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Tehran WWC Rd.3: Harika presses, Padmini survives

by Sagar Shah - 18/02/2017

Round three was a fighting round for the Indian players. Both the games lasted nearly five hours. In the end Harika and Padmini both drew their games, but quite in contrasting styles. Harika was clearly better and close to winning, while Padmini was under pressure and losing at one point. Although Harika won't be happy with the draw, in the second game both the Indian girls will have white pieces to try for a win. We have detailed analysis by reigning Asian Champion WGM Bhakti Kulkarni.

Photos by David Llada

It was an interesting match up in round three. Harika was playing against the girl who had survived fighting matches in the tournament Sopiko Guramishvili and Padmini was paired with the strong Chinese player Tan Zhongyi.

The game began as a London system and Harika, who had the black pieces, was clearly very comfortable after the opening. Sopiko lacked the necessary understanding of the setup and within no time Black was better. It's a pity that Harika couldn't convert.

Our star annotator for the day is the reigning Asian Women's Champion Bhakti Kulkarni. Here are the key points of Bhakti's analysis: (photo by Amruta Mokal)

Harika castled in this position. However, according to Bhakti this was a small inaccuracy. She could have made a better move. Can you see what?

Bishops are always important. Hence the right move would have been ...Nh5! When the bishop on f4 is exchanged for the knight and Black has absolutely no opening problems.

All of Harika's pieces were perfectly placed and the move e6-e5 was an excellent break in the centre

Bhakti calls Black's next move as the mark of a maestro. Can you find what that is?

Harika played the backward move ...Nb8! Such moves are always aesthetically very pleasing. The weaknesses exist on b4 and d4 and hence the knight will be perfect on the c6 square.

In the analysis you will understand how Black missed her winning chance. Harika played the move ...Qe6 here. Instead Nxb4 would have given her the winning chances.

