World Women’s Team Ch: Germany leave Bulgaria out of contention

by David Llada
9/9/2023 – The last round of the pool stage was full of unexpected twits and turns at the World Women’s Team Championship. In the end, France and Ukraine advanced from Pool A, leaving India out of contention; in Pool B, Germany beat Bulgaria in a nerve-racking match to advance despite having started the event with three losses in a row. | Photo: Michal Walusza

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Pool A: India cannot make it through

The last round of the pool stage was full of unexpected twits and turns at the World Women’s Team Championship, as seven teams still had chances to qualify for the knockout stage.

In Pool A, the clash between Kazakhstan and Georgia (2-2) seemed like a trivial affair, as both teams had already earned their spot in the knockout. However, the match turned out to be quite hard-fought, with all four games ending with a decisive result.

In a slightly inferior position with black against Bella Khotenashvili, Bibisara Assaubayeva opted for a bold exchange sacrifice that was objectively incorrect. However, the move paid off eventually, as Bella was in time trouble and panicked, giving away a whole piece unnecessarily and letting her position collapse.

In the fourth board, 16-year-old Amina Kairbekova demonstrated once again that she is probably the most underrated player in the field, as she outplayed the experienced Salome Melia. Meri Arabidze and Nino Batsiashvili scored victories for the Georgians, levelling the match: they are both in top shape, having scored so far 4/5 and 3½/4, respectively.

Meri Arabidze, Meruert Kamalidenova

Meri Arabidze (Georgia) beat Meruert Kamalidenova (Kazakhstan) with the black pieces | Photo: Michal Walusza

India, the fourth seeded team in the competition, had lost their matches in rounds 2-4, but today did their part, winning confidently against Egypt by 3½-½. Their qualification depended on the result of the match between Ukraine and France, in which a victory by either of the teams would have given the Indians a hail-Mary qualification, as they had a better tie-break score than their opponents (board points).

But then all the drama unfolded. Natalia Zhukova drew against Mitra Hejazipour. Natacha Benmesbah ruined a very advantageous position against Yelyzaveta Hrebenshchykova and lost. Anastasia Sabina evened up the score, winning convincingly against Inna Gaponenko. The match — and India’s fate — was to be decided in the game between Nataliya Buksa (white) and Deimante Daulyte-Cornette (black).

Buksa had a favourable position, but the game entered a stage where both players had very little time on the clock. Nataliya blundered a simple mate-in-two that her opponent overlooked — not once, but twice! In a wild time scramble, the advantage changed sides several times, and after 66 moves, despite having a winning position, Nataliya decided that she had had enough stress and offered a draw that secured her team a spot in the knockout stage. A satisfactory result for both France and Ukraine, and a heartbreaker for India.

Nataliya Buksa

Nataliya Buksa (Ukraine) and Deimante Daulyte-Cornette (France) played a nerve-racking game | Photo: Michal Walusza

Final standings

All games

Pool B: A miracle for Germany

In Pool B, the situation resembled the one in Pool A, as the two teams who had already qualified, USA and Poland, were to cross swords in the fifth round. And again, the clash was anything but peaceful, with the home team getting the upper hand.

Monika Socko struck first and paved the way for her team with an early win against a well-known rival for her, Anna Zatonskih. Socko got an extra pawn early in the game, while her opponent, being short of time, failed to find the best defence. Oliwia Kiolbasa put an end to Alice Lee’s winning run, defeating her in a very nice game. Aleksandra Maltsevskaya rejected a draw by threefold repetition but found herself in a lost endgame shortly after, giving the USA their only victory in the match and leaving the score at 2½-1½ for the home team.

Oliwia Kiolbasa

Oliwia Kiolbasa scored 3½/5 points for Poland | Photo: Michal Walusza

China recovered from the two defeats suffered on Thursday, and with a good performance on the bottom boards beat FIDE Americas by a 3-1 score — and thus punched their ticket to the knockout stage.

All eyes were on the match Germany vs Bulgaria, which turned out to be a lengthy battle. After a draw was reached on boards 2 and 3, the situation was clearly in favour of the Bulgarians: Elisabeth Paehtz was a pawn up against Antoaneta Stefanova, but with no realistic chances to win, while on the fourth board, Viktoria Radeva had a completely winning position against Jana Schneider.

Radeva reached an endgame with a rook vs two pawns, with the engines announcing mate in 25 moves. But as it so often happens, one simple mistake was enough to turn a decisive victory into a draw. Probably distracted by what had just happened, it was Stefanova’s turn to make a mistake, as she lost her game, giving away the crucial point.

Germany, after having lost their first three matches and having won only two games in the entire competition (Schneider 1-0 Campos in round 4, and Paehtz 1-0 Stefanova in round 5), leapfrogged Bulgaria in the last round, defeating them by the minimum score (2½-1½), catching up with them on match points, and barely overtaking them on game points!

Jana Schneider

Germany’s Jana Schneider | Photo: Michal Walusza

Final standings

Knockout bracket

World Women's Team Chess Championship

All games


David Llada was born in Asturias, north of Spain. On his website he describes himself as "journalist, enterpreneur, book worm, fixer, photographer, chess addict, gambler, media consultant".