If one has to sum up Harika Dronavalli’s journey in the World chess championship in Tehran, it is a journey of grit, determination and coming back from the brink. From staring at elimination to squandering good positions, from some magnificent performances to some poor ones, Harika’s journey in the tournament has been a rollercoaster. Her performances in the tie-break situation in Tehran have earned her the nickname, “The Tiebreak Queen.”
In the semi-final against Tan Zhongyi, Harika was staring at elimination but she held firm and managed to stay alive. In the two rapid games and blitz matches, she matched her Chinese opponent but luck deserted her in the Armageddon tie-break as Tan was declared “won on time” after 99 marathon moves. In the process, Harika had to settle for bronze for the third straight championship, having won the medal both in the 2012 and 2015 editions.
Heartbroken &exhausted!While experiencing the roller coaster ride;your tweets kept me going.Thank you for all the encouragement and guidance https://t.co/q0Pqn00Eve— Harika Dronavalli (@HarikaDronavali) February 25, 2017
Although she failed to create history, it has been a memorable journey for Harika. Here is a look at her journey right from the start of the tournament till the semi-final.
Round 1: Drew with Bangladesh’s Akter Lisa Shamima
Harika showed signs of rustiness as she failed to get past her less-fancied opponent. Playing with white in her first game of the championship, she managed a draw after 85 moves. In the second game, Harika held her own with black pieces as she offered a draw after 38 moves. In the rapid game, both Shamima and Harika played out a 75-move draw as the action shifted to the second round
Round 2: Defeated Dinara Saduakassova in tie-break
The trend continued for Harika as she drew her first game against Saduakassova with white pieces after just 15 moves. Playing with black pieces in the second game, Harika took a safe approach as the second game ended in a 22-move draw. The tactic from the Indian Grandmaster was clear: Conserve energy in the classic format and go all out in the tiebreaker.
In the first tie-break, Harika got going by defeating Saduakassova with white in the first game thanks to an extra pawn advantage. The Indian held her nerve and advanced to the next round by drawing the second game in 49 moves in a close game
Round 3: Defeated Sopiko Guramishvilli in tie-break
Playing with black, Harika drew her first game in 49 games while in her second game, she settled for a draw after 36 moves. Playing with black in the first tie-break, Harika survived some nervous moments as she held on for another stalemate but in the second game, Harika could not convert her pawn advantage as the game ended in a draw. In the third game, the stalemate ended as she secured victory in 46 moves. She advanced to the next round as she held on for a draw in the fourth tie-break. However, there was heart-break for India as Padmini Rout was eliminated.
Round 4 (pre-quarterfinal): Defeated Nana Dzagnidze in tie-break
Harika started with a bang as she secured a thrilling 46-move win but Dzagnidze got her revenge in the second game by securing a hard-fought 67-game win. In the first tie-break, Harika continued her winning ways by securing a 53-move win with white and she held her nerve to draw the second game as she entered the semi-final, thus assuring her of bronze.
Semi-final: Lost to Tan Zhongyi in the Armageddon Tie-break
The encounter that lit up the championship. It was a see-saw battle with both opponents refusing to yield an inch. In the first game, Harika suffered a setback with black pieces as she lost in just 44 moves. However, the second game will be remembered for a very long time. After having a pawn advantage, Harika tried to level things back but Tan’s defence was just too strong. An exchange of queens made the situation desperate and afetr 117 moves, Harika had only 50 moves remaining to force a result. Armed with just the Bishop, Knight and King, Harika was five moves away from elimination before she secured the win in a 162-move epic.
In the tie-breaks, the see-saw battle continued. After winning the first 25-minute rapid in just 17 moves, Tan bounced back by winning a gruelling 73-move encounter. After losing the first 10-minute rapid in 60 moves, Harika stormed back into contention by winning the second game in 79 moves. After drawing the blitz game, the focus shifted to the Armageddon in which Harika was playing with white. After a marathon 99-move game, Harika ran out of time and Tan advanced to the final.