by Antonio Pereira
4/14/2019 – No less than twenty-two players share first place on 2½ out of 3 at the European Women’s Individual Championship in Antalya. Curiously, though, only four of the top ten seeds are in the large leading group, as some of the favourites have been having a hard time trying to take down lower-rated opponents. It has been a hard struggle so far, and only fourteen players will get a ticket to the World Cup. Eight rounds are still ahead. | Photo: Official site
No perfect scores
It seems slightly surprising to see that in a field of 130 participants, no player has managed to finish round three with three straight wins. However, when we take a deeper look, we realize that, for example, second seed Nana Dzagnidze has only managed a 50% score so far and that sixth seed Deimante Cornette is actually on ‘-1’. Clearly the players have arrived in Turkey with their minds set to give it all for a spot at the upcoming World Cup.
The fighting spirit might also be enhanced by the good conditions given to the players. Natalia Zhukova, in a short interview, had only praise for the organizing team, mentioning how difficult it will be for her to stay fit with such good food on offer. These factors are especially important given the length of the tournament.
A nice atmosphere | Photo: Official site
On to the chess…
The favourite by rating in Antalya is Aleksandra Goryachkina, who is currently the youngest player in the world’s top 10 and still a Junior — she will turn 21 on September. Her first round opponent Mónica Calzetta is known not only for her chess skills but also for her work as a photographer and reporter.
The youngster had the upper hand with the black pieces, until she took the bait put forth by Mónica:
Calzetta played 44.♘g5, threatening f7 and leaving her rook en prise on b2. Goryachkina could have continued 44…♞xf4, when her rooks and knight would swiftly coordinate an attack against the white king. Instead, Aleksandra captured the rook with 44…♞xb2?, and there was no way to avoid a perpetual 45.♖xf7+ — after 45…♚g8 46.♖b7 ♞d3 the rook gives checks from b8 and b7 and the king cannot escape.
Mónica escaped with a draw | Photo: Official site
While the rest of the top seven seeds managed to win, Deimante Cornette fell against Italian IM Elena Sedina on the sixth board. The Lithuanian played a variation of the French Defence used in the past by Alexander Morozevich, but missed to play the right continuation on move 12 and already gave up three moves later:
Already on the second day of action, eight out of the ten top boards finished drawn, and Goryachkina split the point once again, despite out-rating her opponent by over two-hundred points. And they were not short draws, as only Badelka v Khotenashvili on board two did not reach the time control. In fact, upsets were seen in both decisive encounters. Russian IM Evgenija Ovod took down top French player Marie Sebag and the veteran from Scotland Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant got the better of Polina Shuvalova.
Ovod calculated precisely to find the right way to go after Sebag underestimated her attacking chances:
Try your own variations on the diagram above!
Marie had just continued her queenside expansion with 21…b4, failing to notice that it was necessary to defend f7 and e6 with a move like 21…♛f8 or 21…♜e8. Evgenija thought for fifteen minutes before choosing the correct way to start the attack: 22.♘exf7. After 22…♜xf7 23.♖xe6 ♛d8 24.♕g6 Black managed to stave off the direct threats against her king, but ended up in a miserable ending after having lost way too many pawns:
After having reached the time control, Sebag gave up in this position.
Marie Sebag has enough time to bounce back | Photo: Official site
An instructive endgame snipet was seen in the game that faced Russians Anastasia Bodnaruk against Elena Semenova. The general principle of trying to keep your pawns on the opposite colour of your bishop is key in this case:
Bodnaruk closed the deal with 65.h7+ ♚h8 66.♗g6! and Black cannot capture the bishop without allowing either the h or f-pawn to castle. Semenova continued with 66…♝b3, but the white bishop went on to grab the pawns on f7 and e6 to eventually get the full point after 74 moves.
All fighting for the fourteen spots at the World Cup | Photo: Official site
Eight players had managed to get two straight wins before round three, but they all signed peace treaties when paired against each other — boards one and two did it quickly, while the battles on boards three and four lasted 46 and 65 moves, respectively.
A couple of curious incidents were the talk of the town on Saturday. First, Ana Matnadze forgot about a basic trick in the Sicilian Dragon against Pia Cramling and was already lost as early as move 9:
9…♞g4? gives up a piece after 10.♗xg4 ♝xg4 11.♘xc6 ♝xd1. Ana could have resigned with a clear conscience at that point, but instead chose to grieve for a while at the board and only gave up after move 30. With this win, Pia joined the leading pack and was paired against Elina Danielan in round four.
Cramling had it easy on Saturday | Photo: Official site
Those following the game Maria Gevorgyan versus Deimante Cornette live probably thought there was some problem with the broadcasting of the moves or that some strange episode led to the game ending in a playable albeit difficult position for Black. Can you find the way to defend against Black’s threats? White to move:
The most logical way to continue is with 24.0-0-0, and that is precisely what Gevorgyan did. The reason this move was not shown on the broadcast, however, is that castling long is an illegal move! White had played 14.♖b1 and then returned with 16.♖a1, making it impossible to castle on that side. Sadly for Cornette, she did not realize this was the case and went on to lose the game after a long struggle.
Eight rounds to go | Photo: Official site
Standings after Round 3 (top 30)
|WFM||Sargsyan Anna M.||2327||2,5||2444|