News / New Delhi

Lagno and Tan Zhongyi maintain the lead going into the 4th round

IM Michael Rahal (Nicosia, Cyprus)
Photo: Mark Livshitz
May 18th 2023

Appearances can be deceiving. Although the final score of the day featured only one decisive game – Shuvalova defeated Mammadzada in the longest game of the afternoon – the other five games were intensively fought. Even the first draw of the afternoon had some interesting nuances.

After three of the eleven scheduled rounds, Kateryna Lagno and Tan Zhongyi maintain the lead with 2.5/3 while no less than three players –Goryachkina, Harika and Shuvalova – are breathing down their necks.
The event was honoured by the surprise visit by Ms. Elżbieta Witek, Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland. Witek is Poland’s number two authority. Escorted by three or four security guards and administrative personnel, she performed the ceremonial move in the game between Kiolbasa and Khotenashvili.
“It’s a special opportunity to be able to, symbolically, take part in the competition of the top chess players in the world, and specially to be able to play the first move for Oliwia Kiolbasa, one of Poland’s most talented female player’s” Witek said appreciatively.

“Chess teaches us so many skills which both young players and outstanding women grandmasters can use to build relationships based on common respect, choosing the proper strategies and responsibilities for taking decisions. Such a prestigious sport as chess fits ideally into the development strategy of Cyprus and in the construction of further cooperation as we discussed here intensively during the past days”.

Witek added “I am very glad that in a couple of months we shall host the top chess female players in the city of Bydgoszcz, Poland” in reference to the World Team Championship.

GM Dzagnidze, Nana vs GM Dronavalli, Harika vs (0.5-0.5)

The first game of the afternoon to finish ended in a peaceful draw. In a reversed Colle-Zukertort Attack, which by the speed of their moves both players knew perfectly, Dronavalli played a well-known piece sacrifice that, once accepted, inevitably leads to a forced perpetual draw.
Funnily enough, the same draw pattern had been played in 2016 between two other very strong women masters, S.Foisor and N.Paikidze.

GM Lagno, Kateryna vs GM Tan, Zhongyi (0.5-0.5)

Soon after, another important game ended peacefully. Leading the field on +2, the winner of this match-up could easily forward her claim to be the overall winner of the event, even though it’s still early days.

Many Chinese players excel in the Petroff defence (also called the Russian Game) and Tan Zhongyi is not an exception. She knows the lines by heart and is capable of playing them at high speed.
In a well-known theoretical variation, Lagno repeated a relatively new move - 15.Bf4 instead of 15.Qc2 - but the symmetrical nature of the position was just too hard of a nut to crack. Although she was able to achieve an outpost for her rook on e5, the position was totally balanced and a draw was agreed on move thirty-five.

WGM Wagner, Dinara vs IM Assaubayeva, Bibisara (0.5-0.5)

For this important game, Assaubayeva once again opted for her beloved King’s Indian defence, in which she is an expert and has scored many excellent victories. Wagner likes to mix it up with White, and today she went for the Gligoric variation with Be2 and Be3, delaying kingside castling.

I did notice a 2015 game played by her husband GM Denis Wagner in the same line: maybe they have been cooking up some interesting ideas in this variation!

A typical KID middlegame was reached: White counted on an excellent knight on the e4 square and superior pawn structure, in exchange for many weaknesses on the dark squares.

In her postgame interview, Assaubayeva recognized that she was slightly worse but there were some options for counterplay. After some inaccuracies, Wagner forced the exchange of queen’s and the game petered out into a draw.

IM Kiolbasa, Oliwia vs GM Khotenashvili, Bella (0.5-0.5)

After two losses, Kiolbasa enjoyed the white pieces today. Opening with 1.e4, she went for a side-line in the Open variation of the Ruy Lopez – 6.Re1 instead of the more popular 6.d4. However, Khotenashvili came very well prepared.

She blitzed out all of her opening moves including the engine novelty 12…Ng5, exchanging off some minor pieces to try and force equality. Kiolbasa still kept an edge going into the middlegame – a safer king in an opposite-coloured bishop with major pieces position. But it was hard to prove an advantage.

In her postgame interview, Oliwia mentioned that maybe she was suffering a certain lack of experience and also that she over-estimated her chances in today’s game.

GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra vs GM Goryachkina, Aleksandra vs (0.5-0.5)

Goryachkina introduced a very interesting novelty on move seven in a topical Italian game with 7….a5. Although it’s the first engine move, to date 7…0-0 and specially 7…Ne7 were the main lines. Nonetheless, it didn’t change the nature of the position very much.

As far as I can tell the key moment of the game revolved around the exchanges initiated on move fifteen, which left Kosteniuk with weak doubled pawns on the e-file and, more importantly, a fabulous outpost on e5 for one of Goryachkina’s knights.
In exchange, Kosteniuk did have some pressure on the kingside – the f-file for her rooks and the f5 square for her knight. However, Goryachkina gradually pushed back Kosteniuk’s pieces and started to advance her own pawns on the queenside. Things were not looking good for White.

After the 40th move time control it became clear that only Black could win – finding the correct plan was the challenge.

Kosteniuk has always been known for her fighting spirit and resilience in difficult positions and, once again, she defended tenaciously, forcing her opponent to surrender her queen for two rooks. A draw was soon agreed in a balanced position.

IM Shuvalova, Polina vs IM Mammadzada, Gunay (1-0)

Although Mammadzada has occasionally played the Sicilian Kan, she generally goes for the Najdorf variation. Today she revisited the Kan and ended up out of the opening in a slightly passive Marozcy position.

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact mistake – probably 21…Be5, permitting some …b5 ideas, instead of 21…Bg5 – but gradually she was outplayed and her backward pawn on d6 was under heavy pressure. In addition, her time management was off – a situation that happens often in unfamiliar positions.
The constant pressure paid off – fearing that she would end up losing the d6-pawn free of charge, Mammadzada bailed out into a rook ending a pawn down: clearly worse but with drawing options. The engine actually prefers not capturing the pawn and instead keeping up the pressure.

Just when it looked as if the position would be a theoretical draw, and very low on time, Mammadzada blundered with 51…g5? and after the precise but only move 52.Rf8! she was suddenly lost, and Shuvalova won her second game in a row.

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