The field has been whittled to 32 after a day of tiebreakers.

It wasn’t always easy or pretty, but 32 women have now advanced to the second round of the Women’s World Championship in Tehran.

Eleven of those 32 had to win tiebreakers on Monday (rapid and, in a couple of cases, blitz games). As often the case in games with faster time controls, there were a lot more mistakes than in games with classical time controls.

One player who definitely was not happy with her result was Daria Charokchina of Russia, the No. 43 seed. She failed to capitalize on a move order error in Game 1 of her tiebreaker against Huang Qian of China, No. 22, and went on to lose with White. That is almost a death sentence in a knockout event.

Charochkina, Daria vs. Huang Qian
Womens World Ch. | Tehran | Round 1.3 | 13 Feb 2017 | 0-1
9. Bxc4 Nbd7? This is not the best move order.
9... O-O And Black is fine.  )
10. Qc2? Missing the opportunity
10. Qb3! And White will win material.
10... Qe7 11. Bxf7+ Qxf7 12. Qxb4  )
10... g6 11. O-O
11. Qb3! Again, this was a stronger move.  )
11... O-O The position is balanced.
12. f3 Rc8 13. Kh1 c5 I have always thought that these positions are fine for Black. White will not be able to play e3-e4 and her bishops are not effective, while Black's pieces are very active.
14. Ba2 a6 15. Bd2 Qe7 16. Rae1 Qd6 17. Rd1 cxd4!? Black changes the balance of the game.
17... Qe7 There was nothing wrong with repeating the position as White has no good plan.  )
18. exd4
18. Qb3!? I doubt either player even considered this funky computer move.  )
18... Kg7 19. Rfe1 Qb6 20. d5? This type of move is always a sign things have gone wrong. The bishop on a2 is now blocked and essentially a piece of dead wood.
20. Bf4 This move would have been fine. Chances would have been roughly equal.  )
20... Rfe8 21. Qd3 Bd6 Black has a clear edge. Her pieces dominate the dark squares and White has many weaknesses, not to mention bishop on a2, which continues to have nothing to do.
22. Bc1 Qb4 23. g3 h5! I like this move.
23... Rxe1+ 24. Rxe1 h5 This sequence would have been a stronger option, but in a rapid game, where there is less time to think, I will spare Black from any criticism for not wanting to cede the e-file.  )
24. Kg2
24. Rxe8 Rxe8 25. Qc4 This was a better try, stopping h4, but Black would still have had an advantage.  )
24... h4 25. Bb1? The last mistake.
25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Qd4 This would have at least forced a trade of queens, though after:
26... Qxd4 27. Rxd4 hxg3 28. hxg3 Nh5 29. g4 Ng3 White's position would have been very uncomfortable.  )
25... Rh8! White will not survive the coming assault.
26. Ne2 Ne5 27. Qe3 Rce8 28. Nd4 hxg3 29. hxg3 Nxf3! A pretty tactic to finish off a nice game.
30. Qxf3 Rxe1 31. Nc2 Rxd1
31... Rh2+ This move was even nicer, but the move played by Black also wins.
32. Kxh2 Qh4+ 33. Kg2 Qh1+ 34. Kf2 Qf1#  )
32. Nxb4 Rxc1 33. Bd3 Ng4 White had seen enough.

Having to play for a win with Black and no time to prepare is really a crapshoot, and she got steamrolled in the second game after taking more risks than normal.

Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia, No. 5, who had played really poorly in regulation and was very lucky to even make it to the tiebreak against Khaled Mona of Egypt, had a much easier time against her opponent in the faster time controls. Her poor form did not continue and she won the tiebreak, 2-0.

Dzagnidze, Nana vs. Mona, Khaled
Womens World Ch. | Tehran | Round 1.4 | 13 Feb 2017 | 1-0
Bd6 Black has played the early middlegame in a suspicious manner, but if she can manage to play f5, she will not be that much worse. Dzagnidze had no intention of allowing this.
13. e4! Before Black can play f5, White takes control of the center. Now the Black knight on h5 looks ridiculous.
13... dxc4
13... dxe4 14. Nxe4 Bc7 15. Rad1 White has a huge advantage.  )
14. e5! White does not even bother yet with taking the pawn on c4. There is no reason to allow Black to gain some breathing room by allowing e5.
14. bxc4 e5 White would also have a clear edge, but the move played in the game was more straight forward.  )
14... fxe5 15. dxe5 Bc7
15... cxb3? 16. exd6 And White would win a piece  )
16. Qe4! Again, eschewing taking the pawn, at least for a moment. Black does not have time to take b3
16... g6
16... cxb3 17. g4! And the knight would be trapped.  )
17. Qxc4 This is a positional catastrophe for Black.
17... b5 18. Qe2 Bb7 19. Bh6 Ng7 20. Ne4 One look at the dark squares, the bishop on b7, and the knight on b8 is enough to know that Black cannot survive.
20... Nd7 21. Rac1 Nxe5 22. Nc5 Nxf3+ 23. Bxf3 Bc8 24. Bxc6 With equal material and a completely dominating position, Dzagnidze finishes off her opponent rather easily. If she can play like she did in this game, and not the way she did the first two days, she might be a strong contender for the title.
24... Ra7 25. Ne4 Bb6 26. Bg5 Qf7 27. Bf6 Nh5 28. Be5 Bd7 29. Rfd1 Bxc6 30. Rxc6 Bd8 31. Qg4 Nf6 32. Bxf6 Bxf6 33. Qxe6 Qxe6 34. Rxe6 Bg7 35. Rdd6 Rfa8 36. Kg2 a5 37. Rb6 b4 38. Nd6 Bd4 39. Rc6 Rd7 40. Nc4 a4 41. Rcd6 Rxd6 42. Rxd6 Bc3 43. Rd7 a3 44. Ne3 Re8 45. Kf3 Re5 46. Ke2 Rc5 47. Kd3 Rh5 48. h4 Re5 49. Nd5 Be1 50. Nf6+ Kf8 51. Nxh7+ Ke8 52. Nf6+ Kf8 53. Ne4 Ke8 54. Rd4

