Lausanne GP: Dzagnidze sole leader

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/12/2020 – With an impressive win over world champion Ju Wenjun, Nana Dzagnidze took the sole lead at the Women's Grand Prix in Lausanne. Two rounds are left to go and only Aleksandra Goryachkina stands a half point behind the leader — the latest World Championship challenger quickly drew on Wednesday. The other decisive result of the day saw Alexandra Kosteniuk beating Pia Cramling and ending the Swedish's run of eight consecutive draws. | Photo: David Llada

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A sole leader for the first time

When only two days of action are left to go at the third leg of the Women's Grand Prix, a player emerged as sole leader for the first time in the event. Nana Dzagnidze won her fourth game of the tournament and is now ahead of the field on 6 out of 9 points (she lost once, against Harika Dronavalli in round four). Incidentally, the Georgian star will face the two Russians that were sharing the lead after the rest day in the remaining rounds — she will have Black against Alina Kashlinskaya and will play White against Aleksandra Goryachkina in what might turn out to be the deciding game of the tournament.

Both Kashlinskaya and especially Goryachkina decided to call it a day early in round nine, as they drew from the black side of an Exchange French and a Berlin Defence respectively. Anna Muzychuk v Antoaneta Stefanova was a tensely balanced 31-move draw, while Mariya Muzychuk v Zhansaya Abdumalik lasted ten more moves and saw White missing some opportunities to fight for more than a draw. Finally, Alexandra Kosteniuk got her second win of the event, beating Pia Cramling after having lost back to back against the Muzychuk sisters.

Anna Muzychuk

Focused — Anna Muzychuk | Photo: David Llada

Playing Black against the world champion is never easy, but Dzagnidze is not one to shy away from a fight, as she went for a line with opposite-side castling employed, for example, by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov against Magnus Carlsen in a blitz encounter. Starting on move 14, the contenders began to take their time, and the fact that they followed a line already played in a correspondence game until move 20 shows they were on the right track. 

White was playing aggressively on the kingside:

 

Computers do not think Ju's 28.g6 was the most accurate here, but in a game between humans this is the kind of position that can go either way at any moment. However, when the smoke cleared and Dzagnidze offered a queen swap, it was Black who had the better-coordinated pieces:

 

After 32...xd4 33.exd4 Black's array on the queenside with the rooks doubled on the c-file and the connected pawns looks better than White's counterpart on the other flank — the knight is rather out of play and the f and h-pawns do not have good prospects. 

Converting the advantage was not trivial, however, as Ju showed her usual resilience from this point on. A knight endgame was reached eventually, and Dzagnidze proved she knew exactly how to exploit her positional trumps:

 

With her active king ready to support the connected f and g-pawns, Black gave up the knight with 62...xf3. Twenty moves later, Ju resigned.

 

Philippe Leuba, Ju Wenjun

Councillor of State and Head of the Canton of Vaud Department for Economics, Innovation and Sport, Philippe Leuba, played the symbolic first move for Ju Wenjun | Photo: David Llada

Alexandra Kosteniuk is having a nightmare of a tournament, so far losing five games and more importantly letting go of crucial GP points in the fight to get a spot in the Candidates. Nevertheless, the Russian is known for her fighting spirit, which she demonstrated during her round-nine encounter against Pia Cramling. 

The Swedish legend had the white pieces and opted for the Catalan. When the complex middlegame was over and the queens left the board, Black had a very slight positional edge due to her better pawn structure:

 

This was a case of a player stubbornly looking for chances in a rather balanced position. Throughout the next 60 moves, Kosteniuk kept looking for more, gained a pawn, missed some opportunities, and only got a decisive advantage at the very end, when Cramling blundered on move 91:

 

Black played 91.g4 and resigned after 91...c2, due to 92.♖xc2 ♚xc2 93.♗e5 (or anywhere else) and 93...♝c3. In the diagrammed position, moving the bishop was the way to go, although White still needs to be precise to hold the draw.

 

Alexandra Kosteniuk

A fighter at heart — Alexandra Kosteniuk | Photo: David Llada


Standings after Round 9

 

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.

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