Anna Muzychuk, Bela Khotenashvili and Katerina Lahno are the leaders after a very exciting third round at the Neva Foundation Women’s Grand Prix in Geneva.
The most unexpected result was the victory of the lowest seed, Mongolian WGM Tuvshintugs Batchimeg (2298) over the top seed and former world champion, GM Hou Yifan (2623). During the press-conference, Batchimeg said she was just trying to make logical moves.
The Georgian derby between Khotenashvili and Dzagnidze finished in favor of Bela Khotenashvili. Katerina Lahno outplayed Olga Girya in a Gruenfeld after 72 moves. The rest of the games, Kosintseva-Kosteniuk, Cmilyte-Ju Wenjun and Muzychuk-Ushenina finished in draws.
Both players were ready to fight today and chose quite a sharp line. 10. h5 was the main theoretical move, but Bela Khotenashvili decided to try the new move b4. Nana Dzagnidze defended accurately and after Qe6 Kg7, Black managed to get equal chances. During the press-conference, Nana pointed out that her original plan was to sacrifice an exchange after 17…Nh5 18. Nf3. She regretted that she changed her mind afterwards. A few moves later, Black blundered tactically by playing 21…h6. For some reason, Nana was sure that her opponent could not play 22.Ne6. After Bg6, Black’s position became hopeless.
Cmilyte-Ju Wenjun 1/2-1/2
Ju Wenjun managed to surprise Viktorija Cmilyte in the opening and it became obvious that the Chinese player felt comfortable in the position. The Lithuanian was spending a lot of time trying to find the right plan and, as she said during the press-conference, “lost track in one moment”. Ju Wenjun won a pawn, but Viktorija got some compensation as the black king was weak. It was not easy to win the endgame a pawn up because White defended very well.
The players decided to avoid the theoretical lines in the opening. They also “skipped” the middle game and went into the endgame on the sixth move. The Slovenian was quite happy with her position at the beginning and tried to choose a plan to get an advantage. After Black’s b5, it became obvious for her that she had nothing in this position and started to play for a draw. Under time pressure, Black missed a few chances to get a slight advantage. As the players mentioned during the press-conference, there was an opportunity to keep the bishop on g6 after 33…Ke7.
Kateryna Lahno chose to play the Gruenfeld with Black, but it seemed like Olga Girya knew the theory quite well. It was necessary for White to play 20.Qf4 Rc8 21.Rc8 Qc8 and 22.d5 in order to fight for an advantage. Instead, the Russian player chose a dubious plan with 20.Rb2 and simply missed the double attack 21…Bc2. The game looked like it would not last long as Black got an extra pawn with a good position, but Lahno missed a double attack by Girya.
The position of Black was still much better, but it was a big psychological blow. As Kateryna pointed out during the press-conference, she tried not to think about what happened and just continued playing. “There were so many situations like that one in my chess career. I’m used to hold the tension”, said the Ukrainian player. Olga Girya defended very well and was very close to make a draw, but missed some chances.
Alexandra Kosteniuk surprised her opponent with the Caro-Kann, but Tatiana decided to avoid playing the line which was recently seen in the game Kosteniuk-Girya. The former World champion got interesting play with 10…g5 and after 14.f4 the position became very sharp with many different opportunities for Black. Alexandra found a forced way, that she thought was in Black’s favor, but missed the calm move 22.Rad1. White managed to transfer the game into a drawish ending.
Standings after 3 rounds: