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Alexandra Kosteniuk perfect at the Women’s Grand Prix Munich

By IM Michael Rahal (Munich, Germany)

Alexandra Kosteniuk, playing under the neutral FIDE flag, scored her third consecutive win against tailender Dinara Wagner this afternoon in the Women’s Grand Prix. Kosteniuk dominated her opponent and took advantage of the time-trouble phase to transition into a winning ending. “It was a very difficult game with a lot of calculation,” were the first words after the game. 

The round started as usual at 3 PM in the central Munich Kempinski Hotel. The ceremonial first move was performed by GM Stefan Kindermann, Founder of the Munich Chess Academy, who advanced the e-pawn two squares after Mariya Muzychuk whispered the move to him secretly in her game against Humpy Koneru. 

Kindermann was accompanied by Roman Krulich (CEO of Krulich Immobilien) and his wife, Natalie Kröcker. Krulich is the main sponsor of the event and one of the drivers behind the chess scene in Munich. 

Also present in today’s round was Helmut Pfleger, a well-known grandmaster, who not only played for Germany in seven Olympiads from 1964 to 1982 but also hosted a series of chess programs on German public TV, including “Chess of the Grandmasters”.

GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra – WGM Wagner, Dinara (1-0)

By means of a subtle move order, Kosteniuk was able to deviate from Wagner’s Sicilian Defence and achieve a nice space advantage with the Marozcy structure. On move 17, Wagner went for the thematic …d5 pawn break, albeit at an untimely moment.

Kosteniuk used up most of her time calculating deep lines with multiple sacrifices but ultimately decided to play it safe, taking the full point after dominating her opponent in a very favourable rook ending.

“I am quite tired. It was a very difficult game with a lot of calculations. In time trouble, I wasn’t able to finish the game by tactics, but the position was still better,” Kosteniuk explained to commentator WIM Veronika Exler on the live broadcast. 

GM Muzychuk, Mariya – GM Koneru, Humpy (0.5-0.5)

Humpy Koneru has an excellent record against Mariya Muzychuk – she has won 12 of the 24 games they have played. However, Humpy was very satisfied with the draw today.

Playing with Black, Humpy chose the solid Four Knights Opening, a line in which the queens are quickly exchanged in the opening. Although Muzychuk won a pawn, the nature of the opposite-coloured bishop ending proved to be equal, and a draw was agreed on move 31. 

“I have got six games with Black out of eleven in this tournament. I’m just trying to keep on playing. Yesterday was a good opportunity for me, but I missed out. And in the two Black games, I played quite solidly. So, I’ll try my best to come back,” she explained in an interesting interview, in which she also went into detail regarding yesterday’s rollercoaster game against Abdumalik. 

GM Tan, Zhongyi – GM Paehtz, Elisabeth (0.5-0.5)

According to my database, Tan Zhongyi and Elisabeth Paehtz had played a total of 15 games in the past, with the Chinese female player leading by a significant margin, having won none less than 11 of those encounters. 

Paehtz was definitely eager to make an impression this afternoon and leave behind yesterday’s blunder against Kosteniuk. Her opening choice, the aggressive King’s Indian Defence, was ideal. Already on move eight she surprised her opponent with a new pawn sacrifice, which, although thematic, had never been played before. 

For the pawn, the Paehtz enjoyed great piece play and dark-square domination, which ultimately allowed her to recover the material and go into a slightly better endgame. 

The key moment came about on move 37. Paehtz had a difficult choice between two seemingly promising continuations: 37…a3 or 37…Bxc4. Paehtz went for the second option, allowing her opponent to exchange some pawns and narrowly escape defeat.  

The engine suggests that 37…a3 should lead to a win, but the calculation is far from human. A heart-breaking result for the German player, who was leading the way for most of the game.

GM Harika, Dronavalli – IM Kashlinskaya, Alina (0.5-0.5)

Having played together eight times in the past – four wins to one for Harika with three draws – and based on the tournament situation, both players were eager to go for a fight. 

Kashlinskaya selected the solid Rubinstein variation in the French defence in an attempt to force her opponent into unknown territory.

Well-prepared, Harika followed the steps of Ponomariov and Korchnoi, exchanging queens and pushing a small edge in development in the late middlegame. 

Under certain pressure, Kashlinskaya opted to sacrifice a pawn to finish her development and go into an ending with two bishops against a bishop and knight – a pawn down but with good drawing chances. By exchanging one of the bishops for her opponent’s knight, Kashlinskaya forced an opposite-coloured bishop ending, legendarily known for their drawing tendency. 

GM Abdumalik, Zhansaya – WGM Zhu, Jiner (0-1)

Recently, most Chinese players notoriously travel to tournaments by themselves. Due to the pandemic, it’s been increasingly hard to get permission to travel outside the country. Zhu Jiner is by herself in Munich, connecting only by Zoom with her coach in China for game preparation.

Even so, today, she displayed all her skills, defeating Zhansaya Abdumalik with Black in a model Sicilian Sveshnikov game. Zhu Jiner turned down a draw offer on move twenty. “My position had a lot of playability,” she explained in her post-game interview

She went on to launch a fierce attack, culminating in an elegant rook sacrifice that forced resignation. Zhu Jiner doesn’t socialize much during the rest of the day: “I don’t have much free time here. For the most part, I am preparing the games with my coach”.

GM Muzychuk, Anna – GM Dzagnidze, Nana (0.5-0.5)

A very equal game from start to finish. Playing with White, Anna Muzychuk was able to construct a satisfactory Marozcy structure but inaccurate 21.Qb1 allowed Dzagnidze to equalize with the thematic pawn break 23…d5! 

However, the game continued, and a few moves later, Muzychuk was enjoying more time on the clock and an extra pawn. When everyone thought that she was trying to find a way to increase her advantage, she unexpectedly offered a draw. 

Following the action in the press room, Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia was amazed that she had offered a draw with ten extra minutes and a lot of play in the position. Nonetheless, it has to be said that the advantage is minimal, and a draw would have been the most likely result.

The fourth round will be played on Sunday, February 5th, at 3 PM at the Kempinski Hotel venue. The games can be followed live with commentary by GM Stefan Kindermann and WIM Veronika Exler on the FIDE Youtube Channel.

Standings after Round 3:

Photos: David Llada

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