Hou Yifan finishes with a flash

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It happens sometimes: if a player wins a match before time, his attention fades. It happened to Short today, and Hou Yifan struck immediately with an elegant attack. She wasn’t really proud of it, as with accurate play Short wouldn’t have got into trouble. Ivan Sokolov won the other match with a draw. It was hard-fought, but Jorden van Foreest was the one who had been in danger.

Photo: Lennart Ootes

Today it’s ‘ladies first’ again. After an oversight by Short, Hou Yifan won in the type of attack every white player dreams of in the Ruy Lopez.

Hou Yifan - Short

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 cxd4 13.cxd4 Bd7 14.Nf1 Rac8 15.Re2 Rfe8 16.Ng3 Bd8 17.b3 Nc6 18.Bb2 Qa7



A novelty. 20.a3 had been played three times here, and 20.dxe5 once.

19...Nb4 20.Bb1 a5 21.a3 Na6

The start of a long journey for this knight.

22.b4 Qb7 23.Qd2 axb4 24.axb4 Nc7 25.Nh4 g6 26.Ra3

The centre and queenside have been fixed, now Hou Yifan sets up her pieces for an attack on the king.

26...Na8 27.Rf3



Missing a tempo for the defence – and every tempo counts here. ‘This was a blunder’, Short said. ‘I should have played 27...Kh8.’ Hou Yifan agreed that in that case she wouldn’t have had any attacking chances. ‘So then I would have had to play 28.Rc3.’ It had been a bit of a gamble, because: ‘If I don’t have anything here, then it would have been better not to play Nh4 either. In some way I hoped I could play f2-f4 somewhere, but it didn’t really work.’

28.Qh6?? is not possible after the king move in view of 28...Ng8 29.Qf4 Bf6, and Black wins the knight on h4.

28.Qh6 Kh8?!


28...Be7 was a better defence. White then has a different continuation of the attack: 29.Nhf5! Bxf5 (29...gxf5? 30.Rxf5!) 30.Nxf5 Bf8 31.Qh4 Nfd7 (31...Nh5 32.g4 Nf4 33.Rxf4 exf4 34.Qf6 Re5 35.Nxd6 Bxd6 36.Qxd6 Nc4 with crazy complications, most of which, as usual, end in 0.00) 32.Nh6+ Bxh6 33.Qxh6 f6 34.h4 and White has the initiative.

After the text move Black is a tempo short for the defence, and Hou Yifan now finishes the game with a flash.

29.Rxf6! Bxf6 30.Nh5! gxh5 31.Qxf6+ Kg8 32.Re3 Bg4 33.Qg5+ Kh8 34.hxg4 Qe7 35.Qxh5 Na4



Of course – never look back.

36...Qf6 37.Rf3 Qg7 38.Rxf7 Qg8 39.Qf5 1–0

Photo: Lennart Ootes

Photo: Lennart Ootes

Jorden van Foreest and Ivan Sokolov concluded their match in style today.

Photo: Lennart Ootes

Van Foreest - Sokolov

1.e4 e5

Another surprise in this match!

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4

Of course Van Foreest doesn’t go for the Ruy Lopez, as it’s Sokolov’s specialty.

3...exd4 4.Nxd4 Qf6 5.Nb5 Bc5 6.Qe2 Bb6 7.N1c3 Ba5

A way to avoid 8.Nd5, a move White can also play after 7...Nge7.

8.Bd2 a6



The alternative is 9.Nd5!? Qxb2 10.Nbxc7+ Bxc7 (10...Kd8 11.Bxa5 Qxa1+ 12.Kd2 Qd4+ 13.Qd3 Qxd3+ 14.Bxd3 Nxa5 15.Nxa8) 11.Bxc7+ Kd8 12.Nxa8 Qxa1+ 13.Qd1, and in this endgame may have something with his bishop pair, but you can’t scare Sokolov with such lines.

9...b5 10.0–0–0 Nge7 11.Nd5

After 11.Kb1, 11...b4 is not yet a threat on account of 12.Nd5, but Van Foreest opts for clarity.

11...Bxd2+ 12.Qxd2 Pxd5 13.exd5 Ne7



Van Foreest also contemplated 14.d6 cxd6 15.Qxd6 Qxd6 16.Rxd6, ‘but this is about equal. Ivan had looked at it this morning.’

14...d6 15.Qa5!?

The queen jumps into the lion’s den. ‘I decided to try and take some pawns and then hopefully survive the attack’, said Van Foreest.

15...0–0! 16.Rhe1

Certainly not 16.Nxb5?? axb5 17.Qxa8 Bg4 18.Qxf8+ Kxf8 19.Bxg4 and Black emerges a piece up by 19...Qg5+.

16...Bf5 17.Qxc7 Rfc8

Black could have gone all out with 17...Rac8, to also give the a-pawn. Now White could have slightly slowed down the attack by 18.Qb7.

18.Qb6 Rc5 19.Rd2 Rac8

19...Qe5! would have been very unpleasant for White, for example: 20.Red1 Rac8 21.Qxa6 Nxd5!.




This move seemed a bit more forcing to Sokolov than 20...Nxd5, but a little later he realized this was not the case. After the capture on d5 there can follow: 21.Nxb5 Nc7! and all the back-rank mates are neatly covered: 22.Qb6 Nxb5 23.Bxb5 Rxc2+ 24.Rxc2 Rxc2+ 25.Kd1 h6, and Black wins in the attack.

21.Bd1 b4 22.h4!

When I played 20...Qg5, I thought, I have so many moves here... but after the text I realized things were not so clear anymore’, Sokolov admitted.


Less good was 22...Qxh4 23.Nb5! (after 23.Qxd6 bxa3 24.b3, suggested by Van Foreest, Black has 24...Bg6; Sokolov thought 23.Qa4!? was very unclear) 23...b3 24.axb3 Qg5 25.Nd4 Nxd5 26.Nxf5 Qxf5 27.Kb1 followed by 28.Qd3, and White consolidates.

23.Rxe7 bxa3 24.Re3 axb2+ 25.Kb1 Qxh4



Another crucial moment: 26.Qxd6 Qa4 27.Rb3 h6 gives Black a very dangerous attack for two pawns, especially after a move like ...Qa5!. ‘This is a kind of long-term Sicilian attack’, Sokolov said. Van Foreest seizes his best chance.

26...Bxg4 27.Qxd6 h5 28.Bxg4 Qxg4 29.Re8+ Rxe8 30.Qxc5 Qg1+ 31.Kxb2


White remains a pawn up, but Black’s passed h-pawn and the exposed white king give him plenty of compensation.

31...Rb8+ 32.Kc3 Qa1+ 33.Kd3 Qf1+ 34.Kd4 Qe1 35.Kc3 Qa1+ 36.Kd3 Qf1+ 37.Kd4 Qe1 38.Kc3

Here Sokolov didn’t try any further: draw. ‘Especially after Loek van Wely told me this morning that at 3-3 we would have to blitz as well, I thought it was enough.’

Photo: Lennart Ootes

Photo: Lennart Ootes