Indian Grandmaster D Harika played out a hard-fought draw against former champion Alexandra Kosteniuk in the first game of the third round in the Women’s World Chess Championships on Saturday.
The lone surviving Indian in the tournament, Harika was on a mission right from the start and looked poised to crash through. However, Kosteniuk, a veteran of many hard battles, remained in the game with some tenacious defence and saved the day in the endgame.
Harika will have black in the return game and if history is anything to go by, the Indian may have an edge in the encounter against the Russian.
It was an easy start in the Catalan opening as white and Kosteniuk equalized in the early middle game. The pressure was built by Harika when she broke through in the centre and launched an offence with her well placed pieces.
Harika was rewarded with a passed pawn in the process and the squeeze continued despite the trade of queens. Kosteniuk realised that passive defence was the best solution and stuck to the basics in finding many right moves to keep Harika at bay.
In the end, the players reached a theoretically drawn rook and pawns endgame.
Top seed Ju Wenjun of China scored over compatriot Zhai Mo as black to almost assure her entry to the pre-quarterfinals in the USD 450000 championship.
In other decisive games of the day, another rating favourite Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine made short work of former champion Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria while Gulrukhbegim Tokhorjinova of Uzbekistan and Jolanta Zawadzka of Poland continued with their demolishing act to beat higher ranked Valentina Gunina of Russia and Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazakhstan respectively.
In other interesting tussles, another former champion Mariya Muzychuk survived some anxious moments before signing peace with Iranian Mobina Alinasab.
Results of Round 3 Game 1: Zhai Mo (Chn) lost to Ju Wenjun (Chn); Jolanta Zawadzka (Pol) beat Abdumalik Zhansaya (Kaz); Natalija Pogonina (Rus) drew with Kateryna Lagno (Rus); Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) beat Antoaneta Stefanova (Bul); D Harika (Ind) drew with Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus); Alisa Galliamova (Rus) drew with Lei Tingjie (Chn); Alinasab Mobina (Iri) drew with Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr); Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova (Uzb) beat Valentina Gunina (Rus).