EWICC: Gunina beats Muzychuk to take the lead

by Marco Baldauf
4/16/2018 – Valentina Gunina took the sole lead after seven rounds in Vysoke Tatry, Slovakia. Against the top favourite, Mariya Muzychuk, she managed a very convincing victory on Saturday. Six players are now a half point behind with 5½ / 7. Sunday was a rest day. Play resumes Monday at 15:00 CEST (9:00 AM EDT) | Photo: Official site

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A second sole leader

Valentina Gunina entered the tournament at the exact same rating as Nana Dzagnidze — 2507, tied for places 3-4 in the starting rank. After four rounds, Dzagnidze led the tournament with the only perfect score. Gunina, after giving up an early draw in round two, won three straight, and in the past two rounds she has faced two former world champions: Anna Ushenina and Mariya Muzychuk. Gunina walked a tightrope after an exchange sacrifice against Ushenina, who did not find a way to make progress and acquiesced to a draw on move 30.

Top results of round seven

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Gunina Valentina 5 1 - 0 5 Muzychuk Mariya
Danielian Elina 5 ½ - ½ 5 Dzagnidze Nana
Goryachkina Aleksandra  ½ - ½ 5 Ushenina Anna
Stefanova Antoaneta 1 - 0 Badelka Olga
Ziaziulkina Nastassia ½ - ½ Paehtz Elisabeth
Osmak Iulija 0 - 1 Bulmaga Irina
Kulon Klaudia 1 - 0 Nechaeva Marina
Batsiashvili Nino 4 0 - 1 4 Mammadzada Gunay 
Sebag Marie 4 ½ - ½ 4 Shuvalova Polina
Schleining Zoya 4 1 - 0 4 Khotenashvili Bela

The key game of the round, with Gunina facing the top-seeded Muzychuk, turned out to be a one-sided affair.


Mariya Muzychuk

A bitter setback in the title race for top favorite Mariya Muzychuk | Photo: Official site

Gunina leads the table with six points after this win. On her heels are six players, including Antoneta Stefanova. The Bulgarian is also able to call herself a world champion — she held the title from 2004 to 2006. In Vysoke Tatry, as usual, she shows her refreshingly unconventional style and scores well. In round six she won against the German player Sarah Hoolt, in the next round she defeated the strong Belarusian youngster Olga Badelka.



Antoneta Stefanova | Photo: Official site

Besides Stefanova there's a relatively large group of Gunina's pursuers with 5½ points. Among them is Irina Bulmaga, who got a huge break from her opponent on move 41. 


The players have just gained an extra 30 minutes on the clock, and despite black's extra pawn, in a queen ending there is no clear way to win after 41.Kh1. But White spent just a minute to play 41.Kg1? allowing the transition to a losing king and pawn endgame. 41...Qe3+ 42.Kf1 (42.Kh1 Qc1 43.Kh2 Qf4+ is no better) Qf4+ and Black's kingside majority decides.

The last player to reach 5½ with a seventh-round win is the biggest surprise: Klaudia Kulon, at 2319 Elo, has won four in a row. She too was able to capitalize on a big oversight from Marina Nechaeva, this time in the middlegame.


Play the winning move on the live diagram

Nechaeva played 37...Qd7 with equality but missed a golden opportunity to gain a winning advantage. Can you spot it?

Marina Nechaeva

Marina Nechaeva in 2016 | Photo: Andreas Kontokanis CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr

37.Ndf4! would have won. The pin on the long diagonal is crushing. After the forced 38.Bxe6 Nxe6 white has no way to stop a powerful ...f4 advance from coming in short order, and White cannot survive for long without suffering material losses.

Instead, Kulon grabbed the initiative with 38.h4 f4 39.Qf3 Ndc7 40.Bb4


This time the last move of the first time control was black's undoing. 40...Rd8 was mandatory, aiming to exchange queens. After 40...Rf5? the game is beyond saving.

41.Qe4! Rf7 42.h5 Kh8 43.Rd2 and White is in full control with her queen invading to g6 next. Kulon won without much difficulty.

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Standings after seven rounds (top 20)


All games rounds 1-7


Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson


Marco Baldauf, born 1990, has been playing since he was eight. In 2000 and 2002 he became German Junior Champion, in 2014 he became International Master. He plays for SF Berlin in the Bundesliga.


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