Women's Candidates: Goryachkina keeps on winning

by Antonio Pereira
6/9/2019 – Things are still going Aleksandra Goryachkina's way at the Women's Candidates Tournament in Kazan. The 20-year-old defeated former women's world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk in round eight, which means she is now two points ahead of second-placed Kateryna Lagno. Before Sunday's round, Lagno was sharing second place with Nana Dzagnidze, but the Georgian fell on the standings table after losing against Tan Zhongyi with Black. | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

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There's no stopping Aleksandra

It is getting harder and harder to imagine a scenario in which Aleksandra Goryachkina does not win this year's Candidates Tournament in Kazan. She is two points ahead of Kateryna Lagno with six rounds to go and, although there is plenty of time for Kateryna or Nana Dzagnidze to catch up with her, only a decline in her chess level or some sort of incredible run by her chasers will take the pole position away from her.

Results of Round 8


Goryachkina will face Lagno in round ten, when the latter will have the white pieces. In their third round direct encounter, the 20-year-old won in eighty moves after Lagno defended tenaciously but could not find a precise drawing move in the endgame.

Round eight kicked off the second half of the tournament, which means the players with matching nationalities were paired up against each other. Much like in round one, the Muzychuk sisters signed a quick draw after reaching a prearranged threefold repetition.

Anna Muzychuk

Anna Muzychuk is on 3½ out of 8 | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Goryachkina 1:0 Kosteniuk: A clear win

When Anastasiya Karlovich interviewed Alexandra Kosteniuk after the game, the former women's world champion was clear while describing what had gone on over the board:

As usual, I played very badly. I got an unpleasant position out of the opening and then, even though I had some chances, I wasn't able to do anything.

Out of a Ragozin Defence, the players followed twelve moves of a game between Ding Liren and Wesley So from the 2011 World Cup. White had the initiative and, when Kosteniuk decided to untangle her position with 24...f6, Goryachkina quickly used this opportunity to weaken Black's pawn structure:


Aleksandra played 26.e5, and after 26...fxe5 27.xe5 xe5 28.xe5 she had a free hand to target Black's weak pawn on e6. On move 35, the 20-year-old managed to capture said pawn and open up the black king's position:


There followed 35.xe6 Bxe6 36.xe6+ h8 37.e4 and it is very hard for Black to survive. After 37...d4 38.d1 Kosteniuk committed a last mistake:


Koteniuk's best chance was to exchange the queens with 38...♛b6 39.♕xb6 ♝xb6, when White will have to prove her advantage in the endgame. Instead, after 38...a7, Goryachkina played 39.d6 and White's threats are too much to handle for Black. Resignation came four moves later.

Alexandra Kosteniuk, Aleksandra Goryachkina

This was Alexandra Kosteniuk's chance to close the gap with the leader, Aleksandra Goryachkina | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Post-game interview with Alexandra Kosteniuk

Tan Zhongyi 1:0 Dzagnidze: "I missed so many things"

The loser of this game, Nana Dzagnidze, also talked to Anastasiya Karlovich after her game, stating that she "missed so many things", a phenomenon that might have had something to do with the fact that the Georgian played a long and tough match in the previous round. On move 19, Nana gave up her queen for a rook and a bishop:


Black could have saved her queen with 19...♞e4 or 19...♛e6, but played 19...dxc4 instead. Dzagnidze thought this gave her good practical chances, but that did not last long, as she failed to find a tactical shot Tan Zhongyi had at her disposal ten moves later:


Nana had just blundered by capturing a pawn with 29...xb5, as this allowed the Chinese to go 30.xg6+ fxg6 31.xc4+ d5 32.xb5, simplifying into a winning position. Black still had the bishop pair and kept on fighting until move 49. This was Tan Zhongyi's second win of the tournament, which came after a painful three-game losing streak.

Tan Zhongyi, Nana Dzagnidze

Tan Zhongyi and Nana Dzagnidze arrived together in the playing hall | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Post-game interview with Nana Dzagnidze

Lagno ½:½ Gunina: The safe approach

We mentioned earlier how the long game from round seven affected Nana Dzagnidze. Her opponent on Saturday was Kateryna Lagno, who decided to keep it safe on Sunday, given the exhaustion provoked by the 80-move draw. Kateryna later declared:

Well, today it was not so long. Because of yesterday's game — it was a tough one, a long one — I decided to be safe today and it was...nothing really happened today.

Her opponent, Valentina Gunina, had the black pieces, and was not sure about her preparation (she mentioned that she might have mixed up something), so it was a relief to see her opponent was not in the mood to go for a fight:

I liked my position, but she started to [exchange pieces], and I was Black, so... [...] If you think, 'to lose or to make a draw', it's better to make a draw (smiles).

While Lagno will face a wounded Kosteniuk in round nine, Gunina will try to take down the leader Goryachkina with the white pieces. 

Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno will play the leader on Wednesday | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Post-game interview with Kateryna Lagno

Standings after Round 8


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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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