Grand Swiss: Lei Tingjie takes the lead in the women’s section

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/31/2021 – After kicking off the event with three straight wins, Alireza Firouzja drew a game for the first time at the FIDE Grand Swiss on Sunday. The youngster nonetheless kept the sole lead, as none of his closest chasers got to score a win — Evgeniy Najer almost managed, but failed to find a killer shot. Meanwhile, among the women, Chinese star Lei Tingjie beat Valentina Gunina to climb to sole first place. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

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Vachier-Lagrave wins, will face Firouzja

Grand Swiss Chess 2021Alireza Firouzja faced the experienced Yu Yangyi on top board in Saturday’s fourth round at the FIDE Grand Swiss. The youngster had the black pieces and signed his first draw of the event after 30 moves. Going into the fourth round, six players stood a half point back in the standings table, but none of them managed to a score a win — Evgeniy Najer got closest, as he missed a big chance to catch the leader in his game against Ivan Saric.

Not long after Firouzja agreed to a draw, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave joined the chasing pack by beating current European champion Anton Demchenko. When the round had finished, the pairings for round 5 showed that MVL would get to face the tournament’s leader with the black pieces on Sunday — which means the fourth seed (MVL) will play the third seed (Firouzja) in what might end up being a crucial encounter in the fight for first place.

Besides MVL, four other players who had 2/3 points obtained full points on Saturday: Aryan Tari (who beat Parham Maghsoodloo), Alexei Shirov (Arturs Neiksans), Manuel Petrosyan (David Anton) and Samuel Sevian (Praggnanandhaa).

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Yu Yangyi ½ - ½ 3 Firouzja Alireza
Nihal Sarin ½ - ½ Ponkratov Pavel
Najer Evgeniy ½ - ½ Saric Ivan
Aronian Levon 2 ½ - ½ Hovhannisyan Robert
Swiercz Dariusz 2 ½ - ½ 2 Caruana Fabiano
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2 1 - 0 2 Demchenko Anton
Dubov Daniil 2 ½ - ½ 2 Donchenko Alexander
Fedoseev Vladimir 2 ½ - ½ 2 Gukesh D
Maghsoodloo Parham 2 0 - 1 2 Tari Aryan
Artemiev Vladislav 2 ½ - ½ 2 Sasikiran Krishnan

...54 boards

Alexandra Goryachkina, Hans Niemann

Aleksandra Goryachkina was inches away from taking down Hans Niemann with a daring attack | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Out of a Ruy Lopez with 3...g6, Vachier-Lagrave entered a tense positional struggle against Demnchenko. The players followed theory until move 12, and quickly reached a critical position — White’s central pawns will either become a trump or a vulnerability.


The game continued 18.e6 fxe6 19.dxe6, when Black needs to figure out whether capturing the pawn with the knight is a good idea or not.


Demchenko had spent a considerable amount of time on moves 14-17, and apparently had foreseen this line. The Russian had decided to go for 19...Qc6 here, lining up his queen and bishop on the long diagonal while avoiding 19...Nxe6 20.Ne5 — in this variation, White uses the pin along the d-file to force Black to exchange his dark-squared bishop for the knight.

Unfortunately for Demchenko, he chose the wrong path, as giving up the bishop perhaps was not the most principled decision but was the way to go in this particular situation. In the game, on the other hand, MVL quickly grabbed the initiative with 20.Re4 Ned5 21.Nxd5 Nxd5 22.Rg4


After 22...Rxe6 23.Bb3 it is White who gets stronger threats along a light-squared diagonal, with Black’s monarch more vulnerable due to the weakened pawn structure. There was not much Demchenko could do to defend his position, as resignation came five moves later.

Arturs Neikmans, Alexei Shirov

Arturs Neiksans was defeated by fan favourite Alexei Shirov | Photo: Anna Shtourman

On board 17, Shirov defeated Latvian grandmaster Neiksans with the white pieces. Shirov, who is playing in his hometown (he was born in Riga during Soviet times), thus joined the chasing pack, and set up an exciting clash against Saric for Sunday.

The author of the famous Fire on Board books gave up an exchange for positional compensation on move 27.


Instead of 27.Rxe6, the engines consider 27.Rb1 to be the best move in this favourable position for White. However, Shirov’s choice is certainly attractive for a human — especially for a player who reached the elite of the sport by masterfully handling the initiative even against top opposition. 

There followed 27...fxe6 28.Nxd5 Ra7 29.Nf4, targetting the weakness on e6.