Harika Dronavalli of India, No. 4, was another higher rated player who turned things around in the tiebreakers. Dronavalli had drawn both her games in regulation against Akter Liza Shamima of Bangladesh. But in the tiebreaker, Dronavalli used her superior knowledge of openings with reverse colors to score an easy win with White, and that was enough to send her through to Round 2.

Dronavalli, Harika vs. Shamima, Akter Liza
Womens World Ch. | Tehran | Round 1.3 | 13 Feb 2017 | ECO: A06 | 1-0
1. Nf3
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 g5 7. Bg3 Ne4 8. Qc2 Bb7 9. e3 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 d6 11. Bd3 f5 12. d5 Nd7 13. Nd4 Ndc5 Black is fine in this position and has scored well in recent practice. In the game, Harika got the same position, but up a tempo.
14. Bxe4 fxe4 15. Nxe6 Nxe6 16. Qxe4  )
1... d5 2. e3 c5 3. b3 Nc6 4. Bb2 Bg4?! I don't like this move too much
4... Nf6 The bishop would be fine on c8 (and ultimately b7). For example:
5. Bb5 Bd7 6. c4 e6 And Black is fine.  )
5. Bb5! e6 6. h3 Bh5 7. Bxc6+! I like this move a lot. Dronavalli plays this move before Black has an opportunity to play Nge7 to avoid doubled pawns.
7... bxc6 8. d3 Nf6?! This move is asking for trouble.
8... f6 Would have probably been fine. The e5 square is under control and the bishop will not get trapped on g6. She could then continue Bd6 and Ne7, after which Black would not be worse.  )
9. Nbd2 Bd6 10. g4! Bg6 11. Ne5! Qc7 12. f4 d4 Now White has a fairly typical Nimzo set-up, but up a tempo. That makes all the difference.
13. Ndc4 Nd5 14. Qf3
14. Nxd6+ Qxd6 15. Nc4 Qc7 16. Qf3 This move was even stronger but Dronavalli's choice was also fine.  )
14... Bxe5 15. fxe5 Nxe3 16. Nxe3 Normally the queen would be on d1 in this position if it was a standard Nimzo.
16... Qxe5
16... dxe3 17. O-O-O Black probably cannot survive. She will get a pawn to e3, but it will be lose and she cannot hold on to the pawn on c5 either.  )
17. O-O-O Qxe3+ 18. Qxe3 dxe3 Black is up two pawns for the moment, but after:
19. Bxg7! Rg8 20. Bf6 White is only down one pawn and she will soon win the pawn on e3. Then the rest of the Black pawns will start to fall.
20... Rb8 21. Rde1 Rb4 22. Rxe3 Rf4 23. Be5 Rf2 24. Rg1! Safety first. White prepares Bg3 to expel the invading rook.
24... Kd7 25. Bg3 Rf6 26. Re5 Now White wins another pawn.
26... c4 27. bxc4 Ra8 28. Kd2 h5 29. Ke3 hxg4 30. hxg4 Bh7 31. Rh5 Bg8 32. Rb1 Rg6 33. Kf3 a6 34. Rb7+ Ke8 35. Bd6 f5 36. g5 Rc8 37. c5 e5 38. Re7+ Kd8 39. Rxe5 Bxa2 40. c4 Rg8 41. Rh7 Bb3 42. Ree7 Bd1+ 43. Kf4 Ra8 44. Rd7+ Kc8 45. Rc7+ Kd8 46. Rhd7+ Ke8 47. Be5 a5 48. Re7+ Kd8 49. Bf6

The second begins Tuesday. Based on how the players have performed so far, I think that Rout Padmini of India, No. 40, has a great chance to upset Zhao Xue of China, No. 8, and advance to Round 3.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.