Women's Candidates: A great day for Goryachkina

by Antonio Pereira
6/7/2019 – For a second time at the 2019 Women's Candidates, all four games of a round finished decisively. The results of round six all favoured sole leader Aleksandra Goryachkina, who was losing against her closest chaser, Nana Dzagnidze, but ended up getting the full point after the Georgian faltered by playing too passively. Both Muzychuk sisters won and left the cellar, as did Kateryna Lagno, who now shares second place with Dzagnidze. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

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As good as it gets

Aleksandra Goryachkina could not have dreamed of a better set of results in round six. Not only did she take down former leader Nana Dzagnidze, but also those close behind her in the standings lost against the tail-enders — Anna and Mariya Muzychuk both arrived in round six on 1½ points and defeated Valentina Gunina (2 points) and Alexandra Kosteniuk (2½), respectively. Going into the second rest day, Goryachkina is one and a half points ahead of Dzagnidze and Lagno.

Results of Round 6

Before the second rest day, 20-year-old Goryachkina has gathered four wins and two draws, which translates into a gain of 20.2 points in the live ratings list. Currently, she is the fourth highest rated woman player in the world — and closing on Humpy Koneru. Aleksandra stands thirty-five points behind Ju Wenjun, though, who will face the winner of this tournament in the next World Championship match.

Women's Candidates Tournament 2019

It is getting harder and harder to catch up with the leader | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Dzagnidze 0:1 Goryachkina: A roller-coaster game

The players explored a line that had been seen in a 1977 Yasser Seirawan game (Yasser had the black pieces and lost after 49 moves). Nana both had a better pawn structure and was in control of the open b-file. The experienced Georgian grandmaster continued to put pressure on her opponent, but did not correctly calculate a forcing line on move 48: 


Dzagnidze protected her g4-pawn with 48.h3, when she could have got a passer on the c-file after 48.♕xc6 — surely she was afraid of 48...♛xg4+, but her king easily escapes to the queenside via f1, if needed. The computers showed a 0.00 evaluation, until Nana faltered again five moves later, by opting for a passive move:


After 53.♗b3 Black does not have a good way to save her knight and probably would have needed to look for a perpetual with 53...♛h8+ or 53...♛a6. This is not what Nana opted for, though, as she played 53.♗d1, to which Goryachkina responded with 53...a6, threatening to infiltrate with her queen.

Later on, White captured Black's c-pawn, getting three connected passers, but anyway could not stop Black's queen and knight tandem — with a passer on the g-file to boot. Dzagnidze resigned on move 70, with the following position on the board:


Aleksandra Goryachkina, Nana Dzagnidze

The youngster in the field, Aleksandra Goryachkina, is leading | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Tan Zhongyi 0:1 Lagno: White wastes her chance

This game followed an identical storyline — White got an advantage, could not make anything out of it, gave it up and ended up faltering, giving Black the win. Out of a Queen's Gambit Accepted, Tan Zhongyi gave up a couple of pawns in exchange of a strong initiative on the kingside. Nearing the time control, though, Lagno out-calculated her opponent and got the upper hand:


The smoke had cleared and White's initiative achieved nothing; the queens are off the board and Black has a rook and three pawns for White's two minor pieces. Lagno started putting pressure on her opponent and ended up playing a flashy — albeit objectively incorrect — rook sacrifice:


You can try your own variations on the diagram above

Kateryna went for 67...xa2, with the idea of trapping White's light-squared bishop and promoting her b-pawn. The computer shows that after 68.xa2 c2 69.xf4 b2 (the players followed this path) White has 70.♗xd6 cxd6 71.♘e3 and the knight captures Black's d-pawn in time to create a path for her own d-pawn to promote as quick as Black's b-passer. Tan Zhongyi did not find this complex resource, though, and after 70.c1+ allowed Lagno to successfully execute her plan. Resignation came two moves later.

Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno is sharing second place now | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Game analysis by Kateryna Lagno and Elisabeth Paehtz

A. Muzychuk 1:0 Gunina: A double-edged Caro-Kann

Valentina Gunina is having a hard time in Kazan. True to her style, she played a line of the Caro-Kann that allows Black to look for chances in a double-edged position. Her opponent played positionally sound chess, however, so that when Black tried to untangle her pieces White only improved her position. When the players reached the time control, Anna was clearly winning:


The game continued 41.e6 xf4 42.e7 and Gunina did not take long to resign. This was Anna's first win of the tournament, while Gunina lost for a third time in Kazan. Perhaps taking some pressure off her shoulders will help the Russian bounce back in the coming rounds.

Anna Muzychuk

Anna Muzychuk still has time to bounce back | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Game analysis by Anna Muzychuk and Elisabeth Paehtz

M. Muzychuk 1:0 Kosteniuk: Sacrificing an exchange

Out of an English Opening, the players went into a strategical battle with a closed pawn structure. On move 35, Mariya decided to go for a line which gave up an exchange for two — very strong — passed pawns on the queenside:


After 35.xa6 White's best chance is to go for 35...xc4 36.xc4 b5 and Black can gain another pawn for the exchange with 37.xc7 xc4 38.dxc4

From this point on, Kosteniuk could not find enough defensive resources to stop White's advance on the queenside. Resignation came on move 49, with the a and b-pawns unopposed on the sixth rank.

Mariya Muzychuk

The younger Muzychuk, Mariya | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Standings after Round 6


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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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