Tirana: Grandmaster Koneru Humpy's title prospects suffered a near decisive blow when she lost the seventh-round game against Yifan Hou of China in the World Women's Chess Championship.
Trailing 2-4 before this game, Humpy could not survive a persistent onslaught by the younger Chinese and went on to lose her third game in the 10-game match.
The Chinese now leads by a huge 5-2 margin and needs just a draw in the remaining three games to win the championship.
Humpy is now cornered and has no other way but to bounce back. The Indian will however need a huge revival in form and fortunes for this to happen.
It was a Ruy Lopez closed this time as Humpy was looking forward to some complexities having lost the previous game with white.
Yifan, however, showcased her skills in the particular set up with some exemplary display and even as Humpy equalised there were some problems to attend to on the king side for the Indian.
Yifan launched a king side attack with thematic manoeuvres and Humpy had to exchange a couple of minor pieces to neutralise that. However, as the pressure increased, Humpy lost a pawn and had little counter play in return.
Showing machine-like precision, Yifan exchanged the pieces at will to reach a rook and pawns endgame where her extra pawn ensured that she always stood better.
Humpy tried hard to salvage half a point but it was Yifan's day and the outcome of the game was a certainty after she picked up the second pawn on move 47. The game lasted 97 moves and it was also the longest game so far in the match.
Humpy's bad-form has been the main cause of terrible results in the match and the challenger herself confirmed this in the post match conference.
On whether it was a result of tiredness, Humpy replied, "I don't think it's tiredness, I am simply out of form."
"I think at one point it was ok for black. Probably I should not allow Qh6 (invasion). I underestimated the play that white has," Humpy said.
Replying to a question if she expected to win on Thursday, Yifan said she just tried to play normal chess.
"In the middle game it was unclear. I think her 'h5' move was not good and after that she should have brought her knight back. But of course when I exchanged the pieces for the rook endgame it is winning for me," the Chinese said.
In the remaining three games, Humpy has two white and one black and needs to win them all to stay in the Euros 2,00,000 match. If it happens, it will be the biggest come-from-behind victory in a women's world championship match.