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Abdumalik wins FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Gibraltar; Koneru and Lagno qualify for Candidates

Zhansaya Abdumalik won the final leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix held in Gibraltar. Abdumalik had a final score of 8.5/11 points to be 1.5 points ahead of the runner-ups.

Second in the tournament was Mariya Muzychuk on 7 points, with Kateryna Lagno sharing third with Gunay Mammadzada of Azerbaijan, who had a fine tournament.

Cumulative points from all four Grand Prix events decided the qualifiers for the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament 2022.

Since Aleksandra Goryachkina took the first place on the final list but she already qualified for Candidates (as the runner up of the previous World Women’s Championship) two qualifying spots were given to 2nd and 3rd players.

Koneru Humpy didn’t participate the Gibraltar event, but her score of 293 points collected in previous events was enough to secure second place.

On the other hand, Kateryna Lagno and Nana Dzagnidze had the same number of points before the final Gibraltar event. With 6.5 points in Gibraltar, Lagno scored 100 Grand Prix points and took the 3rd place on the final list to qualify for Candidates, leaving Dzagnidze behind.

Top FIDE Grand Prix 2019-2021 finishers:

Previous event
1Aleksandra Goryachkina *RUS3980398
2Humpy KoneruIND2930293
3Kateryna LagnoRUS180100280
4Zhansaya Abdumalik **KAZ110160270
5Nana DzagnidzeGEO18085265
6Mariya MuzychukUKR120130250
7Anna MuzychukUKR16560225
8Alexandra KosteniukRUS1930193

R11 report Gibraltar:

Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kazakhstan), having already secured first place in round 10, drew smoothly with Anna Muzychuk (Ukraine) in the last round of the Gibraltar leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix to finish on a commanding score of 8½/11, 1½ points clear of the field. Kateryna Lagno of Russia drew her game with Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine to finish on 6½ and clinch her place in the Candidates’ tournament alongside Humpy Koneru, who also qualifies via the Grand Prix series, and Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia, who qualifies as runner-up in the last Women’s World Championship. Second in the tournament was Mariya Muzychuk on 7 points, with Kateryna Lagno sharing third with Gunay Mammadzada of Azerbaijan, who had a fine tournament. The last round, played at the Caleta Hotel on 2 June, featured two decisive results and a second power failure in as many days, though the play was only interrupted for 15 minutes. The final game between Nana Dzagnidze and Valentina Gunina ran for more than six hours.

Zhansaya Abdumalik defended a standard line of the Ruy Lopez/Spanish against Anna Muzychuk. The tournament winner never looked in trouble. A pair of bishops were exchanged but otherwise, all the pieces were still on the board when a repetition occurred.

Kateryna Lagno against Mariya Muzychuk, rivals for second place in the tournament, began with a Caro-Kann.

It seemed a fairly sedate choice of the line by the Russian player with White but Mariya opted to castle queenside and imbalance the position somewhat. At first, Kateryna seemed to have the upper hand but analysis engines didn’t like her move 30.Be2, inviting Mariya to give up the exchange for two pawns. However, Mariya chose not to go in for this line,  exchanging some material on c3 for a draw instead. This gave Kateryna the half-point she needed to be sure of a place in the forthcoming Candidates’ tournament alongside Humpy Koneru.

Paehtz-Mammadzada transposed into a Grünfeld. Lizzie pushed 14.d5 but two moves later Gunay captured it via a temporary piece sacrifice. It didn’t ultimately secure an extra pawn for Black, but Gunay obtained a substantial positional advantage. However, somewhere down the road Gunay missed her way and had to be content with a draw.

After some transpositions, Kashlinskaya – Stefanova became a Cambridge Springs variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

Alina soon established a stable edge in the middle game, without having any obvious ways of exploiting it. Antoaneta later got into her habitual time trouble, and Alina’s advantage soon became overwhelming. Mindful of her first week’s sufferings, Alina didn’t look for a flashy finish, but it soon morphed into an easy win, enabling Alina to overtake Antoaneta in the final standings.

Dinara Saduakassova versus Irina Bulmaga saw Fianchetto King’s Indian. Dinara hit on a strong plan to work a knight via c4 and a5 to c6 where it exerted great pressure on Irina’s position and attacked a rook on b8. Irina left the rook to be taken, but Dinara decided she wanted more and played Bg5. However, she took the exchange next move. After that, it was always an uphill struggle for Irina to get back into the game. When the material was much reduced, her hopes of survival might have been raised a little, but Dinara’s finish was clinical.

Valentina Gunina opened 1.d4 against Nana Dzagnidze, who defended with a Bogo-Indian. Nana was looking for more than a draw to preserve any chance of securing a place in the Candidates’ tournament. In the early middlegame, things started to go awry for Valentina, and Nana was able to snatch a pawn with 19…Bxe2, which looked slightly hot at first sight but turned out to be fine. With an extra pawn, Nana was firmly in the driving seat but anyone who’s followed this tournament will know that Valentina fights like a tigress in every game and, of course, she battled her way into the game. Nana is known as a redoubtable fighter so the final game of the tournament to finish was a battle royal, quite in keeping with the cut and thrust of the previous ten rounds. It went to 135 moves, breaking Valentina’s own record of game length from the tournament and also breaking her run of decisive results.