Analysis by WGM Bhakti Kulkarni

[Event "World Women Chess Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.02.17"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Guramishvili, Sopiko"]
[Black "Dronavalli, Harika"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A47"]
[WhiteElo "2357"]
[BlackElo "2539"]
[Annotator "Bhakti Kulkarni"]
[PlyCount "98"]
[EventDate "2016.09.03"]
[SourceDate "2017.02.17"]
{Sopiko has been playing various openings and dynamic play is her forte.
(Remember her breath taking draw against Lu Shanglei from Tata Challengers?)
On the other hand Harika believes in solid play and on her technique. Her
confidence in her rapid and Blitz prowess is overwhelming. So the game was
going to be interesting.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 {A first surprise from
Sopiko. She had never played this.} b6 $1 {Tit for tat from Harika! She had
played ..d5 against Foisor in World Online Blitz.} 4. Nbd2 Bb7 5. e3 c5 6. c3
Be7 7. Bd3 $6 {I feel this is a slight inaccuracy from Sopiko. Accurate is 7.
h3 making a hiding place for the Bishop.} cxd4 8. exd4 O-O $6 {Harika missed 8.
...Nh5 which would have given near equality to her.} (8... Nh5 $1) 9. h3 d6 10.
O-O Re8 {This is very comfortable position for black with good results
according to the statistics.} 11. Re1 Nbd7 12. Qc2 a6 13. a4 Rc8 14. Qb3 Qc7
15. Bh2 $6 (15. Bg3 {I feel this was more precise than Bh2 as white had to
waste a move later on with Bg3 to vacate the h2 square.}) 15... h6 $1 16. Rac1
{The Rook is apparently misplaced on this square. The Rook belonged on d1
taking into account Harika's future e6-e5 plans.} Bf8 17. Bb1 {Last few moves
(and few hereafter) are indicative of Sopiko's lack of understanding of this
particular position.} Bc6 18. Qa3 b5 $5 19. a5 e5 {All black's pieces are well
placed and active so its time to break the centre with e5!} 20. b4 Qb7 {
taking control over the light squares!} 21. Qb2 exd4 $6 {I feel that Harika is
avoiding complications and waiting for Sopiko to err.} (21... e4 22. Nh4 g6 23.
Bc2 d5 24. Bb3 Be7 {is pleasant for Black as White has to find only moves to
stay alive}) 22. cxd4 Bd5 {A beautiful square for the bishop.} 23. Bd3 Nb8 $1 {
Wow! A move of a Maestro!! The Knight is going for more useful position which
will attack the weak (b4-d4).} 24. Bg3 Rxc1 25. Rxc1 Rc8 (25... Bxf3 $5 26.
Nxf3 Nc6 27. Qb3 Rc8 {Would have put more pressure on white but its difficult
choice to give up the good looking bishop on d5.}) 26. Rxc8 Qxc8 27. Ne1 Qe6 {
Black is slowly repositioning her pieces toward the center.} 28. Nc2 Ne4 $2 {
I think Harika overestimated her chances and ruined a beautifully played
position. Bringing Nb8-c6 was natural and strong.} 29. Bxe4 Bxe4 30. Ne3 $2 {
Sopiko hands over the advantage back to Harika. The Bishop is so strong that
taking it immediately is forced.} (30. Nxe4 Qxe4 31. Qc3 Nc6 (31... Qc6 32.
Qxc6 Nxc6 33. d5 Ne7 34. Ne3 $11) 32. f3 Qe8 (32... Qd5 33. Ne3 Qg5 (33... Qxd4
34. Qxc6 Qxe3+ 35. Kh2 d5 36. Qxa6 Bxb4 37. Qxb5 Bc5 38. Qb8+ Kh7 39. Qb1+ $14)
34. Nf1 {close to equal.}) 33. d5 {and the main difference is that white has
got his pawn on d5.}) 30... Nc6 31. Kh2 (31. Nxe4 Qxe4 32. Nc2 Qd3 33. f3 Be7
34. Be1 Bf6 35. Qc3 (35. Bf2 Bg5 36. Be1 Bd2 37. Bxd2 Qxd2 38. Qb3 Kf8 {
White's pieces are tied down for the defense of the weak pawns and black has
all the scope to improve her pieces.}) 35... Bxd4+ 36. Nxd4 Qxd4+ 37. Qxd4 Nxd4
$17 {and Harika is quiet capable to pocket the point.}) 31... d5 {Fixing the
weakness and last member on f8 has joined in the attack!} 32. Nxe4 Qxe4 33. Qc3
Qe6 $2 (33... Nxb4 {was obvious} 34. Be5 Nd3 35. Bg3 b4 36. Qc8 b3 37. Bd6 b2
38. Qxf8+ Kh7 39. Qb8 Nxf2 40. Qxb2 Qxe3 41. Qb7 Qe6 {would be clear pawn up-
though not so easy}) 34. Nc2 {Now Sopiko defends admirably} g6 35. f3 h5 36.
Kg1 Kh7 37. Kf1 Kg8 38. Be1 Be7 39. Qd2 Bd6 40. Qc3 Bf8 41. Bd2 Be7 42. Be1 Kf8
43. Qd2 Kg7 44. Qd3 Bf6 45. Qd2 Ne7 46. Qc3 Nf5 {Provoking g4 weakness.} 47. g4
hxg4 48. hxg4 Ne7 49. Qc7 Qc6 {Harika played a very good positional game but
unfortunately could not convert it. She tried to create some weaknesses but it
was too late. Sopiko defended well and earned the precious half point.
Tomorrow Harika would be white and let us hope to see some fireworks and
interesting opening surprises from both the fighters!} 1/2-1/2

Padmini Rout - the defender! She never gives up and Tan Zhongyi, who was clearly better for most of the game, understood that she is surely a hard nut to crack!

The move Ba6 by Tan Zhongyi is something that I do not like. White has more space and it makes sense to retain more pieces so that she can attack.

Padmini very clearly made an error by moving her knight away from d7 to b6. When White's rook came up to d3, it became clear that the knight had to return. And this is where Rout gets full marks for not being rigid. She brought her knight back and showed what it means to be flexible.

