Dinara Wagner stuns the field, wins Nicosia Grand Prix

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/27/2023 – Dinara Wagner grabbed a full point in the final round to win the Women’s Grand Prix in Nicosia, the last event of the 2-year series. Wagner, the lowest-rated player in the field, played enterprisingly from the get go to beat Bella Khotenashvili with black. Kateryna Lagno and Aleksandra Goryachkina both drew with white to secure spots in the next edition of the Women’s Candidates. | Photo: FIDE / Mark Livshitz

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Lagno and Goryachkina reach the Candidates

Two out of the three highest-rated players who participated in the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix series finished in first and second place overall to gain spots in the next edition of the Candidates Tournament. Kateryna Lagno, the winner of the series’ first event in Astana, topped the overall ranking, while Aleksandra Goryahckina, winner of the New Delhi stage, finished in second place.

Going into the Nicosia stage, Goryachkina, Alexandra Kosteniuk and Lagno were the three favourites to get the coveted Candidates spots. All three players suffered setbacks in Cyprus, but ultimately it was Kosteniuk who was unable to qualify. The former women’s world champion, now representing Switzerland, could not bounce back from her round-7 loss against Bibisara Assaubayeva, as she drew her last four games to finish with 5/11 points.

Lagno (6 points) and Goryachkina (5½) played it safe with white in the final round, knowing all too well that only a loss would hamper their chances of qualifying to the Candidates.

The one participant with a higher rating than the two Russians, Humpy Koneru, only played two tournaments in the series, which made it all but impossible for her to get one of the two Candidates tickets — theoretically, she would have qualified had she won two tournaments outright, which would have gained her 320 points to Goryachkina’s 318⅓.

Zhu Jiner, the 20-year-old Chinese rising star, finished third in the series’ overall standings. After having surpassed the 2500-rating barrier she is surely a major contender to reach the Candidates by different means — much like Humpy and Kosteniuk.

It is worth noting that Ukrainian sisters Anna and Mariya Muzychuk had been included in the lineup of the series’ fourth stage when FIDE first announced the event would take place in Cyprus. The Muzychuk sisters did not play in Nicosia.

Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno won the 2022-23 Women’s Grand Prix series| Photo: FIDE / Mark Livshitz

FIDE Women's Grand Prix series 2023

Full standings

Wagner wins with black, grabs clear first place

The lowest-rated player in Nicosia, Dinara Wagner, stunned the field to win the event with a remarkable 7/11 score. Wagner received an invitation to participate as an organizer’s nominee — a German representative, she was nominated by the organizers of the series’ second event, which took place in Munich.

Wagner came from scoring 5/11 in Astana and 3½/11 in Munich, making her victory in Nicosia all the more impressive. The 24-year-old more than once noted in post-game interviews that facing top opposition in the GP series has greatly helped her to gain confidence.

In Nicosia, the Kalmyk-born WGM remarkably defeated both Lagno and Goryachkina, while she also made the most of her chances against the struggling Oliwia Kiolbasa and Bella Khotenashvili.

Wagner was the sole leader going into Thursday’s round 9, when she was defeated by Gunay Mammadzada. The loss did not discourage her, though, as she chose a fighting approach (with black) in her round-11 game against Khotenashvili.

The tournament’s winner gained 27.4 rating points in the Cypriot capital.

Bella Khotenashvili, Dinara Wagner

Dinara Wagner defeated Bella Khotenashvili with black | Photo: FIDE / Mark Livshitz

Polina Shuvalova, Harika Dronavalli and Tan Zhongyi both scored 6½/11 points to finish in shared second place a half point behind Wagner.

While Harika signed a 12-move draw in her game with black against Goryachkina, Tan needed to defend fiercely — plus a bit of good luck — to save a half point in her final-round game against Nana Dzagnidze.

The eleventh round also saw Polina Shuvalova beating Kiolbasa with the white pieces.

Tan Zhongyi

Tan Zhongyi saved a draw in round 11 | Photo: FIDE / Mark Livshitz

Harika Dronavalli

Harika Dronavalli finished in shared second place | Photo: FIDE / Mark Livshitz

Polina Shuvalova

Polina Shuvalova beat Oliwia Kiolbasa in the final round | Photo: FIDE / Mark Livshitz

Results - Round 11

Final standings

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.