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FIDE Women Grand Prix – round 10 report

Zhu Jiner’s critical victory and Aleksandra Goryachkina’s draw in the penultimate round of the Women’s Grand Prix in New Delhi have turned the tournament into a three-horse race. Sharing first place, Zhu Jiner, Bibisara Assaubayeva, and Aleksandra Goryachkina will all fight for the title in the final round

Results of Round 10:

Kateryna Lagno – Harika Dronavalli, ½ – ½ 
Polina Shuvalova – Aleksandra Goryachkina, ½ – ½
Humpy Koneru – Nino Batsiashvili – ½ – ½ 
Zhu Jiner – Vaishali Rameshbabu – 1 – 0

Nana Dzagnidze and Bibisara Assaubayeva had a rest day.

FIDE Women Grand Prix New Delhi so farReport round 1 / Report round 2 / Report round 3 / Report round 4 / Report round 5 / Report round 6 / Report round 7 / Report round 8 / Report round 9

ParallelFIDE Women Candidates Chess 2023 / Report round 1 / Report round 2 / Report round 3 / Report round 4

Starting soonNepo – Ding 2023 game 1 LIVE , part of the World Chess Championship 2023

The 10th round of the Women’s Grand Prix in New Delhi started quietly with quick draws. Aleksandra Goryachkina was happy to split a point as Black against Polina Shuvalova after White decided to repeat moves in the early stages of the Catalan. It seems that Shuvalova has given up hope, while for Goryachkina a draw was enough to reach a shared first place ahead of the final round.

The second quick game of the day was between Katerina Lagno and Harika Dronavalli. In the Berlin of the Ruy Lopez, the two went for a drawish exchange line and reached an even pawn endgame. Lagno now has 4½ points while Dronavalli is on 3½.

The only decisive outcome of the day was produced in the game between China’s Zhu Jinerand India’s Vaishali Rameshbabu. Despite getting a solid position in the Benoni, Vaishali misplayed in the middlegame, and Zhu had no problem winning. This was a critical victory for Zhu as she now has 5½ points and has reached shared first place with Assaubayeva and Goryachkina.

Humpy Koneru (playing as White) had a solid chance against Nino Batsiashvili in the Ragozin but failed to convert. Black had some initiative after the opening but could not find the best way forward, handing the advantage over to White. Despite creating a free-runner on the queenside, Humpy did not manage to convert this into a winning advantage and the game ended in a draw.

Nana Dzagnidze and Bibisara Assaubayeva had a rest day today.

In the final, 11th round, Assaubayeva faces a tough challenge against Kateryna Lagno, Goryachkina is up against Indian heavyweight Humpy Koneru, and Zhu Jiner plays as black against Nino Batsiashvili. Zhu has one more thing at stake – if she draws or wins her game in the last round, she will become a Grandmaster! With everything in the air and the closing ceremony scheduled to start at 7 PM local time on Thursday, the final round will start at 1 PM.

Here follows a closer look at the games of the penultimate round of the Women’s Grand Prix in New Delhi.

Kateryna Lagno – Harika Dronavalli

This was a game between two very closely matched opponents who know each other well. Lagno and Harika have played 44 games so far, and the score is 11 wins for Lagno and 12 for Harika. It was the third consecutive game in which Lagno was playing as Black, due to two other players dropping out of the tournament after the pairing has already been made.

This was a quick and largely uneventful game. Harika opted for the Berlin, and the opponents reproduced several well-known drawn games (Yang Wen – Li Di, Tari – Grischuk, to name a few) without making a single original move. As they reached the 30th move, after just over an hour of play, the two decided to draw.

Polina Shuvalova – Aleksandra Goryachkina

The two have played 16 games so far. Two wins for Polina and five for Goryachkina.

This was the first game of the day to finish, and it lasted just under half an hour. In the Catalan, Shuvalova offered to repeat moves as early as move 11, while Goriachkina had no objection. A draw was agreed on move 15. 

Shuvalova has four points, but with this game she is suggesting that she just wants the tournament to finish so she can move on. Goryachkina, on the other hand, has everything to play for and was satisfied with a draw as Black.

Humpy Koneru – Nino Batsiashvili

The two have played only five games until now. Humpy leads 3:1 with one draw.

