc1 28. Rbxc1 Rc6 $6 29. Rxc6 Qxc6 30. Qa3 Qb6 31. Rc1 Qb4 $6 { a pawn sac?} 32. Qxa7 Nc3 $6 {Anna is losing objectivity and control over the game.} 33. Rf1 $6 {Tan Zhongyi does not try much either} Qc4 $2 (33... b5 { would have retained the balance.}) 34. Qa3 $1 Re6 35. Re1 Ra6 36. Qe7 Rxa2 ( 36... b5 {seems to keep the dynamic balance, but with a little time left on the clock, the remaining moves are just tragic, unfortunately, this time for Anna Muzychuk.}) 37. Bxe4 b5 38. Bf3 b4 $2 {lets a very dangerous check.} ( 38... Qe6 $1 39. Qb4 Qf6 40. Qxc3 Qxf3 41. Rf1 Qd5 {with decent drawing chances.}) 39. Qe5+ Kh6 $4 {A tragedy for Anna.} (39... Kg8 {and a long fight is still ahead.}) 40. g4 $1 {Mate is inevitable now. The Caissa had Tan Zhongyi crowned!} f6 41. Qxf6 Ra5 42. h4 {Tan Zhongyi's nerve of steel paid her off. She waited until Anna Muzychuk collapsed in time pressure, Congratulations to Tan Zhongyi!} 1-0

Ahh, we have different protocols for TV, the scarf cannot be too loose! The world champion's scarf is being fixed by the interviewer.

GM Yu Shaoteng from China is known to be the Chinese ladies' coach in almost every tournament. Here he seems to be giving an epic interview to local TV.

Women's World Championship 2017 trophy: Milad Tower with tournament logo on top.

It seems Anna has come to an agreement with herself about her performance and she is happy with her result. Being a finalist in such a tournament with a brutal format is not to be belittled by any account.

Anna Muzychuk’s performance should not be discounted or shadowed by Tan Zhongyi’s achievement. Anna played some good chess and her victories over Tan in final and Kashilinskaya have a high standard, showing her capability and potential to become stronger than she is now. I am sure we will hear from her much more in future.

It seems that with this result the title would remain in China for another two years, because, if FIDE follows its plans for women’s chess, we should witness a Chinese Derby between Tan Zhongyi, the current world champion and Ju Wenjun, the Grand Prix champion. Let us sit back and see if that event is going to take place.

Let us all congratulate Tan Zhongyi for her victory and wish her a lot of leisure in a much-deserved vacation for her! 

Replay and download the games of this roundall games with machine annotations


Also Read:

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  2. Women World Ch. 2017 Final G3: The Greek gift from Persia
  3. Women's World Ch. 2017 Final G2: Good Night, Bad Knight!r

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