Cramling, M. Muzychuk, Pogonina Reach Semi-Finals In Sochi

Cramling, M. Muzychuk, Pogonina Reach Semi-Finals In Sochi

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

Top seed GM Humpy Koneru was eliminated by IM Mariya Muzychuk in today's playoff at the Women's World Championship in Sochi, Russia.

WGM Natalija Pogonina and GM Pia Cramling also went through; they knocked out GM Zhao Xue and GM Anna Muzychuk respectively.

Photo Vladimir Barsky.

While GM Harika Dronavalli was enjoying a well deserved rest day and IM Meri Arabidze started making plans to go home (with $12,000 in the pocket), six players had to play a playoff today.

GM Zhao Xue, WGM Natalija Pogonina, Pia Cramling, Humpy Koneru and the Muzychuk sisters, Anna and Mariya entered the battlefied on what became a very tense day of chess.

As a reminder: a playoff starts with two rapid games (25 minutes + 10 seconds per move), if necessary two more games (10 minutes + 10 seconds per move), if necessary two blitz games (5 minutes + 3 seconds per move) and if necessary one Armageddon game.

The first round of play immediately saw two decisive games. “Never change a winning opening,” was perhaps what WGM Natalija Pogonina was thinking when she played another Volga/Benko Gambit against GM Zhao Xue

And it worked. The rest of the game had a similar scenario as yesterday: lots of maneuvering, at some point Black crashed through on the queenside and a tactic on the white king decided everything:

Two wins for Pogonina in the Volga/Gambit! | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

GM Anna Muzychuk gained a strong initiative against GM Pia Cramling, who was barely hanging on. The ending was about equal but practically more pleasant for Black with such an active king. Right there Muzychuk made a losing move that seemed oh so logical.

A first win for Cramling thanks to an active king and a good tactical eye. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

GM Mariya Muzychuk drew her white game against GM Humpy Koneru and in the next she eliminated the top seed! Nerves got the better of Humpy, who was doing well, won an exchange but then blundered.

Top seed Humpy Koneru doesn't survive the quarter-finals... | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.
...but a very happy Mariya Muzychuk does! | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

WGM Natalija Pogonina reached the semis in the most comfortable way: in a winning position she could take a perpetual. GM Zhao Xue needed to take risks, but went too far with her actions on the kingside. Exit the last participant from China.

Pogonina also in the semis, despite a loss in the first classical game!Photo Vladimir Barsky.

One match went to the next phase as GM Anna Muzychuk managed to level the score in the second game. With a sideline she successfully tempted GM Pia Cramling into over-aggressive play and then counterered nicely.

Muzychuk counters in game 2. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

This match was decided in the 10 + 10 games. In the first, a Benoni, Cramling won a queen for rook and knight. That “middlegame” was rather unclear, but it was the Swedish grandmaster who had the strongest nerves, and played the strongest moves.

Well, those nerves did play a role in the second game! Right after the opening Muzychuk blundered and Cramling was completely winning, but she failed to decide the game several times.

Just when Muzychuk seemed to get some chances with lots of passed pawns on the queenside, a deeper look into the position revealed that Black was still winning.

As an act of courtesy Cramling then went straight for a draw in a winning rook ending. 

Cramling still going strong at 51. | Photo Nastja Karlovich.


2015 Women's World Championship | Results Quarter-Finals

Name vs Name Score Playoff
Muzychuk,M (UKR, 2526) - Koneru,H (IND, 2581) 1-1 1½-½
Pogonina,N (RUS, 2456) - Zhao,X (CHN, 2527) 1-1 1½-½
Cramling,P (SWE, 2495) - Muzychuk,A (UKR, 2552) 1-1 2½1½
Arabidze,M (GEO, 2374) - Harika,D (IND, 2492) ½-1½


2015 Women's World Championship | Pairings Semi-Finals

Name vs Name Score Playoff
Muzychuk,M (UKR, 2526) - Harika,D (IND, 2492)
Pogonina,N (RUS, 2456) - Cramling,P (SWE, 2495)


The Women's World Championship takes place March 17-April 7 in Sochi, Russia. World Champion GM Hou Yifan is not defending her title; she took part in the Hawaii Chess Festival instead.

The total prize fund of the championship is U.S. $450,000. Every player gets $3,750, those who make it to round two get $5,500, for round three it is $8,000, round four $12,000, round five (semifinals) $20,000, the silver medalist $30,000, and the winner $60,000.

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