The last Russian participant of the World Championship defeated Pia Cramling on tie-break and will now play in the final match for the chess crown. We met Natalia shortly after her dramatic victory in the second rapid game.
– Natalia, congratulations with advancing to the final match! Could you tell us please how you managed to defeat Pia?
– I did not expect the move order that happened in the first game, and after 9.e4 was playing on my own. I knew the general ideas, but not the concrete lines.
My trainer told me later that she could sacrifice a pawn with a big advantage. I saw that sacrifice, but thought, well, I will consolidate and defend somehow, and a pawn is a pawn... But she didn't go for it, and then there was the move repetition and a draw.
As for the second game... I did not expect 8...Bb4 at all. She also combined it with short castling, and we arrived at a Hedgehog-type position. I am not sure whether such positions are easier to handle with White or Black in a rapid game. In any case, I rarely play them, so Pia surely has more experience in this structure than me.
But she got short on time, her position started to come apart (possibly due to time trouble mistakes), and I got very close to a victory. And then... I hallucinated about something, did not calculate two moves ahead, and instead of having an extra queen got an endgame with the opposite-colored bishops and an extra pawn.
– How did you adapt to basically starting the game over?
– Well, at least I had a pawn... Of course having the h-pawn with the light-squared bishop made it more difficult. Still, defending without any thinking time except those ten seconds per move is very hard in a practical game. And I had won such positions even in classical games... Of course, objectively it was a draw.
I just needed to keep fighting and look for my chance. If she defends – no big deal, I was prepared to play the 10-minute games if necessary. I did not let myself to regret about missing a win.
– You are in the World Championship final right now. What are you feeling?
– No feelings yet. I keep thinking about the last game, all the previous games, and I also think that tomorrow is a day off. It is very hard to play in such a rhythm, with three comebacks and three tie-breaks in a row. One needs to have very good nerves to endure it. I think everyone who works here also needs some rest.
– Will you treat yourself during the day off? Shopping, perhaps?
– I haven't been to the mountains yet, so this is my plan for tomorrow. I look forward to the new sights, it must be exciting.
– You are here for 20 days already. What do your family members think about your absence?
– They are all rooting for me, only my 5-year-old son always asks: mammy, when will your tournament end?
– Well, now you at least know exactly what to tell him! By the way, did you buy the return ticket before the championship?
– Actually, it is very convenient now, as my son is with my mother in Stavropol, which is like 8 hours on a train from here. And there are never any problems with train tickets, so I did not care about buying the return ticket...