European Women's Ch: Gaponenko catches Kashlinskaya in the lead

by Antonio Pereira
4/20/2019 – Two straight wins with Black allowed Ukrainian IM Inna Gaponenko to catch up with Alina Kashlinskaya in the lead of the European Women's Championship. Five players are half a point behind, including former women's world champion Anna Ushenina. The co-leaders are paired against each other in Saturday's ninth round. The long event is set to finish on Monday and it is still too early to make any sort of confident prediction. | Photo: Kasia Selbes Photography / eiwcc2019.tsf.org.tr

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Inna inches to the top

Ukrainian IM (and WGM) Inna Gaponenko is currently the fourth highest woman player in her country, behind the Muzychuk sisters and Anna Ushenina. The 42-year-old got second place at the last Ukrainian Championship, but had already won that event back in 2008. She also finished first at the 1994 World U-18 Girls Championship and more recently was part of the gold-winning Ukrainian team at the 2013 Women's European Team Chess Championship in Warsaw. And we could name many more highlights from her career...

After eight rounds in Antalya, Gaponenko and Alina Kashlinskaya are the co-leaders of the European Women's Championship on 6½ points. Kashlinskaya was alone on top after beating Pauline Guichard in round six, but then went on to quickly share the point with Marie Sebag and end up on the good side of a draw against Ushenina (the Ukrainian missed a chance to gain a pawn in the early middlegame). Meanwhile, Gaponenko won two in a row to catch up.

European Women's Championship 2019

All set on board one — a quick draw followed | Photo: eiwcc2019.tsf.org.tr

First, she took down Russian Anastasya Paramzina from the black side of a French Defence. Black was the one with all the trumps in the position after Paramzina misplayed the opening. Gaponenko's queen had penetrated her opponent's position when White simplified into an inferior middlegame:

 

Feel free to move the pieces on the diagram above

White found nothing better than 19.e4 leading to a sequence of exchanges that left her a pawn down without enough resources to stir up complications: 19...dxe4 20.xd4 xc5 21.xe4. Paramzina advanced her h-pawn, but Gaponenko calmly dealt with all possible threats and kept increasing her material edge until her rival finally gave up after 66 moves:

 

This is what happens when a French Defence goes right.

European Women's Championship 2019

Round seven in motion | Photo: eiwcc2019.tsf.org.tr

Elisabeth Paehtz, Lilit Mkrtchian

Elisabeth Paehtz and Lilit Mkrtchian shared the point | Photo: eiwcc2019.tsf.org.tr

In round eight, Inna was paired against Turkish number one Ekaterina Atalik, who came from winning two games in a row. Gaponenko played a line favoured by American grandmaster Maxim Dlugy, who had divergent results using this variation — nonetheless, it is a line that tends to lead to unbalanced struggles. Atalik apparently was not ready to face this particular setup and simply found herself a pawn down without much compensation after the opening:

 

White does have a solid structure and could potentially target the backward d6-pawn, but Black is still a pawn up in a queenless middlegame. For a while, it seemed like Gaponenko was having trouble finding the way to convert her advantage, but she kept her extra pawn all throughout and eventually managed to break through:

 

Black is threatening to keep advancing her e-pawn, so White decided to give up her queenside pawns with 90.g1 — after 90...xb2+ 91.g3 xa3 Atalik kept going four more moves before accepting the now unavoidable defeat. A long 95-mover that might have left Inna exhausted prior to the final three rounds, in a tournament that is quite long by itself.

Olga Badelka, Pia Cramling

Olga Badelka against Pia Cramling during round eight | Photo: eiwcc2019.tsf.org.tr

Five players stand a half point behind the leaders, including Polish WGM Jolanta Zawadzka, who comes from a streak of four straight wins. Jolanta made a name for herself by eliminating second seed Humpy Koneru from the last World Championship knock-out tournament. In Antalya, she took down rating favourite Aleksandra Goryachkina with the black pieces in round eight:

 

Notice that White has not castled and that the black knight has more potential than the white bishop in the positions that might arise. Black kept mounting up the pressure until she trapped her opponent's bishop using a strong pin:

 

Aleksandra resigned after 29...d3 30.g5 hxg5.

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Goryachkina fell victim to Zawadzka | Photo: eiwcc2019.tsf.org.tr

The five-player chasing pack has five nationalities represented, with Zawadzka joined by Georgian Bela Khotenashvili, French Marie Sebag, Ukrainian Anna Ushenina and Greek Stravoula Tsolakidou. Some well-known female players are on 5½, still with a chance to finish strongly to become the new European champion — some of them are Elisabeth Paehtz, Natalija Pogonina and Monika Socko.

Also on 5½ is 2140-rated Sila Caglar. The player from Turkey has defeated four 2300+ opponents so far, including six-time French champion Sophie Milliet.

Anna Ushenina

Anna Ushenina | Photo: eiwcc2019.tsf.org.tr

Standings after Round 8 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Kashlinskaya Alina 6,5 2412
2 Gaponenko Inna 6,5 2350
3 Khotenashvili Bela 6,0 2397
4 Sebag Marie 6,0 2378
5 Ushenina Anna 6,0 2355
6 Tsolakidou Stavroula 6,0 2343
7 Zawadzka Jolanta 6,0 2318
8 Danielian Elina 5,5 2415
9 Guichard Pauline 5,5 2391
10 Caglar Sila 5,5 2391
11 Paehtz Elisabeth 5,5 2378
12 Pogonina Natalija 5,5 2365
13 Atalik Ekaterina 5,5 2361
14 Salimova Nurgyul 5,5 2351
15 Bulmaga Irina 5,5 2311
16 Guseva Marina 5,5 2308
17 Socko Monika 5,5 2305
18 Bodnaruk Anastasia 5,5 2283
19 Brunello Marina 5,0 2412
20 Sandu Mihaela 5,0 2391
21 Badelka Olga 5,0 2370
22 Ovod Evgenija 5,0 2364
23 Mkrtchian Lilit 5,0 2361
24 Cramling Pia 5,0 2357
25 Mamedjarova Turkan 5,0 2355

Top results of Round 8

 

All available games

 

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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