Lausanne GP: Harika and Goryachkina in the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/6/2020 – A one-move blunder by Nana Dzagnidze gave Harika Dronavalli a sudden win in round four of the Women's Grand Prix in Lausanne. Harika is now sharing the lead with Aleksandra Goryachkina, who took down Antoaneta Stefanova with the white pieces. The third winner of the day was Zhansaya Abdumalik, who duly took advantage of Alexandra Kosteniuk's bad form to inflict her third straight loss in Switzerland. | Photo: David Llada

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Not the nicest way to win

Competitive chess is such a gruelling endeavour that for a player to see her rival blundering the game away in a single move usually provokes not the best of feelings. That is what happened to Harika Dronavalli in round four after Nana Dzagnidze played the unfortunate 26.e5 and had to give up the full point two moves later. It must be noted that Harika had a more comfortable position, nonetheless.

This was Harika's second consecutive win, which leaves her sharing the lead on 3 out of 4 with Aleksandra Goryachkina. The Russian star defeated Anotaneta Stefanova from the white side of a tactical queenless middlegame. Fittingly, Harika and Goryachkina are paired up against each other in round five — Harika will play White.

A half point behind the leaders stand Alina Kashlinskaya and Anna Muzychuk, after both saved inferior positions against Pia Cramling and Ju Wenjun respectively.

Marie Sebag

Marie Sebag from France | Photo: David Llada

Two round-four encounters faced players that were co-leading after the first three days of action. In one of them, Dzagnidze handled the opening ambitiously against Harika. The Indian player once again showed that she is an all-around player, capable of dealing with all sorts of setups, though. By move 25, when the abrupt conclusion came, it was Harika (with Black) who had the more comfortable position:

 

Dzagnidze's 26.e5 loses immediately to 26...xc1 27.xc1 g5, when Black is both threatening mate on g2 and to capture twice on c1.

 

Nana Dzagnidze

It was a painful defeat for Nana Dzagnidze | Photo: David Llada

Goryachkina, the other player that now shares first place with 3 points, was up against Stefanova's Pirc Defence in the meantime. Ju Wenjun's latest challenger for the World Championship crown decided to exchange queens early in the game, trusting that her lead in development would be enough to create winning chances. The strategy worked out well, as one step in the wrong direction by Stefanova allowed White to get a clear edge:

 

Black's 23...e5 gave Goryachkina a chance to push her forces forward. There followed 24.f4 g4 25.xb7 e3 26.e1 xf1 27.xe6:

 

The series of exchanges clearly favoured White. Now after 27...xb7 28.e7+ g8 29.xb7 Black gets to capture the g and h-pawns while White gets Black's counterparts on the a and c-files. The big difference is that White's more centralized knight can delay Black's path to promotion, gaining enough tempi to win the pawn race.

Goryachkina did not falter in her calculations and got her second win of the event after 48 moves.  

 

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Aleksandra Goryachkina | Photo: David Llada

Meanwhile, Alexandra Kosteniuk's woes continue in Lausanne. From a highly theoretical Ruy Lopez, she lost her third game in a row and now sits in dead last place on ½ out of 4. Facing Zhansaya Abdumalik with the white pieces, Kosteniuk incorrectly advanced on the kingside when she should have prioritized what was going on in the centre of the board:

 

Instead of 19.g4, White could have tried to prevent Black from opening up the centre with a pawn push on the d-file by playing 19.♘dc4. After the text, Abdumalik could have gone for 19...d5 immediately, but first played 19...h6. However, Kosteniuk once again failed to transfer her knight to c4 and played 20.h2 instead — now came 20...d5, and opening up the position gave Black lots of play.

Abdumalik did a good job of improving her position. White eventually needed to give up the bishop pair, and when Black's strong rooks took the second and third ranks it was all over:

 

Kosteniuk resigned after 36...c2 37.ff2 d1, with a lethal mating threat on h1.

 

Zhansaya Abdumalik, Alexandra Kosteniuk

Zhansaya Abdumalik beat former world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk | Photo: David Llada

Marie Sebag and Mariya Muzychuk signed the one 30-move draw of the day; Ju Wenjun was a pawn up but could not break Anna Muzychuk's defences; and Pia Cramling missed some massive winning chances after Alina Kashlinskaya sacrificed a piece for two pawns out of the opening. Cramling kept the extra knight until the queen endgame, when her biggest miss came on move 47:

 

White would have been doomed after 47...♞f4, with the mating threats unstoppable after 48.♕d7+ ♚h6, and White has no more checks. Cramling opted for 47...xh4+ instead, and Kashlinskaya's stubborn defence eventually allowed her to save a half point.

 

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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.

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