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Sunday, 08 Dec 2019 22:12
Monaco: Goryachkina and Dronavalli join Koneru in the lead

Five decisive results in the sixth round of the Women’s Grand Prix in Monaco. Significant changes occur in the standings, as three players lead before the free day.

The last round before the free day proved extremely lively at the Yacht Club de Monaco. It feels as if all participants decided to throw all their remaining energy into the battle before a well-deserved rest.

Humpy Koneru drew her fourth consecutive game on Sunday. She had to defend a slightly inferior position with the black pieces against one of her direct competitor, Alexandra Kosteniuk. The former World Champion reached a good version of the typical isolated pawn structure, where Koneru was deprived of the usual counter-play. Yet, the Indian managed to keep everything under control and hold the draw.

This result proved beneficial to two other participants. Aleksandra Goryachkina showed once again what a tough opponent she is. Playing with the black pieces against Pia Cramling, the most experienced player in the event, she once again displayed an excellent technique. The Russian reached a position with a pawn majority on the queenside and skilfully steered to a favorable exchange of the queens. Alexandra methodically increased her advantage and secured a full point.

Nothing indicated that a symmetrical position in the encounter between Harika Dronavalli and Mariya Muzychuk would lead to a fascinating game. The Indian found a very active plan in the center and achieved a greater activity for her pieces. She later managed to weaken Muzychuk’s King and launched a winning attack. But there is nothing more complicated in chess than winning a winning position, they say. Dronavalli played inaccurately and let her opponent wriggle out and escape into a drawish rook ending. But then it came Muzychuk's turn to err - Mariya misplayed the endgame and lost.

Thus, both Goryachkina and Dronavalli caught up with Koneru in the lead. Nana Dzagnidze could have joined them in case of a win but it did not pan out. She did get a space advantage from her opening against Kateryna Lagno, but in this version of the King’s Indian Black actually has a sufficient counter-play. After the Russian pushed her a-pawn to destroy White's pawn structure on the queenside, Dzagnidze panicked and collapsed.

The encounter between both out-of-form Elisabeth Paehtz and Valentina Gunina was actually turned a one-sided affair. The German showed very good preparation in the Caro-Kann, sacrificing a pawn for a strong pressure. In a practical game, defending such difficult positions is almost impossible. Gunina failed to find the most resilient moves and suffered one more defeat.

In the last game to finish, Anna Muzychuk outplayed Zhao Xue on the black side of the Grunfeld Defense. She found an ingenious way to transpose into a favorable position with rook vs knight and bishop. The finale featured some nice artistic patterns, which Muzychuk skilfully combined to score a full point.

All players and officials are invited to a gala dinner at the Monaco Casino on Monday evening. Before that, some will simply relax, others will join an excursion offered by the local organizers, while some others will visit Nice. Finally, the Muzychuk sisters and Elisabeth Paehtz will cross swords on the ice skating ring - the German claims that she will win the race comfortably.

Results of Round 6:
Nana Dzagnidze (Geo) – Kateryna Lagno (Rus): 0-1
Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus) – Humpy Koneru (Ind): ½ - ½
Zhao Xue (China) – Anna Muzychuk (Ukr): 0-1
Harika Dronavalli (Ind) – Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr): 1-0
Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger) – Valentina Gunina (Rus): 1-0
Pia Cramling (Swe) – Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus): 0-1

Standings after Round 6:
1-3. Harika Dronavalli, Aleksandra Goryachkina and Humpy Koneru – 4 points
4-5. Anna Muzychuk and Alexandra Kosteniuk – 3,5
6-8. Kateryna Lagno, Nana Dzagnidze and Pia Cramling – 3
10. Zhao Xue and Mariya Muzychuk – 2,5
11. Elisabeth Paehtz – 2
12. Valentina Gunina – 1

9 December: free day

Round 7, 10 December at 3 pm:
Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus) – 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)

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 in FIDE Flickr

Text: Yannick Pelletier
Pictures: Karol Bartnik