The exchange sacrifice got rid of Black’s light-squared bishop, which decisively strengthened White’s counterpart on a2. Shirov had a clear edge, which he patiently converted into his second victory of the event.

Standings after round 4

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Firouzja Alireza 3,5 8,0
2 Yu Yangyi 3,0 8,0
  Ponkratov Pavel 3,0 8,0
4 Saric Ivan 3,0 8,0
5 Hovhannisyan Robert 3,0 7,5
6 Nihal Sarin 3,0 7,5
  Petrosyan Manuel 3,0 7,5
8 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 3,0 7,0
9 Shirov Alexei 3,0 6,5
  Najer Evgeniy 3,0 6,5
11 Tari Aryan 3,0 6,0
12 Sevian Samuel 3,0 5,5
13 Caruana Fabiano 2,5 8,5
14 Fedoseev Vladimir 2,5 8,0
  Korobov Anton 2,5 8,0

...108 players

All games - Round 4


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Lei beats Gunina to grab the lead

At 24, Lei Tingjie is the fourth highest-rated woman player from China, behind the powerful trio of Hou Yifan, Ju Wenjun and Tan Zhongyi. Hailing from Chongqing, she recently became the only woman to reach the Finals of the Julius Baer Challengers Tour. In Riga, Lei grabbed the sole lead in the Grand Swiss by beating the ever-dangerous Valentina Gunina 

No fewer than 11 players stand a half point behind, including second seed Nana Dzagnidze, who will face Lei with the white pieces on Sunday. Alexandra Kosteniuk, Alina Kashlinskaya and Jolanta Zawadzka won in round 4 to join the chasing pack.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Paehtz Elisabeth ½ - ½ Dzagnidze Nana
Zhu Jiner ½ - ½ Harika Dronavalli
Lei Tingjie 1 - 0 Gunina Valentina
Pogonina Natalija ½ - ½ Batsiashvili Nino
Abdumalik Zhansaya 2 ½ - ½ Javakhishvili Lela
Kosteniuk Alexandra 2 1 - 0 2 Assaubayeva Bibisara
Padmini Rout 2 0 - 1 2 Kashlinskaya Alina
Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan 2 ½ - ½ 2 Badelka Olga
Lujan Carolina 2 0 - 1 2 Zawadzka Jolanta
Sargsyan Anna M. 2 ½ - ½ 2 Vantika Agrawal

...25 boards

Harika Dronavalli, Zhu Jhiner

Harika Dronavalli and Zhu Jhiner drew on second board | Photo: Mark Livshitz

On board 7, Kashlinskaya beat Padmini Rout after the latter miscalculated in a winning, complicated position.


Grabbing the rook with 30.Kxf2 is the best move in this position, although it is understandable that Padmini rejected this alternative as she probably feared 30...Qf7+ — forking king and rook — when the only winning continuation is the fearless 31.Nf5 (White should not fear the potential discovered checks after 31...Nxf5 due to 32.Qxe5, getting ready to block with the rook on f6).

The aforementioned line is scary, but the more pragmatic 30.Rxe5, attacking the knight, was also winning for White.

Padmini went for 30.Nd5 instead, which not only gives up her edge but completely turns the tables in Black’s favour.


Kashlinskaya found the refutation — 30...Qxg3. After 31.Nxe7, Black had 31...Kf7, and 32.Rf6+ does not save White. 


In another twist, the Russian faltered here with 32...Rxf6 (32...Kxf6 wins, as 33.Bg5+ Qxg5 34.Kxf2 Kxe7 is good for Black). It was a tactical mayhem, and Padmini once again failed to find the right continuation, as she made the last mistake with 33.c4.

The game continued 33...Kxe7 34.cxb5 Rg6 35.Be3


Resignation came after 35...Qxg2+. The dust has settled, and Black still has a decisive material advantage.

Standings after round 4

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Lei Tingjie 3,5 7,5
2 Dzagnidze Nana 3,0 8,5
3 Pogonina Natalija 3,0 8,5
4 Paehtz Elisabeth 3,0 8,5
5 Zhu Jiner 3,0 8,0
6 Batsiashvili Nino 3,0 8,0
7 Javakhishvili Lela 3,0 7,5
8 Kosteniuk Alexandra 3,0 7,5
9 Harika Dronavalli 3,0 6,0
10 Kashlinskaya Alina 3,0 6,0
11 Zawadzka Jolanta 3,0 4,5
12 Gunina Valentina 2,5 9,0
13 Sargsyan Anna M. 2,5 8,5
14 Girya Olga 2,5 7,0
15 Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan 2,5 6,5

...50 players

All games - Round 4


Replay all games at


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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