02 August, 2013

European Women's Individual Championship : Round 9

Well, no change at the top, although Hungary's  Hoang Thanh Trang is now the sole leader with 7,5 points, half a point ahead of the chasing pack  : Alexandra Kosteniuk ,Viktorija Cmilyte, Monika Socko, Natalija Pogonina and  Anna Muzychuk .

However, just behind them with 6,5 is Lisa Schut.

In Round 8 she played a marathon game ( 137 moves, and more than 5 hours ) as Black against WGM Aleksandra Goryachkina.

In a Grunfeld Defence it seemed a very close game until a slip gave her the advantage...

...since after Kd2, Black wins a pawn with Ra2.

However, White fought back determinedly ,and even though Black kept a material advantage it came down to a Rook vs Bishop ending.

I think I would also play this one as either side, but it proved to be a difficult one to win for Black,  and a draw was eventually agreed after about 20 more moves.

I looked up this Rook v Bishop ending, and my expert witness ( James Howell, Essential Chess Endings ) indicates that it is "completely safe"  for the weaker side, unless the Rook manages successively,  to pin the bishop to the King. 

He adds  "The only conceivable way for a reasonable player to lose"  is to move the bishop to the "fatal square e6"  with the White king on g6 and the White rook on the seventh rank ( see diagram below ): I doubt if players at this level would do this ( outside of time-trouble:)

White to play and win
Here it is, White wins with 1. Rh7+ Kg8 2. Re7 threatening the Bishop and Mate at the same time.

The reward for this draw, was a match in Round 9 with Ekaterina Atalik, currently playing under an ECU flag as she is in "disagreement" with her National Federation.

This also proved to be a highly watchable game, fairly even with swings either way, until a fateful pawn advance on move 34 tipped the balance to the white side.

Black should, in fact, play Ne5 to block the e-file. Otherwise, as happened, Qe6 forces a queen exchange ( if Qe8, then d7 wins ) and white has positional advantages (ie passed pawn) , as well as a pawn lead in material.

It took some time, but a well-played Rook and pawns ending finished in a win for White.

The reward for this is a game as Black against  GM Valentina Gunina, the current European Individual Champion. 

Will be good to watch !