SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Yesterday’s round in the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk saw some dramatic comebacks. Perhaps the most dramatic was Polish star Monika Socko’s crushing victory with the Black pieces over the reigning World Champion Hou Yifan. ”Crushing” does not do justice, infact! It was a blowout almost from right out of the opening. Hou Yifan was completely unrecognizable!
Perhaps it was her relatively effortless victory over Monika in the previous round that caused her to lose her edge. Perhaps it was an uncertain frame of mind as to whether she should play for a win or a draw that created unfavourable psychological circumstances and left her vulnerable.
IN ANY CASE, Hou Yifan played one of her worse games ever and was soundly and decisively thumped! Today both players will now go to the playoffs to decide which player advances to the next round…
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 27th MOVE (27.Rc5)
gm HOU, YIFAN
A very depressing position for the World Champion to find herself in. White’s problems start with a complete lack of coordination of her pieces: the Rooks are left dangling and almost paralyzed; the minor pieces are offside. Then let us not forget about a very weak back rank.
Meanwhile, Black has a very strong passed pawn and the Bishop pair. PLUS it is Black’s move…the next move comes naturally:
This pawn is a real monster and White has no adequate way to deal with its advance.
If now 28. Bc1 then Black wins with 28… Bxc1 29. Rxc1 Bxb3! 30. axb3 d2! and the pawn carries the day ; no better is 28. Bc3 Rb8! 29.Qa5 and now either 29…Bxf3 or –even stronger–29…Bxb3 wins easily enough, as the reader can easily verify. PERHAPS the best is 28. Qe1 trying to control the first rank, but even so 28… Bxc5 29. Rxc5 Be6 30. Qd2 Rc8 and White’s position is beyond hope.
HOU YIFAN THEREFORE TRIES ANOTHER IDEA:
No better, no worse than the other moves.
Now the simplest way to proceed is 28…Bxd4 29.Qxd4 Bxb3! and the passed pawn will net a full piece. However, Socko was probably nervous because she realized that she was winning and she played a second-best move .
Black’s position is crushing all the same! The Queen has no good move
IF NOW 29. Qc3 then Black has a very pretty win: 29…d2! 30. Nb2 Bxd4 31. Qxd4 Bxb3! 32. Rd7!
32…Ba4!!! OUCH! Weak back-rank and strong passed pawn overload the White pieces. 33. Qxa4 Rxb2 34. h3 Rb1 35. Kh2 d1=Q etc
HOU YIFAN INSTEAD DECIDES TO GIVE UP HER QUEEN:
29. Qxb8!? Qxb8 30. Bxe3
For the moment the Black d-pawn is contained, but not for long. White has other problems…
White’s headache does not go away! Black threatens to sacrifice his Bishop on f3, decisively tearing open the King position. Worse still, there is nothing that the women’s World Champion can do about it!
31. Kg1 Bxf3!
As advertised! If now 32. gxf3 Qxf3 wins easily: 33. Bf2 (33. Bc1 Rd8! 34. Rc8? Qg4!)) 33… d2
THE ROOF NOW COLLAPSES:
32. Rc3 what else? 32… Qe4! 33. Bd2 Qd4!
It is forced mate