The third leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix unfolded from March 1 to 13 in Lausanne. The opening ceremony took place at the Olympic Museum in the presence of Lausanne Mayor Grégoire Junod, and the FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. This museum was the venue of the World Championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Viswanathan Anand in 1998.
The field underwent a last-minute change, since Zhao Xue had to be replaced by Zhansaya Abdumalik due to increasing travel restrictions from Asia. The other Chinese participant, the World Champion Ju Wenjun, was not affected by this situation, as she had been in the US since January. With her and Aleksandra Goryachkina, both world championship finalists would meet again after their recent match for the world crown.
The young Russian took a solid early lead in the event by winning her white games in rounds two and four against Alexandra Kosteniuk and Antoaneta Stefanova. Some players, at times, shared the temporary first place with her, but without the same consistency. Harika Dronavalli also reached 3 out of 4 but then lost against Alexandra Kosteniuk. The third Russian participant in Lausanne, Alina Kashlinskaya, had a strong first half. She beat Alexandra Kosteniuk and Marie Sebag to reach 4 out of 6 but later lost to Ju Wenjun due to a dramatic mistake that changed the course of the tournament.
Because of a loss with white in round 4 to Dronavalli, few imagined that Nana Dzagnidze would take part in the race for the tournament victory. Yet, this is exactly what she achieved thanks to her powerful play and fighting spirit. The Georgian had already beaten Zhansaya Abdumalik in the second round, but the turning point for her came in round 5 when she managed to extricate herself from a difficult position and win against Anna Muzychuk. After further victories over Marie Sebag and Ju Wenjun, she emerged as the leader with 6 out of 9. Aleksandra Goryachkina reacted immediately in the 10th round with a nice win against Ju Wenjun. The luck of pairings pitted both leaders against each other in the last round. Aware of her tie-break advantage, Nana Dzagnidze took no risk and secured the draw. The mother of two declared afterward that she was delighted with this victory, as it came totally unexpectedly. “I haven’t been very successful in the past few years and was already thinking of quitting chess and raising my children”.
Third place was surprisingly clinched by the youngest participant, the 20-year old Zhansaya Abdumalik, who scored 6.5 points. The Kazakhstani, the highest-ranked Junior player among women, beautifully recovered from her early loss and won a total of three games.
The reigning World Champion Ju Wenjun was totally out of form. She finished at 4.5 points with a single victory and three losses. Alexandra Kosteniuk, winner of the second Grand Prix leg in Monaco, was also out of shape and finished joined last. Having competed in all three events, the Russian will not be able to qualify for the Candidates through the Grand Prix Series. Indeed, the overall standings before the last leg show that Humpy Koneru clearly holds the best cards in her hands. Only a disaster in the final tournament could prevent her from going through. The second qualification spot will be hard-fought between Nana Dzagnidze, Kateryna Lagno, and Anna Muzychuk, while some other players keep theoretical chances to create an upset.
Side events also contributed to the social activity of the Grand Prix. Two rapid tournaments were staged on the weekend of March 7 and 8. Both took place in the House of International Sport, where FIDE has its office since May 2019. This “1st FIDE rapid open of the Olympic Capital”, as well as the rapid tournament for girls under 18 years old, were organized in partnership with the Swiss Chess Federation and helpers from different local chess clubs. The rapid open on March 7 was won by Russian GM Pavel Tregubov on tie-break, ahead of GM Vasquez-Schroeder from Chile and local FM Aurelio Colmenares, who all scored 6 points out of 7. The girls’ event was dominated by the French champion among university students Estée Aubert.
Several prestigious guests visited the event, such as Lausanne Mayor Grégoire Junod, Councillor of State Philippe Leuba or the General Director of Athletissima Jacky Delapierre. At the closing ceremony, FIDE Vice-President Lukasz Turlej thanked all sponsors and partners which contributed to the making and the success of this event. In particular Total, Kaspersky, Sila Lawyers, the Swiss Chess Federation and the Olympic City of Lausanne. He added that the live broadcast had attracted a record number of viewers for a women tournament.
The exposure of the Women’s Grand Prix was significant in the Swiss press as well. A recap with interviews appeared on primetime news of the national French-speaking RTS on March 12, something which had not happened since World Champion Magnus Carlsen played in Biel in 2018. The event was also presented live on national radio on the morning of the last round. Besides that, several main newspapers mandated journalists to write exclusive articles about the tournament. No doubt, FIDE has succeeded in promoting its first event in Lausanne, since they settled in the Olympic Capital in May 2019.
Final standings of the Lausanne Grand Prix:
1-2. Nana Dzagnidze (GEO) and Aleksandra Goryachkina (RUS) - 7 points
3. Zhansaya Abdumalik (KAZ) - 6½
4-5. Alina Kashlinskaya (RUS) et Anna Muzychuk (UKR) - 6
6-8. Harika Dronavalli (IND), Mariya Muzychuk (UKR) and Antoaneta Stefanova (BUL) - 5½
9-10. Pia Cramling (SWE) and Ju Wenjun (CHN) - 4½
11-12. Marie Sebag (FRA) and Alexandra Kosteniuk (RUS) - 4
Current standings of the Grand Prix Series 2019 - 2020 before the last event:
1. Aleksandra Goryachkina, Russia, 398 (3 tournaments)
2. Humpy Koneru, India, 293 (2)
3. Alexandra Kosteniuk, Russia, 193 (3)
4. Nana Dzagnidze, Georgia, 180 (2)
5. Kateryna Lagno, Russia, 180 (2)
6. Harika Dronavalli, India 180 (3)
7. Anna Muzychuk, Ukraine, 165 (2)
8. Ju Wenjun, China, 155 (2)
9. Alina Kashlinskaya, Russia, 130 (2)
10. Mariya Muzychuk, Ukraine, 120 (2)
11. Zhansaya Abdumalik, Kazakhstan, 110 (1)
12. Pia Cramling, Sweden, 105 (3)
13. Elisabeth Paehtz, Germany, 95 (2)
14. Valentina Gunina, Russia, 85 (2)
15. Antoaneta Stefanova, Bulgaria, 85 (2)
16. Marie Sebag, France, 40 (2)
17. Zhao Xue, China, 35 (1)
Pictures in high resolution are available for the press at FIDE official Flickr account. (https://flickr.com/photos/fide/albums/72157713185481337)
Text: Yannick Pelletier
Photos: David Llada