Battle of the sexes: men are catching up

#GibChess Battle of the Sexes Chess Tournament: Round 6

Team Sabino’s top scorer is still their starting header, Sabino Brunello, with 4/6. Sabino made an early peace treaty with Team Pia’s top-rated player, Mariya Muzychuk, at move 17. Mariya now has 3½/6 which is the best score for the women’s team, along with three more, and she merely played down her preparation from earlier in the day to neutralize the in-form men’s captain and end her three-game winning streak.

Balazs Csonka defeated women’s team captain Pia Cramling

Hungarian IM Balazs Csonka is also now the 4/6, which is proving to be a considerable thorn in the women’s team. Today he inflicted his first defeat on the captain of the opposing team Pia Cramling, who is now down to 3/6. The opening was a Sicilian c3 in which Pia opted for the less usual 9…Qxd6 instead of the standard response 9…Bxd6 or perhaps 9…Be6. Black then lost time and White quickly established a lasting advantage. White attacked and won a vulnerable pawn, and soon after the game. Impressive game from the young Hungarian IM: it’s my choice for the match of the day.

A curiosity of the sixth round was that three players who had so far drawn their five games won for the first time, two in the men’s team and one in the women’s team. Australian GM Bobby Cheng moved to 3½/6 with a victory over Gunay Mammadzada who started life as a Bogo-Indian and ran to 79 strokes, the longest match of the day. White gained a substantial spatial advantage early on and then won a pawn, but a draw still seemed the most likely outcome as the material was very small and the pawns on one side of the board. Eventually, when it seemed utterly pointless for White to continue playing as a draw was a certainty, Black fell into a horrible trap on move 77 to give the men’s team their two-point lead of the day. overnight – a heartbreaking result for Gunay Mammadzada. and his teammates.

Marie Sebag won her first victory at the expense of Eric Rosen

Another “drawmeister” to move to a positive score was Marie Sebag. The French GM moves to 3½/6 at the expense of American IM Eric Rosen who lost his second game in a row and is now 2/6. The opening was a Queen’s Pawn, Mason, Steinitz Counter-Gambit variant, according to my new software Hiarcs Chess Explorer Pro which I find extremely useful for following live chess events (and, no, I don’t get paid for this socket). The Hiarcs book suggested 8…e6 but Black preferred 8…Qxc5 to which White responded with Stockfish’s first choice 9 b4. A move or two later, 11 cxd5 looks very promising for White, but instead he has embarked on an ambitious plan. Commentators weren’t impressed, however, nor was Stockfish. Everything seemed too loose. A few moves later, White laid a trap: 22 Kb2 tempted Black in 22…Bxg2 against 23 Qg5+ and 24 Qxg2 but the tactic didn’t stop there. The black queen retaliated in the same way, easily retaking the piece with a net gain of one pawn and a winnable rook and pawn endgame. It took a while to complete, but Black’s endgame technique proved up to the task.

Ravi Haria exploited Irene Sukandar’s weakened kingside to win his opener

Third in the trio of “drawmeisters” who became winners was England GM Ravi Haria, who is now 3½/6 after beating Irene Sukandar, who is now 3/6. This game started life as Giuoco Pianissimo, but White decided to boost it slightly by advancing d3-d4. That said, it wasn’t much more than level until Black adopted the erroneous plan of …Nh5 and …f5 after which his position plunged alarmingly. In the final post-match chat, White thought Black was probably already lost and the Engines agreed. It still took a few precise moves to lead to Black’s weaknesses being exploited, but White provided what was needed and the end came quickly. A very effective victory for Team Sabino but another psychological blow for Team Pia.

Leandro Krysa and Marsel Efroimski came into their match with a win and four draws apiece and left it unbeaten, which tells you they’re both 3½/6. The opening was a QGD Tarrasch, with White emerging with a slight advantage. However, it slipped away and just when it showed signs of getting slightly interesting, with Black engineering a passed d-pawn, the game ended in a handshake. Black was objectively not much better, but it might have been worth playing a few more moves.

