Anatoly Karpov Rapid Int'l: Harik moves closer to semifinal spot

Dronavalli Harika had the advantage of playing with white but had to use all her defensive skills against France’s GM Marie Sebag to get away with a crucial half-point at the 14th Anatoly Karpov Rapid International Chess tournament.

Harika is on 6.5 points after her penultimate league game and shares the joint fourth place in the tournament with GM Romain Edouard.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

Grand Master (GM) Harika Dronavalli, the lone Indian in fray at the 14th Anatoly Karpov Rapid International Chess tournament, inched one step closer to the semifinals by extracting a hard-fought 87-move draw in a late game here on Thursday.

She had the advantage of playing with white but had to use all her defensive skills against France’s GM Marie Sebag to get away with a crucial half-point.

Harika is on 6.5 points after her penultimate league game and shares the joint fourth place in the tournament with GM Romain Edouard. She suddenly finds herself in a tough position, having to face Anatoly Karpov in her last match. She needs to beat the legendary player to make it to the knockout stage; a draw might also help but only if Edouard too draws his own game or loses it.

Edouard, who started the day on 5.5 points, upset Harika’s calculations by pulling off an unexpected victory over Karpov on Thursday. He (2628) takes on a much higher-ranked Etienne Bacrot (2692) in his last game for the final slot in the knockouts.

Harika seemed destined for a place in the last four after displacing Edouard from the fourth place by beating him on Wednesday. She even drew with Ukraine’s World No. 3 Anna Muzychuk to take her tally to 6 points.

The semifinals will be held on Friday and the final on Saturday. Harika is confident of her chances, even though she knows Karpov will be a tough opponent.

Harika had equipped herself well when she met Karpov earlier in the tournament. She played an attacking game and put herself in a strong position to win. But Karpov dug his heels in and managed to escape with a draw.