Russia and Georgia reached the semi-finals of the Team World Cup 2021 with solid performances, while India and Ukraine defeated their rivals in the quarter-finals in varying degrees of difficulty and drama. While India’s win was due to some of their teammates’ victories in the regular games with quick time control, Ukraine showed a bold effort to overcome a first-round loss and prevail in a nerve-wracking lightning tie-break team match.
GM Nana Dzagnidze from Georgia and GM Mariya Muzychuk from Ukraine played two of the best games of the round in opposing styles and emphasized that less time control is not detrimental to imagination and depth in chess. At the same time, the last tie-break blitz games also proved that chess can also be a cruel game in the end.
How to see
To view the FIDE World Women’s Team Championship games, visit Chess.com/events. Live commentary for all rounds will be broadcast on Chess.com/tv.
Live coverage of round one. Check out all of the live coverage at youtube.com/chess.
Russia vs. FIDE Americas
Russia made short work of less popular rivals FIDE Americas with a clear 4-0 win. With the black stones, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk showed a clinical performance that IM Carolina Lujan gradually surpassed. The highlight of the game was one of those “little combinations” attributed to the former world champion Wassily Smyslov as the inventor, a tactical operation that, as a rule, does not gain material, but significantly improves the qualification of the position:
Russia again won a comfortable 3-1 victory, with IM Alina Kashlinskaya vigilantly recognizing one tactic:
Georgia vs. Azerbaijan
Georgia also scored an emphatic 3.5-0.5 win over Azerbaijan and the round saw one of the best games of the day.
Just as there were leaps in time, fluctuating evaluation changes and tragic mistakes, GM Nana Dzagnidze provided brilliant positional pressure reminiscent of textbook classics to defeat IM Gunay Mammadzada on the top board. The game could easily qualify as an aesthetic marvel, as the white pieces dominated in the middlegame and limited all their black counterparts to the first two rows:
IM Lela Javakhishvili scored a victory with an “experienced professional formula:” Play an unusual opening, create an uneven and unusual pawn structure, make it strategically complicated, but not unnecessarily tactical, and outplay the opponent with steady play:
Azerbaijan caused a surprise after two “accidents” of the Georgian players, which Georgia held with a 2-2 draw:
Even so, Georgia moves into the semifinals because they won the first round.
India vs. Kazakhstan
This has been touted as the “most exciting game, … the tightest” by commentators GM Irina Krush and WGM Jennifer Shahade in terms of relative team strengths on Chess.com’s live commentary stream. And it fulfilled their predictions in more ways than one.
IM Bhakti Kulkarni appeared to launch an energetic early attack, only to go wrong in the late middlegame:
At this point, all of the other boards seemed to be going the Kazakhstani route, but they were all slowly turning in India’s favor, only to turn around again and hit parity.
GM Dronavalli Harika was under pressure for most of the game against young IM Zhansaya Abdumalik but stubbornly defended himself to fight back and even won a winning position but it was likely impossible to find the target in the final seconds of the game:
WGM Vaishali and WGM Mary Ann Gomes were under pressure for most of the game but also defended well to draw and win their games against IM Dinara Saduakassova and WFM Meruert Kamalidenova respectively. The first round of the game ended in a draw with 2: 2.
The second round was also a cliffhanger and it seemed like the game could go either way. WGM Tania Sachdev sacrificedly played an excellent attack game, only to miss it in the end:
That early defeat put India under tremendous pressure, but Harika and Gomes scored two crucial wins to bring India to the semi-finals on 2.5-1.5 points.
The best game of the round featured Harika’s beautiful use of the dark squares from the black side of a Ruy Lopez:
Ukraine vs. Armenia
Armenia caused the biggest surprise of the first round in their 3-1 win over Ukraine. GM Anna Muzychuk played very imaginatively against GM Elina Danielian and pushed her pawns on both the queenside and the kingside. But she missed easy middle game wins and eventually lost.
Ukraine was shaken by tragedy when former women’s world champion GM Anna Ushenina lost on an equal footing to IM Anna Sargsyan. The other two boards ended in a draw.
Ukraine needed a second round win to be back in the game and rose to the challenge. Mariya Muzychuk played a beautiful attack game to defeat IM Lilit Mkrtchian. One has to praise Muzychuk’s nerves, because it takes real boldness to play with such freedom under such pressure:
This diametrically opposed performance compared to Dzagnidze’s game from the first round also deserves praise for his tactical brilliance. In fact, this game can be rated as more laudable, recognizing the must-win situation under which it was played. After easily winning their other two boards, Ukraine won the match 3.5-0.5 and forced a 3 | 2 tie-break match.
This ultimately proved to be an anti-climax as Ukraine won 3-1 after Mkrtchian hung their queen in a better position on Mariya Muzychuk:
The FIDE World Women’s Team Championship 2021 is a 12-team event that brings together teams from chess nations from around the world. The event runs from September 27th to October 2nd and will be streamed live on Chess.com.