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Aleksandra Goryachkina takes sole lead at the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Astana 2022

Time trouble is a serious problem for chess players. Understanding how to balance thinking enough to avoid mistakes during the game, with not thinking too much and getting into time trouble is a talent in itself.

This afternoon, none less than four of the games were essentially decided between moves thirty and forty, when players are on the low spectrum of the time distribution. Those who shine in these situations will definitely be the ones leading the tournament in the final rounds.

WGP Astana 2022: Pairings & Schedule / Detailed information / LIVE games

Lagno, Kateryna — Shuvalova, Polina (1-0)

With both players on 50%, expectations for this game were high. Lagno went for the 8.a4 Anti-Marshall line, used by Nepomniachtchi in the 2021 World Championship against Magnus Carlsen. However, Shuvalova came well prepared and essentially blitzed out her first 15 moves.

Nonetheless, Lagno was performing at the highest level, albeit spending a lot of time on the clock – after move 17 she only had thirty minutes left for the time control.

Shuvalova seemed to be doing well but, at some point, lost track, and ended up exchanging her centre d5-pawn for her opponent’s h3 pawn, weakening somewhat the castled king of the former two-times European Women’s Champion but allowing Lagno to enjoy huge central superiority. Lagno pressed on with strength, connecting three pawns on the fifth rank. Although her technique wasn’t perfect, the win was always there.

Her thoughts and analysis of the key moments can be listened to in the following video.

Kashlinskaya, Alina — Goryachkina, Aleksandra (0-1)

Undoubtedly, one of the main match-ups of the round, the clash between tournament co-leaders Kashlinskaya and Goryachkina was the longest game of the day. Goryachkina selected the Slav from her repertoire, choosing the so-called Soultanbeieff Variation, 5…e6 instead of the more popular 5…Bf5. After a few moves, the position transposed into the popular Panov Attack setup, a tempo down for Black but with White having committed her pawn to a4 (instead of the usual a3).

Goryachkina played the novelty 12…a5 and promptly secured the d5 square for her knight, blockading White’s isolani. Meanwhile, Kashlinskaya swung her rook over to the kingside signalling an attack. Goryachkina kept her head above water, exchanged a couple of pieces and pushed back the attack, reaching a queen + knight ending, slightly better for Goryachkina due to Kashlinskaya’s isolated d-pawn, but with huge drawing chances.

But fortune favours the brave. In mutual time trouble, just before the time control, Kashlinskaya blundered her knight (38.Qh4??). Although Goryachkina probably took more time than necessary to convert, she finally notched up her second win in the tournament and now is the sole leader of the event.

Assaubayeva, Bibisara — Vaishali, Rameshbabu (0.5-0.5)

In the game between two of the best young female players in the world, Vaishali, playing with Black, opted for the aggressive Grunfeld Defense, one of her two main weapons against 1.d4. Confident after her win yesterday, Assaubayeva chose a solid side-line – Vaishali is well-known for her attacking style. Wasting no time at all, Vaishali stepped away from the theoretical continuation and rapidly sacrificed a pawn for the initiative.

Unfazed, the current female World Blitz champion began to exchange pieces: she wanted to convert the extra pawn in the ending. Low on time, Vaishali kept pressuring. With both players under their last five minutes, Assaubayeva won a piece for a pawn in a tactical muddle, but Vaishali kept fighting, banking on her passed a-pawn on the seventh rank to keep the balance. Although both players were unsure of the situation, a draw was finally agreed on move 36.

The Indian star gave us her thoughts in a short post-game interview, in which she also gave us some insight on how she recovers from tough defeats.

Tan, Zhongyi — Kosteniuk, Alexandra (0-1)

Eager to recover from yesterday’s loss and get back to 50% as fast as possible, Kosteniuk went for the always dangerous Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez, choosing the 11…Bb7 side-line. After a well-timed …c5 pawn break, she achieved active play and superior development for the pawn. However, Tan Zhongzhi defended successfully and around move 25 the compensation was already diminishing. But when everything was looking good for Tan Zhongyi she faltered in her calculations: computer analysis suggests that 29.g3 is superior than 29.Re1, after which Kosteniuk recuperated the pawn and equalised the position.

Just when the game looked to be heading for the draw – Tan Zhongyi could have exchanged queens with equality on move 39 – the former Chinese World Champion blundered with 40.Bxc4 and immediately fell into a very dangerous situation. Sensing her opportunity, Kosteniuk changed gears and went for the kill, combining her two bishops to launch a decisive attack on her opponent’s king.

“My opponent overestimated her chances and that landed her into big trouble” said Alexandra Kosteniuk in her postgame interview.

Wagner, Dinara — Abdumalik, Zhansaya (0.5-0.5)

After two defeats in a row, Wagner, playing with the White pieces, wanted to deliver a strong performance today. The Catalan was her opening of choice, which soon transposed into a Stonewall structure. For many moves they followed a 2021 game between GM’s Baryshpolets and Swiercz, which ended well for White.

They also managed their time very well: on move 20 both of them had more than 40 minutes left on the clock – a welcoming sight for Wagner, who has suffered tremendous time trouble issues in the first two rounds.

After the exchange of queens, the game seemed to be heading for a draw, but Wagner was once again very low on time, in a still very complex ending. Kazakhstan’s best female player took advantage of Wagner’s inaccuracies and pushed her a-pawn to promotion. However, after overcoming a match-ball (44…Kf7 instead of 44…Kg7 was winning for Black), Wagner was able to hold a rook vs knight ending to a draw. Visibly relieved, she was kind enough to pop into the press centre for a quick interview.

Paehtz, Elisabeth — Zhu, Jiner (0.5-0.5)

A very solid game finishing in an uneventful draw. In a delayed Catalan, Paehtz went for the double fianchetto but didn’t really achieve much of a pull in the opening. Zhu Jiner, playing very confidently after yesterday’s result, proceeded to exchange off nearly all the pieces and after about 30 moves the game fizzled out into an equal rook ending and a draw was agreed.

An amicable result: Zhu Jiner draws a tough opponent with Black while Paehtz gets a well -deserved breather after yesterday’s roller-coaster loss against Shuvalova.

Round four pairings
Round 4 | Astana | 21.09.2022
Shuvalova, Polina — Zhu, Jiner
Abdumalik, Zhansaya — Paehtz, Elisabeth
Kosteniuk, Alexandra — Wagner, Dinara
Vaishali, Rameshbabu — Tan, Zhongyi
Goryachkina, Aleksandra — Assaubayeva, Bibisara
Lagno, Kateryna — Kashlinskaya, Alina

Replay day 3 video coverage here

Standings after Round 3:

Text: IM Michael Rahal, FIDE Press Officer, Nur-Sultan
Photo: Anna Shtourman

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