You will recall that Bilel Bellahcene had a nightmare in the first two rounds, losing both games when Tia Pia completely beat Tia Sabino, but his recovery was as remarkable as his team’s, with 3½ points in his last four games . His sixth-round victim was England IM Jovi Houska who is now at 2/6. The opening was a semi-slave and both players were likely to have an advantage in the midgame complications before some questionable decisions on moves 24 and 25 left Black with an isolated and vulnerable c-pawn. It might not have been fatal, but required a level of calculation and precision from the scanning engine to counter White’s threats. It all got too much on move 33 when Black missed his foot and fell into a bottomless crevasse of mate threats.

Olga Girya demonstrated excellent technique by defeating Gillian Bwalya

Olga Girya bounced back from her fifth-round loss to defeat Gillian Bwalya in the sixth round, and is now 3½/6. The opening was a classic Nimzo-Indian. Play proceeded according to known play until 17 Bd6, when 17 c5 was played previously, returning the pawn in a way that avoids further pressure against White’s residual c-pawn. As played, White was soon on the defensive. It was instructive to go through the late mid-game and early endgame stages of the game with Gillian in our post-game interview (available on YouTube). We both found ourselves in awe of Olga Girya’s excellent technique, especially the way she managed to shut White’s bishop out of the game, and her relentless pursuit of victory. Talking to Gillian afterwards, he is obviously disappointed with his score of ½/5 and yet greatly relishes the opportunity to meet such formidable and well-educated opponents. Back home in Zambia, Gillian works as a policeman, therefore he is not a professional player and is unlikely to encounter such a large group of professional players.

Joe Gallagher and Zhansaya Abdumalik were well matched, having scored 2½/5 when they met in the sixth round and a draw ensued. The opening was a Ruy Lopez/Spanish with Black playing a …g6 start. It was a suspicious game. Stockfish advocated something a bit more aggressive for white on move 22, namely Bh4, but the move played was a4. There wasn’t much of that skirmish next to the queen, and a few moves later there was a repeat. So both are on 3/6.

Nino Batsiashvili had a winning position against Husain Aziz – according to the computers – but victory turned into defeat

This brings us to a match where the result could have gone the other way (and if it did, the aggregate score would be 30-30 at the end of the day): Husain Aziz vs. Nino Batsiashvili. Both players started the sixth round at minus one, but by the end of the round Husain had 3/6 while Nino had 1½/5. Husain said during the post-match chat: “I got lucky.” That’s mostly true, but he made a few smart decisions at key moments that first kept him in the game and eventually won it. Husain wanted to do something different in the opening, so he tried a Four Knights. This continued through the book until White played 12 b4, which is a misstep of some proportions. White’s somewhat bare kingside takes 12 h3 to parry a knight’s move on g4, which duly followed the omission of this important defensive move. The worst followed for White when he thought he could get away with 13 exd5 but was rocked on his heels after 13…Bxh2+ 14 Kf1 when Black played 14…Be5! He’s an absolute killer, or at least should be, as he sets up a kingside queen invasion against White’s undefended king. In desperation, White sacrificed the exchange and tried to get his queen to a safe place.

It turned out just enough to cover our tracks. Just because a computer reads +5.00 or +10.00 doesn’t mean winning moves are necessarily easy to find. The relevant position in the game wasn’t as easy to win as the analytic engines might have us believe and Nino shouldn’t blame himself for missing out on the win as it wasn’t easy. On move 19, she played a queen check – a plausible, but inaccurate move – and suddenly her advantage evaporated. Another ill-advised move followed and suddenly White had gone from lost dead to maybe drawn to much better in the space of three moves. At this time white had two minor pieces for a rook and generally better placed pieces. This result would be a real hammer blow to Team Pia’s hopes of success, and they will have to put that disappointment behind them as they sit down to face the Whites in the seventh round.

The seventh round will take place on Monday, January 31 at 15:00 CET.

Round 6 Results



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