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Alexander Morozevich GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship
GM Alexander Morozevich – Nr.2 der Weltrangliste
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28. Juli - 3. August 2008 Rheingoldhalle, Mainz
Chess Classic Mainz 2008 (CCM8)
2. FiNet Chess960 Women's Rapid World Championship
GM A. Kosteniuk, WGM N. Zhukova, IM V. Cmilyte, GM K. Lahno



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Chess Classic

How I kept my FiNet Chess960 World Champion title
Alexandra Kosteniuk analyses her Chess Classic Mainz 2008

18.08.2008 - “It’s the year 2025. Match for the world chess champion title. Game 23. White played an opening novelty on the 65th move of the Petroff defence. Black resigned.” This sad picture can actually become true if it is not already partly true now. Unending chess theory and grandmasters studying countless variations day and night on computer screens are today's reality of chess. Of course there is still creativity and fight and even brilliant ideas found over the chess board, but we must agree that today's chess is not the chess we saw 20 years ago. Now in 20 more years from today what kind of chess will we see?

Chess960 World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk

Chess960, or Fischer Random chess, or random chess for short, features a randomized initial chess position, which makes memorizing chess opening move sequences useless. By shuffling the first row of pieces, with simple rules such as Bishops must be on different colored squares and the King should have one rook on its right and one on its left, gives us 960 starting positions of which only one, number 518 is analyzed pretty well, since it’s also known a the regular chess starting position.

This kind of chess is gaining great popularity and every time it's like a big breath of fresh air for me to play Chess960. There is no theory, no preparation, you can start to think creatively from the very first move on.

That's why I was so looking forward to this year’s 2nd Women's world Championship in Mainz, Germany. In this championship I had to defend my FiNet World Champion title in Chess960 which I won in a match against Elizabeth Paehtz in 2006.

Mr. Hans-Walter Schmitt, the organizer of the Chess Classics festival in Mainz has done a tremendous job. This festival grew from a tiny tournament to become a big chess event. It’s already the 15th time that chess players meet on the bank of the Rhine river to compete in this interesting event. Players have the possibility not only to play in a regular rapid chess event but also to try themselves in the Chess960 open.

Chief organizer Hans-Walter Schmitt and
Chess960 World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk

The Mainz tournaments have a very clear and easy system of qualification. The winners of the two opens qualify for the next year’s world championship tournament. Such championships take place once every two years, so 2 qualifiers + the world champion + 1 wild-card play for the world title.

This year there were 2 such world championships.

A very strong GRENKELEASING World Rapid Championship with Anand, Carlsen, Morozevich and Judith Polgar was played for the world rapid crown. It was won convincingly by Anand in front of Carlsen, then Morozevich who defeaded Judith Polgar to get the third prize.

Alexandra Kosteniuk & Kateryna Lahno at the prize giving in Mainz

As for the FiNet Women's Rapid World Championship in Chess960, I was the defending champion, and my challengers were current European Champion Kateryna Lahno, then Natalia Zhukova and Viktorija Cmilyte, all very strong players capable of anything. The rules were that the players would start with a double round robin, after which first and second place play a 4-game match for the world champion title and the third and fourth place play a match for the bronze.

The first and second day of the tournament went very well for me. I got 5,5 points out of 6, took the first place and qualified for the final world championship match against Kateryna Lahno, who got 4 out of 6 winning all games except those against me. Here is the first game I played against Kateryna in Mainz:


CCM8 - FiNet Chess960 Women's Wch

Mainz, 2008.07.29, Round 3

Comments by Alexandra Kosteniuk

SP 056

It was the last game of the first day, I had 1,5 points while Kateryna was leading with 2 points.

1. c4 e5

In chess960 it's difficult to say what's move is the best especially when you play a 20- minute game. So for now, both players are trying to play for the center.

2. e3 Nab6 3. d4 exd4 4. exd4 d5

Not giving White to dominate in the center.

