France – Poland (3-1) (2½-1½)
France was one of the first teams to secure their qualification for the FIDE World Women’s Team Championship semifinals, with a double victory over the home team, Poland. The first match was one-way traffic: Klaudia Kulon won again in the fourth board, extending her successful run to a remarkable 4½/5, but all her teammates succumbed against “les bleus”, setting the score of the first clash at 3-1.
Despite the pressure of being forced to win, the Polish squad played better in the second round, which was much closer, but France always had the match under control.
This time, it was Klaudia who took even more risks than usual and lost her game and, with it, the match (2½-1½). Significantly reinforced with the incorporation of Mitra Hejazipour in the third/fourth board, France demonstrated once again to be a very competitive squad, on par with the big guns, despite the poor form of Natacha Benmesbah (1/4).
Georgia – China (2½-1½) (2-2)
Georgia-China was probably the closest match of the Quarter Finals. In the first round, Meri Arabidze ground her way with the black pieces to achieve a fine win over Kaiyu Ning, which was enough to give the victory to her team (2½-1½), as all the other three games ended in a draw.
In the second clash, China had excellent chances to hit back. While the games in the three lower boards seemed pretty equal, Yuxin Song managed to build an advantage with White against Bella Khotenashvili, and she was, in fact, very close to winning. However, Song let her advantage slip, and in the end, she could have even lost. The relief on the faces of the Georgians was blatantly obvious when Bella and Yuxin shook hands and signed the draw, promoting Georgia to the semifinals.
USA – Ukraine (2½-1½) (2½-1½)
The USA won both matches against Ukraine by the minimum margin on both occasions. The Ukrainians demonstrated their resilience and gave the Americans a run for their money, but the USA was the better team, and their victory was a fair result. Young prodigy Alice Lee drew both her games against Anna Ushenina on the first board, but the USA victory was cemented on the lower boards, where Tatev Abrahamyan and Atousa Pourkashiyan won both their games.
In the second clash, Anna Zatonskih blundered still in the opening (23…dxc4?) and lost on the spot against Nataliya Buksa, but this lone win for Ukrainians was not enough to change the fate of the qualifying.
Kazakhstan – Germany (2-2) (3-1)
The clash between Kazakhstan and Germany was probably the most exciting battle of the day. The first game between Paehtz and Assaubayeva was a relatively quiet draw in 25 moves. The exchange of blows happened on boards two and three, where Alua Nurmanova gave no chance to Josefine Heinemann, while Meruert Kamalidenova made a dubious pawn sacrifice that Dinara Wagner punished ruthlessly.
With a draw on the scoreboard, everything was at stake in the second match, where all four games reached a decisive outcome. Nurmanova won again against Heinemann, and so did Amina Kairbekova on the fourth board. However, the lucky Germans still hoped for one more miracle, as Elisabeth Paehtz got a clear advantage out of the opening against Bibisara Assaubayeva while Dinara Wagner was building an attack in her game.
However, the blunders caused by the time trouble struck again in the game between Paehtz and Assaubayeva, with the advantage changing sides with almost every move in the final stage of the game.
In the end, it was the Kazakhstani the one who made the second-to-last mistake, inflicting a painful defeat on Paehtz. Dinara won her game, but it did not change anything.
The semifinal matches will be Kazakhstan-France and USA-Georgia, where none of the four teams seems to be a favourite. As in previous days, the first of the Rapid matches is played at 15:00 local time and the second at 18:00.
Written by David Llada
Photos: Michal Walusza and David Llada
About the event
The 2023 FIDE World Women’s Team Championship takes place from 5-12 September in Bydgoszcz (Poland).
Twelve teams participate: Georgia, USA, China, India, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, FIDE Americas, France, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, and Egypt, each with four players (plus two reserves). They are divided into two pools of approximate strength. Four teams will be eliminated at the pool stage, with the best eight teams advancing to a double-round knockout stage.
The matches are decided by team points, with 2 points for the winning team and 1 each in case of a draw. Time control is 45 minutes for the whole game, with an increment of 10 seconds per move starting from move 1.