News / New Delhi

Lagno and Tan Zhongyi lead with 2/2

IM Michael Rahal (Nicosia, Cyprus)
Photo: Mark Livshitz

May 17th 2023

Another intense fighting round in Nicosia in the fourth leg of the Cyprus Women’s Grand Prix. A testament to this fact is that only one of the games – the draw between Harika Dronavalli and Dinara Wagner – finished before the 40th move time control: of the other five, four ended in a decisive result.

After the first two rounds, two players lead the field on 100%: Kateryna Lagno and Tan Zhongyi. Both of them have displayed excellent form up to now and their victories have been clear and undisputed.

The second round also highlighted a certain level of recovery by Alexandra Goryachkina and Polina Shuvalova, while Oliwia Kiolbasa and Bibisara Assaubayeva will have to wait for the third round for their chance to score.

As five-times World Champion and current FIDE Deputy President Vishy Anand put it: “A thrilling day, so many interesting games. I hope that this tournament will live up the new expectations because probably people expect this everyday now, but certainly the players showed exceptional fighting spirit”. In his interview, Anand also gave his take on many issues, including the number of countries he has visited in his lifetime.

Evgeniy Tyapkin, Executive Director at Freedom Finance Europe and member of the Board of Directors, made the ceremonial first move today for Bibisara Assaubayeva.

IM Assaubayeva, Bibisara vs IM Shuvalova, Polina (0-1)

In her preparation for this game, Shuvalova brought a new idea in the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit: 7…Bg4 hitting the queen, and allowing White to grab a pawn with Qb3xb7. Assaubayeva thought for nearly ten minutes but preferred to finish her development instead of swimming into deep waters.

Around move twenty, the position started to become quite messy. Shuvalova advanced her kingside pawns, grabbing space and attacking possibilities, but at the same time potentially weakening her own king. A risky proposal but as they say “no pain, no gain”.

As she mentioned in her postgame interview: “I think that the tide turned in my favour when Assaubayeva played 32.d5 and I got the nice square for my bishop on e5”. Complications ensued, but Shuvalova prevailed, notching up her first win in the event.

IM Mammadzada, Gunay vs GM Lagno, Kateryna (0-1)

With both players on 100% after the first round, it was going to be interesting to see how Mammadzada would approach Lagno’s solid 1…e5 repertoire. In a standard Ruy Lopez, Lagno went for the Berlin defence. Mammadzada chose the solid 5.Re1 line, instead of the famous Berlin ending, aiming for a symmetrical structure with a slight edge.

The position remained fundamentally balanced going into the middlegame, although it was clear that Lagno had absolutely no problems at all. The key moment was move twenty-two. Slightly under pressure, Mammadzada advanced 22.f4 to protect her e5-pawn and was hit by a bolt out of the blue - the fabulous 22…g5! Instead, 22.Re1 should have kept the balance.

The ending was clearly better and Lagno demonstrated excellent technique. In her postgame interview, Lagno talked about the difficulties in winning a bishop ending with just an extra pawn.

GM Tan, Zhongyi vs IM Kiolbasa, Oliwia (1-0)

In an attempt to surprise her opponent, Kiolbasa prepared a relatively modern line in the Queen’s Gambit Semi-Tarrasch defence, which has been basically analysed at top-level to a draw. After a few minutes thought, and taking into account that her opponent hadn’t played this before, Tan Zhongyi opted for a side-line (6.Nxd4 instead of the main line 6.Qxd4), a slightly worse line according to the engine but fully playable.

Clearly taken aback, Kiolbasa went into the tank for more than twenty minutes. A game was on! Although the position was only slightly better for Tan Zhongyi, it seemed that Kiolbasa was not entirely familiar with the nuances and around move eighteen she was already down to her last twenty minutes, while Tan Zhongyi enjoyed more than an hour on the clock.

Black’s position gradually deteriorated, up to the point of losing a pawn, and Tan Zhongyi’s excellent endgame technique did the rest.

GM Khotenashvili, Bella vs GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra (0.5-0.5)

In a theoretical line of the Catalan Opening, both players blitzed out their first nine moves, following several top GM games. It’s hard to know what happened exactly but Kosteniuk deviated from known theory with 10…Nfd7 (instead of 10…Qc7), dropping a pawn a few moves later.

In any case, she did have some dynamic compensation and of course, her well-known fighting spirit, which has allowed her time and time again to come back from worse positions. She was able to recover the pawn, arriving at a slightly worse queen plus rook endgame.

Khotenashvili probably missed some chances to increase a clear advantage to a decisive one, but Kosteniuk tenaciously kept the game going until the extra pawn was clearly not enough to win and a draw was agreed.

GM Goryachkina, Aleksandra vs GM Dzagnidze, Nana (1-0)

In a queenless Catalan middlegame, Dzagnidze blundered with 16…Bb5 (the unlikely 16…Nc3 was the way to go for equality) and Goryachkina immediately found the strong sequence 17.Bxd5! followed by 18.Ne3, forcing an endgame in which her two minor pieces proved too strong for Dzagnidze’s rook plus advanced passed pawn.

The way Goryachkina converted her material advantage in this game is unique. Her knowledge of the subject is unparalleled and should be added to any textbook on this type of ending.

GM Dronavalli, Harika vs WGM Wagner, Dinara (0.5-0.5)

The first game to this afternoon. Dronavalli achieved a very small edge with White in a Reversed Grunfeld but nothing really tangible. Her bishop pair was outweighed by her opponent’s excellent development and central knight. After mass exchanges a draw was agreed just after move thirty.

About Freedom Finance Europe

Freedom Finance Europe, a subsidiary of Freedom Holding Corp., is a leading European stockbroker. The company's Freedom24 web and mobile app investment platform provides traders with direct access to 15 global stock exchanges, including NYSE, Nasdaq, LSE, Euronext and others. Freedom Finance Europe is licensed by Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) with the right to cater clients from EU and EEA countries. The company is rated "B/B" by S&P Global Ratings. Headquartered in Limassol, the company has tied agents and representative offices in Berlin, Madrid, Paris, Milan, Vienna, Warsaw, and Athens.

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