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Composure is the key
RublevskyGrandmaster Sergey Rublevsky, the official commentator on the Russian stream, reviews the Semifinals of the World Championship in Sochi.

I started my live commentary during the Semifinals and was honestly surprised by the quality of play on the first day. I have no idea how the players regained energy after exhausting tie-breaks.

On the next two days the level of chess started to deteriorate quickly, which was inevitable sooner or later. Let us start in chronological order.

Both matches were hard-fought and were decided on tie-break, but took different routes to reach that stage.

M. Muzychuk – H. Dronavalli


29... c6?
A serious mistake. After 29...h4!? it is unclear whether White has any advantage.

30. g4 hg 31. hg b5 32. Bd1!
An excellent maneuver! The bishop gets to an ideal square where it controls both flanks without being threatened.

33... Ra8
32... b4 achieves nothing due to 33. a4.

33. Bb3 Nf6


34. Kf5?
An impulsive move made under the time pressure. After the modest 34. Kf3!? Rh8 35. Re1 Kf8 36. Kg3 d5 37. Bc2 the passed pawns supported by the bishop are about to move forward, giving White a decisive advantage. The text move made the white king vulnerable.

34... Rf8 35. Re1 Kd8 36. Re6
White cannot win after 36. Kg5 Nh7 37. Kg6 Rf4 38. Kh7 Rg4, too.

36... Nd5 37. Kg5 Nf4 38. Rd6 Ke7 39. Rh6 Nd3 40. Re6
40. Rh7 Kd6 41. Rb7? fails to 41...Nc5 42. Rf7 Rg8.

The time control passes, and it transpires that White lost the lion's share of her advantage. The game eventually ended in a draw.

Pia Cramling once again demonstrated an excellent endgame technique.

P. Cramling – N. Pogonina


64. d5! Re4
64...Rg4 loses to 65. d6 Kd8 (65... Kc8 66. d7 Kc7 67. Rb7 Kb7 68. d8Q) 66. Rb7 Re4 67. Kf6 Ra4 68. a6 Ra6 69. Ke6 Ra8 70. Rh7.

65. Kf6 Rg4 66. d6 Kc8 67. Kg6


67... Rd4!? was the best chance. White would need some precision: 68. Kh6 g4 69. Rb3 Rd6 70. Kg5 Rd5 71. Kg4 Ra5 72. h6 Kc7 73. h7 Ra8 74. Rh3 Rh8 75. Rh6!? b5 (75... b6 76. Kf5 Kb7 77. Kg6 Ka6 78. Kg7 Rh7 79. Kh7 Ka5 80. Kg6 Kb4 81. Kf5 b5 82. Ke4) 76. Kg5 b4 77. Kg6 b3 78. Kg7 Rh7 79. Kh7 b2 80. Rh1.

68. Kh6 g4 69. Kg7 g3 70. h6 Rh1 71. Rb2
The simplest way is 71. d7 Kd7 72. Rg6 Rh3 73. h7.

71... Rh4 72. h7 Rg4 73. Kf6 Rh4 74. Kg6 Kd7 75. Rb7
75. Rg2 Rh3 76. Kg7 would win quicker once again, but the text move does not spoil anything.

75... Kd6 76. Rb1 Ke5
Or 76...g2 77. Rg1 Rh2 78. Kg7, and White wins.

77. a6 g2 78. Rg1 Rg4 79. Kh5 Black resigns.

On the second day of the Semifinals White had the initiative in both games again.

H. Dronavalli – M. Muzychuk


29. Qd5?
Allowing the rook to go forward secures a serious advantage – 29. Qc3 Kh7 30. Rd5.

29... Qe4!
White lost almost all her advantage with the queen trade, and the game soon ended in a draw.

Natasha made her third comeback very confidently.

N. Pogonina – P. Cramling


31. Qg4!
After this sneaky move there is no defense against the rook transfer that happened in the game.

31...Qe7 32. Rd3 Rg8 33. Nf6 Rh8 34. Rg3 d5 35. hg fg 36. Qg6 Kf8 37. Ra1 Ra7


38. Nd7!
Black resigns in view of 38...Qd7 39. Qf6 or 38...Rd7 39. Ra8 Rd8 40. Rd8 Qd8 41. Qg7.

Cramling had White in the first tie-break game, and it was a rather boring draw – unlike the other match, which produced a real thriller.

H. Dronavalli – M. Muzychuk


33. Qf3?
Do not retreat your main force when you are down a piece! White had 33.Bc1!, threatening mate, and the only defense is 33...Nf4. Now 34. gf ef 35. Bf4 Qe1 36. Kg2 Qe4 37. Kh3 Qf5 38. Qf5 Rf5 39. Bd6 Kf7 40. Kg4 gives White an extra pawn in the endgame, although Black retains good drawing chances in the endgame.

33... Qb7 34. Rc2?
Another backward move happens to be a blunder. White could move forward again – 34. f6! Qc8 35. Qd5 Qc6 36. Qe6 Qd7 37. Qd7 Bd7 38. Kg2 Kf7, although Black still has excellent winning chances due to her connected passed pawns in the center.

34... Ne1 35. Qg4 Nc2 36. Bc1 Bf7 37. f6 Qb6 38. Kh1 Ne3 White resigns.

In the second game Mariya lost the thread in a clearly better position, and Harika managed to come back, extending the match. However, let us deal with another match first.

N. Pogonina – P. Cramling


45. e6!
A resolute move! The simple 45.Qb5 was also possible.

45... fe 46. Qd4 Bh6 47. Qh4 Qf7
Black cannot hold after 47...Bc6 48.Bd3 Bd7 49.Qf6, and there is no defense against the rook maneuver Re1-e3-g3.

48. Bb5 Rc2 49. Bd4 e5 50. Re5 Rc1 51. Bg1
White got a winning position and after many adventures converted it to a win. Pogonina advances to the final!

The next game basically decided the other match.

H. Dronavalli – M. Muzychuk


83. Qe3??
Basically any other move wins easily. The simplest and the most natural is 83.Qg7 Ke6 84. Qd4 Qh5 85. Qh4 Qf3 86. Qc4 Kf6 87. h7 Qf2 88. Kh3 Kg7 89. Qg8. Harika could also calculate the following simple and nonbranching variation: 84.h7 Qf2 85. Kh3 Qf1 86. Kh4 Qh1 87. Kg5 Qc1 88. Kg6. The pawn ending after 83.Qf4 Qf4 84. gf Kg6 85. Kg3 Kh6 86. Kf3 Kh5 87. Ke2 Kg4 88. Ke3 is also won. With her text move White finds the only way to get to a drawn pawn ending.

83... Qe3 84. fe Kg6 85. Kg2 Kh6 86. Kf2 Kh5 87. Kf3 Kg5 88. Kf2 Kh5 89. Kg2 Kg4 90. Kf2 Kh5 Draw.

It should not come as a surprise that Harika lost her composure after this game and did not manage to put up serious resistance in the next one.

M. Muzychuk – H. Dronavalli


After 24. R4d3 the с3-pawn is lost without compensation: 24... Rc5 25. Be3 Rc6 26. Bd4.

25. g5 Nd7 26. Rc3
Mariya got an extra pawn in the endgame, converted it easily and advanced to the final.

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