Women's Candidates: Wins for Gunina and Tan Zhongyi

by Antonio Pereira
6/13/2019 – Two players won with White in round eleven of the 2019 Women's Candidates in Kazan. Valentina Gunina bounced back from two straight losses with a win over Nana Dzagnidze, while Tan Zhongyi defeated former women's world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. Aleksandra Goryackina and Kateryna Lagno drew their games against the Muzychuk sisters, which means Goryachkina still has a lead of 2½ points, now with only three rounds to go. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

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Only a miracle...

The next challenger for the World Championship is all but decided with three rounds to go of the Candidates Tournament in Russia. Aleksandra Goryachkina is the only undefeated player left in Kazan and, after having won more than half her games (6 out of 11), only a catastrophe would prevent her from becoming Ju Wenjun's next rival for the crown. On Thursday, the two decisive results involved all four players from the bottom half of the standings table.

Results of Round 11

If we do not take into account the leader's amazing run, the event has been rather balanced, with only one and a half points separating Kateryna Lagno (second place, 6 points) from those sharing sixth to eighth places (Gunina, Kosteniuk and Dzagnidze, 4½ points). This also worked in Goryachkina's favour, whose steadily strong performance is particularly useful given the length of the event.

Aleksandra Goryachkina

20-year-old Aleksandra Goryachkina has plenty of reasons to smile | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Tan Zhongyi 1:0 Kosteniuk: Not careful enough

Alexandra Kosteniuk's woes continued in the capital of Tatarstan, as she lost her fourth game of the tournament — she had the black pieces in all four occasions. The Russian played a Nimzo-Indian Defence against Tan Zhongyi, who developed her pieces naturally and was given a chance to attack her opponent's kingside right after the opening stage had concluded:


With both bishops and the queen dominating diagonals that point towards Black's king, playing 14...g6 needs a lot of consideration. Kosteniuk, however, advanced her g-pawn after thinking for about five minutes, opening up serious attacking chances for White. The game continued 15.f4 f6, and Black's kingside pawn structure is inviting White to go all-in with her battery on the b1-h7 diagonal:


Tan Zhongyi invested fifteen minutes before going for the winning 16.xg6, and after 16...f5 17.h5 f6 18.exf6 xf4 White has all the dynamic trumps in the position. A couple of moves later, the Chinese even got to show off with a nice bishop move. This was the position after 19.d3 fd8:


Tan's 20.e8 is the kind of move one finds in a tactics book. Black cannot capture with 20...♜xe8 due to 21.♕xd7 ♛h6 22.f7+, etc. 

Kosteniuk kept on fighting until move 32, but her position was quite hopeless all along. This was Tan Zhongyi's third win of the tournament.

Tan Zhongyi, Alexandra Kosteniuk

Tan Zhongyi will face the leader in round eleven | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Post-game interview with Alexandra Kosteniuk

Gunina 1:0 Dzagnidze: A roller-coaster ride

Two of the most fighting players in the women's circuit played a game full of ups and downs on Thursday. Until move 12, they followed an encounter from the Norway Chess Blitz opener from two years ago, in which Kramnik defeated Harikrihsna with Black. Right out of the opening, Gunina sacrificed a pawn, getting good dynamic chances, but faltered quickly afterwards. Nana missed a chance to get a considerable material advantage on move 21:


Almost instantly, Nana played 21...e8, allowing White to free her pieces with 22.b5 c6 (in case of 22...♜xe1 23.♖xe1 ♛xd2, there is 24.♖e8+ ♜xe8 25.♕xe8+ and the white knight helps the queen from g5) 23.b4.

After missing this chance, Dzagnidze slowly gave up her advantage, and eventually the tables turned completely, as on move 68 the players went into an endgame with rook + three pawns v rook + knight which could only be won by White.  Nana did not stop fighting, but she was completely lost by move 95 (!).


The game continued 95.f7+ g8 96.h6 and Black is doomed.

Valentina Gunina

We seldom see Valentina Gunina playing a boring game | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Game analysis by Valentina Gunina and Elisabeth Paehtz

Goryachkina and Lagno draw the Muzychuk sisters

The players at the top of the standings played White against the Muzychuk sisters. Aleksandra Goryachkina had an advantageous position against Anna but preferred to let things peter out into a 30-move draw. Meanwhile, Kateryna Lagno faced Mariya's Sicilian and, although White had a better-looking structure, Black defended accurately until reaching a draw in a rook endgame with one pawn per side.

In the post-game interview, Anastasiya Karlovich asked Kateryna Lagno what was her opinion about the format used in Norway. Kateryna responded:

I don't understand the point, you know, when the pieces are falling and that somehow [counts] in someone's favour — well, you should do something about it, because when you have about five seconds and your pieces are down... [...] The format is interesting, but you should improve [some things].

Anna Muzychuk, Anastasiya Karlovich

Anastasiya Karlovich interviewing Anna Muzychuk | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Post-game interview with Kateryna Lagno

Standings after Round 11


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Commentary provided by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko and IM Elisabeth Paehtz

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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