Women's Candidates: Gunina beats Tan Zhongyi

by Antonio Pereira
6/9/2019 – The 2019 Women's Candidates Tournament reached half-time on Saturday. In round seven, only Valentina Gunina managed to score a full point, as she defeated Tan Zhongyi with the white pieces. This means there were no changes on top of the standings — Aleksandra Goryachkina is still leading, while Nana Dzagnidze and Kateryna Lagno are sharing second place one and a half points behind the youngster. | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

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Half-time

Few round robin tournaments nowadays last fourteen rounds, with the Candidates a big exception, given its importance in the World Championship cycle. On Saturday, the all-play-all event in Kazan reached midpoint, as all the players faced each other once. With seven rounds still to go, anything can happen, but for the time being Aleksandra Goryachkina is the clear favourite on 5½/7 points.

Results of Round 7

 

Kateryna Lagno and Nana Dzagnidze, who share second place, drew their round seven encounter. Naturally, they are also paired up to play in the tournament's last round, in what might easily be a deciding match-up.  Meanwhile, the only winner of the day was Valentina Gunina, who left the cellar by taking down Tan Zhongyi. 

FIDE Women's Candidates 2019

The future of chess? | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Gunina 1:0 Tan Zhongyi: Beating the Petroff

Chinese players have been trying out the Petroff Defence with Black for a while now (Wang Yue brought it to fame in the elite some years ago). Tan Zhongyi used the Russian setup against Gunina and followed theory until move twelve, when she strangely decided to give up the bishop pair. In a queenless middlegame, Tan gave up an exchange for two pawns, but Valentina did not take long to give the exchange back:

 

After 36.cxc7 xc7 37.xc7, White is a pawn down but has a strong initiative and the better minor piece. Gunina kept her rook on the seventh rank and activated her king. Later on, on move 47, her opponent made a last mistake:

 

By now, the commentators were quite sure that Valentina would win, but Black's 46...f1 — better was 46...♜e3 — only precipitated the predicted outcome. Tan Zhongyi resigned after 47.e6 d8 48.d6 e1 49.b7.

Tan Zhongyi

Tan Zhongyi | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Game analysis by Valentina Gunina and Elisabeth Paehtz

Lagno ½:½ Dzagnidze: Chances for both

Out of a Sicilian, which for a while followed a game between Vachier-Lagrave and Keymer from this year's GRENKE Classic, Black gave up a pawn to get some activity. Both Lagno and Dzagnidze declared that they thought this was better for Black, with the latter also confessing that she "loves fighting during the games", which correlates well with what was seen in this game.

 

After 22...a5, White can gain the e6-pawn with 23.xd7 xd7 24.xe6, but Black gets strong piece activity with 24...c8. Lagno found nothing better than to push her h-pawn down the board and, after the time control, when material equality had already been restored, she was the one pushing.

However, Dzagnidze found a way to defend the rook endgame a pawn down and the draw was signed in the following position, with White still a pawn to the good:

 

Kateryna Lagno

Lagno was in the driver's seat at the end of the game | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Post-game interview with Kateryna Lagno and Nana Dzagnidze

Kosteniuk ½:½ A. Muzychuk: A missed chance

After a tough start in this tournament, Anna Muzychuk bounced back with a win over Gunina in round six. Against Kosteniuk, the Ukrainian also got a considerable advantage, but did not find a winning shot in the middlegame. Kosteniuk had given up an exchange and was trying to muddy the waters in the centre, and, instead of consolidating her edge, Anna gave White some chances:

 

Muzychuk continued 28...xd6 allowing White to go 29.e7 getting some chances on the kingside. Instead, Anna could have played 28...♛f2, when, against 29.♘e7, she has 29...♞c5 30.♕g4 ♜f7 — White will either lose her bishop or allow Black's c-pawn to advance down the board:

 

In case of 31.♕xc4, 31...♜f4 wins the bishop, while 31.♗c6 runs into 31...c3.

In the game, White still was in the driver's seat, but Kosteniuk started defending resourcefully and found a draw by perpetual check after the time control. Alexandra later confessed that she is not satisfied with the quality of her play.

Alexandra Kosteniuk

Former women's world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Post-game interview with Alexandra Kosteniuk

Goryachkina ½:½ M. Muzychuk: The leader in trouble

The sole leader in Kazan had the white pieces and took some risks by giving up a pawn out of the opening. Mariya Muzychuk held Black's position well, though, preventing her rival from getting a big edge with the initiative. The Ukrainian, in fact, consolidated her position and had a chance to get more of an edge:

 

The former women's world champion played 34...c6, which allowed Goryachkina to capture Black's passed c-pawn with 35.c7 xg2 36.xc4. Instead, Mariya could have opted for 34...a6, when after 35.♘e2 ♜c8 36.♘c3 ♝c6 37.♖b6 ♝xg2 Black's passer on the c-file survives, creating more problems for White.

After the text, on the other hand, White showed great tenacity to defend the position until agreeing to a draw on move 68. 

Mariya Muzychuk

Mariya Muzychuk won the World Championship in 2015 | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Standings after Round 7

 

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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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