Hou Yifan takes lead in 2nd game

championship

win

Body language says it all!  Guess who won today?

I think nerves had a lot to do with this loss by Muczychuk.  She certainly can not complain about the opening–the Open Variation of the Spanish–and by move 17 I actually prefer Black! 

chess-women-Lviv-2016-03-03_2762sa_HBRPhoto by V.Hrabar

gm M.Muczychuk

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gm  Hou Yifan

Perhaps Mariya was a bit surprised by the ease with which she equalized and  this could explain why she then unnecessarily played defensively. Her next three moves were 17…Rd7, 18…g6 and 19…Nd8 after which her game was a bit inferior, and the Chinese star steadily built up pressure.

It was suggested by commentators that Black should play more actively with 17…Na5!? and if 18.b3 (to stop any annoying Nc4) 18…c5 mobilizing the pawns:

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This is the standard procedure in the Open variation for Black to activate his game. No doubt Mariya was aware of it, but because she had only recently taken up the Open Variation, she seemed to not ‘feel’ the position as a more experienced Open-player would…This was born out in the post-game press conference where Mariya mentioned that though she had considered this line,  she did not like White’s 19.a4 (?!) :

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She correctly pointed out that after 19…Nc6(?!) 20.PxP PxP 21.Ra6! the pin is quite unpleasant:

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HOWEVER, Black could actually get the upper hand with

19…c4!

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Now if 20.axb5 cxb3! or if 20.b4 Nb3!

No doubt Muczychuk’s training staff will have already pointed this finesse out to her. It is curious how the mind works during a game, relying often on our ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ of a given move or variation.  If we are then not careful, then we could easily lose our objectivity.  Optimally, every move should be evaluated upon its own merits and not only on our emotional first-response.  

However, sometimes the pressure of the competition affects our nerves and we can then fall into a situation where we rely too much on intuitive and psychological factors. That being said, the first loss in a match can have the positive effect of calming our nerves.  I am certain that Mariya will soon bounce back.

Amongst a number of sites on the internet that offer commentary and analysis on game two, I would like to mention Chess24’s YouTube video as being particularly incisive.

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