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Tehran WWC 1.2: Harika lives to fight another day

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 13/02/2017

The second games of the first knock out matches taking place at Tehran were lip smacking fares. Many who had lost in the previous games made remarkable comebacks, but for India, it was another happy and sad day. Report with master analysis by Nihal Sarin and Sagar Shah.

Tehran WWCC 1.2: Harika lives to fight another day


Before the Women's World Championship 2017 began, everybody was of the opinion that Harika Dronavalli stands the best chance to become the first Indian women's world champion. Mathematically, this may be true but chess is not academics, it is a sport. A sportsperson's form on the given day is as important as their strength itself.


Two of India's brightest hopes started with draws in the first game with black pieces. But Padmini Rout was immaculately prepared for her game against Armenian GM Elina Danielian.

Well prepared for all eventualities? [Photo: David Llada]

Padmini faced a Caro-Kann against Elina who made a minor inaccuracy in the early stages of the middlegame. The position just got better and better for the Odisha based Indian National Champion. Finally, in a bad position, Elina blundered and Padmini finished with a sweet tactic that mates.

Padmini Rout-Elina Danielian (Analysis by Nihal Sarin)

[Event "Women's World Ch. 2017"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.02.12"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Padmini, Rout"]
[Black "Danielian, Elina"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B12"]
[Annotator "Nihal Sarin"]
[PlyCount "57"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
1. e4 c6 {The solid Caro-Kann.} 2. d4 d5 3. e5 {To me, this looks like the
best way for white to fight for any advantage. It leads to very double edged
positions.} Bf5 {This is the most popular move.} (3... c5 $5 {is the Advance
Caro-Kann variation which is interesting too. Black looks like a whole tempo
down compared to the Advance French, but the advantage is that the bishop can
come to f5, and then play e6.} 4. dxc5 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. c3 e6 $1 {This is
some line.} (6... Nxe5 $4 7. Nxe5 $18 {is a sweet trap which I had fallen into
in a friendly blitz game when I was younger!})) 4. Nf3 {White has many other
lines, but this is the most logical and popular move.} (4. h4 $5 a6 $5 {
is another line.}) (4. Nc3 e6 5. g4 $5 Bg6 6. Nge2 c5 7. h4 h5 8. Nf4 Bh7 9.
Nxh5 Nc6 $44 {with strong compensation.}) 4... e6 5. Be2 Ne7 {This looks a bit
illogical for those who are not very familiar with these positions, but this
move develops the knight, and prepares h6, followed by g5.} 6. O-O h6 7. Nbd2
Nd7 8. Nb3 Qc7 (8... g5 {is an interesting move order as well.} 9. Ne1 Qc7 10.
Nd3 Ng6 {leads to complicated play.}) 9. Bd2 a5 10. a4 g5 11. Ne1 {White has
some ideas connected with f4, probably after Nd3.} c5 {Original Note: I don't
like this decision. May be it was good without the inclusion of a4 a5. Now the
b5 square is very weak. New note: While I am checking my analysis after doing
it, the engine approves this move as OK for black. But I will stick to my
original note.} (11... Bg7 12. f4 $14 {White is better but Black has great
chances to generate play.}) 12. Nxc5 Nxc5 13. dxc5 Bg7 14. Bb5+ {Told you.} Kf8
(14... Nc6 {was played in one game.} 15. f4 Qe7 16. Nd3 Rg8 17. Qe2 $16 {
White has a good, tangible advantage.}) 15. Bc3 Qxc5 (15... Ng6 $5 {Going for
the e5 pawn.} 16. Bd3 Bxd3 17. Nxd3 Nxe5 $11) 16. Nf3 Kg8 17. Bd3 {This is a
good idea because the bishop on f5 is Black's most active piece.} Bg6 (17...
Bxd3 18. Qxd3) 18. Nd4 Kh7 (18... Bxe5 19. Nxe6 Qd6 20. Nd4 {is just much
better for white.}) 19. g3 {This is a very interesting move. White wants to
recapture with the pawn on f4.} (19. f4 gxf4 20. Rxf4 Rhf8 $132 {And black
gets counterplay due to the weak pawn on e5.}) 19... Rhf8 20. Qd2 Qc7 21. Rae1
{White has strengthened the position and is clearly better.} Kh8 22. Bxg6 $1 {
Now white gets in the f4-f5 break succesfully.} Nxg6 23. f4 gxf4 24. gxf4 Rg8
25. Kh1 {Black position is crumbling due to pressure.} Ne7 (25... Rae8 26. f5
Nxe5 27. fxe6 fxe6 28. Nb5 Qc6 29. Na7 $1 $18) 26. f5 Nxf5 27. Nxf5 exf5 28.
Rxf5 Qc6 $4 {Already in a terrible position, black blunders a tactic.(Which
can happen so easily)} (28... d4 $5 {Was an interesting practical chance.}) 29.
Rf6 $1 {With this wonderful game, IM Padmini Rout has won the knockout against
GM Elina Danielian of Armenia. This was a very pleasant game for white from
the beginning. May be 8.. ..g5!? is an option to consider, played by many
strong players like Caruana, Giri, etc. In my opinion, c5 was a bit unpleasant
with a weak square on b5. May be black had to continue development with Bg7. A
nice victory for Padmini Rout!} 1-0



Meanwhile, Harika Dronavalli played indecisive chess as she struggled to get going against the Bangladeshi No. 1 Shamima Akter rated just 2077. [Photo: Niusha Afshar]

Harika opened with a strange Benoni with the white pieces and netted a pawn in the middlegame. One would expect her to convert without much ado. Shamima sacrificed another pawn to create play and Harika was imprecise. The Bangladeshi got ample compensation in return and even took over the advantage! In the end, she could have pushed and make the Indian star suffer but she chose to repeat.

