Gibraltar GP: No punches pulled

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/26/2021 – Uncompromising chess has been the rule at the fourth leg of the Women’s Grand Prix series in Gibraltar. After four rounds, Zhansaya Abdumalik, Kateryna Lagno and Mariya Muzychuk (pictured) are sharing the lead on 3 points, while Elisabeth Paehtz is the only player a half point behind in fourth place. | Photo: FIDE

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Three leaders

It has been an exciting four days of chess in Gibraltar. A year off the boards and the much-wanted spots in the Candidates have made for uncompromising play by the twelve participants. There is plenty more to come in the 11-round tournament, which will potentially see a fierce fight to get the points needed to climb up the overall GP standings and obtain one of the two spots in the next Candidates.

Three players are currently sharing the lead on +2: Zhansaya Abdumalik, Kateryna Lagno and Mariya Muzychuk. In a hard-fought event, these are also the three only players who are still undefeated after four rounds. None of the current co-leaders have played each other directly yet, with Lagno and Muzychuk — also the top seeds in the event — paired up to play in the last round, next Wednesday.

Elisabeth Paehtz is the only player standing a half point behind the leading trio. The German International Master defeated Nana Dzagnidze in round 4, hurting the Georgian’s chances to qualify to the Candidates.

Elisabeth Paehtz

Elisabeth Paehtz | Photo: FIDE

In round 3, Lagno joined Abdumalik in the lead with a black win over Valentina Gunina out of a King’s Indian Defence. Lagno reacted well to Gunina’s pawn break on the queenside in the early middlegame.


18.b4 axb4 19.axb4 Ra3 and Black’s rook has unexpectedly turned into an active piece.  


Here White needed to acknowledge the dangers in the position by playing the safe 20.Bd4, while Gunina’s 20.e5 allowed 20...Na4 and after 21.Nxa4 Rxe3 22.Qd2 Ra3 White is already in deep trouble.


Instead of defending the knight, Gunina looked for complications with 23.dxe6, but after 23...Qd7 24.dxc7 Qxd2 25.Rxd2 Rxa4 Black was a piece up and White’s compensation does not seem to be enough to get a draw.

Gunina could have got more chances to fight for a half point with 26.Rfd1, while her 26.Bg4 made Lagno’s task more straightforward. Resignation came on move 45.


Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno | Photo: FIDE

Coincidentally, White pushing a pawn to b4 was also a crucial move in round-4’s game between Gunay Mammadzada and Mariya Muzychuk. The young Azerbaijani had a better position against her experienced opponent, until she faltered with 25.b4


There followed 25...axb4 26.Ra6 Qd4 27.Qxd4 exd4 28.Na2


And now came what White probably had missed when she played her 25th move — 28...f3+ and Mammadzada resigned, since 29.Bxf3 fails to 29...Bxb5 30.Rd6 Bxf1+

Note that in the first diagrammed position, after 25...axb4, White’s 26.Rxb4 would fail to a similar idea: 26...f3+ directly, and 27.Bxf3 in this case does not work due to 27...Rbf8


Despite this loss, Mammadzada, the youngest player in the field, has proven to be a tough opponent for her more experienced colleagues.


Gunay Mammadzada

Gunay Mammadzada | Photo: FIDE

Standings after round 4


All games



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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