29 April 2014

Commentary: Women's Grand Prix Khanty-Mansiysk 2014 - Round 1

Round 1 of the recent FIDE Women's Grand Prix tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk had two instructive games in the English Opening that caught my eye:

1)  Zhao Xue - Kateryna Lagno shows that all is not as it seems when evaluating positions visually.  The board picture at the end of move 9 looks favorable to White at first glance, but although she has more pieces developed and centralized, they are in fact not cooperating and vulnerable to disruption.  By the end of move 12 Black clearly has momentum and with 13...Bg4 it looks like she could have kept up the initiative.  Instead, after a non-threatening knight development, White is able to break the trend with 14. Ng5 and then capitalize on Black's inaccurate response.  This game is an excellent illustration of how quickly chances can shift in a game after seemingly innocuous move choices.

2)  Hou Yifan - Tatiana Kosintseva starts off with a Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) setup, which I think is a good choice against the English.  However, similar to the first game, there is a certain amount of drift in the opening - this time on Black's part - and White seizes the opportunity on move 12 to take the initiative with a knight maneuver.  Hou's decision to exchange the fianchettoed bishop on the long diagonal is instructive and perhaps was not expected by Black.  However, in return for giving up the valuable bishop, the knight becomes even stronger and Black's d5 pawn becomes a target.  Other instructive points include the "indirect exchanges" of pieces that occur twice and Hou's rook endgame play, which repeatedly sees her exchange off material for positional advantage and more material.  This sort of play is very characteristic of master games and the ideas involved might not even occur to Class players, so the example is well worth reviewing.

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