As the analysis show, e7 would have finished the game. However, Tan Zhongyi didn't play it and Padmini, with all her ingenuity, survived.
[Event "FIDE WWCC 2017"]
[Site "Tehran"]
[Date "2017.02.17"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Tan, Zhongyi"]
[Black "Padmini, Rout"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D41"]
[WhiteElo "2502"]
[BlackElo "2387"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "119"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 {Padmini goes for the Semi
Tarrasch. A solid opening that was even tried by Fischer in the first game of
the 1972 Match.} 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ {Black is low on space,
so it makes sense to exchange another pair of pieces.} 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Qxd2
O-O 11. Bc4 Nd7 {The knight is better placed here. It could go to f6, or in
some lines, the rook could slide to e8 and the knight settles on f8,
protecting the king.} (11... Nc6 12. O-O b6 13. Rad1 Bb7 14. Rfe1 {leads to
the famous game Polugaevsky-Tal. 1969. Guys, if you haven't seen that game,
please do so immediately. You are missing out on a gem!}) 12. O-O b6 13. Qe2
Bb7 14. Ba6 {As far as my understanding goes, after this move, White cannot
hope for an advantage.} Bxa6 15. Qxa6 Qc8 16. Qe2 Qb7 (16... Nf6 {Looked
pretty natural.} 17. Rac1 Qb7 18. e5 Nd5 {And Black has no problems.}) 17. e5
$5 {Tan Zhongyi makes a committal decision. She takes away the f6 square from
the knight, but gives away the d5 square. You give some, you take some that's
the usual case. In this scenario I feel that Black shouldn't have any issues.}
Qd5 18. Rfd1 h6 {Padmini tries to prevent the Ng5-e4 manoeuvre, but the knight
finds it's way to e4 via d2.} (18... Rfc8 19. Ng5 h6 20. Ne4 Rc4 $1 {Black is
already pushing.} 21. Qe3 Nxe5 $1 $17) 19. Nd2 Rac8 20. Qe3 (20. Ne4 Rc4 $1 $17
) 20... b5 21. Ne4 Nb6 $6 {Padmini is slowly but surely improving her position.
But the knight is doing some key roles on d7. Most importantly keeping the
king on g8 protected. Moving it to b6 doesn't look like the best idea.} (21...
b4 $1 22. Rd3 a5 {With the knight on d7, the king is safe and Black makes use
of his queenside majority.}) 22. Rd3 Nd7 $1 {I give an exclamation for the
fact that Padmini had the courage to accept her mistake. It's not often that
people are able to say to themselves, look I went wrong, I will correct it.
Good, flexible thinking.} 23. h3 f5 {Moving the f-pawn does make the black
king safe, but it also creates some other issues, like the e6 weakness. It's a
double edged move.} 24. Nd6 $1 (24. exf6 Nxf6 $11 {is nothing at all for White.
}) 24... Rc7 25. Qf3 (25. Rc3 {was another strong move, taking control of the
c-file.} Rxc3 26. Qxc3 a6 27. Rc1 Qxa2 28. Qc7 $36) 25... Qxf3 26. Rxf3 a6 27.
Ra3 Nb8 {As we already know by now the amazing saves that Padmini has made. So
this is not going to be too difficult to defend.} 28. Rd1 f4 29. Re1 g5 30. Rd3
Nd7 31. d5 $1 {Before Black settles in with Nb6-d5, White breaks in the centre.
} Nb6 $5 32. dxe6 Re7 33. Ne4 Rxe6 34. Nc5 Rc6 35. Nxa6 Nc4 $2 (35... Re8 $1
36. Nb4 Rce6 37. Nd5 Kf7 38. Nxb6 Rxb6 39. Rd5 Ke6 $11 {This would be a draw.})
36. Nb4 Re6 37. Rd5 $16 {White is just a pawn up!} Rfe8 38. Nd3 Rb6 39. Nc5 Kf7
40. e6+ Kg6 41. Red1 (41. e7 {was already looking very scary for Black} Kf7 42.
Rf5+ Rf6 43. Rxf6+ Kxf6 44. Re6+ Kg7 (44... Kf7 45. Rxh6) 45. Nb7 Kf7 46. Nd8+
Kg7 47. Kf1 $18) 41... Rc6 42. h4 Nb6 43. Rd8 Rxd8 44. Rxd8 Nc8 $1 {Padmini is
not giving up. Defending with all that she has got.} 45. Nb3 Ne7 46. Nd4 Ra6
47. h5+ Kf6 48. Rf8+ Ke5 49. Nxb5 Rxa2 50. Rh8 g4 51. Rf8 (51. Rxh6 g3 52. fxg3
fxg3 53. Kf1 Rf2+ $11 {Black manages to hold.}) 51... g3 52. fxg3 fxg3 53. Rf1
Kxe6 {Black has defended admirably. It is White who has to be a tad careful
here!} 54. Re1+ Kf6 55. Nc3 Ra3 56. Ne4+ Kf7 57. Nd6+ Kf6 58. Ne4+ Kf7 59. Nd6+
Kf6 60. Ne4+ {A game of fighting chess. As always Padmini hung in there. She
was worse in the middlegame, but did not give up. A draw might not be the best
result for Tan Zhongyi as now she has to face Padmini's music with the black
pieces.} 1/2-1/2


Three decisive games, five draws. Game two on 18th February is going to be exciting!

We thank WGM Bhakti Kulkarni for sending in her analysis and educating our readers with some excellent variations and notes.


Also Read:

  1. Tehran WWC 2.2: Harika and Padmini to fight tiebreakers
  2. The 7-year-old chess prodigy CM Kush Bhagat
  3. Circa 2009: Vishy's Best Memories
  4. Tehran WWC TB02: Harika makes it; Padmini risks it all and qualifies!


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