5. c5 Nd7 6. f3

For the moment Iwas not too happy about my position, since all my pieces are standing poorly and I couldn't see a clear plan to improve this situation in the future.

6...Qe7 7. Qd3 Nf8 8. Bg3 a6 9. Nc2 ?!

Probably it was worth to do something prophylactical against my plan with Bb5.

9...Bb5 10. Qd2 Qd7 11. h4 Ne7 12. Ne3 Ne6 13. h5 Nc6 ?!

When I made this move I realized that White doesn't really have to defend the pawn on d4 immediately, instead she has a very strong move 13... O-O-O was better.

14. Qc3 ?

Kateryna simply forgot about the long-side castle that Black can do. 14. h6 ! was much stronger.

14... O-O-O

Here I was almost happy about my position, I castled, developed almost all my pieces and my bishop on b5 cuts off the white king from the queen's side.

15. b3 a5 16. Kf2 ?

A move in the wrong direction. White is no more able to castle and if we imagine that my b8-bishop which is out of play for the moment will go to a7 it will become clear that in a few moves White's king can be found in big danger.


Loading the weapon.

17. Ne2 ?

White continues to play with her king.

17...Bxe2 18. Kxe2

Even now I had different tactical ideas such as 18... Nxc5 19. dxc5 d4 but instead I decided to make one more quiet move which strengthens my position even more.

18...g6 19. Ng4 Qe7 20. Kf1 Rhe8 21. hxg6 hxg6 22. Ne5 ?

Right in the den of the enemy. After this move I have several winningpossibilities.


22... Nexd4 was also possible.

23. Bxe5 Nxd4 24. Qxd4 Qxe5 25. Qxe5 Rxe5 26. Rh7 Rh5

26... Bxc5 was simpler since 27. Rxf7 is not possible in view of Rh8 with checkmating threats.

27. Rxh5 gxh5 28.Bf5+ Kb8

The rest of the game was played in a 5-sec per move order but at the end I managed to win and to become the leader after the first playing day.

29. Rd4 Bxc5 30. Rh4 Bb4 31. Ke2 Rg8 32. Bh3 Re8+ 33. Kd3 Re1 34. Rxh5 Rd1+ 35. Ke2 Rd2+ 36. Ke3 d4+ 37. Ke4 c5 38. Bf5 Rxa2 39. Rh7 Re2+ 40. Kd5 Re3 41. Rxf7 d3 42. Bxd3 Rxd3+ 43. Ke4 Rxb3 44. g4 a4 45. g5 a3 46. g6 Bc3 47. Kd3 Bd4+ 0-1

Here you can download the previous annotated game. (PGN)

So the next day Kateryna and I played the final match which was very exciting and entertaining for the spectators as it always is the case in women’s chess competitions. Although I succeeded and won this match I am not 100% satisfied with my level of play. After winning the first game, I got winning positions in the second and third games and got only 0,5 points from both of them, bringing the score to 1.5 each and making the fourth game to be the decisive one. In that final game, for an unknown reason, it was the first time of all 10 games played in which I got a bad opening position and needed to make some extra effort, or have some luck, to turn the odds into my favor. Overall I scored 8 out of 10 in all Chess960 games played this year in Mainz.

Below is the last decisive game Kateryna and I played. The opening didn’t go very smoothly for me, but in the end I’m very happy that I won and was able to defend my FiNet World Champion Chess960 title.


CCM8 - FiNet Chess960 Women's Wch

Mainz, 2008.07.31, Round 10

Comments by Alexandra Kosteniuk

SP 242

Before the game for a moment I wanted to switch the Black King and Queen. It seemed so strange to see them in the wrong order.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bc4

In the game's database on I found one game between 2 engines which started the same way but in this position White chose 3. b3 3…Nc6 4. Bb5 b6 5. d3 Nb4 6. c3 Nc6 7. Qe2 O-O-O 8. O-O Bb7 9. b4 Nh5 with unclear position.

