WWch Final G2: Muzychuk takes lead

The second game probably caused no end of heart attacks from fans of both players. The nerves, compounded by more than two weeks of non-stop play without break, began to show, and after a highly theoretical Ruy Lopez Breyer, Muzychuk set up a huge attack, while missing winner after winner. Would Pogonina regroup and defend, or would Muzychuk finally cash in? It was drama to the end.

Final – game two

After a solid game with seemingly composed players, the weight of the moment began to show and it led to a game full of mistakes, imprecisions and thrilling combat. Perfection looks nice on paper, but in a spectator sport it is overrated.

The players managed to surprise each other, with Muzychuk playing a Ruy Lopez she rarely ever does, and Pogonina playing the Breyer, a first in her career

It started with a highly theoretical Ruy Lopez Breyer, in which the players rattled off seventeen moves of theory. Well, perhaps ‘rattled off’ is a bit of an exaggeration. As will be seen in the game’s notes, the times per move are also available, saved in the Playchess broadcasts, and several moves of well-beaten paths had the players thinking for many minutes before playing. Two, three, four, and five minutes, and while that might not seem like so much, they quickly add up. The first novelty of the game was played by Natalia Pogonina, but everything suggests it was not part of deep preparation as she labored over it for over seventeen minutes.

Pogonina played a Breyer for the first time and in a World Championship. Gutsy.

As of move 21.a5, Muzychuk made her intentions clear, by burning the queenside bridges, and the kingside attack became the only really option to play for the win. A strange 26….Nf8 by Black left the knight out of the game, and preventing the rook for taking up residence on a good defensive square, and rather than acknowledge it, it stayed they for better or for worse for the next 20 odd moves. To claim this is what caused her defeat, would be to overstate it, but it did not help.

Anna Muzychuk has been extremely supportive of her sister

The build-up of the attack was done with great care and attention, perhaps overly so, as the opportunity for more energetic measures presented itself more than once. While those using their engines for their eyes only saw question marks, for those following the drama, the question was whether Black would be able to put up a defense in time, before White finally broke in decisively.

It was hardly the most subtle approach, but Muzychuk’s attack eventually became unstoppable

The question was answered with a no, unfortunately for Pogonina’s many fans, as the position was already explosive and the number of winning shots threatened to outnumber the non-winners. Muzychuk launched he assault, and took home the first point.

Game two

(numbers in parentheses are thinking time in seconds):

Muzychuk, Mariya2526Pogonina, Natalija24561–0C95FIDE WWCC 20156.203.04.2015

1.e4 (0s) e5 (0s) 2.f3 (0s) c6 (0s) 3.b5 (0s) a6 (408s) 4.a4 (18s) f6 (6s) 5.0-0 (23s) b5 (8s) 6.b3 (13s) e7 (67s) 7.e1 (72s) d6 (97s) 8.c3 (23s) 0-0 (13s) 9.h3 (63s) b8 (41s) 10.d4 (323s) bd7 (7s) 11.a4 (146s) b7 (134s) 12.bd2 (45s) c5 (142s) 13.d5 (85s) c4 (186s) 14.c2 (33s) c5 (8s) 15.f1 (161s) e8 (237s) 16.g3 (374s) g6 (136s) 17.e3 (320s) c7 (92s) 17…fd7 18.d2 c7 19.h2 h5 20.f1 bxa4 21.e2 h4 22.h1 f6 23.f3 c8 24.xa4 xa4 25.xa4 d7 26.a2 g7 27.fa1 a5 28.f1 h7 29.e2 f5 30.f3 f4 31.d2 f6 32.e1 h5 33.d2 ec8 34.f2 g3 35.e1 cb8 36.h2 a4 37.g1 c8 38.f2 d8 39.d1 a5 40.f2 f7 41.g1 a6 42.f2 e8 43.g1 1/2-1/2 (43) Lutz,C (2595)-Van der Sterren,P (2569) Germany 2001 18.d2 (1041s) The first new move, and judging by the sheer amount of time spent, over 17 minutes, it seems unlikely it was a prepared one. f8 (641s) 19.e2 (271s) fd7 (209s) 20.f3 (585s) b6 (329s) 21.a5 (68s) The biggest problem with this move is that the queenside operations for white are shut down, and the pawn is a potential weakness. It pretty much forces White to focus on the kingside. bd7 (28s) Obviously not 21…ba4? 22.xa4 xa4 23.xc4!± 22.h1 (33s) e7 (386s) 23.g4 (234s) d8 (145s) 24.f2 (308s) h4 (320s) 25.g3 (3s) c8 (13s) 26.g2 (61 s) f8? (314s) It is hard to explain this move. The knight has nowhere to go from f8 except back to d7, and it is not doing anything useful at its new home either. 27.f1 (110s) g5 (176s) 28.f4 (537s) exf4 (161s) 29.xf4 (18s) c7 ( 160s) 30.xg5 (304s) xg5 (5s) 31.f3 (8s) e7 (209s) 32.d4 (235s) e5?! (266s) It was time to acknowledge the mistake, and repatriate the knight on f8 to d7 to place it on the very strong e5 square 32…fd7 33.f4 e5 and Black is doing fine. 33.h4! (105s) h6 (584s) 34.d2 (43s) c8 (161s) 35.c6 (357s) The only question is why not bring in the rook? 35.ae1 seems more logical. 35…g7 (63s) 36.f4 (31s) d7 (108s) 37.f2 (38s) b7 (208s) 38.d4 (59s) e5 (90s) 39.f3 (137s) e8 (40s) 40.g5 (0s) h5 (0s) 41.d4 (346s) e5 (795s) 42.d2 (87s) c7 (289s) 43.af1 (100s) Though White’s build-up has not been exactly seamless, nor has Black been able to take advantage to organize a proper defense, much less counterplay. ee7 (141s) 44.f6 (213s) ed7 (157s)

45.6f4 (237s) The engines, in their infinite wisdom, point out the very nice winning shot here. 45.df5‼ h7 45…gxf5? 46.1xf5 e8 47.xh5 h7 48.h6 and Black’s position collapses. 46.h6+ g7

47.6f5‼ There is more than one winner here, but this one is the prettiest. gxf5 48.xf5 e8 and the point of the rook sacrifice is… Giving up the queen is no help. 48…xf5 49.hxf5+ g8 50.d4 f6 51.xh5+- 49.d4+ f6 50.gxf6+ xh6 51.e5 dxe5 52.xe5 etc. 45…b4 (143s) 46.f3 (171s) g7 ( 43s) 47.cxb4 (194s) d3 (133s) 48.f6 (181s) 48.xd3! cxd3 49.e1! 49.xd3? xb2+ 50.f2 xb4= 49…e5 50.xd3+- 48…h7 (152s) 49.d4 (17s) xf6 (31s) 50.gxf6 (3s) f8 (11s) 51.a4 (238s) 51.xh5! gxh5 52.xd3 cxd3 53.f5 51…e5 (275s) 52.xd7 (138s) xd7 (4s) 53.f3 (137s) g4 (64s) 54.xh5! (61s) At last, and not too late. gxh5 (105s) 55.g5+ (5s) h8 (9s) 56.xh5+ (12s) h6 (20s) 57.h2! (28s) Make way! Make way! The rook is coming! g8 (231s) 58.g1! (74s) 1–0

Report by Albert Silver and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos by Eteri Kublashvili, Anastasia Karlovich, and Vladimir Barsky


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