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Round 8: Xue Zhao Wins Against Hou Yifan, Takes the Charge
Monday, 16 March 2009


The crucial game of the tournament Hou Yifan-Xue Zhao was won by Xue Zhao who took the lead with three rounds to go. Humpy Koneru won against Zeinab Mamedyarova and narrowed the gap between herself and Hou Yifan to half point. Antoaneta Stefanova and Maia Chiburdanidze drew while Pia Cramling sacrificed a piece to win against Shen Yang. Marie Sebag won with black pieces against Martha Fierreo while Betül Cemre Yıldız lost traumatically again her game with Elina Danielian where she was close to the victory but then confused and went wrong.Detailed report available below.
The turn of having the status of the determining game was Hou Yifan-Xue Zhao's. The clash of the two Chinese grandmasters turned out to change the course of the tournament. The clash of the Chinese duo was the renowned Zaitsev variation in Ruy Lopez. White looked better with more active pieces on the board, but still long way from win. The course of events started changing during the time scramble where white did not play the most accurate moves and the fortieth move, which is known as the most difficult move to make in chess history because of completing the stressful time control, led to a loss of pawn for white. The rest was a matter of technique as Xue expressed during the press meeting, with a humble but victorious smile. This win could possible change the course of the tournament .However, another crucial plot in the event is the game between Humpy Koneru and Xue Zhao  in the ninth round.


Humpy Koneru won against Zeinab Mamedyarova with white to decrease the gap with the second placed Hou Yifan. -In the Queen's Gambit Exchange variation where white preferred the plan with f3, black preferred the notorious c5 advance.  White continued her firm control in the position and further mistakes that black committed ended as a loss for black.

In Stefanova-Chiburdanidze game Stefanova took the control early in the game and tried to extract an important win. White had some advantage prolonged to the endgame with bishop vs. knight and two pairs of rooks on the board but as confessed in the post-game press conference Stefanova could not find the exact moves and develop her position to a win.


Pia Cramling won brilliantly with a piece sacrifice against Shen Yang and stated in the post conference that she believed her sacrifice, Bf6 was winning. The computer analysis also proves that the Swedish grandmaster is right since after taking on g6 even the inhuman but clever h5 move loses in the end. Black could not resist the temptation and took on h6 on the second move but the evaluation of the resulting position after taking on h6 did not change and white won a nice game.


Betül Cemre Yıldız was not able to spoil the voodoo spell and won her first game in the event despite she was close again once more this time her opponent being Elina Danielian. Thanks to the mistakes of her opponent the Turkish player took the initiative and started pressing. White did not play the best moves during the mutual time trouble around move 40 and still had the upper hand after move 40 but taking on b5 was a grave mistake that led to a loss pawn endgame. However, Danielian also made a mistake and almost lost the draw but the loser of a chess game is the one who makes the eventual mistake, which happened to be Yıldız and she lost rather traumatically against the Armenian international master.


In Martha Fierro-Marie Sebag game the French player employed an interesting exchange sacrifice, which was thankfully accepted by the Ecuadorian international master who was looking for a chance to break the losing series for her. However, black rook infiltrated in to the white camp and the later advance of the queen side pawns was decisive for the game, Sebag won with black pieces.
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