It was quite a peaceful game, as Black equalized comfortably in the opening. Indeed, Anna seemed surprised by her opponent’s opening choice as it was Lei’s first time playing 1…c5 (the Sicilian Defence) in this event. Understandably, to avoid possible surprises, Anna chose a sideline against 2…e6, which led to a balanced position.
Both players handled the opening very well, which gradually transposed into a rook and knight ending, in which Black seemed to have some pressure over White’s king, but it was never sufficient to claim an advantage. Lei said in the post-mortem interview that she thought the position was holdable for White despite her king being cut off on the first rank. A draw was logically agreed on move 46.
This first game of the semifinals looks like a probing action for both players. We shall expect a big fight with three classical games to go, starting with the second game on November 2, in which Lei will have the White pieces.