Sochi: "Comeback Queen" Pogonina Levels Score, Both Matches Head To Playoff

Sochi: "Comeback Queen" Pogonina Levels Score, Both Matches Head To Playoff

| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

On Monday GM Natalia Pogonina managed to level the score in her match with GM Pia Cramling. Both semifinals of the Women's World Championship in Sochi will be decided in tomorrow's playoff.

Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

“At the start of the championship I was a little sick, so I stayed in the hotel even on my free days. And when I got well, I started to play tiebreaks...So it was just work, work, work, and a couple of short walks around the hotel,” said GM Natalia Pogonina after reaching the semi-finals. Tomorrow another playoff is on the menu.

Pogonina, who lost an instructive rook ending yesterday, was in a must-win situation — for the third time. She also lost the first classical game in her matches with GM Marie Sebag and GM Zhao Xue, and now, for the third time in a row, she won the second.

The “Comeback Queen” opened 1.e4 and was immediately faced with a surprise: 1...c5 2.Nf3 a6!?. The main idea of this move is 3.d4?! cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5, but e.g. 3.c3 or 3.c4 are good replies.

After thinking for seven-and-a-half minutes, Pogonina went 3.Be2!?. The game transposed into a Kan/Paulsen with 5.Be2, used for instance by GM Anish Giri in his game with GM Nikita Vitiugov in Reggio Emilia 2012.

In what followed, Cramling tried to refute White's setup positionally, but meanwhile she neglected her kingside. After 22.Bg5! White had a clear advantage — a free attack with hardly any counterplay for Black.

The “Comeback Queen” did it again! | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

The other mini-match, between GM Harika Dronavalli and GM Mariya Muzychuk, is also heading to a playoff. Their second game ended in a draw as well.

It was a Leningrad Dutch with an early b3 for White — so early that Black quickly went ...c5 and ...Ne4 to profit. That led to an opening position with little theory, although later the players transposed back into familiar territory.

White got a slight advantage as she managed to fix a backward d-pawn on d6, but it was hard to make something out of it. Muzychuk could liquidate to a 4-vs-3 rook ending where her pawns were on the right squares.

Another draw in Harika vs Mariya Muzychuk... | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.
...whose sister Anna is still in Sochi to support her. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.


2015 Women's World Championship | Results Semifinals

Name vs Name Score Playoff
Muzychuk,M (UKR, 2526) - Harika,D (IND, 2492) 1-1
Cramling,P (SWE, 2495) - Pogonina,N (RUS, 2456) 1-1


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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