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Women's World Championship Rd. 5 TB: Harika slips in the Armageddon

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 26/02/2017

Harika started the rapid tiebreaks with a scintillating 17 move win over Tan Zhongyi. As the second game moved into a drawish endgame it seemed as if the Indian girl had already qualified for the finals. However, it was not to be. Tan Zhongyi won that game and after many ups and downs the players had to fight it out in the Armageddon. Once again Harika was in the driver's seat, but victory was not meant to be hers. She lost the game and Tan Zhongyi booked her berth into the finals. A recount of all the action.

Women's World Ch. Rd. 5 TB: Harika slips in the Armageddon

Photos by David Llada


The classical mini-match had ended in a 1-1 deadlock and it was now the players' turn to see who is better among them, and eligible for the only set available in the finals to take on Anna Muzychuk.


The first set of tiebreakers were 25-minute game affairs.


Harika was off to a rollicking start with the white pieces. No sooner had the game begun, than Harika was already a mere 12 moves!

Tan Zhongyi blundered with 12...h6. Harika wrapped it up with?
[Event "WCh Women 2017"]
[Site "Tehran IRI"]
[Date "2017.02.25"]
[Round "5.3"]
[White "Harika, Dronavalli"]
[Black "Tan, Zhongyi"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2539"]
[BlackElo "2502"]
[Annotator "Sagar,Shah"]
[PlyCount "33"]
[EventDate "2017.02.11"]
1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 a6 4. f4 d6 5. Nf3 Nd7 6. Bc4 e6 7. f5 $5 {This is
in the spirit of the Grand Prix attack.} Nb6 8. Bb3 exf5 9. O-O Ne7 10. Bg5 O-O
11. Qe1 $1 {Harika uses the e1-h4 diagonal to get her queen into the attack
zone.} h6 $2 (11... Kh8 $1 {Getting out the king from the diagonal of the b3
bishop prepares f6.} 12. Qh4 f6 $1 $15) 12. Qh4 $1 Re8 (12... hxg5 13. Nxg5 $18
) 13. Bxh6 d5 14. e5 {It's all over} Nd7 15. Ng5 Bxh6 16. Qxh6 Nf8 17. Rf4 {
The rook swings over to h4 and ends the game. What a powerful win for Harika.}


Zhongyi's coach looks on in awe.

It is not a pretty situation to be in when you lose the first of a two-game mini-match. Worse so when you get smashed in less than 20 moves. But Tan Zhongyi showed spirit and pressurized Harika relentlessly in the next game.


Theoretically, the position may just be equal, but such evaluations are only on paper. In reality, White was the one calling the shots and Zhongyi won an impressive game to make it 1-1!

Tan Zhongyi - Dronavalli Harika (Analysis by WIM Raghavi N.)

