News / New Delhi

Goryachkina wins – Lagno and Tan Zhongyi lead

IM Michael Rahal (Nicosia, Cyprus)
Photo: Mark Livshitz
May 19th, 2023

“Chess is hard, no one said it was going to be easy”. Wise words by Kosteniuk this afternoon, summing up in a sentence how difficult it is to play good chess, especially at the highest levels.

This afternoon was an array of missed opportunities, tenacious defence, a couple of blunders, and some excellent endgame technique.

With her win, the only victory of the fourth round, Aleksandra Goryachkina recovers some ground and joins the group that trails the leaders Tan Zhongyi and Lagno by just half a point. There are still seven rounds to go and it’s still anyone's game.

GM Khotenashvili, Bella vs GM Lagno, Kateryna (0,5-0,5)

The round had hardly started, with most of the games still under ten moves in, and my screen was already indicating a 30-move draw on one of the boards. After checking that it wasn’t a mistake, I rapidly went to search for the players.

According to my database, this was the eighth classical game between Khotenashvili and Lagno: three wins for Lagno, three draws, and just one win for Khotenashvili. Interestingly, the first game they played together was back in 2002, in the International Youth Games Under-14 category!

Khotenashvili happily explained what had happened. “I generally don’t like to play these long computer draws, but as Lagno repeated the same line I played in the second round against Kosteniuk, I deviated and sometimes these things happen” she explained in her brief postgame interview. “When you play such a strong tournament you need good preparation and a lot of energy. So, I’m trying to do my best. For now, I feel that I’m in good shape."

GM Tan, Zhongyi vs IM Shuvalova, Polina (0,5-0,5)

Clearly, the most equal game of the day, barring the quick theoretical draw. In a Neo-Grunfeld defence, Shuvalova equalised comfortably with great home preparation, following a 2018 game between GM’s Inarkiev and Ponkratov.
After twenty moves most of the pieces had been exchanged and a completely equal ending had been reached. Maybe it can be argued that Tan Zhongyi had a minor academic edge but it didn’t seem likely at all that she would be able to convert. A draw was agreed on move forty-three in an equal bishop endgame.

GM Dronavalli, Harika vs GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra (0,5-0,5)

Harika and Kosteniuk have a huge playing history. According to my database, more than ninety official games, although only twenty-four were classical. They are very closely matched: seven wins each and ten draws, the last of them three months ago at the Munich WGP.

In yet another rather obscure line in the Catalan opening, Kosteniuk improved on her second-round game against Khotenashvili and achieved quite a decent position going into the middlegame. Excellent piece play, pawn structure, and king safety for just a pawn, but still a very difficult position to handle.

“Neither of us had a clue on what was going on”, she said after the game in her first short interview of the event.

IM Assaubayeva, Bibisara vs IM Mammadzada, Gunay (0,5-0,5)

An interesting match-up between two young and upcoming stars. According to my database, this was the first classical game between them: in eight previous blitz and rapid games, Assaubayeva outscored Mammadzada by 5-3.

Heavily prepared theoretically for the game, Assaubayeva went for a pawn sacrifice in the Exchange Slav, giving her strong tactical compensation with superior development and attack. The move 15.Ke2, played almost instantly, is a key indicator that she was playing fast, confident, and “still in the book”.
Around move twenty-five, Assaubayeva had two times the amount of time than her opponent who, it has to be said, defended very tenaciously a difficult position.

Assaubayeva wasn’t able to cash in on the attack but did force a slightly favourable ending, even still being down a pawn. However, Mammadzada defended accurately and a draw was agreed on move forty-two, in an endgame with opposite-coloured bishops.

WGM Wagner, Dinara vs GM Dzagnidze, Nana (0,5-0,5)

A missed opportunity for Dinara Wagner, who is displaying a great level of play here in Nicosia, and excellent time management.

Dzagnidze tried, unsuccessfully, to surprise her opponent employing a rare side-line in the Queen’s Gambit – the so-called Dzindzi-Indian defence, named after GM Roman Dzindzichashvili.
But Wagner didn’t even blink. She proceeded to play fast and confident, isolating one of Dzagnidze’s centre pawns and then exchanging off the appropriate pieces to reach a favourable ending, with a clear extra pawn, and, uncharacteristically for her, much more time on the clock.

However, Dzagnidze defended very accurately and kept the disadvantage to a minimum. A draw was agreed on move sixty-five.

GM Goryachkina, Aleksandra vs IM Kiolbasa, Oliwia (1-0)

The last game to finish and the only one with a decisive result. Today was a tough outing for Kiolbasa. According to my database, they had never faced each other before in an official classical game and Goryachkina is a very strong opponent for the young Polish IM.

Kiolbasa came to the game extremely well-prepared. The first 18 moves of the game followed the 2020 Goryachkina vs Dubov game, which ended in a win for Dubov. Kiolbasa improved on Dubov’s play with 18…Rc4, hitting the d4-pawn, the first engine option (Dubov played the slightly inferior 18…Nb6).
Surprised but at the same time undecipherable, Goryachkina spent more than 20 minutes remembering her analysis, ultimately coming up with the correct sequence. Surprised herself, Kiolbasa blundered heavily with 21…Rxd1: instead 21…e5 and the game goes on with a dynamically balanced position.

Goryachkina could have decided the game with 23.Qxa5 but instead headed to a superior rook + knight vs rook + bishop ending, in which she ground her opponent down in great fashion.

In her post-game interview, Goryachkina herself didn’t quite understand why she hadn’t captured the pawn.

Standings after Round 4

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