Things can change very quickly in chess tournaments. After round one, 115 players had perfect scores, after round two, there were 37. At the end of round three, on Thursday 26th January, there were just nine players on 3/3.
One of them, was English Grandmaster, Michael Adams. Adams got the better of Romania’s Bogdan-Daniel Deac, but was made to work really hard for it. Fittingly, in the English Opening, Mickey got the best of things, but Deac was in no mood to go down without a fight and defended very well, getting himself back into the game. 34…c3(?) was a bit out of context, though, and handed the initiative to Adams. Again, Deac put up resilient defence, but in the end it was to amount to nothing. It took some grinding out and all of sixty-nine moves, but Adams converted very solidly.
Samuel Shankland and Antoaneta Stefanova had been on 2/2 going into this round, but it was the American who would make it 3/3. Playing Black in their game, Stefanova was doing quite well in the Modern Defence, until a blunder would put her on the back foot. The Bulgarian was facing a little pressure in the diagram position, below, with White having just played 46.Bc7.
Here, 46…Qc6 was necessary and after 47.Qxc6 Nxc6 48.Bxd8 Nxd8 49.Nd4 Kf7, White is still better but has yet to prove himself. However, Stefanova erred badly with 46.Nb5(?) There followed, 47.Bxd8 Qxd8 and then 48.Ng5 which saw White with a very big initiative, but 48.Qc6 looks even better! As it was, Shankland soon picked up the e-pawn and netted the point not long afterwards.
Ju Wenjun was leading the way when it came to the female players, taking a point from Orbi Kobo with Black in this round to make it 3/3 for her. It was a rather short game also, lasting only twenty-two moves. In the Nimzo-Indian, White was doing fine until he decided to grab a pawn with 21.Nxe5(??)
When playing an opponent of Ju’s prowess, one should really make sure that such undertakings are not poisoned, but unfortunately Kobo failed in this completely as his opponent’s 21…Nxe5 showed. After Ori’s 22.Qxe5(?? 22.Bxe5 Bf5 is also very good for Black) came 22…Rd5(!) winning. The best that White can hope for is 23.Qxg7+ Qxg7 24.Bxg7 Kxg7 but he is still totally up against it.
Other players on 3/3 were Zvaginsev, Iturrizaga, Sutovsky, Lagarde and Piorun. Hot on their heels, though, were the likes of Caruana, Cheparinov, Hou, Sethurman and defending champion, Nakamura.