Top rated Koneru Humpy started off with an easy victory in the women's world championship opener but second highest Indian D Harika was held to a draw by compatriot Kruttika Nadig in the first game of the opening round in Hatay, Turkey on Sunday.
The Women's world championship opened to expected results as most of the top ranked players cruised home to take a one point lead in the two-game mini-match. The exception was Pia Cramling of Sweden who was held to a draw by local favourite Yildiz Betul Cemre.
Being played on a knock out basis the Championship was originally slated to start with 64 players but on the first only 62 took their seats. Iweta Rajlich of Poland could not reach on time due to weather conditions while Arianne Caolli was the other player who did not reach.
As a result Jovanka Houska of England and Ju Wenjun of China got promoted to the second round as the former was set to meet Iweta and the latter had Arianne as her opponent.
The five-member Indian team had a mixed start overall as S Meenakshi found her nemesis in former women's world champion Maia Chiburdanidze of Georgia in this $4,50,000 prize money event wherein the first round loser gets $3,750.
The other Indian in the fray, Soumya Swaminathan was outdone by Monica Socko of Poland.
The best Indian hope and the highest rated player of the event Humpy is eyeing for the World Championship title yet again. In the last such championship held in Russia, the Indian was eliminated in the semis.
Playing black against Melissa, Humpy played energetically in a Closed Sicilian game and the complications in the middle game favoured her after Melissa went for the swap of black queen for two rooks.
Humpy judged the position well and had to calculate precisely in the middle game but once that was done, her passed pawn on the queen side was enough to ensure a full point through a simple but pleasing combination in the end involving sacrifice of one of the rooks. The game lasted 46 moves.
The pairings that were drawn some time back saw Harika and Kruttika meeting in the first round and it seems that the latter prepared hard for this tough contest. Harika is ranked close to 300 points higher than Kruttika but the shots were called by the lower ranked in this entertaining game.
The fianchetto Slav is known to be solid and it stood its reputation to guard Kruttika who played black. Harika tried to make a foray on the queen side but ended up losing a pawn instead and she was forced to go on the defensive from thereon.
Kruttika, to her credit, pushed for a victory but the nature of the position never really crossed the boundary of a draw which was finally agreed to after 56 moves.
Meenakshi was forced to look at the ouster door following a thrashing at the hands of Maia. The Indian did not do anything right in this one-sided affair that started with a Queen's Gmabit accepted.
Meenakshi went for a side variation but her ambitious play was soon punished as Maia got the open central files working for her. The Georgia never gave any chances thereafter and wrapped the issue in just 23 moves. In the return game Meenakshi needs a win desperately to stay afloat in the championship.
Monica Socko's experience helped her beat Soumya Swaminathan. The Polish player gradually built her assault from a French defence game as black.
In other top matches of the day defending champion Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia had it easy against beat Amina Mezioud of Algeria while Chinese hope Yifan Hao outplayed Carla Heredia Serrano of Ecuador.