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FIDE World Women's Team Championship SF: Russia, India Reach Finals
The Russian team is all smiles. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

FIDE World Women's Team Championship SF: Russia, India Reach Finals

VSaravanan
| 7 | Chess Event Coverage

Tournament-favorites Russia defeated the Ukraine 2.5-1.5 and 3-1 in the two rounds of the semifinals to score a 2-0 win by match points to reach the finals of the World Women's Team Championship being held at Sitges, Spain.

In the other semifinal match, India drew the first round 2-2 and then scored a dramatic 2.5-1.5 victory in the second round to beat Georgia with 1.5-0.5 match points in a topsy-turvy encounter which sets up a summit clash with Russia. The semifinals lived up to the expectations of "big battles," with the second round remarkably producing seven decisive games among the total eight played.

Russian GM Alexandra Gorychkina once again impressed with an exhibition of deep endgame technique against Ukrainian GM Anna Muzychuk in a battle of heavyweights. In the other noteworthy game of the day, Indian WGM Tania Sachdev showed remarkable grit under pressure in a difficult but wild position to turn the tables on Georgian IM Meri Arabidze, which was the key game to decide the second round and thus the match in favor of India.

How to watch?
The FIDE World Women's Team Championship games can be found here. Live commentary for all rounds will be broadcast on Chess.com/tv.

Semifinals part one:

Semifinals part two:

 


Russia vs. Ukraine

Start of the Russia vs. Ukraine semifinal at the World Women's Team Championship
Start of the Russia vs. Ukraine match, with Anna Muzychuk vs. Goryachkina on the top board. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

Game 1: Russia takes lead with 2.5-1.5 win

This was dubbed as the "more exciting match of the day" by GM Irina Krush at Chess.com's live commentary, also opining that Russia was probably the favorite. But the first round seemed to be weighed down by the pressure of the encounter, featuring cautious play in almost all the boards from the very beginning.

Among the top three boards, only GM Mariya Muzychuk seemed to be playing actively against GM Alexandra Kosteniuk but it got quite messy in the endgame:

Russia won the match due to the boldness shown by IM Alina Kashlinskaya who conducted the game energetically and took the fight to her opponent:

Round 2: Russia wins 3-1 to reach finals

Russian top boards with coach Grandmaster Rublevsky at the World Women's Teach Championship
Russian top boards Goryachkina and Kosteniuk with team captain GM Sergei Rublevsky before the game. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

The second round was markedly more tense, as Ukraine was obviously desperate to win to stay in the match, and hence all the games were exciting affairs. Goryachkina once again rose to the occasion, displaying her brilliant endgame prowess in a crucial encounter on the top board against a fellow grandmaster:

And now is when one suddenly recalls her earlier game against Mammadzada in the third round and wonders, "What's with Goryachkina and rook and bishop endings?!" Kosteniuk and GM Mariya Muzychuk decided to let their hair down and played a wild opening, which got chaotic quickly:

In the other two games, GM Kateryna Lagno gradually outplayed former World Champion GM Anna Ushenina while IM Polina Shuvalova calmly pocketed the point against a desperate IM Nataliya Buksa who rejected many drawing chances to finally lose the game.

IM Polina Shuvalova of Russia at the World Women's Team Championship
Polina Shuvalova, delivering for Russia at the crucial moment. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

Georgia vs. India

Georgia vs. India semifinal match at the World Women's Team Championship
Georgia vs. India match in progress, with Dzagnidze vs. Harika in the foreground. Note the chairs for the team captains at the end of the lines. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

Round 1: Ends in a tie with 2-2

The day started for India with a Tweet from an original member, which definitely made their day brighter going into the quarterfinals:

This encounter was dubbed by WGM Dina Belankaya as a "tough" match-up where it was difficult to choose a favorite. Indeed, the match proved to be impossible to predict, as the result seemed to fluctuate in favor of either team through the duration of the games and all the three results seemed possible midway through. 

The top board encounter of GM Nana Dzagnidze vs. GM Dronavalli Harika ended in quick time, just 14 moves with a three-fold repetition. Otherwise, there is a rule against draws by mutual consent in this championship before black's 30th move.

Risky opening play by GM Nino Batsiashvili from an uncommon setup in the Ruy Lopez against WGM Vaishali resulted in White holding an advantage for a long time.

During a game, it is easy for chess players to take a committal decision when they need to calculate and arrive at the best continuation. The same goes for a strategic decision when one has to make a move or a short plan based on positional factors.

But there is a different kind of thinking process involved when there is a dynamic position on the board but there is still no forced calculation possible. One still has to decide between making a committal decision or continue with noncommittal moves which would keep the game going. Vaishali showed her flair for active positions with such a remarkable decision in the middlegame:

Though Vaishali's 56.Rh6 might appear simple for someone who knows their endgame basics, it is quite important that one's brain functions quick enough when there is less time on the clock. Meanwhile, India seemed to be well on the way to score an overall win from the other two boards.

To be successful in a team tournament is about having stable players among its members whom the team can rely on, rather than brilliant players who might not be consistent. One such stable player for this Indian team is WGM Mary Ann Gomes, who has had a remarkable tournament. She was a replacement choice for GM Koneru Humpy and subsequently IM Padmini Rout just a week before the start of the event, due to Covid-19 vaccination restrictions.

For someone who literally got selected in the last week of the event, she has become one of the mainstays of the team, winning both her games in the quarterfinals. With another gritty hard fight, Gomes produced a long win against IM Melia Salome with typically balanced play:

At this point, it looked like India was well on its way to win the first round, just when IM Lela Javakhishvili trapped IM Bhakti Kulkarni's knight right in the middle of the board after 70 long moves:

So, it was destined that both the teams would return to play the second round without any advantage over each other.

Round 2: India wins 2.5-1.5

The second round started rather tense for India, as IM Tania Sachdev got into difficulties quite early, obviously struggling against IM Meri Arabidze. This was after Vaishali had played actively right from the opening against GM Nino Batsiashvili and created a surprisingly easy attack against the white king. Vaishali's advantage was never in doubt.

By now, the top board encounter was expected to end in another draw after Harika found it difficult to convert her small advantage against Dzagnidze. A fantastic performance came from Javakhishvili, who applied sustained pressure in a positional game to confidently outplay Gomes in such a crucial encounter:

Respect for Javakhishvili goes up by volumes when one realizes that she crucially won both her games for Georgia in the semifinals.

IM Javakhishvili of Armenia with GM Davit Jojua at the World Women's Team Championship
Javakhishvili, an important performer for Georgia, with captain GM Davit Jojua. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

Vaishali produced accurate moves in an advantageous position to creditably outwit Batsiashvili. And then, just when commentators and spectators had assumed that Sachdev was in for a long and tense defense, she came up with a stunner 18.Kd2!? a sheer product of street-fighting abilities and survival instincts:

And finally, this effort ensured that India won the match and advanced to the finals.

WGM Vaishali, WGM Mary Ann Gomes and WGM Tania Sachdev at the World Women's Team Championship
A delighted Tania still coming to terms with her own effort, with teammates Vaishali and Gomes around. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

All games - Semifinals

The 2021 FIDE World Women's Team Championship is a 12-team event featuring teams representing chess nations from around the world. The event runs from September 27 - October 2 and is broadcast on Chess.com.


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