European Women’s Championships

I’d like to take  a break today to share with you some news from the European Women’s Championships. The tournament is halfway to completion already. It’s being held in Turkey this time around. Right now French GM Marie Sebag has a share of the lead with Cristina-Adela Foisor after the latter scored a draw in her last round. The game I want to present to you shows two top-level female players from the tournament in their best form. The analysis from was very sparing so I’ve added some of my own.
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Bf4 We have one of the many ways to transpose to the Slav Exchange. Unlike many other variations which carry the ‘exchange’ label this one is anything but quiet. It does draw often but not without some fireworks first. It is not as theoretical as the theory-laden Slav mainlines however and this makes it a good choice.
6. e3 Bf5 7. Rc1 e6 8. Qb3: Normally this move would be used to punish black for a premature Bf5, but here the other queen can help defend the weak square on the b file. Otherwise it would be uncomfortable.
Bb4 9. Bb5 O-O 10. Bxc6 An interesting decision to force a breaking of the symmetry.
Bxc3+ 11. Rxc3 bxc6 12. f3: Wanting black to exchange since a fork is threatened with g4. With a retreat g4 will still start an attack on the kingside.
Nh5 13. Ne2 Nxf4 14. Nxf4: White’s coming endgame will be slightly better  here due to black’s pawn structure and remaining minor piece.
Rb8 15. Qa3 Rb5 16. Rxc6: Black has to make something happen or white will have an easy draw if she wants it. This pawn sacrifice is enterprising but black doesn’t get enough compensation.
Qb8 17. b3 e5 18. Ne2: White doesn’t want to either open the game or centralize her opponent’s queen.
Bd3 19. Qd6 Qe8: Black can’t settle for Bxe2 here because the endgame afterwards is a simple loss. Better to play aggressively because the queen exchange would effectively end the game.
20. dxe5 d4 21. exd4 Qa8 22. Rc7 Rd5 23. Qe7 a5 (See the diagram to the right for a tactical puzzle. White can win here. Pay attention to the battery facing black’s king.)
24. e6 Rf5 25. Qd6 fxe6 26. Ng3 R5f6 27. Nh5 R6f7 28. Rxf7 Rxf7 29.
Kd2 Bf5 30. Rc1 a4 31. b4 Qe8 32. Ng3 Rd7 33. Qf4 Bg6 34. Rc5 Qd8 35. Ke3 h6
36. Ne2 a3 37. Qe5 Bb1 38. Nc3 Bf5: Look back over the last twelve moves and you’ll see black is putting on a clinic about how to build an attack. Slowly but sure she crawls back into the chess game. The bishop finesse was quite interesting. White could have played it safer and made some concessions on the dark squares. By trying to blunt the light square bishop white wasted time moving her monarch. She may have underestimated the resources available to black.
39. g4 Bg6 40. Ne4 Kh7 41. g5 h5 42. h4 Qb6
43. Rb5 Qa6 44. Qb8 Rf7 45. Nd2 Qa4: The thematic attack on the light squares continues unabated.
46. Nb3 Rf8 47. Qb7 Rf7 48. Qb8 Rf8 49. Qb6
Qa8 50. Qb7 Qd8 51. Qc6 {White is still two pawns up, but her advantage is
slipping rapidly.} Be8 52. Qc2+ Bg6 53. Qc3: There are some holes for white to patch and two weak pawns that need saving.
Qe7 54. Ke2: White appears to be having trouble finding a coherent plan.
Rf4 55. Rb8 Rxh4 56. Qc8: Black parries this mate-in-one threat brilliantly
Rh2+ 57. Ke1 Bc2 58. Nd2 Rh1+ 59. Kf2 Rh2+ 60. Ke1 Rh1+ 61. Kf2 Rh2+ 62. Ke1
Bd3 63. f4 Qd6 64. Qg8+ Kg6 65. Nf3??: Walking into a devastating trap. See the puzzle below to try to solve it.
Rh1+ 66. Kf2 Rf1+ 67. Kg2 Rxf3 (67… Qd5 68.
f5+ Kxf5 69. Rf8+ Kg4 68. Kxf3 Qd5+ 69. Kg3 h4+ 70. Kxh4 Qh1+ 71. Kg3 Qe1+ 72. Kh3 Bf5+ 73. Kg2 Be4+ 74. Kh3 Qh1+ 75. Kg3 Qg2+ 76. Kh4 Qf2+ 77. Kh3 Bf5#

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