News / New Delhi

Four-way tie at Cyprus WGP

IM Michael Rahal (Nicosia, Cyprus)
Photo: Mark Livshitz
May 21st, 2023

After six rounds, and going into the rest day, there is a four-way tie for the lead at the Cyprus Women’s Grand Prix. Tan Zhongyi, Lagno, Harika, and Wagner are all on 4/6 and also undefeated with two wins and four draws.

Tomorrow will be a free rest day and the tournament will resume on Tuesday at 3 pm. The players will enjoy a much-needed rest day, to relax at the swimming pool or hop on to one of the several trips that the organizers have arranged to the beach or the mountains.

GM Goryachkina, Aleksandra vs IM Shuvalova, Polina (0’5-0’5)

Playing for the same country, it stands to reason that Goryachkina and Shuvalova would have faced each other quite a few times. Although both of them are from the same generation – Shuvalova is 22 years old, Goryachkina is 24 – they weren’t in the same age group.

Therefore, they didn’t meet at the U-18 national categories. Goryachkina has generally prevailed in their classical games, whereas Shuvalova has defeated her in blitz and rapid.

Polina Shuvalova is a fast and confident player. This also has some drawbacks, but it also can help you win a lot of games, putting time pressure on your opponent. This afternoon unbelievingly finished with more time on her clock than at the start of the game.

After signing the draw, she was kind enough to speak to us for a few minutes. “This line is more or less drawish and part of my preparation up to 22.Re7” Shuvalova said after the game. ”That is why I had more time on the clock than when I started”.

When asked about how she was able to change gears at night after a tough result and prepare for the next day, she pragmatically explained “It’s part of life. Of course, I was angry after the game, but I was more relaxed when I understood it wasn’t completely winning. If you go to bed and you are still thinking about the game, it means something has gone wrong for you. When you still have games in the tournament, you should just think about the next game”.

IM Assaubayeva, Bibisara vs GM Tan, Zhongyi (0’5-0’5)

Excluding rapid and blitz games, Assaubayeva and Tan Zhongyi had only faced each other once before, in the Astana leg of the 2022-2023 Women’s Grand Prix. In that game, a Queen’s Gambit Declined in which Assaubayeva played White, Tan Zhongyi emerged victorious.

Today’s game, a theoretical affair in the fashionable Four Knight’s English Opening, was equal from start to finish. The line has a 93% draw rate and both players were booked to the teeth with the engine’s first move analysis. No surprise that the game ended in a draw in exactly 30 moves.

GM Dzagnidze, Nana vs GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra (0-1)

These two Grand Masters have played each other no less than fifty-nine times, the first of them in the 2009 European Women’s Team Championship. In classical chess, nineteen very hard-fought games, the shortest of them 29 moves and the longest 87 moves, but most of them in the 40-60 move range!

Kosteniuk has dominated Dzagnidze by eight wins to two with eleven draws but in their most recent game – Munich WGP 2023 – the game ended in a draw.

In a Ragozin defence, Kosteniuk followed the 2017 game between Khademalsharieh and Serarols Mabras, sacrificing a pawn for the initiative. However, Dzagnidze smelled the danger and preferred to finish her development.

After some complications, Kosteniuk was able to seize the advantage on the queenside and, at the same time, put her opponent in serious time trouble.

“It’s always nice to win. I used to be very disappointed making draws but now I am happy to draw in complicated games” Kosteniuk explained after the game. Regarding her clear advantage in the scoreboard against Dzagnidze, Kosteniuk mentioned the psychology behind it: “If you are falling behind in the scoreboard, psychologically it’s harder to play because you always have those memories of losses and wins”.

GM Khotenashvili, Bella vs IM Mammadzada, Gunay (0,5-0,5)

Bella Khotenashvili and Gunay Mammadzada have played each other on four occasions in the past, although only one of those games has been disputed at a classical time control. In the 2018 European Individual Championship, Mammadzada defeated Khotenashvili playing the White side of a Ruy Lopez opening.

This afternoon, Mammadzada played a very principal line with Black, giving up the bishop pair to establish a rock-solid pawn formation on the light squares. GM’s Laznicka, Svetushkin, or Pourramezanali are a few of the better players who have used the system in the past.

“In the two games I lost I misplayed a drawish position. I hope I will convert these misplayed games in the future” Mammadzada said after the game in her interview.

However, it seemed that Khotenashvili had a better understanding of the middlegame nuances and, after the exchange of queens, gradually increased her advantage on the queenside. But everything changed on move twenty-two.
In this position, Khotenashvili initiated a sequence of mass exchanges beginning with 22.Bxd6 that ultimately could only lead her to equality. Instead, 22.e3 was the way to go, and Black still has to find a way of solving her king’s position to exchange the rook on the c-file: not an easy task at all. A draw was finally agreed on move 41 in a completely drawn opposite-coloured bishop endgame.

Asked about her plans for the free day, Mammadzada said that she still wasn’t sure. “I want to have a good rest first of all. I know Cyprus is known for its historical places so maybe I will check them out. We’ll see!”.

WGM Wagner, Dinara vs IM Kiolbasa, Oliwia (1-0)

Dinara and Oliwia played twice in the Under-12 European and World Championships, back in 2011, but since then strangely enough they had never coincided again in classical chess. Struggling in last position, Kiolbasa needed to score today, to go into the rest day with some extra confidence for the second part of the tournament.

Kiolbasa tried her luck again with the trending 7…Nc6 variation in the Catalan, which she already used unsuccessfully in a previous round against Goryachkina. She surprised Wagner with 12…Qe5 and the German spent more than half an hour to understand the new situation, eventually going for 13.Bxc6 instead of the more common 13.Qxc4.

On move twenty, Kiolbasa had already achieved full equality but with only 5 minutes left for twenty moves, things were not looking good for her. However, she defended a tricky endgame very accurately even being terribly low on time, until fate struck on move 51…Kf3? Losing on the spot – 51…Ra8 was still a draw according to the engine.
After 52.Bc5 (52.Bb8 was also winning) Black had to give up a piece to stop the a-pawn from promoting.

Although it was a grueling game, Wagner joined us for a brief chat: "Of course, I’m very happy to win my game but also very tired. I was pressing the whole game but it wasn’t easy to convert the position”.

GM Dronavalli, Harika vs GM Lagno, Kateryna (0,5-0,5)

Harika and Lagno first met in the World Under-12 Girls Championship in Spain, Oropesa de Mar – the unrated Harika won that important game.

Since then they have played fifty-six games together in all formats, with a slightly favourable score for Lagno by 16 to 14 wins and 26 draws. I actually witnessed their first game, working for the event in organizational tasks.

Today they battled it out in the Vienna variation of the Queen’s Gambit, a very fashionable line in recent times. White sacrifices a pawn for dangerous compensation. Harika went for the second most popular line – 9.Bg5 instead of 9.Ne5 – trying to catch Lagno off-guard.
Around move seventeen, with both players under forty-five minutes, the position was balanced: Lagno a pawn up and better structure but Harika still had the bishop pair and some initiative.

Intelligently, Lagno decided to return the pawn in order to exchange a couple of pieces and head towards a double-rook and queen ending, approximately equal according to the engines.

But after a couple of inaccuracies, Harika was forced to defend a single rook ending with three pawns against four on the same side of the board. Not an easy task against such a strong player as Lagno but a draw was finally agreed on move 85.

Standings after Round 6

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