Grandmaster Koneru Humpy got off to an easy victory over Hayat Toubal of Algeria, but D. Harika was forced to concede a half point against lower ranked Sopiko Khukashvili of Georgia in the first game of the first round of the World Women’s Chess Championship, here.

On what could be the last world championship in a knockout format for women, Padmini Rout did well to hold Kazakhstan star Zhansaya Abdumalik while Bhakti Kulkarni lost to Russian Natalija Pogonina.

The 64-players here come from 28 countries fighting it out for a total prize pool of $450,000 out of which $60,000 is reserved for the winner.

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There are two games in each round and in case of a deadlock, tiebreak games of shorter duration will be played to determine the winner.

Humpy almost made sure of an entry to the second round with her first victory. The Indian will now just need a draw in the next game to advance to the last 32.

Playing the white side of a queen pawn game, Humpy was always in command over Hayat who is way behind the Indian in terms of rankings. Hayat made some strides on the kingside in the middle game by pushing her pawns that prompted Humpy to walk her king over to the centre. As it turned out, Humpy’s strategy worked fine as her pieces invaded the black’s kingside. The game lasted 46 moves.

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Harika sprang an early opening surprise going for the king pawn against Sopiko and got a small advantage out of a Russian system as white. The middle game followed where the Georgian had to tread very carefully as Harika had things under control but subsequent exchanges led to a drawn minor pieces endgame.

Padmini Rout too could stake a claim for an advantage against higher ranked Zhansaya out of an English opening game. Interestingly, Padmini also followed in Harika’s footsteps in going for an opening surprise and it almost worked.

Zhansaya had to find some good defence as Padimi’s rook invaded the seventh rank and only a series of exchanges could release the tension. The peace was signed in 34 moves when the players had a queen and pawns endgame on board.

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Bhakti Kulkarni lost a pawn in the minor piece endgame against Pogonina, but still retained some drawing chances. However, allowing a second passed pawn proved to be the decisive error as Pogonina demonstrated. Bhakti now faces an uphill task to first equalize and then, reach the tiebreaker.

Indian results round 1, game 1: Koneru Humpy beat Hayat Toubal (Alg): D. Harika drew with Sopiko Khukashvili (Geo); Padmini Rout drew with Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kaz); Natalija Pogonina beat Bhakti Kulkarni.