The two semifinals had to be decided on blitz tie-breaks. France and the USA will play for the silver medal.
Kazakhstan – France (1-3) (3-1) (blitz: 4-0)
In the first match, things went quite well for the French squad. At the expense of some minor concessions in the center, Daulyte-Cornette built a very dangerous attack with White, throwing her pieces towards Bibisara Assaubayeva’s King. Bibisara, who had not yet lost a game in this event, found herself under tremendous pressure. Deimante was a bit short of time towards the end, with only seconds on the clock, but her advantage was overwhelming, and she converted it without hesitation.
The second French victory came in the third board, also with the white pieces: the clash between Milliet and Nurmanova was quite a roller coaster, and in fact, Sophie was worse for most of the game. But at some point, the young Kazakhstani overlooked a simple tactical trick that allowed Milliet to capture the A pawn and turn the tables, setting the score in a 3-1 victory for France.
Nurmanova took her revenge in the second match, which followed a very different storyline. Alua completely outplayed her opponent with the white pieces in a very instructive attacking game. Short of time and against the ropes, Milliet had to resign. Earlier in the match, Mitra Hejazipour blundered a pawn in the opening, and Amina Kairbekova was merciless. With the remaining two games ending in a draw, the match was to be decided in the tie-break.
It was clear that the result and the emotions of the second rapid match affected the mood and confidence of the players as they entered the playing hall for the tie-break. Kazakhstan was on a roll, and the youngsters got a clean sweep in the blitz games. Reaching the final is no doubt a fair and well-deserved result for the Kazakhstani players, who completely dominated the pool stage, but a bitter end for a French team that was one of the revelations of the event.
Georgia – USA (2½-1½) (1½-2½) (blitz: 3½-½)
We could say that Georgia took control of the first match from early on, as Lela Javakhishvili delivered a brilliant blow to Pourkashiyan’s position. Curiously enough, Lela didn’t find the best continuation to follow up on her attack, and little by little, her advantage vanished, being this the only game to end in a draw. However, being aware that they were probably going to lose on the fourth board was something that weighed on the American players.
Tatev Abrahamyan went wrong in a drawish position and lost to Nino Batsiashvili. Anna Zatonskih defended a slightly inferior position against Meri Arabidze, falling behind on the clock. Arabidze was very smart and broke through with 66.e4 at the right time, provoking a mistake from Anna. The only victory for the Americans came on board one, where Alice Lee got yet another scalp, outplaying Bella Khotenashvili with White in a very fine game.
For the second game, the coach of the US team decided to bench Anna Zatonskih, who was replaced by Annie Wang. This proved to be the right call, as Annie scored the crucial victory for her team in a London system against Nino Batsiashvili. As all the other games ended in a draw, this victory allowed the USA to force a tie-break.
The blitz games were quite one-sided, with the Americans failing to show their A-game. Abrahamyan managed to neutralise Arabidze, reaching a quick draw. However, Atousa blundered a pawn against Javakhishvili, while Annie Wang blundered a whole piece and gifted the whole point to Batsiashvili. In the remaining game, on the first board, Alice Lee also fell for a simple tactical trick that left her one exchange down and resigned shortly after. The Georgians will have the chance tomorrow to increase even further their impressive track record of victories in women’s competitions.
The final fight for the medals will take place tomorrow, with the games beginning at 14:00 local time, one hour earlier than previous rounds.
Written by David Llada
Photos: Michal Walusza and Niki Riga