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Mariya Muzychuk, sole leader after round two
Montecarlo after the rain (Photo Tripadvisor)

The second round of the Women's Grand Prix tournament in Monaco began with a minute of silence, after a thunderstorm killed 17 people in the Cote d’Azur the previous night. According to the media, it was the deadliest storm to hit France since 1990.

Tournament participants were also slightly affected by the disaster. Some could not come back to the hotel till the rain was softer, at 1 am. In the morning, the elevators at the hotel were not working yet, and the players had to take the stairs to the terrace, only to know that the breakfast had been moved to the lobby for safety reasons. Up and down seven floors, a good morning exercise!

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Beautifull views from the breakfast terrace at the Fairmont Hotel

Anyway, at 15:00 the arbiter Anastasia Sorokina duly declared the start of the second round, which was commenced with the honorary move made by Jean Michel Rapaire, President of Monaco Chess Federation, in the game Skripchenko-Cramling.

The round was extremely interesting. After a few moves the spectators could already understand that most of the players were in fighting mood and almost all the games were very exciting. Accordingly, the round produced only one draw and five decisive games. Very soon, Mariya Muzychuk won her game with black after catching her opponent in a sharp line of the Grunfeld Defence. First round losers, Cramling and Stefanova, were winners today against Skripchenko and Kosteniuk. Pogonina won with black versus Anna Muzychuk. And the clash between two top seeded was also in black’s favour, after Koneru beat Yifan Hou in a tense battle, which lasted more than four hours. After these results, World Champion Mariya Muzychuk is alone at the top, with a perfect score of 2 out of 2.

DSC01984  Dzagnidze – Mariya Muzychuk 0-1

This game was the first to finish. A sharp Grunfeld defense was played and the Woman World champion showed an excellent opening preparation, which served her to obtain a fast victory. White's position started to inspire fear after 12.Nb5, when it became clear that Black has a strong compensation for the sacrificed pawn: Nana is behind in development and her king is trapped in the center. The Ukrainian developed energetically her initiative and after move 20 Nana resigned.
 Khademalsharieh – Zhukova 0,5-0,5

Natalia played the Benko Gambit looking for the initiative, but her opponent surprised her with 7.a7!?. Up to a point, the game developed according to standard patterns . But with 16 ... Ne4  the Ukrainian tried an original combination, which later proved correct. Later, the game followed a logical way, with an approximate balance, ending finally with a threefold repetition after 32 moves.
DSC01964  Stefanova – Kosteniuk 1-0

Already in the opening,  Antoaneta adopted an aggressive plan expanding on the kingside and a sharp fight was guaranteed. Alexandra answered with what seemed to be a very logical pawn sacrifice, opening lines against the white King, and reaching an interesting position with opposite castling. Suddenly, Black blundered with 16 ... Ne4, overlooking the beautiful move 18.Nf5! Later Antoaneta easily realized her material advantage.
 Anna Muzychuk – Pogonina 0-1

In a fashionable line of the Ruy Lopez, white played an aggressive plan with 18.g4 and 23.h4, with the idea to organize a fast attack on the king side. However, Black got more than enough counterplay on the queenside, and after 26 ... c4 Natalia seized the initiative. Later, she created a dangerous passed pawn which decided the outcome of the game.
DSC01974  Skripchenko –  Cramling     0-1

Pia Cramling played 3…e5 for the first time, and if that would not have been enough to surprise her opponent, she continued with a bizarre plan Bd6-c7, followed by the centerbreak on d5. She got slightly better chances in the middlegame, which converted to an extra pawn. With good technique the Swedish GM gradually imposed the material superiority in a rook endgame.
 Hou – Koneru 0 -1

The last game to finish was a tough battle of more than five hours between the number one and two of the world rankings. A sharp version of a Catalan Opening led to an uncompromising struggle. Black king’s position became weak and Hou sacrificed an exchange to start an attack. Probably the Chinese GM missed some chances, and gradually her Indian opponent  neutralized the threats, and went to a favorable endgame, which she managed to win after some difficulties.

Ranking after Round 2

  1 Muzychuk Mariya 2
  2 Koneru Humpy 1½
  3 Pogonina Natalija 1½
  4 Hou Yifan 1
  5 Cramling Pia 1
     Stefanova Antoaneta 1
  7 Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 1
     Zhukova Natalia 1
  9 Dzagnidze Nana ½
     Muzychuk Anna ½
11 Kosteniuk Alexandra ½
    Skripchenko Almira ½
© FIDE Grand Prix 2015    |    |