The game progressed very slowly – both sides spent a lot of time in the opening. In a sharp line of the Ragozin, playing with white pieces, Humpy managed to come out of the opening in a slightly better position. On move 11, Black had to choose between so-called hanging pawns and an isolated pawn. Unlike Haik Martyrosyan in his game with Pragg, Nino opted for the former, and a fresh position emerged on the board. 

Nino decided to push d5-d4. After a series of logical moves, Black decided to voluntarily give up her c5-pawn for more activity but did not get sufficient compensation.

Now Nino made an error. White was already a pawn up and had a solid position, so Black needed to play more actively if she wanted to do something with her initiative. The best option was 19…Qg5, pressuring e3 and g2 squares and activating her queen, or 19…Ne5, x-raying White’s queen down the c-file.

Nino instead played 19…a5? and White now has a considerable advantage. 20.Bf5 and 21.Rd1, with then placing the rook on d7 was a path to victory. Humpy instead played20.Qb3? and retained just a slight edge.

An exchange of pieces on the queenside followed, and White ended with a free runner on the b-file, which was not that easy to advance.

After 30.Rb7 Rxb7 31.Nxb7 Qe4 White gave up her b-pawn 32.Nd6 Qb1+ 33.Kh2 Nb4 34.Qc4. Humpy had a slightly better position, but with all the pawns on the kingside, it was not enough for victory.

After four hours of play, the players agreed to split a point.

Zhu Jiner – Vaishali Rameshbabu

Despite both Zhu and Vaishali belonging to similar age groups (Zhu is 20, Rameshbabu is 21), the two have met only three times until this duel in New Delhi. In their previous matches, Zhu scored two victories and one game ended in a draw.

Zhu opened with 1.d4, and Black went for a rare version of the Benoni defence. Vaishali got a decent position out of the opening, but she started misplaying in the transition to the middlegame.

The position is equal. Both sides have castled, and both have achieved decent development. White has more control of the centre but Black holds the e-file with the rook and has counterplay.

The most logical continuation for Black was to proceed with developing the queenside with either 10…Bf5, 10…Nbd7 or 10…Na6 even. Vaishali instead chooses the line with 10…Ne4.

After 11.Nxe4 Rxe4 12.Bd3 Re8 13.Bg5 Bf6 14.Qd2 Nd7 White was better: Zhu kept her control of the centre, all the pieces had been developed, the bishops were well coordinated, and the rooks connected. Black, on the other hand, still had to develop her queenside.

Zhu continued with a side pawn advace 15.h4, which has become a trend lately. Vaishali responded with a counter-attack on White’s centre with 15…b5 but after 16.b3 bxc4 17.bxc4 erred with 17…Ba6? The bishop is attacking the c4-pawn, but there doesn’t seem to be any immediate danger for White on that side. Black should have instead played 17…Ne5 or 17…Bxf6, to ease off the pressure on the kingside.

A few more moves and exchanges down the road (each of them worsening Black’s position), White emerged clearly better.

Here Vaishali offered to exchange queens, to immediately stifle White’s initiative, but Zhu – understandably – refused. Black proceeded with sending her queen to White’s back rank and checking the white king, hoping to get some chances, but this sortie quickly backfired.

After Vaishali gave all the checks, there was nothing else she could do at this stage to protect her kingside weaknesses. White now had everything ready to launch a mating attack.

28.Re8 Nb2 29.Ne4 Nxc4 30.Nf6+ Kg7 31.Qe7 and Black resigned 1-0

Zhu now has 5½ points and is in the shared first place, alongside Bibisara Assaubayeva and Aleksandra Goryachkina. Vaishali is still on two points, with four draws and no victories in the event.

Standings after Round 10:

Round 11 of the third leg of the Women’s Grand Prix will take place on Wednesday, 5th April at 1 PM local time. 

The pairings of Round 11 (final round) are:

Bibisara Assaubayeva – Kateryna Lagno
Vaishali Rameshbabu – Nana Dzagnidze
Nino Batsiashvili – Zhu Jiner
Aleksandra Goryachkina – Humpy Koneru
Harika Dronavalli – Polina Shuvalova

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