[Event "WCh Women 2017"]
[Site "Tehran IRI"]
[Date "2017.02.25"]
[Round "5.4"]
[White "Tan, Zhongyi"]
[Black "Harika, Dronavalli"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D53"]
[WhiteElo "2502"]
[BlackElo "2539"]
[PlyCount "145"]
[EventDate "2017.02.11"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
{Harika had just landed a crushing 17 move victory in her first tie break game
and just needed a draw to qualify for the World championship finals.} 1. d4 d5
2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 {The Solid Queens Gambit Declined-An ideal
openings for short matches.It's extra solid in the hands of a well-prepared
player like Harika.} 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Nf3 h6 7. Bh4 O-O 8. Qc2 c5 9. Rd1 Qa5 10.
cxd5 Nxd5 11. Bxe7 Nxe7 {Not too surprising in modern chess. This has all been
played already.} 12. Be2 Nf6 13. O-O cxd4 14. Nxd4 (14. Rxd4 {was played out
to a draw in. So,W (2770)-Kramnik,V (2812) Leuven 2016}) 14... e5 {N. Harika
is well prepared and comes up with a novelty. The move weakens some squares in
the centre but with concrete play, Harika shows the way to equality.} (14...
Bd7 {was played before in (30) Jobava,B (2616)-Andersson,U (2570) Antalya TUR
2004}) 15. Ndb5 Bf5 16. Qb3 Be6 17. Bc4 Bxc4 18. Qxc4 a6 19. Nd6 b5 20. Qb3 Qc7
21. Rd2 ({My computer prefers 21. Rd3 over 21.Rd2 but i believe the idea is
too subtle for a human to make sense of in a rapid game!} 21. Rd3 Nc8 (21...
Nc6 $5) 22. Nde4 (22. Nce4 Nxd6 23. Nxd6 Rad8 24. Rfd1 Rd7 $11) 22... Nxe4 23.
Nxe4 Nb6 24. Rfd1 Qc4 {Black is quite close to equality}) 21... Nc8 {
Eliminating whites most dangerous piece.} (21... Nc6 22. Rfd1) 22. Rfd1 (22.
Nde4 Nxe4 23. Nxe4 Nb6 24. Rfd1 Rad8 $11 {The pieces are quickly traded off.})
22... Nxd6 23. Rxd6 Rfd8 24. Qa3 Rxd6 $1 25. Qxd6 Qxd6 26. Rxd6 {The endgame
is completely even.} b4 {Objectively after this move the position is still
even but i believe it is here that trend starts to go in white's favor. A
series of minor compromises will lead to a slightly more pleasant position for
white.} (26... Rc8 $1 {was the way to book a spot in the finals!. White has
absolutely no reasonable way to continue the game and the move essentially
forces the draw.} 27. g3 (27. a3 Ne4 $1 28. Nxe4 Rc1+ {wins.}) 27... b4 28. Nd5
(28. Na4 Rc1+ 29. Kg2 Rc2 30. Rxa6 Ng4 $17 {and black is already better
because of weak white king.}) 28... Nxd5 29. Rxd5 Rc1+ {All rook endgames are
drawn and so is this one!.}) 27. Na4 Ne4 $6 (27... Rc8 28. Kf1 Rc2 29. Ke1 Ng4
30. Rd2 {is equal according to the computer black maintains the balance with
acitve piece play exploiting the poor position of the knight on a4.} Rc1+ 31.
Ke2 e4 $1 $11 (31... Nxh2)) 28. Rd1 Rc8 29. f3 Nf6 30. Rd2 Kf8 (30... e4 {
was an interesting option but already has lost the opportunity to 'force' the
draw and now has to play an equal position!.}) 31. Kf2 Ke7 32. e4 Rc6 33. b3 {
Even the computers are not impressed the endgame is slightly more pleasant for
white and it is white who is pressing and black is nuetralising.} Nd7 34. Nb2
f6 {Black would rather play b4-b5 in this position but unfortunately, the move
is illegal!.} 35. h4 {Provoking weakness on the king's wing as well.} h5 {
Stopping white from fixing the Black kingside structure with h5.} 36. Nd1 Rd6 {
An extremely tough decision to make but there was the danger of white rook
becoming very active as well.} 37. Ke2 Rxd2+ 38. Kxd2 Kd6 39. Ne3 g6 40. Kd3
Kc5 {The endgame is objective equal but Black is still DEFENDING.} 41. Nd5 a5
42. g3 {White does a good job of keeping the pressure and giving Black chances
to go wrong.} Kb5 43. f4 Kc5 44. Ne7 Nf8 45. f5 gxf5 $2 {Surprisingly the
decisive Blunder.When I was watching the game live I thought already things
looked bad for Black but it appears she can still defend after.} (45... g5 $1 {
It is of course very counterintuitive to give your opponent a passed pawn but
Black gets counteplay by threatening to create one himself.} 46. hxg5 fxg5 {
The computers claim the endgame as equal and i trust them.} 47. Ng6 Nd7 48. Nh8
h4 $132) 46. Nxf5 $16 ({Stronger was.} 46. exf5 {Giving your opponent a passed
seems to be the rule for this endgame.} Nd7 47. Ng8 Kd5 48. Ke3 e4 49. g4 $1
hxg4 50. h5 Nf8 51. Ne7+ Kd6 52. Ng6 Nh7 53. Kxe4 Ng5+ 54. Kf4 Nf7 55. Kxg4 $18
{The endgame is easily won with an extra outside passed h-pawn}) 46... Ne6 47.
Ne7 {Nor surprisingly errors creep in a high pressure, fast time control
situation.} Kd6 (47... Ng7 $1 {Keeps the balance because black achieves f5 in
some variations but it is hard to realize that this is the moment is critical in a
practical game.} 48. Ke3 Kd6 49. Nd5 f5 50. Nb6 Ke6 51. Nc4 fxe4 52. Kxe4 Nf5
$132) 48. Nf5+ Kc5 49. Ke3 $1 {After a repetition of moves white is Back in
the right path.} Kb5 $4 {This ends things quickly leaving white material up.}
50. Nd6+ Kc6 51. Ne8 a4 52. bxa4 Nc5 53. Nxf6 Nxa4 54. g4 $1 {White has no
more appetite for Black pawns and is looking to promote her pawns to a queen.}
hxg4 55. h5 Nb2 56. h6 Nc4+ 57. Ke2 Nd6 58. h7 Nf7 59. Nxg4 $18 {The rest as
they say is a matter of moves.} Kd6 60. Kd3 Kc5 61. Ke3 Kd6 62. Kd2 Ke6 63. Kd3
{White triangulates and now Black loses her b pawn as well.} Nh8 64. Kc4 Kf7
65. Kxb4 Kg7 66. Nxe5 Kf6 67. Nc6 Kg7 68. a4 Nf7 69. a5 Nd6 70. a6 Nc8 71. a7
Nxa7 72. Nxa7 Kxh7 73. Nc6 {After gaining a huge pyschological edge in the
first game of the tie break. Harika unfortunately could not hold her position
in the 2nd game. A series of 'small compromises' changed her position from
equal with counterplay to equal and defendable position. The pressure of time
and match got to her and she erred which cost her the game.} 1-0

The 25-miute segment was tied at 1-1, so the players entered the 10m+10sec. segment. Harika soon gained a small edge with black.

