December 24, 2010

World Women Chess Championship

THE FINAL: Hou Yifan vs Ruan Lufei

Picture taken from the Official Website

The fourth game in the final battle for the World Title is an obvious sample of how much tension, pressure, emotions, hopes and delusions are connected to an important chess game. Although Bobby Fischer once said: "I don't believe in Psychology, I believe in good moves", it is clear that so many mistakes could have been made by such strong players (2480 and 2591 elo rating) only under special circumstances.
Savielly Tartakower knew very well what he was saying:
1. "Chess is a fairy tale of 1001 blunders."
2. "The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake."
3. "Some part of a mistake is always correct."
4. "The mistakes are there, waiting to be made."
Who is psychologically stronger, that's always the question...

I will briefly present the mistakes done by both players in this fourth game. My intention is not to make us all feel better because the top players can have similar bad games as we do:) What I want to point out is that there are two bad habits out there that kill confidence:

1. Setting unrealistic expectations: strict or high expectations can undermine and suck the life out  of confidence!
2. Letting self-doubt run wild: pessimism and/or perfectionism might be the cause in derailing performance.

Another big problem is that we tend to live either in the past (What a stupid move I did yesterday...Why couldn't I make just a simple draw?!), either in the future (I must win! I have to win! How great it would be to win!), and only occasionally in the present. And than again...the real winner is the one who stands up after falling (see my post on Motivated by Fear of Failure?).

After 4 rapid games, the title has been decided: Hou Yifan managed to turn the odds in her favour and became the World Champion!

But let's see the critical moments from yesterday's game:

In the following position Yifan chose to play 12...Qh2!?

For many people this move looked like the beginning of the end: why to send voluntarily the queen at the edge of the board?!'s the first computer's move:) Which means 12...Qh2 it's just an interesting idea which doesn't deserve a question mark.

The last move played by Lufei was 13.f4
Interesting was also 13.Kf1
First critical moment:

In the diagram seen above, Black played 13...Bd7? - the first mistake; better is:
13...Nd4 14.Qd4 Qh4 15.Bf2 Qd8 16.Qd8 Kd8 17.0-0-0 Kc7 18.Rd4 Be7 19.Rc4 Kb8 20.Rd1 and 20...Bd8! with unclear play.

Second mistake: 14...Nd4? more stubborn is:
14...Qh4 15.Bf2 Qd8 16.0-0-0 Rc8, it's not ideal of course, the position is better for White; in any case, it would have been better than what followed:

White is now almost winning; we were all waiting on facebook for 18.Qxa7 or 18.Rfd1 - as suggested by Anish Giri, with a more or less easy win. We all agreed that: "it smells like tiebreak:)".

Instead, Lufei chose to give Yifan hopes by playing:
18.Qc4+? - a clear sign of psychological pressure, when after 18...Kb8 as in the game, Black equalises.

The game continued and the following position appeared:

Lufei played here 22.Rdf1?! another inaccuracy. White should have opted for a better endgame by playing: 22.Rh1 Qg3 23.Rd5 ed5 24.Qf3 Qg4 25.Qg4 Bg4 26.Bd5 keeping the advantage.

So Yifan has now another chance to equalise, but she played...
22...Qh4?! and the Black queen can be seen moving all over the board in this game. Better was: 22...Rhd8 23.Rh1 Qg3 24.Bf3 (if 24.Rg1 than 24...Qh2 back!) 24...Rd4 25.Qe3 Kb8 with more or less equal position.

Another inaccuracy from Yifan arised in the next diagram:

Black played 26...Kb8?! More stubborn is: 26...Rhd8 27.axb7 Bb7 28.Bb7+ Kb7 29.Qe4+ Kb8 and if now 30.Qe5 (30.g5 Rd5! with an unclear game) 30...Qe5 31.fxe5 Rc7 32.g5 Rd2 resulting in a rook endgame, always tricky business:)

After 26...Kb8 which was played in the game, White played 27.axb7 and again White starts to take over.

As we all know, a mistake never comes alone...the last and fatal mistake played by Yifan occured in the following position:

31...f6?! Black is already in trouble, but a more stubborn defence would have been 31...Rc8 or 31...Qb6.

Black's position started to deteriorate with every single move that followed and thus, Lufei finally won the game. A game full of turns, where you can almost "touch" the intensity and drama that played an important role for the outcome.

Tiebreak time! Great for the public but a hell for the players. They are both tired, stressed and yet, they have to play rapid games, maybe blitz and, who knows, maybe even Armageddon! All on Chirtsmas Eve!
Chess is not a game for weak-hearted people...

As I mentioned on facebook, Ruan Lufei won all her matches only on tiebreak!

Round 1: Baginskaite - Ruan Lufei 1-1 and won by Lufei in tiebreak
Round 2: Ruan Lufei - Zhang Xiaowen 1-1 and won by Lufei on tiebreak
Round 3: Kosteniuk Alexandra - Ruan Lufei 1-1 and...won as usual on tiebreak
Round 4: Ruan Lufei - Harika Dronavalli 1-1 and the tiebreak spoke: Lufei won
Round 5: Ruan Lufei - Zhao Xue 1-1 and...of course we know: won on tiebreak

The FINAL: Ruan Lufei - Hou Yifan 2-2 and...Tiebreak!
This and the fact that she won yesterday's game, made me think she is the favourite in today's race.
Nevertheless, tiredness plays an important role...and once again, Hou Yifan managed to show her class by winning 3-1 in the rapid games.

We have now a new World Champion: HOU YIFAN!



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