13 March 2013

2013 Women's World Team Championship

I followed this year's Women's World Team Championship with great interest and was not disappointed, due to the high level of fighting chess.  The U.S. team placed in the middle, after a slow start but a stronger finish including a victory over the Russian team in round 7.

The following games caught my attention in particular.

Round 7: GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia) - IM Irina Krush (USA)
In this game Krush plays with fire in a Richter-Rauzer Open Sicilian, but it's her opponent who ends up getting burned.  After the middlegame fireworks explode all over the board, by move 34 an unusual material balance (N+2 pawns vs. rook) is present.  Just looking at the position then, one thinks that the Black rook has the upper hand, given the open nature of the position and the pawn structure, but it takes some more creative play from Krush to overcome Kosteniuk.  The key move at the end seems to be 43...Bc1! which White could have prevented by taking the Black b-pawn earlier.

Round 7: WGM Olga Girya (Russia) - WIM Viktorija Ni (USA)
The most striking thing about this game is the final tactical sequence, in which White clearly lacked the requisite sense of danger.  White's position is in fact fine, but what appears to be an obvious defensive interposition is punished by a classic pinning theme.  Ni clearly never gave up trying to create winning chances for herself and was rewarded for her tenacity, as this win plus Krush's gave the U.S. team the victory.

Round 8: IM Irina Krush (USA) - GM Anna Ushenina (Ukraine)
Krush here defeats the current Women's World Champion, having disposed of former World Champion Kosteniuk the previous round.  This game has a completely different character, as White chooses a compact Reti-type structure and maneuvers quietly for the first 12 moves.  After that, though, the latent offensive potential on the kingside comes into play featuring a highly aggressive space expansion by White's pawns through move 20, followed again by a period of maneuvering.  The end comes suddenly as White lines up a threat on the f-file that Black's uncoordinated pieces are unable to meet.  For an English Opening player like me, where some similarities exist in both the maneuvering and attacking possibilities, this is an example of high-level chess that is most instructive and entertaining, mixing various kinds of play to make a satisfying result.

Congratulations on a well-fought tournament to the U.S. team and especially to IM Krush, who earned a gold medal for her individual performance, scoring 7/9 with a performance rating of 2607.

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