| Koneru Humpy: Determined fightback
Hyderabad: Defending champion Viswanathan Anand and the in-form Koneru Humpy settled for draws while WGM Stefenova Antoneta of Bulgaria defeated Svetlana Matveeva of Russia for the only victory in the first round semi-final matches of the World Cup chess tournament on Thursday.
Draws seemed to be the order of the day and but for Stefenova, who won in 40 moves, the rest of the boards saw players playing it safe.
Anand forced a draw against Alexy Dreev of Russia with relative ease while Humpy survived some anxious moments before splitting the point against reigning champion Xu Yuhua of China.
Alexander Beliavsky of Slovenia and Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan too played safe in the first round and agreed to split the point after 50 moves.
Playing with black pieces, Anand employed the Queen’s Indian Defence against the Russian and the duo was involved in some tactical play before agreeing for truce after 22 moves.
“I am happy with the draw,” Anand said after the match. “When playing whites there are not much problems, but when you have black pieces you have to be very careful,” the current world No. 3 said.
Playing black against Yuhua, Humpy adopted the Petroff defence and was troubled often by the Chinese champion.
However, Humpy fought back with grit and determination and unleashed a strong counter-play. The endgame resulted in opposite colour bishops and the two players agreed for a draw after 45 moves.
Stefenova opted for the Slav defence against Svetlana. Showing her mastery in counter-attack, Stefenova earned a piece to pull off a superb victory in 40 moves.
In the other men’s semi-final match, Rustam put up a brave fight against Belivsky in a Queen’s Gambit variation but they agreed to sort out the issue on Friday, though Rustam had two extra pawns against his opponent’s bishop.
Anand had applied the same strategy of drawing the first round match of the quarter-finals against Russian Grandmaster Vladamir Malakhov with black but went all out in the second game with whites.
Semi-finals (1st round)
Viswanathan Anand (Ind, 0.5) drew Alexy Dreev (Russia, 0.5); Alexander Beliavsky (Svn, 0.5) drew Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzb, 0.5); Xu Yuhua (Chn, 0.5) drew Koneru Humpy (Ind, 0.5), Stefenova Antoneta (Bul, 1) bt Svetlana Matveeva (Rus, 0).