Final rankings:

1. Zhansaya Abdumalik (KAZ) – 8½;
2. Mariya Muzychuk (UKR) 7;
3-4. Kateryna Lagno (RUS) and Gunay Mammadzada (AZE) – 6½;
5-6. Nana Dzagnidze (GEO) and Elisabeth Paehtz (GER) – 6;
7. Anna Muzychuk (UKR) – 5½;
8. Alina Kashlinskaya (RUS) – 5;
9-10. Antoaneta Stefanova (BUL) and Valentina Gunina (RUS) – 4.5
11. Dinara Saduakassova (KAZ) – 4;
12. Irina Bulmaga (ROU) – 2

R10 report:

Zhansaya Abdumalik secured first place in the penultimate round of the Gibraltar leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix at the Caleta Hotel on 1 June after agreeing a very quick draw with Kateryna Lagno of Russia. The quick cessation of hostilities suited both players as Zhansaya wins the tournament while Kateryna will have it in her own hands to secure a place in the Candidates’ tournament. The only way Kateryna can miss out now is if she loses to Mariya Muzychuk in the last round and Nana Dzagnidze wins against Valentina Gunina. Meanwhile, back home in India, Humpy Koneru can celebrate her own qualification for the Candidates’ event.

After the brief and bloodless encounter between Zhansaya and Kateryna, the main drama of the day was a power cut 40 minutes into the round. Thankfully, it lasted only 20 minutes, during which time the players either took a breath of sea outside or else stayed at their boards peering at the pieces in the semi-darkness.

Valentina Gunina, after her marathon game against Zhansaya in round 9, played very quickly on the black side of a Slav Defence against Mariya Muzychuk, and soon compromised her position. That said, it was when she stopped to think and then played 15…c5 that her position started to go wrong, as it meant ceding the two bishops and allowing a strong d-pawn push for White. Soon Mariya was bearing down on Valentina’s kingside and the Russian player decided to surrender the exchange rather than submit to passive play. However, despite a long resistance and a typically determined rearguard action by Valentina, she never looked likely to hold the game.

The power cut seemed to coincide with a certain energy deficiency amongst some players, but more likely it was the effect of all the exciting and energy-sapping play which had occurred in previous rounds. The remaining games resulted in draws, though they were all hard fought.

Antoaneta Stefanova against Elisabeth Paehtz was some sort of Queen’s Gambit Declined. Antoaneta gained some pressure along the b-file but Lizzie had compensation in terms of play against Antoaneta’s hanging pawns. The game was the last to finish, but it eventually petered out to a draw.

Gunay Mammadzada versus Dinara Saduakassova started with a Bogo-Indian. By move 25 Black had two bishops but White enjoyed a little more space. She was unable to capitalise on a positional edge, however, and the game also ended in a draw.

Irina Bulmaga looked to be winning at various points in her game against Anna Muzychuk, who chose to play a slightly suspect Winawer French. Despite two extra pawns, the position started to look difficult for Anna as Irina piled on pressure along the g-file and Anna’s pieces were cramped. Irina tried hard to exploit her advantage, but the position was highly complex and it wasn’t easy for her to find a way to break through. Eventually a fleeting chance to win the game presented itself when Anna blundered with 29…Kf7. Irina might have snatched victory with a combination starting with 30 Ng5+ but sadly missed her opportunity.

Nana Dzagnidze opened with a Symmetrical English against Alina Kashlinskaya.

Nana tried to dodge her opponent’s (and her opponent’s super-GM husband’s) theoretical preparation, but her plan went slightly wrong. However, it wasn’t a serious disadvantage and with careful play she was able to exchange pieces and reach the safe haven of a draw.

Rankings after 10 rounds:

1- Zhansaya Abdumalik – 9 points
2- Mariya Muzychuk – 6.5 points
3-4. Gunay Mammadzada, Kateryna Lagno – 6 points
5-6. Elisabeth Paehtz, Nana Dzagnidze – 5.5. points
7- Anna Muzychuk – 5 points
8- Antoaneta Stefanova – 4.5 points
9-10. Valentina Gunina, Alina Kashlinskaya – 4 points
11-Dinara Sadukassova – 3 points
12- Irina Bulmaga – 2 points

Round 10 Results
A. Stefanova (4) ½-½ E. Paehtz (5)
G. Mammadzada (5½) ½-½ D. Saduakassova (2½)
I. Bulmaga (1½) ½-½ A. Muzychuk (4½)
Z. Abdumalik (7½) ½-½ K. Lagno (5½)
M. Muzychuk (5½) 1-0 V. Gunina (4)
N. Dzagnidze (5) ½-½ A. Kashlinskaya (3½)

Meet Zhansaya Abdumalik:

Read more about FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Gibraltar:

LIVE: FIDE Women’s Grand Prix 2021 Gibraltar LIVE

Reports and videos: Anna Muzychuk analyzes her win from R2 of the FIDE Women Grand Prix / Mariya and Anna Muzychuk, “Queen’s Gambit will bring more players in chess, especially girls” / Gunay Mammadzada, “I had so many difficulties coming to Gibraltar” / Zhansaya Abdumalik tops FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Gibraltar – R10 report

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