WWch Rd4 G2: Harika first to semis

by Albert Silver
3/28/2015 – The level of tension and fight is best illustrated by the fact that of the four matches left, three will need to be decided in the tiebreaks. Harika Dronavalli was the only player to avoid that fate, as she defeated Meri Arabidze. Both Humpy Koneru and Natalia Pogonina pulled off their must-win missions, with the Russian winning her game after an entertaining Benko Gambit.

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Tournament conditions

The Women's World Chess Championship takes place from March 17 – April 7 in Sochi, Russia. The knock-out tournament is attended by 64 players, including the former World Champions Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia), Anna Ushenina (Ukraine), and Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria), the three-time Russian champion Valentina Gunina, the World Vice-Champion Humpy Koneru (India), as well as other leading grandmasters. Unfortunately, the reigning champion Hou Yifan was unable to come for personal reasons, but as the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix she will still be able to challenge the new champion to a match.

The first five rounds consist of mini-matches of two games played at 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game and a 30-second increment per move. The final match will consist of four games.

In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined by a series of tiebreak games: two rapid games of 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. If the score remains equal, the players then proceed to two more games played at 10 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. If the score continues tied a final mini-match will be played of two blitz games of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds per move. Finally, an Armageddon game will be played to decide the winner in which White has five minutes and Black has four minutes, with a three-second increment per move after move 61. Black will be declared the victor if the game is drawn.

Round four - game two

Today's games were extremely tense and all exceeded four hours. Natalia Pogonina finished her game first, successfully completing a must-win mission if she was to survive until the tiebreaks. Pogonina chose to take her fate into her hands, and employed a Benko Gambit, a double-edged opening that brought her many victories in her junior years. Zhao Xue responded with a very solid setup, keeping the extra pawn but giving up the initiative.

Zhao Xue tried hard but never quite neutralized her opponent

Zhao Xue vs Natalia Pogonina

[Event "WCh Women 2015"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2015.03.27"] [Round "4.2"] [White "Zhao, Xue"] [Black "Pogonina, Natalija"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A58"] [WhiteElo "2527"] [BlackElo "2456"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2015.03.17"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 {As soon as this move appeared on the board, the spectators knew they were in for a treat.} 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 {The Chinese player does not shy from the challenge.} g6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. g3 O-O 8. Bg2 d6 9. Nf3 Nxa6 (9... Nbd7 10. O-O Nb6 11. Re1 Bxa6 12. Rb1 Bc4 13. e4 Bxa2 14. Nxa2 Rxa2 15. b4 c4 16. Nd4 Ng4 17. Rf1 Na4 18. Nc6 Qd7 19. Bh3 h5 20. Qf3 Kh7 21. Bf4 Ra8 22. Rbc1 Nb2 23. Rc2 Nd3 24. Qe2 Nxf4 25. gxf4 Rxc2 26. Qxc2 Ra3 27. Bg2 Bh6 28. h3 Bxf4 29. hxg4 Qxg4 30. Nd4 Rh3 31. Ra1 Rh2 32. f3 Qg3 33. Kf1 Be3 {0-1 (33) Tomashevsky,E (2711)-Perunovic,M (2617) Yerevan 2014}) 10. O-O Qb6 (10... Bf5 11. Nh4 Bc8 12. Rb1 Qa5 13. Bd2 Nc7 14. a3 Qb6 15. h3 Nb5 16. Nxb5 Qxb5 17. Bc3 Ba6 18. Re1 Rfb8 19. b3 Nd7 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Qc1 Bc8 22. Nf3 Qa5 23. Qe3 Kf8 24. Ra1 Nf6 25. Nd2 Ba6 26. Rec1 Bb5 27. Rc3 Kg7 28. Rc2 Rb7 29. g4 h6 30. f4 Qd8 31. Bf3 Rba7 32. Qc3 Kh7 33. a4 Ba6 34. e4 Rb8 35. h4 Rb4 36. g5 Nd7 37. Kf2 Rd4 38. Be2 Bxe2 39. Kxe2 h5 40. Re1 Rb7 41. Ra2 Nb8 42. Kf2 Qd7 43. f5 Na6 44. Nf3 Rdb4 45. Ra3 c4 46. bxc4 Nc5 47. Nd4 Rxa4 48. fxg6+ fxg6 49. Ne6 Nxe6 50. dxe6 Qe8 51. Rxa4 Qxa4 52. Ra1 Qe8 53. Rf1 Qc8 54. Ke3 Qxe6 55. Rf8 Qh3+ 56. Rf3 Qe6 57. Rf8 Qh3+ 58. Rf3 {1/2-1/2 (58) Sasikiran,K (2682) -Ding,L (2755) Hyderabad 2015}) 11. Re1 Nc7 12. e4 Nd7 13. a4 Ba6 14. Ra3 Rfb8 15. Qc2 Ne5 16. Nxe5 Bxe5 17. Nd1 e6 18. Bd2 Bd4 19. Bc3 e5 20. Bh3 {Though White has managed to keep her pawn and a slight lead as a result, Black's plans are more straightforward and she has the initiative.} Ra7 21. Bg4 Rab7 22. Be2 c4 $1 {The idea is clear: Black wants to play Qc5 followed by Rb3 to pile up the pressure. White panics and plays} 23. Bxd4 $2 {a mistake that while not losing, casts a serious doubt on White's position. Black has now taken the upperhand.} Qxd4 $2 {Black returns the favor.} (23... exd4 $1 {was best, but Black misses the tactical justification. The point is that after} 24. Bxc4 Qb4 $1 {Black's queen has a double attack on the bishop on c4 and the rook on e1.}) 24. Ra2 Ne8 25. Nc3 Rb4 26. Rd1 Qb6 27. a5 Qc7 28. Rda1 Nf6 29. Na4 Nd7 30. Nb6 Rb7 ({Obviously not} 30... Nxb6 $2 {which loses the piece after } 31. axb6 R8xb6 32. Rxa6 $18) 31. Ra4 Rxa4 32. Qxa4 Nxb6 33. axb6 Rxb6 { Material parity has been restored, but a draw is the last thing Black wants.} 34. Rc1 Qc5 35. b3 Bb5 36. Qa8+ Kg7 37. bxc4 Ba6 38. Re1 {White is going astray, and the pawn on c4 is more a hindrance than a trump. Black's pieces are now going to leap into activity.} Qb4 39. Kf1 Bxc4 40. Bxc4 Qxc4+ 41. Kg2 Rb1 $1 42. Qa5 (42. Rxb1 $2 Qxe4+ 43. Kg1 Qxb1+ $17) 42... Qd3 43. Kh3 $2 { Trying to get out of the tricks Black is enjoying, but here it is "out of the pot, and into the fire"} Rb2 44. Qc7 {Now mate is inevitable.} Rxf2 45. Qxd6 Qc3 46. Rb1 Qc8+ 0-1

