The 2018 women’s World Chess Championship is over and the Chinese Grandmaster Ju Wenjun remains the chess queen of earth. I’d like to point out the notable performance of IM Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazakhstan.
Ms. Abdumalik was born in Jan. 12, 2000 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, which makes her 18 years old as of today. She carries the title of International Master but actually holds three Grandmaster (GM) norms already and only needs to bring her rating up to 2500 to get the full GM title.
IM Zhansaya has three world championship titles: Under-8 section (2008 Vung Tau) and Under-12 division (2011 Caldas Novas, Brazil) and World Girls Under-20 Championship (Tarvisio, Kazakhstan). In 2016 she became the women’s champion of Kazakhstan. She is so highly regarded in her home country that the chess academy there is called the “Zhansaya Abdumalik Chess Academy,” inaugurated by the 12th world champion Anatoly Karpov no less.
IM Abdumalik did really well here in Khanty-Mansiysk to reach the quarterfinals. Along the way she defeated IM Padmini Rout IND 2341 2.5-1.5, GM Zhao Xue CHN 2478 3-1, Jolanta Zawadzka POL 2407 2.5-1.5 before falling to former world champion Mariya Muzychuk UKR 2545 1-3.
That is the bare score and it doesn’t seem like much, but let me explain to you how difficult her journey was.
Let us not discuss first round opponent Padmini Rout who is lower rated than Zhansaya (never mind that Padmini was Indian women’s champion for the last four years), the second round opponent GM Zhao Xue is a real powerhouse who at one time was considered a potential world champion. She played for the Chinese Olympiad team (and you know they are among the most powerful teams in the world) in 2002 (Bled), 2004 (Calvia) and 2016 (Baku). In fact, in Bled she won a gold medal as 5th board, scoring 11/12 (!) for a performance rating of 2723.
In round 3 IM Abdumalik faced the Pole WGM Zawadzka who was herself having a good tournament – in the previous round she had defeated former challenger GM Humpy Koneru and was really itching to further go up the tournament ladder. Zhansaya lost the first game but came back to win the 2nd to bring the match to tiebreaks. Abdumalik then posted this very emphatic win to eliminate Jolanta.
Abdumalik, Zhansaya (2473) — Zawadzka, Jolanta (2407) [B01]
Women’s World Championship Khanty-Mansiysk (3.3), 11.11.2018
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bh5 7.g4 Bg6 8.Ne5 Nbd7 9.Nc4 Qe6+ 10.Ne3 0–0–0 11.Bg2 h5 12.g5 Ne4 13.Qf3 f5?!
Totally understandable but wrong. Black was afraid of the Q+B battery down the long diagonal and decides to shut it off on e4. In reality what is happening is that she has killed the scope of her g6–bishop. Better is 13…Nd6 followed by …f7–f6.
14.0–0 c6 15.h4 Nxc3 16.bxc3 Nb6 17.Bh3 Qf7 18.a4!
Winning the pawn with 18.Bxf5+ backfires after 18…e6 and White is forced into 19.Be4 Qxf3 20.Bxf3 Na4 21.Bd2 e5! Black equalizes.
Getting the knight out of the way so that she can play Ne3–f4–e5.
19…Nd5 20.Nc4 Bd6? 21.Nxd6+ Rxd6 22.c4 Nc7 23.c3 Na6 24.Bf4 Rd7 25.Be5 Re8 26.Qf4 Kd8 27.c5 Qg8
Jolanta’s queen is doing nothing on f7 and she tries to reposition her forces with Ke7, Ra8, Qc8, etc.
28.Rfb1 Ke7 29.Rb2 Ra8 30.Rab1 Qc8 31.Bf1
With the idea of 32.Bxa6 bxa6 33.Rb8, which wins the black queen.