3... b6

In Chess960 the pieces development plays an even more important role than in regular Chess. In chess960 pieces are not placed as harmoniously as in regular chess, so if you can finish your development faster than your opponent you can get quite a big advantage. 3... b5 !? was interesting since it could have given Black a few very important tempi 4. Bxb5 Nxe4 5. Qe2 Nd6 6. Ba4 f6.

4. Nc3 Bb4 5. d3 Qe7

Too shy. 5... d5 was more ambitious 6. exd5 Nxd5 7. Nxe5 f6 8. Nf3 Qg6 9. Bxd5 Bxd5 10. Nh4 Qf7. Two bishops give Black a strong compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

6. a3 Bxc3 7. Qxc3 d6 8. b4 O-O 9. O-O c6

Although the idea of d5 looks logical in this position the strong idea that White played on the next move could have tried by Black as well 9... Nh5 !? 10. Rfe1 c5 with unclear play.

10. Nh4!

White uses that the Black's bishop on a8 is too far from the king's side and there is no way to prevent the knight's invasion on f5 since Black can not play g6 since it opens the a1 bishop after f4.


Although I didn't like my position here I understood that I have to go for complications otherwise White will win too easily.

11. Nf5 Qg5 12. Qe1 Nf4 13. g3 d5

Looks far too risky, but White has to decide concrete problems which is not so easy in a 20-minute game.

14. h4

14. Bxe5 was also pretty strong Nh3+ 15. Kg2 dxc4 16. f4.

14... Qh5

After 14... Qg4 I didn't like 15. f3 Qh3 16. Rf2 and the queen is in a trap.

15. Qd1 ?

White didn't handle the pressure. 15. f3 (15. gxf4 Qg4+ 16. Kh1 (16. Ng3 exf4) 16... Qf3+) was the strongest move here. White threatens to play g4 and Ne7 winning the queen so it is not clear how Black can continue the fight. 15...Rce8 (15...Rfe8 16. gxf4 dxc4 17. Qg3 Qg6 18. Qxg6 hxg6 19. Nd6; 15... f6 16. gxf4 dxc4 17. Qg3) the bishop on a1 will get into the game soon and Black will not able to do something against the strong f5-knight and the strong-a1 bishop. 16.gxf4 15... Qxd1 16. Rfxd1 ?

The final mistake in this match. Kateryna told me after the game that she simply forgot that her rook on c1 would be hanging. 16. Rcxd1 Ne2+ 17. Kh2 dxc4 18. Ne7+ Kh8 19. Nxc8 Rxc8 20. Bxe5 was the best choice, that lead to an interesting endgame.

16... Ne2+ 17. Kf1 Nxc1

The rest is easy.

18. Ne7+ Kh8 19. Nxc8 Rxc8 20. Rxc1 dxc4 21. dxc4 c5 22. f3 Nc6 23. b5 Nd4 24. Kf2 f6 25. Ke3 Rd8 26. a4 Kg8 27. a5 Bb7 28. Bc3 Bc8 29. g4 Be6 0-1

Here you can download the previous annotated game. (PGN)

Kateryna Lahno, Natalia Zhukova,
Francesca & Alexandra Kosteniuk, Viktorija Cmylite

As you might know I have been very active in the video scene, and I would like you to watch a video of the whole Mainz Chess960 world championship on the web. The original 24-minute version is on (flash) and (quicktime), and a shorter 10 minute version is on my YouTube channel . It’s a whole summary of the event with video footage and comments of all my key games there.

I am already looking forward very much for the next world championship, in 2010 to defend my Chess960 World Champion Title. I’m sure it will be as well organized as this one. Hopefully chess960 will get more attention in the chess world and we will see more tournaments of chess960 in the future.

Alexandra Kosteniuk

Published by Harry Schaack / Mike Rosa

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