Tehran WWCh Rd4 TB: Harika maintains control, reaches Semis

by Priyadarshan Banjan
2/23/2017 – There was only one tiebreak game. It was Harika all the way. The Indian poster girl stayed true to her style and won the first 25-minute tiebreaker with the white pieces and drew the next game to reach the semi-finals of the Women's World Championship 2017. She is in with the chance to become the first women's world champion ever from India. Illustrated report.

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All photos by David Llada

The quarter-final clash between the some of the best female players on the planet resulted in three qualifiers for the semi-finals. The fourth slot was up for grabs as Harika Dornavalli of India and Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia had drawn their match 1-1. Harika had won the first game, but showing remarkable resourcefulness, Dzagnidze struck back in the very next game. And it came down to the tiebreakers once again.

But this tiebreak clash was different—probably for the first time in the entire tournament, there was only one tiebreak clash to be held. Harika had the white pieces in the first 25-minute game in the 2-game mini-match.

Harika was pressing with all her might, making use of her white pieces in the 25-minute rapid game. She was able to win, and in the next game with black, she drew, qualifying for the semifinals.

IM Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman is a legend in Indian chess circles. She was the first WGM ever from India, and also the first female player in Indian history to become an international master, inspiring talents like Humpy and Harika to take up chess seriously and become strong players themselves. You can read her interview here.

[Event "FIDE Women's World Championship"] [Site "Tehran"] [Date "2017.02.22"] [Round "?"] [White "Harika, Dronavalli"] [Black "Nana, Dzagnidze"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B41"] [WhiteElo "2539"] [BlackElo "2525"] [Annotator "S Vijayalakshmi"] [PlyCount "105"] [EventDate "2017.02.22"] [EventType "k.o. (rapid)"] [EventCountry "IRI"] [SourceDate "2012.11.21"] [SourceVersionDate "2012.11.21"] {Harika! Harika! Harika all the way... After playing a not so good game with black pieces in the previous game, Harika came back pretty strongly in the tie break. She kept her cool throughout and waited patiently for her opponent Nana to go wrong. And Nana did go wrong with Ra8 and Harika lost no time to capitalise it. Needless to say, the amount of pressure every player goes through at this stage, it was very essential to keep cool and play out your best and Harika did just that.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 { Sicilian Kan Variation} (4... Nf6) 5. c4 ({Although} 5. Bd3 {and}) (5. Nc3 { are the more played variations, c4 is no less popular}) 5... Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 { Harika chooses the slightly lesser Qd3 instead of the more popular Bd3} (6... Qc7 {is possible too}) 7. Qd3 ({Although} 7. Bd3 {is the most played here}) ({ Svidler's latest game in this variation played last month looks very promising } 7. Qf3) 7... Qc7 (7... Nc6) (7... d6) (7... d5) (7... O-O {are all tried at the highest level}) 8. a3 Bxc3+ (8... Be7 {Although this is possible, is definitely not in sync with the position} 9. Be2 $14) 9. Qxc3 O-O ({Ofcourse} 9... Nxe4 {leads to} 10. Nb5 axb5 11. Qxg7 Rf8 12. Bh6 Qc5 13. f3 $16) 10. Bd3 $142 (10. f3 d5 11. cxd5 Qxc3+ 12. bxc3 exd5 {leaves White with a very minimal advantage}) 10... d5 {Although d6 is more appropriate Nana chooses d5 which gives a slightly better endgame for white with 2 Bishops} 11. cxd5 $6 (11. exd5 $1 {is more preferable since after} exd5 12. O-O dxc4 (12... Nbd7 13. Re1 Nc5 ( 13... Ne5 14. Bf4 Nf3+ 15. Nxf3 Qxf4 16. c5 $16 {and White plays against the IQP and also has total control of black sqaures})) 13. Qxc4 Qxc4 14. Bxc4 $14 { white retains a small but long lasting advantage}) 11... Qxc3+ 12. bxc3 exd5 13. e5 Ne4 14. Be3 (14. c4 {must be played here to eliminate the weak pawn on c3}) 14... Nd7 $11 15. f4 Ndc5 (15... Nxc3 $2 16. Rc1 Na4 17. Nf5 $16) 16. Bc2 Nxc3 $6 (16... Bd7 $1 {is much stronger after which Black's position is better} 17. Ne2 Rac8 $15) 17. Nb5 $5 (17. Rc1 $11) 17... Nxb5 (17... axb5 18. Bxc5 Rd8 19. Bb6 Re8 20. Bd4 Ne4 {and Black's position is preferable, courtesy the beautiful Knight placed on e4}) 18. Bxc5 Re8 19. Kd2 Bd7 20. Rhc1 Bc6 21. Bb6 Rac8 22. Bf5 $14 {Double Bishops} Ra8 23. a4 Na7 24. Bd4 g6 25. Bd3 Nc8 26. g4 Ne7 27. h3 $6 (27. f5 $1 $16 {and it becomes pretty difficult to find the right moves and especially in Rapid Time Control, its all the more in White's favor. I really liked the way Harika played the last ten moves}) 27... Rac8 28. Rab1 Bxa4 29. Rxc8 Rxc8 30. Rxb7 Nc6 31. Ke3 Bb5 32. f5 Nxd4 $2 (32... Bxd3 $1 33. Kxd3 gxf5 34. gxf5 Re8 35. e6 fxe6 36. fxe6 Nxd4 37. Kxd4 Rxe6 $15) 33. Kxd4 $14 Bxd3 34. Kxd3 gxf5 35. gxf5 h6 36. Kd4 $16 Ra8 $4 {Nana cracks in pressure and blunders with Ra8 and Harika plays with absolute perfection to finish off the game in style.} (36... Kf8 37. e6 fxe6 38. fxe6 Rc1 39. Ke5 d4 40. Kd6 Re1 41. Rb8+ Kg7 42. Rb3 $18) (36... Rc1 37. Kxd5 Rd1+ 38. Kc6 $16) 37. e6 $1 fxe6 38. fxe6 a5 39. Ke5 a4 40. Kf6 a3 41. Rg7+ Kh8 42. Rg1 Rf8+ 43. Ke7 Rg8 44. Ra1 Rg3 45. Kd7 Rxh3 46. e7 Re3 47. Rxa3 Re4 48. Ra6 Rxe7+ 49. Kxe7 Kg7 50. Rd6 h5 51. Rxd5 Kg6 52. Ke6 h4 53. Ra5 {A fantastic and crucial win by Harika. Indian flag flying high yet again...} 1-0

Harika celebrating her win.

India's Harika thus joins Russian Kosteniuk, Ukrainian Muzychuk, and China's Tan Zhongyi. In the semi-finals, Kosteniuk will fight Muzychuk in a Russia-Ukraine match, while Harika will battle Zhongyi in an India-China clash. Have there been better rivalries between countries?

This report was originally published in ChessBase India.

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Priyadarshan Banjan is a 23-year-old club player from India. He works as an editor for ChessBase News and ChessBase India. He is a chess fanatic and an avid fan of Vishy Anand. He also maintains a blog on a variety of topics.


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