Quiet day at the Women’s Grand Prix de Monaco, as four games end in a draw. Five players are on Humpy Koneru's heels.
The fifth round of the Women’s FIDE Grand Prix was launched by Inna Bazhenova who played the first symbolic move at the board of tournament leader Humpy Koneru. The Russian publisher of The Art Newspaper, co-sponsor of the tournament and of the Monte Carlo Chess Club, is passionate about chess. Her two sons Egor and Boris are members of the youth team of the Club and also faced Garry Kasparov in the simultaneous exhibition last weekend. Another young guest attended the start of the round. Twelve-year-old Fiorina Berezovsky represented the Monaco national team at the last two Olympiads and was one of the youngest players to ever win a game at an Olympiad at the age of 9. In 2017, Fiorina held a talk about chess at TEDx Monte Carlo. In short, a brilliant young lady!
The games of the Grand Prix were slightly less tense on Saturday than on previous days, but spectators still had their share of excitement. Aleksandra Goryachkina got an edge from the opening against Elisabeth Paehtz and was methodically increasing it throughout the game. The Russian reached a winning rook endgame, yet, finding the right path was far from trivial. The World Championship challenger was on the winning course but failed to avoid the last not that difficult pitfall and had to content herself with a draw. A victory would have allowed Alexandra to catch up with the leader Humpy Koneru, who made a draw with Kateryna Lagno. This game followed a well-known variation of the Grunfeld, where Black gets sufficient compensation for a sacrificed pawn. The Indian showed nothing new and agreed to a repetition early on.
Anna Muzychuk had Alexandra Kosteniuk on the ropes when the Russian played inaccurately after the opening. Muzychuk’s decision to sacrifice the exchange proved unwise, as this allowed her opponent to stay in the game. After the exchange of Queens, it became clear that only Kosteniuk could press for a win. White had to play precisely in order to hold the knight vs rook endgame, but Anna made several mistakes and lost.
Valentina Gunina started the game with aggressive intentions, as evidenced by her choice of 7.g4. Harika Dronavalli reacted solidly and both players soon simplified on the queenside to reach an equal position. The game seemed to be heading toward a draw but the Russian spurned a move repetition and played for more. Gunina’s decision was hardly justified, inasmuch she has been clearly out of form in this event, and the position did not offer much. She blundered immediately after with 31.Bf7 and lost her rook. A sad and painful outcome for Valentina.
The game between Mariya Muzychuk and Zhao Xue was a very complicated battle. The Chinese played in very inspired fashion after the opening and obtained a promising position, where the white king was exposed. Muzychuk cleverly exploited her opponent’s time pressure and went for complications. With more time on the clock, Zhao Xue may have found the few precise moves to clinch the victory, but in the actual game, she failed to do so. In the end, the Ukrainian escaped with a draw.
Pia Cramling did not challenge Nana Dzagnidze’s Vienna Variation and chose a risk-free line. White’s extra pawn proved worthless with opposite-colored Bishops on the board, and both opponents agreed to a draw on move 32.
More and more players gather behind the sole leader Humpy Koneru. In the 6th round on Sunday, the Indian will have the black pieces against one of her pursuers, Alexandra Kosteniuk.
Results of Round 5:
Pia Cramling (Swe) – Nana Dzagnidze (Geo): ½ - ½
Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) – Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus): 0-1
Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr) – Zhao Xue (China): ½ - ½
Valentina Gunina (Rus) – Harika Dronavalli (Ind): 0-1
Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus) – Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger): ½ - ½
Humpy Koneru (Ind) – Kateryna Lagno (Rus): ½ - ½
Standings after Round 5:
1. Humpy Koneru – 3½ points
2-6. Nana Dzagnidze, Harika Dronavalli, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Alexandra Kosteniuk, and Pia Cramling – 3
7-9. Zhao Xue, Mariya Muzychuk and Anna Muzychuk – 2½
10. Kateryna Lagno – 2
11-12. Valentina Gunina and Elisabeth Paehtz – 1
Round 6, 8 December at 3 pm:
Nana Dzagnidze (Geo) – Kateryna Lagno (Rus)
Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus) – Humpy Koneru (Ind)
Zhao Xue (China) – Anna Muzychuk (Ukr)
Harika Dronavalli (Ind) – Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr)
Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger) – Valentina Gunina (Rus)
Pia Cramling (Swe) – Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus)
Official website with live games and commentary by WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili, GM Josif Dorfman and GM Bartlomiej Heberla: https://wgp2019.fide.com
Pictures are available on our official Flickr channel.
Text: Yannick Pelletier
Pictures: Karol Bartnik