Lausanne GP: Five co-leaders after eventful round

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/5/2020 – Harika Dronavalli, Alina Kashlinskaya and Anna Muzychuk joined Aleksandra Goryachkina and Nana Dzagnidze in the lead of the Women's Grand Prix in Lausanne. Harika defeated world champion Ju Wenjun, Kashlinskaya inflicted Alexandra Kosteniuk's second consecutive loss and Anna Muzychuk got the better of Marie Sebag. Three more rounds will be played before the one rest day of the event. | Photo: David Llada

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Harika beats the world champion

Three decisive results left five players sharing the lead at the third leg of the Women's Grand Prix series in Lausanne. Nana Dzagnidze and Aleksandra Goryachkina, who already had a 'plus one' score, drew their games with Black and permitted the winners of the day to join them on 2 out of 3 points. While Goryachkina barely played 15 moves of a theoretical Berlin Defence line before signing a draw, Dzagnidze delved into a sharp King's Indian Defence against Antoaneta Stefanova, in which any of three results could have easily been the outcome of a hard-fought battle. 

Anna Muzychuk got an advantage as early as move 11 against Marie Sebag and had no issues finishing her opponent off; Alina Kashlinskaya got the better of Alexandra Koteniuk from the black side of a Petroff Defence; and Harika Dronavalli showed great positional understanding to defeat world champion Ju Wenjun after correctly entering a superior bishop endgame.

Ju v Anna Muzychuk and Dzagnidze v Harika are the two encounters between co-leaders of round four.

FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2020

Everything ready to start the fight | Photo: David Llada

Anna Muzychuk seemed certain to join the winner's circle early on, as she ended up on the better side of a sharp opening battle against Marie Sebag. The line chosen by Sebag had markedly favoured the player with the white pieces in previous instances. Muzychuk was the first one to deviate from theory, choosing a different capture than the one tried by Sasikiran against Harika during last year's Grand Swiss tournament:

 

Sasikiran had won the mentioned game after going for 9.♗xd5 here, while Muzychuk's 9.exd5 led to a struggle of a different nature. The game continued 9...b5 10.b3 d4 11.d6 xd6 12.d5 b5 13.h5:

 

Black was already in trouble, but perhaps Sebag could have put up more resistance with 13...♞e6 here, a more cautious attempt than her 13...f6. After the queen move, White could gain tempo after tempo by attacking her rival's pieces — 14.c3 b7 15.e4 e7 and then came the move that Sebag might have missed in her calculations, 16.g5.

 

Now Black is totally busted. Sebag tried 16...c2+, giving up the queen and eventually getting the bishop pair as — vastly insufficient — compensation. Muzychuk had no problems using her material advantage and got the full point after 38 moves.

 

Anna Muzychuk, Marie Sebag

Anna Muzychuk is sharing the lead after beating Marie Sebag | Photo: David Llada

For a second day in a row, Alexandra Kosteniuk lost against a younger compatriot. Last month during the Cairns Cup, the former world champion mentioned repeatedly that she was not very happy with the instability of her results, clarifying that in emotional terms it is better to, for example, win two games and lose one during a tournament instead of winning five and losing four. She demonstrated in Saint Louis, nonetheless, that she can line up victories when needed. We can only wait and see how she reacts to these two losses in Switzerland.

Alina Kashlinskaya put forth a Petroff Defence, and it was actually Kosteniuk who showed better preparation, blitzing out her first 18 moves while Kashlinskaya had already invested 15+ minutes on three occasions in the meantime. It was time well spent though, as the 26-year-old got a strong grip of the position. 

 

Black has the better minor piece and a safer king, with the knight on h4 and the queen on d5 exerting constant pressure over the f3-weakness. Here Kashlinskaya correctly sensed that it was time to open up more lines for her queen and gave up a pawn with 37...b6 38.xb6 b5, when the double attack can be countered with 39.g1 (in case of 39...♛xb6, 40.♕xh4 improves White's situation). Black had succeeded in creating more paths to increase the pressure though.

Although she could not win with a direct attack, Kashlinskaya eventually managed to simplify into a winning pawn endgame.

 

Alina Kashlinskaya

Alina Kashlinskaya | Photo: David Llada

In the meantime, Harika Dronavalli was facing world champion Ju Wenjun in a heavily strategical battle. In a position with queens, dark-squared bishops and seven pawns per side, Ju's decision to offer a queen swap was by no means forced:

 

White has a small edge with her pawns fixed on light squares, so it is hard to suggest anything for Black other than simply sitting tight in defence. Ju here went for 25...d2, perhaps considering that she had enough resources to hold the slightly inferior position in an ending. Harika confidently accepted the offer and began to show marvellous technique from this point on.

Replaying how the Indian star converted her advantage is of great instructional value. 

 

Harika Dronavalli

Harika Dronavalli | Photo: David Llada


Standings after Round 3

 

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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.