Tehran (Iran) Feb 21: Grandmaster Dronavalli Harika came within striking distance of securing a semifinal berth after defeating Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia in the first game of the quarterfinals of the World Women�s Chess Championship, here.
The victory in the first game of the two-game mini-match means that the Indian will now just need a draw in the return game to qualify to the next round that will have just four remaining from the original 64-participants in the knockout championship.
Second seed Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine was the other winner of the day as she accounted for former champion Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria. The other former winner Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia was held to a draw by Ni Shiqun of China while the all Chinese duel between Tan Zhongyi and top seed Ju Wenjun also ended in a peace result.
Like Harika, Muzychuk is also just a draw away from entering the last-four stage while rating favourites Wenjun and Kosteniuk will try harder in the return games when they play with white pieces.
Harika was up against a French defense and her choice of Tarrasch defense led to a miniscule advantage in the middle game. It was a pretty fine game from both sides till Dzagnidze fell for a fine tactical trick on the 39th move.
The Georgian could not spot a forcing drawing variation with her clock ticking away and allowed Harika to invade the eighth rank with her queen. Soon Harika won Dzagnidze�s queen and wrapped up the game in 47 moves. Nerves will play a crucial role in the return game now as Harika needs a draw with black pieces and Dzagnidze has to go all out. The Indian has been in similar situations before as she made it to the Semis in the last two knockout world championships also. The stakes are getting higher in the 450000 USD prize money event.
Anna Muzychuk had a relatively smooth sailing even after Stefanova got a decent position in the middle game arising out of a Breyer Ruy Lopez. It was in time trouble that the Bulgarian went wrong and her position collapsed in quick time. � PTI