After over two weeks of relentless competition, the final match has arrived. It is hard to imagine the toll this has had on the players, since this is not like a two week tournament, each two games determined whether they would stay or go home. At last, only two warriors still stand, and both went through their own trials of fire. Report, game and player impressions.
Final – game one
After over two weeks, only Natalia Pogonina and Mariya Muzychuk remain
Pogonina had white in the first game. A fashionable line of the Meran variation arose, which led to a game that was seemingly calm on the surface, but that was anything but that in reality. It was just enough tension to keep the game moving forward, and was a worthy start of the fight for the title.
A calm, almost bored expression hides the turmoil underneath
The players were understandably tense, though neither showed this in the game, and one would have thought this was merely a day like any other. The board was a different story, and both Pogonina and Muzychuk played a composed game in which Black was in danger only once, though that is all it takes. It ended in a draw after the life had been squeezed out of it.
Though Pogonina missed a move, it was not clearly decisive as analysis shows
(numbers in parentheses are thinking time in seconds):
1.d4 (0) d5 (0) 2.c4 (0) c6 (0) 3.c3 (0) f6 (0) 4.e3 (0) e6 (16) 5.f3 (0) bd7 (11) 6.c2 (2) d6 (17) 7.d3 (8) 0-0 (57) 8.0-0 (7) dxc4 (108) 9.xc4 (5) b5 (7) 10.e2 (10) a6 (130) 11.d1 (25) c7 (157) 12.e4 (36) e5 (67) 13.dxe5 (39) xe5 (9) 14.h3 (14) e8 (339) 15.g5 (534) xf3+ (889) 16.xf3 (55) e6 (44) 16…d7 17.ac1 e5 18.e2 e6 19.d5 xd5 20.exd5 c5 21.b3 ac8 22.e3 b7 23.a4 c4 24.axb5 axb5 25.b2 e7 26.bxc4 bxc4 27.d4 c5 28.e4 g6 29.xc5 xc5 30.d4 c3 31.d6 xd4 32.xd4 c6 33.c4 xe2 34.4xc3 d2 35.xc6 d8 36.g3 2xd6 37.xd6 xd6 38.h4 h5 1/2-1/2 (38) Kunte,A (2476) -Ter Sahakyan,S (2568) Chennai 2013 17.ac1 (1134) ad8 (588) Both players have completed their development, and for all purposes Black has equalized. 18.b3 (210) h2+ (820) 19.f1 (530) e5 (997) 20.e3 (283) The flashy 20.d5!? cxd5 21.xc7 xc7 22.xc7 dxe4 23.xd8 xd8 24.xf6 gxf6 25.xe4 doesn’t promise a lot. 20…h6 (398) 21.e2 (201) xd1+ (62) 22.xd1 (48) c8 (144) 23.g1 (322) b7 (112) 24.g3 (846) d8 (591) 25.xd8+ (264) xd8 (2) 26.g2 (19) c7?! (49) Not best, and could lead to trouble for Black. 26…d6 27.f4 f8 would lead to a simple draw in all likelihood. 27.f4 (412) 27.d4! would have given more chances for Black to slip. b6 27…d7?! 28.f5 and now Black has some serious issues on the dark squares. The c5-square is just begging to be taken over. The c6-pawn is also indirectly under fire once the bishop is brought in, since after a capture Ne7+ can recapture. 28.xc6 xc6 29.xc6 xe3 30.fxe3 and Black has some serious coordination issues to resolve b8 31.f2 a5 32.a6 d8 33.xb5 d2+ 34.e2 c3 27…d7 (70) 28.d3 (32) b6 (123) 29.c5 (195) c8 (19) 30.xd7 (227) xd7 (37) 31.c5 (184) xc5 (59) 32.xc5 (4) a5 (9) 33.a3 (309) e6 (64) 34.e5 (36) e1+ (193) 35.h2 (9) xb3 (13) 36.xc6 (34) e6 (24) 37.g2 (117) e2 (26) 38.b6 (87) xe5 (34) 39.xa6 (21) c5 (19) 40.a8+ (0) h7 (0) ½–½
In photography there is a term known as “shoot and pray”, usually used
for situations where the photographer is unsure how the image will turn
out. Here they decided to take it literally.
A joint press-conference
Anastasia Karlovich: My first question is about the atmosphere: were your comfortable playing in an empty hall?
Mariya Muzychuk: Yes, it felt normal, everything went as usual. Nothing has chanced.
Natalia Pogonina: It was unusual in the beginning – too much attention, too many cameras. In ten minutes it went back to normal.
AK: Speaking of the game, were you satisfied with the outcome of the opening?
Tournament press officer Anastasia Karlovich speaking with Natalia Pogonina
NP: I was generally satisfied. Don’t know what else can I tell, bearing in mind that later I will play White again.
MM: To be honest, I did not expect 20.Be3. Of course I repeated everything during my preparation, but there were so many variations, they all got mixed, and I could not recall the exact response.
AK: I am interested about the position after 16…Be6. Could White take on f6 and double black pawns?
MM: As far as I know, this move is not dangerous for Black, so I was not worried about it.
NP: I did not see any good way of arranging my pieces after that move. The bishop on f3 is blocked by my pawn, and I have some weaknesses on the dark squares.
Elmira Mirzoeva interviewing Mariya Muzychuk
AK: What were the critical moments of the game?
NP: I was told I could play 27.Nd4 instead of 27.Nf4. I saw that move but evaluated the resulting position incorrectly.
MM: I was short on time. After 27.Nd4 I planned to play 27…Qd7, but cannot say I studied it deeply, because it was unclear what move Natalia chooses. My idea was to carry out …Bb6 and …с5.
AK: At what point had Black equalized the game?
MM: I think after 32…Qa5 33.a3 Be6 it became completely equal.
NP: I agree, there is nothing White can do there.
Kirillos Zangalis: For both of you this is a first match of such importance in your career. Do you feel any extra pressure or do you treat every game like a regular game in a regular tournament?
MM: Of course the pressure is very high, but I wasn’t too nervous today. I don’t know how to explain it.
NP: I got focused on the game rather quickly. In the beginning it was kind of stressful, but stress went by as soon as I concentrated on the game. I did not think that I was playing a World Championship match.
Goran Urosevic: Natalia, you won many medals with the Russian team. Is there a difference between working with many coaches during the team events and playing here, being assisted by only one coach?
NP: I can only note that I know Pavel Vladimirovich Lobach, who helps me here, since 1998. We work together for a very long time, we are a very good team, and I feel very comfortable.
AK: Mariya, do you know anything about coverage of our championship in Ukrainian media? Did anybody try to contact you?
MM: I saw some information on the internet and I know there are many articles about the championship. As far as I know, some people tried to contact me, but right now I want to concentrate on chess, and my sister takes care of everything else including contacts with media.
AK: So Anna in fact works as your manager here, right?
MM: Yes, it appears so.
Report by Albert Silver and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos by Eteri Kublashvili, Anastasia Karlovich, and Vladimir Barsky