Women’s Candidates: Goryachkina scores with black

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/2/2022 – Aleksandra Goryachkina broke the deadlock in Pool B of the Women’s Candidates, as she defeated Alexandra Kosteniuk with the black pieces in game 3 of their match. Meanwhile, Tan Zhongyi held a draw in a rook endgame a pawn down against Kateryna Lagno — their confrontation is still tied. The fourth and final games of this stage will be played on Saturday. | Photos: Timur Sattarov and Xushnud Baltaev

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Good knight vs bad bishop

Often matches are decided by small details, especially short ones. In the 4-game quarterfinal confrontations at the Women’s Candidates, Aleksandra Goryachkina is now a big favourite to make it through, as she only needs a draw with white on Saturday to knock out Alexandra Kosteniuk. Goryachkina won Friday’s third game of the match after converting a superior, materially balanced endgame with good knight against bad bishop.

In her second game with white facing Goryachkina’s 1.e4 e5, Kosteniuk opted for the fashionable Italian Opening, entering a strategic battle after following twelve moves of theory. The dynamic balance was maintained throughout the middlegame, and only after the queens left the board did Black get a slight edge — specifically, in the transition to the endgame.


Black has a better pawn structure (White’s pawn on the d-file is isolated) and her knights have better prospects in the ensuing struggle. Thus, with the privilege of hindsight, Kosteniuk’s 32.Rc6, inviting 32...Rf6 and a rook trade, does not seem to be a good idea. Keeping the rooks on the board would have given her more chances to keep matters complicated. 

With the rooks off the board, Goryachkina began to manoeuvre her knights, creating small — yet persistent — tactical problems to her opponent. Once White’s central pawns were fixed on dark squares and Black had the more active king, Goryachkina’s task became purely technical. The younger Russian had a winning advantage.


Goryachkina placed her knight on e6 and went on to infiltrate with her king along the queenside light squares, highlighting the bishop’s inability to find activity in this setup. Kosteniuk resigned the game on move 62.

Alexandra Kosteniuk, Aleksandra Goryachkina

Alexandra Kosteniuk playing white against Aleksandra Goryachkina

All rook endgames are drawn?

In the other quarterfinal matchup, a third draw in a row means Kateryna Lagno will get the last white on Saturday before a potential tiebreak against Tan Zhongyi.

It was Lagno who got the upper hand in game 3, as she had an extra pawn in the pure rook endgame that appeared on the board on move 27.


Lagno kept her extra outside passer throughout, but rook endgames’ drawish tendency once again decided matters. Engines show a few spots where the Russian could have improved her chances to win, but finding such precise moves in practical play is extremely difficult.

Draw in 48 moves.

Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno

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.