Women's World Championship: Harika Qualifies, 3 Playoff Matches Tomorrow

Women's World Championship: Harika Qualifies, 3 Playoff Matches Tomorrow

| 10 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Harika Dronavalli qualified for the semifinals of the Women's World Championship in Sochi, Russia. On Friday the Indian grandmaster made an end to IM Meri Arabidze's Cinderella story.

The two players who needed a win both managed to level the score: WGM Natalija Pogonina vs GM Zhao Xue, and GM Humpy Koneru vs IM Mariya Muzychuk.

Photo Nastja Karlovich.

Many matches in Sochi went to playoffs so far, and tomorrow we'll see three more! Both Koneru and Pogonina escaped from elimination by winning their games today, while GM Anna Muzychuk and GM Pia Cramling drew their second game to score 1-1 as well.

What do you do when you must win as Black and your opponent plays 1.d4? Tough question!

“Black to play and win vs 1.d4.” | Photo Nastja Karlovich.

Pogonina chose the Volga/Benko Gambit, and Zhao on her turn chose one of the most solid setups, with a kingside fianchetto. For about 30 moves very little happened, but then Zhao suddenly gave back the pawn for no clear reason. More mistakes followed, and Pogonina found a nice tactic to decide the game.

Koneru at least had the luxury of the white pieces, but winning that one game you need to win is never easy. An early g2-g4 and castling queenside at least brought enough imbalance in the position, but in fact Black wasn't doing so badly out of the opening.

6.0/6, then a blunder, but another win today. | Photo Nastja Karlovich.

Getting closer to the time control, Muzychuk couldn't find a good plan and allowed a surprising trade of Humpy's two rooks for her queen. White won a pawn, and although the position remained rather unclear, Humpy was clearly in the driver's seat.

Humpy levels the score after a tense game. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

Mariya's sister Anna was defending an isolated queen's pawn position yesterday against Pia Cramling. Today she played against one.

It wasn't too difficult to win that pawn, but Black was very active. Cramling showed excellent technique in drawing the rook ending being a pawn down.

Two IQP's, two draws. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

Also in Harika-Arabidze, a rook ending appeared on the board. At first it was a double-rook ending that seemed quite drawish. Harika then kept on improving her position and many moves later she traded one pair of rooks and won a pawn.

Arabidze was defending very well and it was still a draw, even in the rook-and-pawn vs rook ending. It was a variation of the famous Vancura position, with the defending rook checking from the side, but a very complicated one.

With tablebase assistance it can be seen that first Arabidze gave away the draw, then Harika gave away the win and then Arabidze stumbled once again — this time fatally.

Arabidze can look back at a great tournament. | Photo Nastja Karlovich.

2015 Women's World Championship | Round 4 Results

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

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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