Women's World Ch.: Muzychuk and Zhongyi in the final!

by Elshan Moradiabadi
2/25/2017 – What an amazing semifinal it was for all involved and watching. After a very close affair in game one, which she won, Anna Muzychuk won her second game against Kosteniuk to make the final with no tiebreaks and 9.0/10 in the standard games. On the flip side, Harika Dronavalli and Tan Zhongyi played a gripping tiebreak that went to the tape with constant swings that left everyone on the edge of their seats. Here is the large illustrated report.

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By Elshan Moradiabadi

All photos by David Llada

The semi-final mini matches of women world championship in Tehran saw two very different matches. After a miraculous win in the first round, Anna Muzychuk went on to win a comfortable game in the second game against the last of eleven Russians, Aleksandra Kosteniuk, to seal the deal 2-0 in her favor. With 9 out of 10 possible points, Anna has shown an impressive performance in this tournament so far. She has won all of her matches in classical games and made fewer mistakes than any other player in this tournament. Is she going to win this championship after her sister Mariya won the last edition? We shall wait and see who is going to take Anna for the final fight starting in on Monday (Sunday is a day off according to the tournament schedule).

The untouchable! With two days to rest and clearing her mind, Anna is the definite favorite in the final in every aspect

A legend in knockout championships, ex-world champion Aleksandra Kosteniuk was stopped this time, a game shy from the final

On the other hand, the other match was anything but one-sided. After a series of nervous maneuvers, blunders, and oversights of each other plans, Harika Dronavali managed to reach a won endgame against Tan Zhongyi, which she then masterfully improved to culminate with a knight and pawn up. Everyone seemed ready to call it a day and congratulate Harika for her great comeback and forcing her fifth consecutive tiebreak.

However, what happened next was almost what famous coach and writer, Mark Dvoretsky, called a tragicomedy in his bible-like endgame manual. Harika got a bishop and knight endgame in the following won position:

Harika Dornavalli - Tan Zhongyi (semifinal, game two)

The queen of tiebreaks does it again! Harika is going into her fifth tiebreak! She had a great come back! In fact this was the first time she had to equalize, and she pulled it off!

A heartbreaking loss for Tan Zhongyi, yet she has proven capable of pulling out victories in the most improbable moments

The tiebreaks

By Albert Silver

There could hardly be a more dramatic nail-biting tiebreak than the one spectators and fans were treated to between Tan Zhongyi and Harika Dronavali. It all started right from the get-go in game one of the rapid. The time control was 25 minutes with a 10-second increment:

Harika Dronavalli - Tan Zhongyi (TB Rapid 25m + 10s)


However, the rejoicing for the Indian’s fans was short-lived as the Chinese player struck back in the second rapid game and outplayed her opponent in a knight endgame.

A fantastic match and tiebreak between the two players that was thrilling to watch and cheer for

This led to the next mini-match now at a speedier 10 mins + 10-second increment. Game one went to Tan Zhongyi this time, meaning she only needed a draw in the second game to secure her spot in the final.

Harika Dronavalli - Tan Zhongyi (TB Blitz 10m + 10s)

