Women’s Candidates R5: Missed chances lead to four draws

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/10/2024 – Tan Zhongyi remains as the sole leader at the Women’s Candidates after all four games ended drawn in Tuesday’s fifth round. None of the games lasted fewer than 44 moves, though, as a number of chances were missed in hard-fought struggles. Tan has a half-point lead over Aleksandra Goryachkina, while Vaishali R, Nurgyul Salimova and Kateryna Lagno (pictured) stand a half point further back. | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

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Lagno and Muzychuk fail to convert

Two of the most experienced participants in the Women’s Candidates have been struggling to take advantage of superior positions in the first five rounds of the event. Kateryna Lagno could have easily collected 2/2 points in rounds 4 and 5, but instead scored half points in both encounters. Anna Muzychuk, on her part, came from missing big chances in rounds 3 and 4, and she got an extra pawn in a position with a completely closed structure on Tuesday — like her colleague, she signed draws in all three games.

Both players still have chances to take the title, though, as the double round-robin in Toronto is more a marathon than a sprint, and no player has so far obtained a big advantage in the standings. The sole leader is Tan Zhongyi with 3½ points, who stands a half point ahead of Aleksandra Goryachkina. Sharing third place with 2½ points (a fifty-percent score) are Nugryul Salimov, Vaishali R and Lagno. Finally, Muzychuk belongs to the 3-player group standing in 5th-8th place with 2 points each.

With nine rounds to go, all eight participants have realistic chances of winning the event. The two players who have been struggling the most to get advantageous positions — Lei Tingjie and Humpy Koneru — are surely capable of making up for lost ground.

Results - Round 5

Anna Muzychuk

Anna Muzychuk | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Lei ½ - ½ Lagno

Out of an Italian Opening, Lei got a strategic edge in the early middlegame, but later underestimated Lagno’s chances on the kingside.

Black’s extra pawn on b4 is about to fall, but her pieces are surely more active than her opponent’s — particularly, the light-squared bishop on c1 is blocked by the pawn on e4.

Here came 30...Bxh3, when White cannot capture the piece with 31.gxh3 due to, for example, 31...Qxh3 32.Rc1 Ra3, and the queen, knight and rook are remarkable attacking pieces.

Lei did not take the bishop, but Lagno nonetheless continued to make progress, with the engines giving her around a 2-pawn advantage in the ensuing struggle. Black’s pawns on the b-file were eventually exchanged for a rather bothersome white passer on the d-file, transferring all the play to the kingside.

With both players in time trouble (Lei had 30 seconds to Lagno’s 2 minutes), the Chinese grandmaster played a tricky knight move that disoriented her opponent.

Creating complications while in an inferior position is a tried-and-tested strategy, which worked wonders for Lei in this game. After 39.Nf5, Black can keep her advantage with a number of continuations: e.g. 39...Bf3, 39...Bh3 or event 39...Bxe2.

However, after spending 27 of the 136 seconds she had on her clock, Lagno faltered with 39...Nxf5, as after 40.Qxe5 Qd2 41.Qc3, White had managed to neutralize the position successfully.

The game was agreed drawn after 41...Bxe2 42.Qxd2 Rxd2 43.exf5 Kg7 44.fxg6 ½-½

Lei Tingjie

A sneaky escape artist — Lei Tingjie | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Expert analysis by WIM Svitlana Demchenko

More photos from round 5

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Aleksandra Goryachkina held a draw with black against... | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Humpy Koneru

...Humpy Koneru | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Nurgyul Salimova

Also marshalling the black pieces, underdog Nurgyul Salimova split the point with... | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Tan Zhongyi

...sole leader Tan Zhongyi | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Standings after round 5

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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