Harika Dronavalli-Shamima Akter (Analysis by IM Sagar Shah0 

[Event "WCh Women 2017"]
[Site "Tehran IRI"]
[Date "2017.02.12"]
[Round "1.2"]
[White "Harika, Dronavalli"]
[Black "Shamima, Akter"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A07"]
[WhiteElo "2539"]
[BlackElo "2077"]
[Annotator "Sagar,Shah"]
[PlyCount "76"]
[EventDate "2017.02.11"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 c5 4. c4 d4 5. e3 Nc6 6. exd4 cxd4 7. O-O e5 8. d3
Bd6 9. Bg5 {is the best move in the position and was played by Caruana against
Buhmann.} O-O 10. a3 a5 11. Nbd2 {Usually in the Benoni, it is a good
achievement for Black if he gets in Bg4 and takes the knight on f3. In that
way he is able to equalize comfortably. The problem for Harika here, is that
she is White. With white you should be playing for an advantage and not to
equalize. Hence, this might not be something special as far as the opening
choice is concerned.} h6 12. Bxf6 Qxf6 13. Ne4 Qd8 14. Nxd6 Qxd6 15. Re1 (15.
Nd2 a4 16. Rc1 Ra5 $5 {Stopping c5.} 17. Ne4 Qc7 18. c5 Nd8 $11 {The position
is around equal with the knight coming to e6.}) 15... Re8 16. Qc2 Be6 17. Nd2 (
17. c5 Qc7 18. Nd2 a4 19. Ne4 Ra5 $5 $11) 17... a4 18. Rac1 f6 19. Qd1 $6 {
Indecisive play by the Indian.} (19. Ne4 $1 Qc7 20. c5 Ra5 21. Nd6 $14 {
White is the one for choice here. The move f6 has done no realy benefit to
Black's position and f4 is coming up soon.}) 19... Qc7 20. Be4 f5 $1 21. Bd5
Qf7 $6 (21... Ra5 $1 $11 {I maybe obesessed with this move, but this is really
a cool idea in the position.}) 22. Bxc6 $1 bxc6 23. Rxe5 $16 {This is really a
free pawn for White. Harika should have converted from this point onwards.
It's true that the kingside is a bit weak with the light squared weaknesses,
but it is not so easy to arrange an attack.} Bd7 24. Rxe8+ Rxe8 25. Qf3 $6 (25.
Qxa4 $1 Re2 26. Qd1 Qe8 27. Kf1 Re7 28. Qf3 $16) 25... Qe7 (25... c5 $1 $44)
26. c5 $1 {The bishop now is passive on d7.} f4 $1 {Fighting play by
Bangladeshi number one.} 27. gxf4 {Looks ugly for sure, but it's another pawn.}
(27. Qxf4 Qe2 28. Ne4 Bh3 29. Qh4 Bg4 $44 {Suddenly Black has lot of
counterplay with the queen having penetrated into enemy territory.}) 27... Rf8
28. Kh1 Be6 29. Ne4 $6 (29. Qxc6 $1 {Harika had to be bold and take another
pawn.} Rxf4 30. Re1 $18) 29... Bd5 {Black's bishop is now perched on an
amazing square and she has full compensation in the position.} 30. Rg1 Qxc5 $1
31. Qg3 Qe7 $17 {Black has recovered one pawn and now has taken over the
advantage.} 32. f3 Rf7 33. Qg4 Qf8 34. Rg3 Rxf4 35. Qh5 Rf5 36. Qh3 Rf4 37. Qh5
Rf5 38. Qh3 Rf4 {A very bad decision by Shamima. She is clearly better and
should have played on. She has nothing to lose her. In fact knowing that her
opponent is an excellent rapid player, this was her best chance. I have a
feeling that Harika will beat her in the rapids, but the way she played in
game two today, showed that she is clearly not in the best of forms at the
event.} (38... Kh8 39. Kg2 $6 Bxe4 $1 40. dxe4 Rb5 $19 {It's very difficult to
defend this position.}) 1/2-1/2


The Odisha girl is an inspiration to many! Indian chess fraternity is proud of her and will cheer for her. [Photo: Niusha Afshar]

Going into the rapid tiebreaks, Harika obviously has the upper hand against her Bangladeshi rival but you never know. Nobody can stop the stylish Hyderabadi player if she starts playing at her peak and that is what the fans are hoping for.

 Top seed Chinese GM Ju Wenjun qualified for the second round easily. [Photo: David Llada]

As did former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. [Photo: David Llada]

Meanwhile, the hijab issue continues to be a raging point of arguments.  A picture that speaks a thousand words?

Beautiful images showing the designs of Irani architecture.

 The elegant Niusha Afshar who took many of the pictures in this report. [Photo: David Llada]

And, of course, David Llada, who sets the benchmark for chess photography.




Also Read:

  1. Harika and Padmini will fight for the World title in Tehran
  2. Sitges Blitz: An Indian Talent announces his arrival
  3. Sunway Sitges: Chess on the Catalonian Beach