A great fighting game by Pogonina, who used her old weapon the Benko,
to swashbuckle on the board.

A quick look in the online database shows that a number of strong grandmasters use it on occasion when the moods suits them. Names such as Ding Liren, Grischuk, Ponomariov, and more. If you would like to add it to your arsenal, GM Alejandro Ramirez, also a veteran Benko player, recently authored two DVDs on the Benko Gambit, and are well worth checking out.

Attacking with the Benko Gambit - Part 1

by Alejandro Ramirez

Languages: English
ISBN: 978-3-86681-392-2
Delivery: Download, Post
Level: Tournament player, Professional
€27.90 or €23.45 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU) $25.54 (without VAT)

Throughout the years, it has become difficult for Black to find active and promising prospects against 1.d4. White players are usually looking for a stable, solid and permanent advantage to torture their opponents with. The Benkö Gambit offers Black the possibility, at the cost of a pawn, to shatter these ideals and to be the one who is in the driver’s seat as he takes a quick hold of extremely important strategical advantages – superior development, better piece prospects, easier play, clarity of plan, sounder pawn structure, among others!

• Video running time: 3 hours 44 min
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Exclusive database with 100 essential games
• Including CB 12 Reader

Order Alejandro Ramirez's Benko Gambit DVD in the ChessBase Shop

The highest rated player, Humpy Koneru also managed to avenge her loss from the previous day

The Indian grandmaster chose a complicated opening system, in which the players castled on opposite wings. At first, Mariya Muzychuk maneuvered well, and her position appeared to be the more promising, but Koneru finally outsmarted her young opponent, exchanging two rooks for a queen and an important pawn. Making use of the vulnerable black king, Koneru shattered Black's defenses and prevailed.

In her game against veteran GM Pia Cramling, Anna Muzychuk (above) emerged from the opening with a clear advantage which she soon converted into an extra pawn. Cramling used her entire bag of tricks, transposing to a rook endgame that she eventually held. The two will also need to duke it out in the tiebreaks.

Of the eight players, only Harika Dronavalli (right) was able to secure a spot into the semifinals
without the ordeal of a tiebreak.

Her game with Meri Arabidze proceeded to a quiet rook ending soon after the opening, and although the Indian had an extra pawn, it was still a theoretical draw. As a sign of the tension of the moment, both players deviated from best play on several occasions, in which the assessment was constantly changing, but after five hours of play Harika finally broke Black's resistance and took the match. As the only player who can use the next day to rest, it should help give her a leg up in the next round.

The Indian news has been following closely the exploits of Koneru and Dronavalli as seen here.

On her day off, thanks to her win, perhaps Harika will join this intrepid bunch...

... to enjoy the activites at hand. There is nothing quite like riding a giraffe on a ski-slope.

Report by Albert Silver and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos by Eteri Kublashvili, Anastasia Karlovich, and Vladimir Barsky

Round 4 pairings / results

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 1
Koneru, Humpy IND 2581 0
Player Fed Rtg G1
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Pogonina, Natalia RUS 2456 0
Zhao, Xue CHN 2527 1
Player Fed Rtg G1
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Cramling, Pia SWE 2495 ½
Muzychuk, Anna UKR 2552 ½
Player Fed Rtg G1
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Arabidze, Meri GEO 2374 ½
Harika, Dronavalli IND 2492 ½


Round 1 - 64 players
March 17 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 18 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 19 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 2 - 32 players
March 20 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 21 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 22 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 3 - 16 players
March 23 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 24 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 25 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 4 - 8 players
March 26 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 27 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 28 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 5 - 4 players
March 29 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 30 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 31 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Rest day - April, 1
Round 6 - 2 players
April 2 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
April 3 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
April 4 Game 3 3:00 p.m. local time
April 5 Game 4 3:00 p.m. local time
April 6 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
April 7 Closing Ceremony*  
*Closing Ceremony can be shifted to
April 6 in the absence of tie breaks


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 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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ff2017 ff2017 3/28/2015 02:43
Unless you are Alexander Grishchuk in Kazan.
KevinC KevinC 3/28/2015 12:28
Meri Arabidze's "strategy" to take the draw in a very comfortable position with white bit her in the butt today. You can't waste white's like that, and then hope you draw the next day with black.