While the chess thermometer in northern Stavanger hovers around zero or +1, with one (or not even that) decisive game per round, it makes sense to switch to the south, to the Black sea coast of Georgia. The Georgian Federation, in partnership with FIDE, are running stage three of the Women's Grand Prix 2015/2016.
Every former Soviet citizen used to holiday at least once on the Black Sea and there is no better resort than Batumi. The citizens of Yalta, Sochi and other resorts might dispute this, but the Georgians can muster 1001 arguments in favour of their resort and would probably be right. In any event, the great majority of chess fans would support them. How many tournaments have been held here, and how many more there will be! This includes the Olympiad in 2018. And there is Georgian cooking and Caucasian hospitality!
To return to the ladies. An all play all with 12 players is taking place at the five star «Intourist Palace Hotel». The line-up includes two ex-world champions, Mariya Muzychuk and Alexandra Kosteniuk, all the Georgian national team (Dzagnidze, Batsiashvili, Khotenashvili and Javakhashvili), and a total of 8 GMs and 3 IMs (these being men's titles, not women's). The tournament can rightly be regarded as one of the strongest in the history of chess.
During the Candidates, the Presidential Council took a decision which has been criticized by some observers. The Grand Prix has been increased from four events to five and the number of players increased as well. The world champion will no longer have an automatic right to challenge the winner of the women's world championship knockout in a match.
The current world champion was opposed, but the decision is understandable, because the world championship lacks sporting interest compared with the men's event, and it makes sense to (temporarily?) change it, perhaps? If a serious challenger appears, we can consider returning to the old system. Matches, where the outcome is largely determined in advance and the world champion does not even lose a single game are of no interest and amount to an empty formality.
And now to return to Batumi. The prize fund is 60.000 euros, of which 10.000 go to the winner.
So far, Mariya Muzychuk has not recovered after her defeat in the match in Lvov. In the second round she played in an unaccustomed style with white against Almira Skripchenko and in the next round was still suffering:
Gunina - M Muzychuk
20.g4 – Valentina is true to herself - forwards! 20…Ne5?! – Instinctively one wants to bring pieces to defend the king, but she should have accepted the challenge with 20…hxg4. 21.gxh5 b4 22.Na4 Nxf3 23.hxg6! – It is nice to be able to make such moves - the attack develops free of charge. 23…fxg6 24.h5 Nxd4 25.Nxd4 Qe5 26.Nc6 Qxe4 27.Ka1 Bf5 28.Nc5 – The cavalry jump into the space!
28… Qc2 29.Qh6 Qg2 30.hxg6 Bxg6 31.Qh8 Kf7 32.Ne5#!
Which round could pass by without a mini-drama in the women's Grand Prix? In the third round it was the Russian player who committed a shameful blunder, having at that point scored 100%: .
Batsiashvili - Girya
Olga had played the opening well and seized the initiative. The European champion did not wish to go on the defensive and in search of counterplay sacrificed a piece. She had some compensation but after the strengthening move 36…Re8 White would not have it easy. But there followed a blunder: 36…Nd6? 37.Rxc7 Kxc7 38.Ra7 Nb7 39.Bxe7 Ra8 40.Ra3 Rxa3 41.bxa3 Kd7 42.Bxg5 dxc4 43.bxc4 Ra8 44.h4 Nd6 45.c5 Nf5 46.Bh3 Rxa3 47.Ke2
– Here she should have played the temporary piece sacrifice 47…Nxh4 48.Bxh4 Ra2 49.Kd3 Rh2 50.Bxe6 Kxe6, and White does not manage to get the pawns going. Probably the Russian missed that after 47…g6 48.Bg4 Ra2 49.Kd3 Ra3 50.Ke4 Rc3 51.Bxf5! – the strength of the bishop consists in being able to exchange itself for a knight! 51…exf5 52.Ke5 – The march of His Majesty decides the game. White won (1:0).
Lela Javakhashvili also started with two wins in a row. In round three, her game became very sharp:
A Muzychuk - . Javakhashvili
19…b5 – No compromises! 20.f5! exf5 21.Rhe1 Be6 22.Bxf5 Qd6 23.Rxe6 fxe6 24.Re1
24… Rf8 25.Rxe6 Qc5 26.Qg6 Rf7 27.Re1 Rd8 28.Qg8 Rf8 29.Bg6 Kd7 30.Qe6 Kc7 31.Qxe7 – etc. White won (1:0)
Photos by Anastasia Karlovich
Batumi Women's Grand Prix 3rd stage. Brave, beautiful and uncompromising