Unfortunately, the female players were forced to wear hajib in order to play in Iran. PUKE. Some players sat out, saying no thanks to this woman-hating "custom."
But I'm rooting for Alexandra, a long-time friend of Goddesschess, whoop whoop! She chose to participate, as did many other highly ranked female chessplayers.
FIDE coverage link.
The Semifinal matches of the Women's World Chess Championship started in the Espinas Palace Hotel (Tehran) on February 23.
Four players continue competing for the chess crown: Tan Zhongyi (China) faces Harika Dronavalli (India), and Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia) meets Anna Muzychuk (Ukraine). These matches consist of two games with the following time control: 90 minutes for 40 moves, then 30 minutes for the rest of the game, plus 30 bonus seconds after each move. If the match is tied 1-1, it is continued on the tie-break with quicker time controls.
The game Tan Zhongyi-Harika Dronavalli was level until move 21, when Harika decided to change the pawn structure, after which Tan Zhongyi got a pleasant King side initiative. It seems Black had enough resources to defend the position but probably Indian player underestimated the danger. White managed to bring all his pieces to organize killing attack on the opponent's King.
Anna Muzychuk tried to surprise Alexandra Kosteniuk by choosing French Defence, the rare guest in her games, but it didn’t work out as former world champion was perfectly ready. Inaccurate 10... Qc7 let White to gain a long-term initiative out of the opening and after 19.Na6 Alexandra Kosteniuk got a position with a pawn up.
After the first time trouble it turned out that White’s win is debatable.
It was not possible to find a non-human line 43.Kg1!! fe 44.Qe5!! with victory and after "normal" 43.Nd4 the character of the game has changed as Black started to create threats against White’s King.
Nevertheless, it looked like Alexandra is not risking to lose this game at any moment but the tables were turned after 56.Ne5? Anna immediately responded with 56...Ng5 and White cannot defend against two threats Re5 with Nf3 and Nh3. A few moves later former World Champion had to resign. In a post-game interview Anna Muzychuk called her victory “a miracle”.
The second game of semifinal will be played at 3 p.m. local time on 24th of February. Alexandra Kosteniuk and Harika Dronavalli will obviously try to equalize the score.