[Event "FIDE WWCC 2017"] [Site "Tehran"] [Date "2017.02.25"] [Round "5.6"] [White "Harika, Dronavalli"] [Black "Tan, Zhongyi"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "2539"] [BlackElo "2502"] [Annotator "A. SIlver"] [PlyCount "157"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventCountry "IRI"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "600+10"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 a6 6. Nd6+ Bxd6 7. Qxd6 Qe7 8. Qd1 Nf6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Bg5 Qe6 11. Bd3 Ne7 12. Qd2 b5 13. a4 Bb7 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 15. axb5 axb5 16. O-O b4 17. Nb5 Nc6 18. Bc4 Ba6 19. Rfd1 Bxb5 20. Bxb5 Nd4 21. Rxa8 Rxa8 22. Bxd7 Rd8 23. Bg4 Nf3+ 24. Bxf3 Rxd2 25. Rxd2 g6 26. h3 Qa6 27. b3 Qa1+ 28. Bd1 Kg7 29. Rd3 Qc1 30. Kf1 Qf4 31. f3 h5 32. Rd7 Qe3 33. Rd3 Qc5 34. h4 Qe7 35. g3 g5 36. hxg5 Qxg5 37. Kf2 h4 38. gxh4 Qxh4+ 39. Ke2 Qh2+ 40. Ke1 Qg3+ 41. Kd2 {This is but one of the crucial moments that might have led to a very different outcome in the tiebreaks by giving Harika Dronavalli a chance to turn it around. Black has an easy draw here by repetition. The times were low, but not dramatically so, and both had a few minutes left on their clocks from the initial 10+10 they started with.} Qf2+ {There is nothing inherently wrong with this move, and it does not change the evaluation in any way, but Black only needs a draw to quallify for the finals having one game on of this mini-match.} (41... Qf4+ {would lead to an immediate perpetual check.} 42. Ke1 Qg3+ 43. Kd2 (43. Ke2 Qh2+ {etc.}) 43... Qf4+ {and they repeat or White plays} 44. Re3 Kh6 45. Be2 Kg5 46. Bc4 Kh4 47. Kd3 Qg5 48. Bd5 (48. Bxf7 {Would lose after} Qg1 49. -- (49. Kd2 Qh2+ 50. Kd3 Qf2 {the bind is absolute, White's king cannot move away from the rook, and if the rook moves, Qxf3+ wins the bishop. So} 51. Bd5 Kg3 52. c3 (52. c4 Qb2) 52... Kf4 53. Re2 Qxf3+ 54. Kd2 bxc3+ 55. Kd1 c2+ {and it is over.}) {The threat of} 49... Qd1+ 50. Kc4 Qd4+ 51. Kb5 Qxe3 {is decisive.}) {and the queen invasion with the aid of the king is now winning.} 48... Qg1) 42. Kc1 Qe1 43. Kb2 f6 44. Kc1 Kg6 45. c3 bxc3 46. Kc2 Qf2+ 47. Kxc3 Qa2 {Black completely panicked and lost the thread of the game, and then the game itself.} 48. b4 Qa3+ 49. Kc4 Qc1+ 50. Kb5 f5 51. Bb3 f4 52. Bc4 Qb2 53. Kc5 Qf2+ 54. Kc6 Qc2 55. Kd5 Qf2 56. b5 Qb6 57. Kxe5 Qc5+ 58. Bd5 Qe7+ 59. Kd4 Qb4+ 60. Bc4 Qb2+ 61. Kc5 Qe5+ 62. Rd5 Qc7+ 63. Kb4 Qe7+ 64. Rc5 Qd6 65. Bd5 Kg5 66. e5 Qg6 67. Be4 Qe6 68. Rc6 Qe7+ 69. Kc4 Qf7+ 70. e6 Qa7 71. b6 Qa4+ 72. Kc5 Qa3+ 73. Kb5 Kf6 74. b7 Qb3+ 75. Ka6 Ke7 76. Ka7 Qe3+ 77. Rb6 Qa3+ 78. Ra6 Qc5+ 79. Ka8 {The queen of tiebreaks had obtained yet another stay of execution.} 1-0

Once more, everyone was watching with bated breath. The elite events such as Aeroflot and Sharjah might be competing with the ladies in terms of time slots, but all eyes were on this incredibly exciting back-and-forth encounter between the two.

Harika Dronavalli with her number one supporter there: her grandmother

The fight was now down to a mini-match of two blitz games played at 5 minutes with a three-second increment. For once, it was not settled in wild matches of a win each, and with two draws, the match was to be decided once and for all with an Armageddon. In it, White would have a time advantaged of five minutes against Black’s four but Black would have drawing odds, meaning if a draw was the result on the board, Black was the winner.

There was a drawing of pieces and Harika Dronavalli took white

Harika Dronavalli - Tan Zhongyi (TB Armageddon)

