The theory that knockout tournaments are a lottery isn’t getting much support in Tehran! Of the eight players to reach the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Championship all but two of them were seeded to get there. Tan Zhongyi qualified as the 9th seed after beating Padmini Rout, who knocked out 8th seed Zhao Xue, while only 19-year-old Chinese player Ni Shiqun is a revelation. The 38th seed has beaten three higher-rated players, including 6th seed Valentina Gunina.
Half of the eight matches in Round 3 went to tiebreaks, all of which finished in the 10-minute games, but only one underdog managed to survive – Ni Shiqun, who beat Natalia Pogonina. It was the end of the road for Olga Girya, Padmini Rout, Sopiko Guramishvili, Shen Yang, Pham Le Thao Nguyen, Nino Khurtsidze and Pia Cramling.
The quarterfinals that now await us on Monday are (with the seeding number in brackets):
Ju Wenjun (1) vs. Tan Zhongyi (9)
Nana Dzagnidze (5) vs. Harika Dronavalli (4)
Antoaneta Stefanova (7) vs. Anna Muzychuk (2)
Alexandra Kosteniuk (3) vs. Ni Shiqun (38)
The only country with more than one player remaining is China, who are guaranteed to have at least one player in the semifinals after Ju Wenjun and Tan Zhongyi’s match. They reached that match after the day’s most dramatic tiebreaks:
In particular Girya vs. Ju Wenjun was a heavyweight battle. Olga committed the day’s most glaring blunder with 24…Nd4??
25.Qxd4! simply won a piece. Girya didn’t give up without a fight, though, hitting back nicely in the next game with 26.e4!