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Round 9: Xue Zhao Escapes Humpy Koneru and Resumes Lead
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
In the ninth round of the first event of Women Grand Prix, Xue Zhao who took the lead hold a difficult game against Humpy Koneru and saved the game. The Chinese grandmaster still leads with 7.5 since Hou Yifan also drew with Marie Sebag after a 5.5-hour fight. Antoaneta Stefanova won against Zeinab Mamedyarova as did Elina Danielian against Martha Fierro. Betül Cemre Yıldız did not allow another traumatic loss and this time she came back from a worse position to score her first win against Shen Yang. Pia Cramling won her second game in a row against Maia Chiburdanidze in the clash of the two most experienced trademark names in the field.

Xue Zhao leads with 7.5 followed just behind by Hou Yifan with 7 points. Humpy Koneru is half point behind with 6.5 but not alone anymore since Elina Danielian joined the top spots and will face the leading Chinese players above her in the last two rounds.

Detailed report below.

picture24.jpgThe vital game of the round played between the leader, Xue Zhao and third placed Humpy Koneru was latter’s pet variation, Queen’s Gambit Ragozin, and though black had an isolated pawn at a queenless position, she had the bishop pair and slightly better-placed pieces which were enough to balance the position. The misplaced white rook cost some trouble to white where both players agreed that it looked dangerous. Later on black entered a rook endgame with a pawn up. Both players agreed about the evaluation that it should be lost for white but white managed to hold on and the top standings did not change drastically again, hence, Xue Zhao defended her lead.




Marie Sebag-Hou Yifan was a Sicilian Najdorf which was the indication of what the Chinese players was aiming for, however after about 5.5 hour fight the game ended as a draw. Both sides tried to change the balance but none of them made a decisive mistake, therefore the 15-year-old grandmaster had to be content with the draw after the long fight.






Pia Cramling-Maia Chiburdanidze the fight of the most experienced players in the tournament ended as a victory for Pia Cramling.  The game was a very complicated one in one of the fashionable lines in Slav. It was a closed position, therefore the white king stuck in the center was not a problem for sometime but when black launched the charge with f5 and sacrificed a pawn to reach the desired end, white started experiencing problems. White was able to hold until move Nc5 which was the decisive mistake.





Betül Cemre Yıldız finally broke the spell and won her first game thought the result did not seem likely after white gave a pawn without any clear compensation for it in ShenYang-Betül Cemre Yıldız. White played Ne5 where it looked like queen was almost being trapped but can be saved with several different way. The material balance became two bishops versus a rook and two pawns but after black found counter play with c pawn and the both bishops entered the game it was already difficult to defend.




Danielian-Fierro was a Fianchetto King’s Indian where white created activity on the queenside. The tactical skirmishes on the board ended with a slightly advantageous position for white in an opposite colored bishop and a pair of rook endgame. White rook’s entrance into the black camp proved decisive and Danielian reached 6.5 points.









Mamedyarova-Stefanova was a well known path of Meran white chose to take on d2 with king and made an artificial long castle which did not put the king entirely into safety and black’s pressure on the queen’s side eventually yielded in two extra pawns and black went on to win.

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