31…Nc7 32.Rxb7 Nd5 33.Rxd7+ Qxd7 34.Qd2 f4 35.Bd3 Bxd3 36.Qxd3 Kf8 37.Qh7 Qf7 38.Rb7! 1–0
Black resigned after 38.Rb7. She loses her queen after 38…Qxb7 39.Qh8+ Kf7 40.Qxg7+ and will probably be mated too in a few more moves. Her match with former women’s world champion Grandmaster Mariya Muzychuk was a battle royale. First Abdumalik grabs a win with a nice attack.
Muzychuk, Mariya (2545) — Abdumalik, Zhansaya (2473) [B41]
Women’s World Championship, Khanty-Mansiysk (4.1), 12.11.2018
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.Qd3 0–0 8.e5 Ne8 9.Bf4 Qc7N 10.a3 Bxc3+ 11.Qxc3 f6 12.Nf3 Nc6 13.Bg3 fxe5 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.Bxe5 d6 16.Bg3 Qc6 17.f3 e5 18.c5 dxc5 19.Bc4+ Be6 20.0–0–0 b5 21.Bxe6+ Qxe6 22.Rhe1 b4 23.Rxe5 Qa2 24.axb4 cxb4 25.Qxb4
The following sequence is fascinating.
25…Rc8+ 26.Rc5 a5 27.Qb5 Rf5! 28.Bf2 Qe6 29.Rd3?
A blunder. 29.Rd2! holds.
29…Rfxc5+ 30.Bxc5 Qe1+ 31.Kc2 Qf2+
32.Kb3 Qxc5 33.Qxc5 Rxc5 34.h4 Rb5+ 35.Ka3 Kf7 36.Rd7+ Ke6 37.Ra7 h5 38.g4 hxg4 39.fxg4 Rb4 40.Rxa5 Rxg4 41.Rh5 g6 42.Rh8 Ng7 43.b4 Nf5 44.b5 Rxh4 45.Rg8 Rg4 46.b6 Nd6 47.Rc8 Rg5 48.Rb8 Kd7 49.Kb4 Kc6 50.Kc3 Nb7 51.Kd4 Kxb6 52.Re8 Kc6 53.Re5 Rg4+ 54.Ke3 Nc5 55.Kf3 Rg1 56.Re8 Kd6 57.Rc8 Ne6 0–1
Mariya immediately strikes back in the second game to bring the match to tiebreaks.
Abdumalik, Zhansaya (2473) — Muzychuk, Mariya (2545) [B47]
Women’s World Championship Khanty-Mansiysk (4.2), 13.11.2018
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be2 Nf6 7.0–0 Bb4 8.Ndb5 Qb8! 9.Be3 a6 10.a3 Be7 11.Nd4 0–0 12.f4 d6 13.Kh1 Bd7 14.Bf3 Rc8N 15.Qe1 b5 16.Qg3 b4 17.axb4 Qxb4 18.e5 Nxd4!
It is win or go home, so the former world champion takes a risk by giving up the exchange in order to activate her bishops.
19.Bxd4 Qxd4 20.exf6 Bxf6 21.Bxa8 Rxa8 22.Qd3 Qxd3 23.cxd3 d5 24.Ra3 g6 25.Rb3 a5 26.Ra1 Kg7 27.Kg1 a4 28.Rb7
Strange as it may seem, this move, bringing the rook to the 7th rank is a mistake. It is vulnerable to the two rampaging bishops.
[29.Rb4 Be7 30.Rb6 Bc5+ wins the rook]
29…Be8 30.Kf1 h5 31.Ra2 Bd8 32.Rb7 Bc6 33.Rb4 Ra6 34.Ke2? Be7ƒ 35.Rd4 Bc5 36.Rdxa4 Bxa4 37.Nxa4 Bd4
Black’s bishop dominates the knight. Muzychuk is already winning.