[Event "FIDE WWCC 2017"] [Site "Tehran"] [Date "2017.02.25"] [Round "5.9"] [White "Harika, Dronavalli"] [Black "Tan, Zhongyi"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "2539"] [BlackElo "2502"] [Annotator "A. Silver"] [PlyCount "197"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventCountry "IRI"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 e6 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. O-O Be7 5. d3 b6 6. Nbd2 Bb7 7. Re1 Nbd7 8. c3 O-O 9. Qc2 Re8 10. b3 a5 11. a4 e5 12. Bb2 c5 13. e4 d4 14. Nc4 Bf8 15. h3 Ba6 16. Ncd2 Rc8 17. c4 g6 18. Rf1 Bh6 19. Rae1 Rf8 20. Bc1 Qc7 21. Nh2 Rce8 22. Kh1 Kh8 23. Ndf3 Bg7 24. Bd2 Bc8 25. Qc1 Ng8 26. Nh4 Bf6 27. Bg5 Bxg5 28. Qxg5 Qd8 29. Qd2 Ndf6 30. N4f3 Nh5 31. Ng4 Nhf6 32. Nfxe5 Nxg4 33. Nxg4 Bxg4 34. hxg4 Nf6 35. g5 Ng4 36. Bh3 Ne5 37. f4 Nc6 38. Kg2 Kg7 39. Bg4 Rh8 40. Bf3 h6 41. gxh6+ Rxh6 42. Rh1 Reh8 43. e5 Rxh1 44. Rxh1 Rxh1 45. Kxh1 Qd7 46. Kg2 Ne7 47. Be4 Nf5 48. Bxf5 Qxf5 49. Qe2 g5 50. Qf3 g4 51. Qf1 Qh5 52. Kf2 Qh7 53. Kg1 f6 54. Qe2 Qh3 55. exf6+ Kxf6 56. Qe5+ Kf7 {Both players still had over 2 minutes here. There is no argument on the stress and nerves of the situation.} 57. Qe1 ({However, White had a two move win here with} 57. Qd5+ Ke7 (57... Ke8 58. Qe6+ Kd8 59. Qf6+ Kd7 60. Qh4) 58. Qg5+ Ke6 59. Qh4 {and after the queen exchange, there is no hope left.}) 57... Kf6 58. Qe5+ Kf7 {The same win is on the board once more.} 59. f5 Qh6 {Black threatens to invade with the queen, but White could stop it easily enough.} 60. Qc7+ (60. Qf4 $1 {and the pawn endgame after} Qxf4 61. gxf4 {is simple.} Kf6 (61... Kg7 62. Kg2 Kf6 63. Kf2 $1 Ke7 64. Kg3 {and it is game over.}) 62. Kg2 Kxf5 63. Kg3 $18) 60... Ke8 61. Qb8+ (61. Qf4 $1) 61... Kf7 62. Qc7+ (62. Qf4) 62... Kf8 63. Qd8+ Kf7 64. Qc7+ Kf8 65. Qf4 Qh3 66. Qd6+ Kf7 67. Qe6+ Kf8 68. Qd6+ (68. Qf6+ Kg8 69. Qh4 { was 1-0}) 68... Kf7 69. f6 $4 {A tragic blunder that throws the win clean away. Now, only a miracle can save her match.} Qh6 70. Qe7+ Kg6 {and the problem is now clear. There is no f7 advance of the pawn since the black queen will rain checks on the white king, and if the queens are exchanged to put an end to that, Kxf7 is a draw.} 71. Qe4+ Kxf6 72. Qc6+ Kg7 73. Qd7+ Kf8 74. Qc8+ Kf7 75. Qf5+ {White is in desperation mode since a draw is a loss, and therefore has nothing to lose. It is all or nothing} Ke7 76. Qe5+ Kf7 77. Qd5+ Ke7 78. Qe4+ Kf7 79. Qxg4 Qe3+ 80. Kg2 Qxd3 81. Qf4+ Ke6 82. Qg4+ Kd6 83. Qf4+ Kc6 84. g4 Qc2+ 85. Kg3 d3 86. Qe4+ Kc7 87. g5 Qxb3 88. Qf4+ Kb7 89. Qf3+ Kc7 90. g6 Qxc4 91. Qe3 Qg8 92. Qf4+ Kc6 93. Qe4+ Kc7 94. Qxd3 c4 95. Qf5 c3 96. Qf7+ Qxf7 97. gxf7 c2 98. f8=Q c1=Q 99. Qe7+ 0-1


... or relief, it depended on who you were rooting for, but it was thumping hearts throughout for all.

A disappointment for the Indian player who could give that timeless chess phrase, “I was winning”, but truth be told, the Chinese player had chances to decide things in previous encounter as well, and neither could claim any moral victory except for that indisputable one: Tan Zhongyi was the last one standing and will proceed to the final. Her match could not be any harder with an Anna Muzychuk in vicious form. The Ukrainian has not only not played a single tiebreak, but her overall score in standard games has been a staggering 9.0/10 and she has gained 32 Elo already as a result. Still, Tan Zhongyi’s fighting spirit and sheer resilience are not to be underestimated. She fought and clawed her way all the way to the final after all, and outlasted all her would-be rivals.

Sunday will be a rest day, and the final match will be on Monday. Don’t miss it!


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 14 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.


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