The Ukrainian grandmaster tells about her spectacular game with Guo Qi.
– Natalia, congratulations with the fantastic victory! What happened in this game? We are all perplexed.
– Thank you. It seems I am not really responsible for this result – my opponent wanted to beat me a bit too much, and she found the way to lose.
I played a very solid line and wanted to equalize without much complications, but Gou Qi refused to give me a break and started to sacrifice everything. Being in her shoes, I would spend like 40 minutes on the exchange sacrifice, because her position was very comfortable anyway. However, she decided to go for it after just ten minutes of contemplation, which really scared me. She forced me to calculate a lot. In some lines she would win even without a rook… So, out of plain desperation I made a number of only moves (according to the people who followed my game with the computer). The scariest part of the game began after 27.Bh3. I recalled the smothered mate puzzles we solved with my 5-year-old daughter, and realized that I get mated in most variations…
– How much time did you have left?
– I was very short on time, had about ten minutes, and she had plenty – about 40 minutes… I used to tell my daughter: “Don’t worry about material, you can sacrifice everything, just give that mate!” And this is exactly what Gou Qi did – she started with an exchange sacrifice, then gave up a pawn, and then put her bishop under attack. First I thought I am okay after 27…Nd5, but then I found 28.Bxe6 Nxc7 29.dxc7, and Black is helpless despite having extra queen and rook! So I had to go for 27…Bb3. Frankly speaking I thought I am losing the game, because White has so many mating threats… She regained the material with some interest in the next three moves, and the little a-pawn was my only hope. I started pushing it forward, with just three minutes on the clock, and suddenly I was winning! Later I was told that objectively it was a draw, White could save the game with the most accurate play. How exactly? I don’t know.
I really didn’t want to play tie-break with her, because she plays really fast. She played very well at the World Rapid Championship in Batumi, so I was pessimistic about my chances. Although I would be more confident if I survived the rapid part – in the only blitz game we played I won as Black.
– Will you analyze this game tonight, or keep it until the end of the tournament?
– I think I’ll analyze it later because I am facing a very serious opponent in the next round – Humpy Koneru…
– Natalia, thank you and good luck!
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