WWch Semis G2: the queen of must-wins

Three times Natalia Pogonina was faced with a must-win situation, a draw would see her in the spectators side of the cordoned area, and three times she pulled it off to press her claim to the Women World Championship. Harika Dronavalli drew her second game with Mariya Muzychuk, so both semifinals will be decided by tiebreaks. Report and interview with Pogonina.

Round five – game two

Although in recent years, Natalia Pogonina has been playing 1.d4 with ever growing frequency, today, needing a win at all costs, she opted for the more aggressive 1.е4. The players soon reached a very sharp line of the Sicialian Paulsen.

Natalia Pogonina has proven herself a fantastic clinch fighter

Natalia Pogonina vs Pia Cramling

Pogonina, Natalija2456Cramling, Pia24951–0B28WCh Women 20155.230.03.2015

1.e4 c5 2.f3 a6 3.e2 e6 4.d4 cxd4 5.xd4 f6 6.c3 b4 7.e5 d5 8.0-0 xc3 9.bxc3 Perhaps what is most unexpected here is that Black accepts to enter such a double-edged line when a safe draw best suits her goals. e7 9…xc3 10.a3 a5 11.d6 c6 12.xc6 dxc6 13.f4 xa1 14.xa1 d2 15.d3 e3+ 16.h1 d7 17.b2 b5 18.a4 c8 19.f5 exf5 20.e6 xe6 21.xg7 xd6 22.xh8+ f8 23.xh7 d8 24.xf5 xf5 25.xf5 c7 26.c4 b6 27.b1 b4 28.a5+ c7 29.c5 b8 30.e5+ c8 31.f5+ c7 32.f4+ c8 33.xb4 xb4 34.xb4 h6 35.c4 d8 36.h4 f5 37.d4+ c8 38.c4 d8 39.h2 e7 40.d4 h5 41.h3 g6 42.e3+ d7 43.d2+ e8 44.f4 f6 45.d6 c3+ 46.h2 xa5 47.xc6+ f7 48.d5+ f6 49.d6+ f7 50.d7+ f6 51.c6+ f7 52.b7+ g8 53.c8+ g7 54.xf5 1-0 (54) Giri,A (2714)-Vitiugov,N (2729) Reggio Emilia 2012 10.f4 0-0 11.d3 b6 11…g5 12.xg5 xg5 13.f4 e7 14.f5 f6 15.h3 c6 16.fxe6 xe5 17.d3 xd3 18.exd7 xd7 19.xd3 fe8 20.f3 ac8 21.g3 c5 22.d1 e5 23.h3 e3 24.xe3 xe3+ 25.h1 h6 26.c4+ h7 27.f1 xh3 28.gxh3 xh3+ 29.g1 g3+ 30.h1 h3+ 31.g1 g3+ 32.h1 h4+ 33.g1 e3 34.f2 e1+ 35.f1 e3 36.f2 e1+ 37.f1 g3+ 38.h1 h3+ 39.g1 g4+ 40.f2 h4+ 41.g1 1/2-1/2 (41) Negi,P (2621)-Muzychuk,A (2523) Wijk aan Zee 2010 12.f3 a7 13.e4 g6 14.fd1 b7 15.xb7 xb7 16.ab1 c8 17.a4 c5 18.b3 c7 19.d2 c6 20.g3 White’s ambitions are no secret, and the attack on the dark squares with bishop, queen, and the knight are not exactly hidden from sight. c8 21.e4 d8 22.g5 xg5 23.xg5 a5 24.e4 c4 25.d4 g7 26.e1 h6? Not only a free weakness, but there was no reason to play it instead of a more constructive move such as 26…b5 26…b5 27.axb5 xb5 would offer better chances than the game, with an attempt at counterplay. 27.h4! c7? In time trouble, Black wastes tempi moving the queen back and forth while White gets ready to drop the hammer. 28.f4 Securing the e-pawn, but there was better. 28.h5! immediately was much stronger. xe5 28…b5 29.hxg6 fxg6 30.f6+- 29.xe5+ xe5 30.d6 does not require a long explanation. 28…b5 29.h5 d8 30.axb5 axb5 31.g4 e7

32.d3! preparing to invite the rook to the party. g8 33.f6 h8 34.g3! d5 35.hxg6 fxg6 36.xg6+ f8 37.a1 Threatening Ra8+ followed by mate. a7 38.d7+! After 38.d7+ xd7 38…xd7 39.f6+ f7 40.xh8+ e7 41.xa7# 39.a8+ d8 40.xd8+ xd8 41.g7+ e8 42.xh8+ d7 43.g7+ c8 44.g8 and the queen is lost. 1–0

Some sisterly advice before the big game

Harika Dronavalli tried with all her might to break Mariya Muzychuk’s Dutch defense, but to no avail. The Indian player arranged her pieces harmoniously and built up some unpleasant central pressure, but thereafter failed to find the best way to tighten the screws. A rook endgame resulted in a classic four against three pawn on the same wing, and in spite of an energetic attempt to push it, Muzychuk held the draw.

Mariya Muzychuk has defied expectations, as has Harika Dronavalli. Only a tiebreak will separate them.

The commentators are caught on camera

Short interview with Natalia Pogonina

Anastasia Karlovich: Natalia, this is the third time you win on demand at this championship! How did you do it today?

Natalia Pogonina: My opponent went into a variation that is considered dangerous for Black – a strange choice in a situation when you need a draw to advance. We arrived at a complicated position with good attacking chances for White. My maneuvering was probably not ideal, but her 17…Qc5 gave me a tempo for 18.Nb3 and 19.Nd2, after which White should have a very comfortable edge.

After that I had so many tempting continuations that it was difficult to choose between them, that’s why I took so much time for my moves.

Yet Pia was spending more time than you, and in the end you had some extra time on the clock, which allowed you to calculate the nice finale! Or did you see it instantly?

No, I discovered 38.Nd7+ only after some thought. I had 10 minutes left, so I could afford using some of this time.

It must be very pleasing to end the game in such fashion…

I would take any win, to be honest.

On the move 28, did you consider other ideas apart from 28.f4?

I calculated some knight leaps, but eventually decided to strengthen my base on e5, and then push the h-pawn. It looked a solid plan to me.

What about 28.Rxc4?

I looked into it, but not very deeply. Now I see that I don’t have to regain an exchange after 28…Qxc4 29.Nd6, but can simply continue the attack. Looks good for White, too.

Which of the three matches you saved on demand was the most difficult?

All of them were difficult – there were tough opponents, and I needed to win… I don’t want to single out any of them.

What is your mood before the tie-break? What color do you have in the first game?

My mood is good as usual. I will play Black in the first game.

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

Semifinal pairings / results

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 ½
Harika, Dronavalli IND 2492 ½
Player Fed Rtg G1
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Cramling, Pia SWE 2495 1
Pogonina, Natalia RUS 2456 0


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

About Tsogo Sun Moves for Life

Education through Chess. A proven intervention to unlock the potential of SA's children. Moves for Life unlocks the cognitive potential of South African children by structured implementation of chess education where essential aspects of the game are actively linked with math, science and lifeskill concepts. Learning fundamental concepts are made fun and exciting for the child.
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