By IM Michael Rahal (Munich, Germany)
The president of the International Chess Federation, Arkady Dvorkovich, visited the women’s Gran Prix this afternoon and performed the ceremonial first move on the Zhu Jiner-Nana Dzagnidze board.
Interviewed before the round by FIDE Press Officer for the event, IM Michael Rahal, Dvorkovich said he was very happy to be back in Munich for such an exciting tournament. “Compared to the Open section, there are not so many tournaments for women. That’s why we decided to keep the Grand Prix series, to provide more opportunities for ladies to compete directly and have a chance to qualify for the Candidates Tournament.
In a short interview, Dvorkovich also answered questions about the tragic situation in Turkey, gave his opinion on the latest debate regarding the decline of classical chess, and explained the reason why he couldn’t play tournament chess.
GM Paehtz, Elisabeth vs GM Muzychuk, Mariya (0.5—0.5)
According to my database, Paehtz and Mariya Muzychuk had faced each other twenty-one times with a perfect 7-7-7 record – seven wins a piece and seven draws, a very even-matched pairing.
It was no surprise, therefore, that this was the first game to finish in a draw after just under one and a half hours of playing time.
In a Four-Knights opening, Muzychuk went for a theoretical pawn grab in the opening, which the engine (and several top-level games) suggest is completely equal due to active compensation.
After further simplifications, a draw was agreed on move 30 after a threefold repetition. Both players had a lot of time still on their clocks, pinpointing that they had prepared the opening very well.
IM Kashlinskaya, Alina vs GM Muzychuk, Anna (0.5-0.5)
In previous encounters, Anna Muzychuk had outscored Alina Kashlinskaya by a tiny margin: four wins against two with a few draws. In fact, their most recent game, in the 2022 Women’s European Team Championship, also ended in a draw.
For today’s game, Muzychuk chose a symmetrical variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Going into the middlegame, she achieved a very pleasant position in which her pair of strong centre knights outweighed the potential strength of Kashlinskaya’s pair of bishops.
With not much to play for, a draw was agreed on move thirty-one.
GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra vs GM Abdumalik, Zhansaya (0.5-0.5)
To date, Kosteniuk had a hugely favourable score against Abdumalik, a ten-three result with only one draw. It is a surprising statistic that only shows the fighting spirit these two players bring to the board.
Against Abdumalik’s Caro-Kan, Kosteniuk went for the dangerous 4.g4 Bayonet Attack, followed by the interesting 7.e6 pawn sacrifice, which, from the outside, seemed to catch her opponent by surprise.
“I decided to play the Caro-Kan today, for the second or third time in classical chess, and she surprised me with the g4 move, as she usually plays other lines,” explained Zhansaya Abdumalik, who was kind enough to pop into the press centre for a quick chat.
Kosteniuk might have blundered on move nine – the engine suggests 9…Qg3+ to be good for Black – but in any case, the position remained very complex, with both kings under severe attacks. Understanding the dangerous nature of the position, Kosteniuk opted to exchange queens and transition into an approximately equal endgame.
“For me, it’s nice to play new openings, interesting positions. I’m not playing too well in this tournament, so I have nothing to lose,” were Abdumalik’s final words.
GM Tan, Zhongyi vs GM Harika, Dronavalli (0.5-0.5)
Having played 38 games to date, with a score of 13 wins for Tan Zhongyi and 11 for Harika with 14 draws, this match-up proved to be equal.
Harika went for the Tarrasch Defence in the Queen’s Gambit Declined, an interesting option against the solid Chinese representative. The former Women’s World Champion decided to spice things up following a recent 2022 game between Aronian and Carlsen.
However, very well-prepared, Harika simplified into an ending in which she had a slight edge due to a slightly better pawn structure, but apparently not enough to win. After the game, Harika came to the press centre to check for improvements with the journalists there, but no obvious way to secure an advantage was found.
WGM Wagner, Dinara vs GM Koneru, Humpy (0.5-0.5)
Contrary to most of her games in the first half of the tournament, Wagner’s opening preparation for today’s game was top-notch. Not only did she obtain a very nice opening advantage with the novelty 12.g4, but she was also significantly ahead of her opponent on the clock.
Although Humpy Koneru did spend a lot of time figuring out the best equalising sequence, she proved successful in the endeavour in her first-ever game against Wagner.
After twenty moves, the engine was already suggesting full equality for Black, and the amount of time left over on the clock was similar. However, in an attempt to exchange queens, Humpy damaged her pawn structure. Even so, the limited amount of material suggested that a draw was the most likely outcome.
WGM Zhu, Jiner vs GM Dzagnidze, Nana (0.5-0.5)
Zhu Jiner went for the popular Advance Variation against the Caro-Kan, but Dzagnidze immediately returned the surprise by playing the trending 3…c5 thrust. A few moves later, the former World U14 Girls Champion sacrificed a pawn for the initiative.
Dzagnidze defended with great precision, and around move twenty, there didn’t seem to be much compensation for the pawn: in fact, after subsequent exchanges, it became clear that only Black had realistic chances of winning. In addition, Zhu Jiner only had about three minutes left with more than fifteen moves to go.
However, although Dzagnidze was pressing, Zhu Jiner defended accurately and took home the half-point. In her post-game interview, Zhu Jiner said, “I analysed this pawn sacrifice some time ago, but I forgot some of the details”.
The seventh round will be played on Thursday, February 9th, 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.
Photos: Mark Livshitz