Vaishali R edged out Harika Dronavalli in a very close quarterfinal match and advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Speed Chess Championship.
Vaishali won the first 5+1 segment by a minimal margin, but Harika did the same in the next portion of the match. The opponents entered the 1+1 stage with 8.5-8.5 on the scoreboard.
Vaishali pulled away with just a few minutes on the match clock heading to the final game with a one-point lead. With her back against the wall, Harika had to win the game to send the match into a tiebreaker and came very close. She achieved an overwhelming position but, in a drastic turn of events, blundered a checkmate in one.
Vaishali talked about playing alongside Dronavalli for team India at the upcoming Olympiad:
“It will be my first over-the-board Olympiad, and I am very grateful for the event. Harika will also be playing. She is one of my biggest inspirations, actually. Playing alongside her will be very interesting.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Kateryna Lagno prevailed over Humpy Koneru in their quarterfinal match and became the first semifinalist of the Women’s Speed Chess Championship.
Koneru took a great start and convincingly won the 5+1 segment 5-3. However, Lagno pulled herself together, fought back in the 3+1 portion and overtook the lead.
It all came down to the wire with just three minutes to go on the match clock. Trailing by two points, Koneru needed to win quickly to get a chance to level the score with one more victory. Humpy reached a winning position, but Kateryna managed to stretch the game long enough and sealed the match after her opponent blundered a checkmate.
Lagno talked about some critical moments of the match in a quick interview:
“In the 5+1, I couldn’t get anything with White, and I was struggling with Black, and I was minus two. But then she blundered the rook in this ending when I was two pawns down … I got very lucky. Somehow I could breathe a little bit … During the break, I checked some lines, just to know a few moves, not to lose immediately with Black. Then I had the feeling that she mixed up the moves in Petroff. I checked it, and then I won my first game without any fight.”