Gibraltar GP: Abdumalik wins with a round to spare

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/2/2021 – After an exciting ninth round and a quieter tenth day of action, 21-year-old Zhansaya Abdumalik secured first place at the Women’s Grand Prix in Gibraltar. The young star from Kazakhstan beat Valentina Gunina and signed a quick draw with Kateryna Lagno to get a 1½-point lead with only one round to go. | Pictured: Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar Jospeh Garcia makes the first move in Abdumalik v Lagno. | Photo: David Llada

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A short power outage

The very exciting ninth round on Monday was followed by a quieter one on Tuesday, in which the players went through a 20-minute power outage in the playing hall at around the early middlegame phase of the encounters. By then Zhansaya Abdumalik had already secured tournament victory, as she had quickly agreed to a draw with Kateryna Lagno.

It was natural that the players avoided risks in their tenth-round confrontation. Abdumalik could have only spoiled a remarkable performance with a loss and Lagno has been all along keeping her eye on the main prize granted by the Grand Prix series, i.e. a spot in the Candidates. Now, the one scenario in which the Russian would not get the qualification spot is if she loses in round 11 (against Mariya Muzychuk) while Nana Dzagnidze scores a full point (against Valentina Gunina).

Abdumalik’s impressive performance gave her the GM title, as she is now Kazakhstan’s first female player ever to become a grandmaster.

These results also favoured Humpy Koneru, who made it into the Candidates despite only having played in two Grand Prix events (the official participants get to play three out of the four tournaments in the series).

Gibraltar Women's Grand Prix 2021

Power outage — the players took in stride | Photo: David Llada

Abdumalik’s crucial win in round 9 lasted over six hours, as she first survived a completely losing position against Gunina and (much) later managed to convert her advantage in an endgame with rooks and opposite-coloured bishops — not without fatigue-related mistakes by both sides.

Gunina could have put an end to Abdumalik’s undefeated streak in Gibraltar had she found the right continuation on move 52.

 

White has her opponent in a bind. Black’s rook cannot leave the sixth rank, as it would allow Qf6-Qg7 mate; her queen is stuck defending an entrance through the back rank, creating potential ideas connected to Rxb7; and White is nevertheless a pawn to the good, so she would be better in case an endgame arises.

Gunina here had the winning 52.Rb5 or 52.Ra5. After the former, Black needs to stay still with a move like 52...Qc7, and after 53.Rxb3 White would have two passed pawns while keeping all the threats in the position. Instead, the Russian’s 52.Qd2 Ra4 53.Qg5, wasting two tempi, allowed Abdumalik to equalize.

 

Black grabbed the d4-pawn getting a dynamically balanced position. In an equal yet tricky endgame, Gunina faltered again, but Abdumalik needed to work long hours until finally getting a 133-move victory.

 

Zhansaya Abdumalik

GM-elect — Zhansaya Abdumalik | Photo: David Llada

Lagno had a much shorter day at the office on Monday, as her kingside attack against Irina Bulmaga from the white side of a Sicilian Rauzer was rather devastating.

 

32.Qf3 Qb6 33.Qxh5+ Kg8 34.Rd7 Rf8

 

Black resigned after 35.g6.

 

Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno | Photo: John Saunders


Standings after round 10

 

All games

 

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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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