Prophylaxis: Can you guess White's threat? And then, can you find the best way for black to avoid it? Harika missed this move and lost. How could she have saved this?
[Event "WCh Women 2017"]
[Site "Tehran IRI"]
[Date "2017.02.25"]
[Round "5.5"]
[White "Tan, Zhongyi"]
[Black "Harika, Dronavalli"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D36"]
[WhiteElo "2502"]
[BlackElo "2539"]
[Annotator "Sagar,Shah"]
[PlyCount "119"]
[EventDate "2017.02.11"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 c6 6. Qc2 Be7 7. e3 Nbd7 8.
Bd3 Nh5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nge2 g6 11. O-O O-O 12. Rab1 Ng7 13. b4 a6 14. Na4 Nf6
15. h3 Bf5 {Once Black gets in this move he has already equalized.} 16. Nc5
Bxd3 17. Nxd3 Nf5 18. Nef4 Nd6 19. Ne5 Nd7 20. Nfd3 Nxe5 21. Nxe5 f6 22. Nf3
Nc4 $15 {Black is slightly better.} 23. Qc3 b5 24. Nd2 f5 25. Rfe1 Qd6 26. Nb3
Rf7 27. Nc5 g5 (27... a5 $5) 28. Nd3 Re7 29. Ra1 Rf8 30. a4 g4 31. hxg4 fxg4
32. Nf4 g3 $1 {A nice pawn sacrifice ruining the entire kingside structure.}
33. fxg3 Rfe8 34. axb5 axb5 35. e4 dxe4 36. Rad1 Qf6 37. Rf1 Qg5 38. d5 e3 39.
d6 e2 (39... Rd7 $1 $17) 40. dxe7 exf1=Q+ 41. Rxf1 Qxe7 $11 42. Kh1 Qg7 43. Qf3
Qh6+ 44. Nh3 Kh8 45. Qf7 Qe6 46. Qc7 Ne5 47. Re1 Qe7 48. Qb6 Qf6 49. Qd4 Qg7
50. Re3 Qf6 51. Nf4 Kg8 52. Re4 Qh6+ 53. Kg1 Qg5 54. Qe3 Qf5 $2 (54... Re7 $1
55. Nd3 Qxe3+ 56. Rxe3 Ng6 $11) 55. Nd3 $1 $18 {A piece is lost.} Rd8 56. Nxe5
Rd1+ 57. Kh2 Qf1 58. Rg4+ Kh8 59. Nf7+ Qxf7 60. Qe5+ {Tan Zhongyi kept up the
pressure in great fashion.} 1-0


Perhaps distressed by her failure to defend with black in the previous game, Harika blundered and slumped to a defeat. She was now behind in the match and Zhongyi was firmly in the driver's seat!

The situation looked bleak for Harika. She had almost won the first tiebreaker but now was just moments away from being ousted from the championship.

To make matters infinitely worse, Harika had a dead drawn position with white in the next game. A draw would mean she loses the match and Zhongyi qualifies to the finals.

Therefore, Harika sacrificed her queen and tried to generate some play. She played Bd7-g4, clearly realizing that instead of this move c3 would lead to almost no chances for a win.

Obviously, it was not enough. Queen is a queen and Zhongyi had a free perpetual ready as you can see here. At best, Harika, who is white, could hope for a fortress. But Zhongyi didn't take her perpetual and Harika generated tons of counterplay! And magically, she won!
[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 ""]
[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 turnarounds that might have led
to a very different outcome in the tiebreaks. 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 in 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+ (60... Qd6+ 61. Kc3
Qa3+ 62. Bb3 Qc5+ $11 {would still lead only to a draw.}) 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

A jubilant Harika relaxes with her grandmother. She had made a comeback against all odds.

In the blitz tiebreakers (5 minutes + 3 seconds increment), both the games ended in draws. The only way to force the decision was to... an armageddon match! Rules: 5 minutes for White and 4 minutes for Black with a 2 sec increment after move 60. Black has draw odds, meaning that white is forced to win to reach the finals, while a draw would suffice for Black. Harika was white.
[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 ""]
[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 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 

The feeling when you see your dreams crumble in front of your eyes 

And the jubiliation of the winner! Tan Zhongyi now faces Anna Muzychuk in the finals which will begin from the 27th of February. It will be four classical games instead of two.

Watch and Download to your ChessBase, all the games from Round 05


Also read:

  1. Interview: N. Ramaraju on Chess (Harika's Coach)
  2. Women's World Championship 5.1: Epic Accidents
  3. Tehran WWC 04 TB: Harika maintains control, reaches Semis