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Alexandra Kosteniuk takes early lead in Women Grand Prix Munich

Alexandra Kosteniuk is the early leader of the Munich leg of the 2023 Women’s Grand Prix after scoring her second consecutive win this afternoon against local player Elisabeth Paehtz. Playing under the FIDE flag, Kosteniuk took advantage of an unexpected blunder by her opponent and makes her claim for the tournament title.

Nonetheless, three players – Tan ZhongyiAnna Muzychuk and Nana Dzagnidze – are just behind the leader, on one and a half points. 

The ceremonial first move, played on the Paehtz-Kosteniuk board, was made by Dr Peer Friess, representing the Bavarian State Chancellery. Being a strong club player himself, rated 1895 FIDE, Friess had no trouble at all advancing Paehtz’s e-pawn to e4.  

Kashlinskaya, Alina vs Tan, Zhongyi (0,5-0,5)

The first game to finish ended in a solid draw. They had previously played nine games with an overall score of 5.5-3.5 in favour of the Chinese player. 

Although Tan Zhongyi went for the Sicilian defence, the position transposed to the Advance Variation of the French. Kashlinskaya had prepared an interesting pawn sacrifice (8.Re1!?) which Tan Zhongyi declined after a few minutes of thought. White insisted and ultimately achieved some positional compensation for the pawn. 

With her king still stranded in the centre, Tan Zhongyi intelligently preferred to return the extra pawn and exchange queens in an attempt to steer the game towards the ending. After mass exchanges, both players agreed to a draw on move thirty-one. 

This a good result for the Chinese player, who rapidly returned to her room to participate in the preliminary stage of the Online Champions Chess Tour!

Paehtz, Elisabeth — Kosteniuk, Alexandra (0-1)

One of the most interesting match-ups of the day. These two players have a long-playing history, with more than 72 games against each other, according to my database (43-29 for Kosteniuk). 

Paehtz opened the game with the Evans Gambit, a bold choice for this type of event but very much in the aggressive style of German’s number one female player. Kosteniuk came to the game well-prepared: she had practiced this variation previously in blitz. 

However, with everything to play for, on move 23, Paehtz developed her bishop to the unprotected f4 square. 

Kosteniuk couldn’t believe her eyes, but didn’t take long to capture the bishop with her rook, forcing her opponent to resign. 

“Today’s game finished unexpectedly because apparently she just blundered,” Kosteniuk explained in her post-game interview with Press Officer IM Michael Rahal. “The e8 square was a blind spot for her”.

Zhu, Jiner – Dronavalli Harika (0.5-0.5)

A complicated battle. Both players ended up in a position which probably neither of them had planned to be in before the game. 

Zhu Jiner achieved the middlegame advantage of two connected passed pawns on the sixth and seventh ranks, a force to be reckoned with. In exchange, Harika obtained a couple of extra pawns which, going into the ending, might prove to be decisive. 

After missing a couple of solid opportunities to increase her advantage, Zhu Jiner went for a forced line that won a piece but only left her with the option of forcing a perpetual due to the lack of material.

“Will I play this tricky line again in the future? I will keep that as a secret. I didn’t expect to land into this position, so it will be a good experience for the future” said Harika with a smile on her face in her post-game interview.

Humpy Koneru – Abdumalik, Zhansaya (0.5-0.5)

What a rollercoaster of a game! I am sure that neither of the players can be completely satisfied with the end result.  

The opening and middlegame were all Humpy. Her two bishops on a2 and b2, pointing in the direction of her opponent’s king, should have proven decisive – the engine suggests 24.Bxf6 as the beginning of a winning variation.

However, low on time, Humpy blundered the exchange, and Abdumalik turned the tables. By move 50, she had an extra rook, and it looked like Humpy would have to resign very soon. But India’s number one female player bravely fought on, advancing her three connected passed pawns. 

Unable to find a way to win, a draw was agreed on move 75, just before Abdumalik would have been forced to give up her extra pieces for the pawns. 

Dzagnidze, Nana – Muzychuk, Mariya (0.5-0.5)

A missed opportunity for the younger of the Muzychuk sisters. Dzagnidze sacrificed a pawn in the opening for active piece play, and an attack on the king but Mariya defended with precision and netted another two pawns deep into the middlegame.  

With three extra pawns, things were looking very grim for Dzagnidze, but in time trouble, Mariya blundered most of her advantage with 36…Nd6 (36…Ra8 was the way to go) and Dzagnidze got back into the game, recovering two of the pawns and holding a queen ending to a draw.

Wagner, Dinara – Muzychuk, Anna (0-1)

One of the most exciting games of the round. Wagner went all out for the win today with enterprising and aggressive play. She could have rounded off an excellent game by finding 34.Qe6+! exchanging queens, with a completely won rook ending. 

But once again, time trouble came into play. Wagner blundered with 34.d6? dropping a full pawn – Black quickly snatched it after 34…Qc6+ 35. Re4 Qxd6. Anna correctly rejected her opponent’s draw offer, understanding that the tide had turned.

Maybe the queen ending could have been played better – the engines suggest that 66.Kg1 (instead of 66.Kh2) is a table-base draw – but low on time, this type of ending is typically very hard to defend. 

The third round will be played on Saturday, February 4th at 3pm 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 2:

Text: IM Michael Rahal (Munich, Germany)
Photos: David Llada

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