Grandmaster Koneru Humpy's crucial victory helped last-minute entrant Indian women's team settle for a 2-2 draw with Ukraine in the first round of the ongoing World Women Team Chess Championship in Mardin, Turkey.
Humpy paved the way for a split verdict with a tactical drubbing of Anna Ushenina on the top board while GM D Harika and Tania Sachdev played out draws on the second and third board with Mariya Muzychuk and Inna Gaponenko respectively.
On the fourth board, debutant Padmini Rout could not withstand the pressure and lost to Natalia Zhukova.
Russia, Georgia, China and Armenia emerged early leaders in the 10-team round-robin event, scoring victories in the first round.
For each team victory two match points are awarded and the Indians now stand joint fifth in the standings alongside Ukraine.
It turned out be a very tough day for the highly fancied teams. The Chinese decided to rest world women's champion Yifan Hou and the strategy almost backfired against hosts Turkey.
The Chinese women won 2.5-1.5 eventually, conceding 1.5 points on top two boards.
The Russians could also only muster a minimum victory against Vietnam. After draws on the top three boards, Gunina valentine came to the rescue of the team and defeated Hoang Thi Nhu.
Armenia and Georgia, however, were merciless as they scampered to identical 4-0 victories against South Africa and Greece respectively.
It was only after some withdrawals that the Indian team got a chance and it was around ten days before the commencement that the participation was confirmed.
Credit must go to the Indian Chess Federation for bringing back Humpy in the team.
The challenger in the last world championship, Humpy was merciless in crushing Ushenina from a queen pawn opening with white pieces. It was spectacular stuff as Humpy methodically brought all her pieces to launch an attack against black king and capped it with a brilliant queen sacrifice that drew curtains.
Harika got an easy Scotch opening with black and drew pretty quickly with Muzychuk while Sachdev did not get to a desirous position as white and had to split points with Gaponenko.
Sachdev went for the Saemisch variation in the Nimzo Indian defense and got an optical advantage out of the opening. However, the more experienced Gaponenko found an easy way to equalise and the players reached a drawn rook endgame.
Rout meanwhile met her nemesis in Zhukova from the black side of another queen pawn game. Zhukova got in to the act with some finely crafted manoeuvres and won in 46 moves.
Results round 1: India drew with Ukraine 2-2 (Koneru Humpy beat Anna Ushenina; Mariya Muzychuk drew with D Harika; Tania Sachdev drew with Inna Gaponenko; Natalia Zhukova beat Padmini Rout); Vietnam lost to Russia 1.5-2.5; Turkey lost to China 1.5-2.5; Armenia beat Greece 4-0; RSA lost to Georgia 0-4.