Those for and those against the knockout system used at the Women's World Championship surely agree on one thing: There is no lack of excitement with this format. Every single game is important and we get to see many tiebreak rounds, where nerves play a vital role. The final match — the only encounter with four classical games in the event — has not disappointed. The score is now tied after three games. Here's how:
The final match of the Women's World Chess Championship in Tehran started on February 27th. The survivors, Tan Zhongyi from China and Anna Muzychuk from Ukraine, arrived from two very different paths. The Chinese dark horse had to overcome three exceptionally tense tiebreak rounds, while Muzychuk managed to win all her matches in the two classical games. Thus, the fatigue factor should favor the Ukrainian. However, my personal opinion is that both must be really tired!
Despite her long run, Tan Zhongyi was the first one to get ahead! After a quiet draw, the Chinese player tipped the balance in her favor with great technique in game two.
It seems like Black has the initiative in this position due to the attack on f2, but Tan Zhongyi found the precise 18.Ng5!, threatening a fork on f7, to lower the tension. After 18...Ke7 19.Be4! Black is forced to trade bishops, while the e4-knight both defends f2 and threatens to go to d6. A subtle way to improve the position! Little by little the Chinese player increased the pressure and forced Muzychuk to resign on move 56. With the Ukrainian facing possible elimination, Tan was in the driver's seat.
Anna Muzychuk found herself against the ropes, but her response could not have been better! The Ukrainian spent almost 30 minutes before offering the old "Greek gift" sacrifice with 14.Bxh7!
Muzychuk's clutch win was analysed by the always entertaining Spanish GM Pepe Cuenca. Spoiler: a little yellow creature shows up at some point...
So everything is still up for grabs with one game to go. The intrigue will soon come to an end! Fatigue and momentum favor Muzychuk, but the Chinese player will play with White, of course!
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