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