Lausanne GP: All draws on day one

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/3/2020 – The third leg of the Women's Grand Prix 2019/20 kicked off with draws on all six boards at the Mövenpick Hotel in Lausanne. World champion Ju Wenjun played Black against Zhao Xue's replacement, Zhansaya Abdumalik, while her latest challenger, Aleksandra Goryachkina, could not take advantage of the slim edge she got against Alina Kashlinskaya. Goryachkina will get a second White in a row on Tuesday. | Photo: Official website

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A quiet start

When FIDE decided that the women's world championship cycle would have a similar format to the open cycle, instead of granting a place in the match for the title, the Grand Prix series turned into a qualifier to the Candidates Tournament. Two players will get a ticket to the eight-player round robin that will decide Ju Wenjun's next challenger for the world crown. Ju is nonetheless participating in the series, as the last World Championship match was played after the two first legs had already been completed.

Events in Skolkovo and Monaco kicked off the series last year, with Humpy Koneru winning outright in Russia and sharing first place with Alexandra Kosteniuk and Aleksandra Goryachkina in Monaco. The Indian star thus took the lead. With second-placed Goryachkina already qualified to the Candidates as the last challenger for the crown, Kateryna Lagno and Kosteniuk are the players in contention for the qualifying spots with the best scores behind Humpy. Kosteniuk is playing in Switzerland, while Lagno is resting (like Humpy) and will make her third appearance in Sardinia, where the last leg will start on May 2nd.

The overall standings of the GP series after two legs:

Rank Player Skolkovo Monaco Lausanne Sardinia Total
1  Humpy Koneru (IND) 160 133⅓ ***   293⅓
2  Aleksandra Goryachkina (RUS) 120 133⅓   *** 253⅓
3  Kateryna Lagno (RUS) 90 90 ***   180
4  Alexandra Kosteniuk (RUS) 45 133⅓   *** 178⅓
5  Ju Wenjun (CHN) 120 ***     120
6  Dronavalli Harika (IND) 60 60   *** 120
7  Elisabeth Paehtz (GER) 75 20 ***   95
8  Valentina Gunina (RUS) 75 10 ***   85
9  Anna Muzychuk (UKR) *** 80     80
10  Pia Cramling (SWE) 10 60   *** 70
11  Mariya Muzychuk (UKR) *** 60     60
12  Alina Kashlinskaya (RUS) 45 ***     45
13  Nana Dzagnidze (GEO) *** 35     35
13  Zhao Xue (CHN) *** 35 ***   35
15  Antoaneta Stefanova (BUL) 25 ***     25
15  Marie Sebag (FRA) 25 ***     25
17  Zhansaya Abdumalik (KAZ) *** ***   *** 0

Antoaneta Stefanova, Anna Muzychuk

Antoaneta Stefanova and Anna Muzychuk sharing a laugh | Photo: Official website

The first result in Lausanne was a 16-move draw between sisters Anna and Mariya Muzychuk, who usually end their classical encounters quickly and peacefully. By then, world champion Ju Wenjun had already set up a Berlin Defence against Zhansaya Abdumalik. 20-year-old Abdumalik had been called as a late replacement when it was confirmed that Zhao Xue would not be able to make it due to complications related to the Coronavirus outbreak in China. The young Kazakhstani did not shy away from compromising her pawn structure in order to get the initiative:

 

White eliminated her rival's bishop pair with 15...b6 16.a4 f6 17.xb6 and was the one calling the shots. However, her awkwardly-placed rook on f4 was enough of a target for the world champion to equalize, and when Abdumalik decided to give up her dark-squared bishop the players decided to call it a day.

 

Zhansaya Abdumalik

Zhansaya Abdumalik | Photo: Official website

While Ju played it safe with Black, Alina Kashlinskaya employed the fighting King's Indian Defence against Goryachkina. The focus of the battle was located on the queenside, where White had more piece play at her disposal. However, it was enough for Goryachkina to play one imprecise move for her edge to evaporate:

 

White went for 21.b7 here, when 21.♗b5 would have posed more problems to her opponent. After the text, Kashlinskaya got to simplify the position with 21...b8 22.c6 xc6 23.xg7 xg7 24.xc6 xb1+ 25.xb1 xb6, and White's passer on the queenside is not enough to get a big enough advantage.

 

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Aleksandra Goryachkina | Photo: Official website

Coming from an eventful Cairns Cup, Alexandra Kosteniuk started the event with the white pieces against Nana Dzagnidze. Kosteniuk had defeated Dzagnidze with Black last month in Saint Louis, but found herself on the back foot this time around:

 

At this critical point, Dzagnidze thought for seven minutes before capturing the bishop with 21...xe3, and after 22.fxe3 h6 23.g5 xg5 24.hxg5 Black has a slightly better rook endgame, albeit there are plenty of defensive resources for White to keep the balance. In hindsight, keeping the tension in the diagrammed position might have given Dzagnidze some chances in the long run.

 

Alexandra Kosteniuk, Nana Dzagnidze

Alexandra Kosteniuk v Nana Dzagnidze | Photo: Official website


Round 2 pairings

Name Result Name
Kashlinskaya Alina   Muzychuk Mariya
Cramling Pia   Muzychuk Anna
Sebag Marie   Harika Dronavalli
Ju Wenjun   Stefanova Antoaneta
Dzagnidze Nana   Abdumalik Zhansaya
Goryachkina Aleksandra   Kosteniuk Alexandra

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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