GM Antoaneta Stefanova 2496 – IM Jovanka Houska 2381

8th European Women Individual Ch. Dresden, 05.04.2007

Antoaneta Stefanova Eti

Antoaneta Stefanova – Eti

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Qc2

Unusual move order, allowing 4…b5.

3… dxc4 4.Nf3 Nf6

Houska is not going into complications after 4…b5 5.a4

5.Qxc4 Bf5 6.Nc3 e6 7.g3 Be7 8.Bg2 Nbd7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Re1 Ne4

Many Grandmasters have been playing this line with White, including Aronian, Ivanchuk and Bareev.

11.Qb3 Qb6 12.Nh4 Qxb3 13.axb3 Bb4 14.Ra4!

This appears to be a novelty, and a strong one! It seems like Black is winning a pawn, but White gets the initiative after the sequence of precise moves.

14… Bxc3 15.bxc3 Nxc3 16.Nxf5 exf5 17.Ra5!

Important move, as we will see later. Stefanova keeps an eye on f5 and also on Nc3 exit squares – d5 and b5.

17… Rfe8 18.Bb2! Nb5

No time for 18… Ne2 19.Kf1 because the Knight is trapped.


Right on time before Black makes a6. Stefanova is taking advantage of the insecure Nb5 to break the Black’s pawn structure on the queenside. She gives away one of the Bishops, but the incoming endgame will be favorable for White. Now 19… Ne5 20.dxc6 bxc6 21.Rb5! is losing a piece.

19… Rac8 20.dxc6 bxc6 21.Bxc6 Rxc6 22.Rxb5 g6

22… Rc2 might be looking tempting, but after 23.Bd4 and exchanging e2 for a7, White will have winning endgame. Not to mention the tactical problems with the back rank…

23.Rb7 Nc5 24.Rc1!

Excellent! But no 24.Rxa7 Nxb3 where Black has good chances for draw. Because of the long-ranged Bishop, White can keep the advantage only if there are pawns on the both sides of the board. Black has to trade the Rooks, otherwise 24… Rxe2 25.Bxd4 is winning for White.

24… Nxb7 25.Rxc6 Na5 26.Rc3!

Keeps the b-pawn!

26… f6 27.b4 Rxe2 28.Rc8+ Kf7 29.Rc7+ Ke6 30.Bd4 Nb3 31.Bxa7 g5

Material is equal again, but Stefanova has a passed pawn supported by a Rook and a Bishop. There are still some problems with the well-known mating net Nf3-Rg1. We will see how Stefanova makes everything on time.

32.Kg2 g4 33.b5 Re1

33… Nd2 34.Rc2

34.Be3 Rb1 35.b6 Na5 36.Rc5

h-pawn won’t run away. It is important not to allow Nc4.

36… Nb7 37.Rc6+ Ke5 38.Bf4+ Ke4 39.Re6+ Kd3 40.Rxf6 Nc5 41.Rxf5 Kc4 42.h3

Time to break the net. Unfortunately for Houska, 42… gxh3 43.Kxh3 Rxb6 breaks after 44.Rxc5! Kxc5 45.Be3 and an elementary pawn ending is winning for White. The rest of the game is only matter of technique.

42… Nd3 43.hxg4 Rxb6 44.Be3 Rb1 45.Rf7 Ne1+ 46.Kh2 Kd3 47.g5 Ke2 48.Kh3 Nf3 49.Re7 Kf1 50.Rxh7 Rb4 51.Rf7 Ng1+ 52.Kh2 Rb5 53.g4 Rb4 54.Kg3 Ne2+ 55.Kh4 1-0

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