38.b4 Ra8 39.Ra3 h4 40.Kf3 f5 41.g4 Kf6–+ 42.Ra2? Rb8 43.g5+ Ke7 44.Nb2 Rxb4 45.Nd1 Bb6 46.Rc2 Kd7 47.Nc3 Rd4 48.Rd2 Ba5 49.Ne2 Rxf4+! 50.Kxf4 Bxd2+ 51.Ke5 Ke7 52.Nf4 Bxf4+ 53.Kxf4 Kd6 54.d4 e5+! 55.dxe5+ Ke6 56.Kf3 Kxe5 57.Kg2 Kf4 58.Kh3 Kxg5 0–1
So … on to the tiebreaks! All tiebreaks games were played the next day after the second classical game. First there were two Rapid (25 minutes + 10 seconds increment) and the two players exchanged fighting wins to go to the second phase, the so-called “long-blitz” games at 10 minutes per game plus 10 seconds increment after every move.
The first game was a giant battle and wound up with a KRN vs KR endgame on the 85th move. As our BW readership knows this is a draw but fiendishly difficult for both sides. You should note that both players had already exhausted their time allotment and were only going by the 10-second increment. Try playing with 10 seconds per move in a complicated and crucial endgame for a hundred moves! Anyway, they fought on until they got to this position on the 135th move (Muzychuk is White).
POSITION AFTER 135.NG5
Black can only prevent 136.Re8 checkmate by giving up her rook for the knight, but fortunately for Abdumalik they have already reached the 50-move threshold with no exchanges or pawn moves and she could have claimed a draw here. The heat of battle and sheer exhaustion however got to her and she resigned in this position.
That meant that Abdumalik was once again one game away from elimination, and they had to play the 2nd “long-blitz” game immediately after the exhausting marathon above. She was equal to the task, though.
Abdumalik, Zhansaya (2473) — Muzychuk, Mariya (2545) [B18]
Women’s World Championship Khanty-Mansiysk (4.6), 14.11.2018
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nh3 Nf6 8.Nf4 Bh7 9.Be3
Mikhail Tal played 9.Bc4 in his 1960 world championship match with Botvinnik. The idea is that after 9…e6 10.0–0 Bd6 (Better than 10…Be7 11.Bxe6! fxe6 12.Nxe6 Qd7 13.Nh5! with a very dangerous attack) 11.Nxe6!? fxe6 12.Bxe6 Qc7 13.Re1 Nbd7 theoretically White does not have enough for the piece but the practical problems for Black are plenty. Tal, M-Botvinnik, M Moscow 1960 0–1 58. I wrote a long theoretical on this position many years ago in “Chess Asia” and have played it hundreds (maybe even thousands) of times in the Internet Chess Club for blitz and bullet games. My score with White in this line is something like 60%, and that includes games with titled players, even grandmasters!
9…e6 10.Bd3 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 Qa5+ 12.c3 Bd6 13.0–0 Nbd7 14.b4 Qc7 15.Nfe2 0–0 16.a4 a5 17.b5 c5 18.Ne4 c4 19.Qc2 Nxe4 20.Qxe4 Nf6 21.Qf3 Nd5 22.g3 f5?
When you are tired you tend to strike out rashly hoping to end the game immediately. This is the explanation I can think of for this anti-positional move which is parried by Abdumalik without problems.
23.Bf4 Rae8 24.Rfe1 Rf7 25.h5 Nxf4 26.Nxf4 e5?
A well-intentioned move which has a flaw.
27.dxe5 Rxe5 28.Ng6! Rxe1+ 29.Rxe1 Qd7 30.Qd5 f4 31.Re7!! 1–0
So now they go to the next set of tiebreak games, the blitz 5 minutes + 3 second increments. By this time Abdumalik had depleted all our inner reserves and could not put up a fight. Mariya Muzychuk won the 1st and forced a draw in the 2nd in a winning position to eliminate her worthy foe and go on to the semi-finals.
This epic battle left its mark on both players. Muzychuk herself was very tired and could not put up much resistance to Russia’s Kateryna Lagno in the semi-finals. They drew the two classical games but Lagno won both tiebreak games to proceed to the finals against Ju Wenjun.
Abdumalik is only 18 years old. She just put everyone on notice that her name will be one to reckon with in future world championship battles.
Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.