Top seed Indian Grandmaster Koneru Humpy's winning streak in the World Women's Chess Championship ended as she went down to Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine in the first game of the quarterfinals here on Friday.
After winning six games in a row, Humpy committed a blunder from a seemingly harmless position to lose the game. The Indian now faces tremendous pressure in the return game in a must win situation.
If Humpy is able to win the second game, games of shorter duration will be played to determine the winner.
Grandmaster D Harika played out a quick draw with black pieces to keep herself in contention for a berth in the semifinals. Up against Meri Arabidze of Georgia, Harika decided not to exert herself while her opponent thought for some time before agreeing to the proposal.
The Russian challenge suffered a near-decisive setback when Natalija Pogonina lost the first game as white against Zhao Xue of China. Pogonina now faces a tough task of a win with black to stay in the contest.
The other game was drawn as Swede Pia Cramling played solidly with white pieces to hold second seed Anna Muzychuk to a draw.
Humpy faced the Scotch opening as black. Mariya played the opening fast showing some fine preparation but Humpy played the first part skilfully to give little away even though it was clear that the Ukrainian was better prepared.
A couple of pieces changed hands and it was an almost symmetrical pawn structure on board with the position hanging in balance. Humpy rightly decided to press for more and went for exposing some weaknesses on the queen side.
However, sadly for the Indian, the clock ticked away and Humpy faced time pressure.
Still, all would have been fine but for a forgettable blunder on the 25th move.
Mariya had put her Knight on the fifth rank and Humpy erred by trying to immediately remove it from its outpost. What followed was instant disaster for the Indian as tactics flew out of position in quick time.
Humpy faced irresistible threats and had to resign four moves later.
Harika employed the Queen's gambit declined and apparently studied the games and style of Arabidze carefully.
The Georgian has been following a plan and hoping to have a crack over her opponents in the tiebreak games. Harika decided to offer a draw amidst complexities arising out the opening and Arabidze shook hands. In the second game now, Harika plays with white and will definitely have a go against the lowest ranked player in the quarterfinals.
Results Quarterfinals Game 1: Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr) beat Koneru Humpy (Ind); Meri Arabidze (Geo) drew with D Harika (Ind); Natalija Pogonina (Rus) lost to Zhao Xue (Chn); Pia Cramling (Swe) drew with Anna Muzychuk (Ukr)