Tension Growing In Monaco As Lei, Muzychuk Start With Draws

Tension Growing In Monaco As Lei, Muzychuk Start With Draws


The Women’s Candidates semifinals match between GM Anna Muzychuk and GM Lei Tingjie started with two draws. If the match remains tied in the remaining two games, a tiebreak will be played on Sunday. The third game is scheduled to start on Friday, November 4, at 7 a.m. PT / 15:00 CET.

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Following the dramatic tiebreak between Muzychuk and GM Humpy Koneru, the next stage of the 2022-23 FIDE Women’s Candidates has been quieter—so far at least. Halfway through the first semifinal match (remember that the other half of the bracket will start on November 28 in Uzbekistan), the score is 1-1 after two draws.

The first game was the more interesting of the two. Lei had played the Petroff twice against Anna Muzychuk’s sister Mariya, but in her third black game, the Chinese GM played a 2…e6 Sicilian. Probably caught by surprise, Muzychuk went for a sideline with an early g3, but her opponent knew exactly how to deal with it.

The queens were soon traded, and more pieces left the board quickly, but the remaining endgame with rooks and knights remained somewhat tricky. Avoiding mistakes, the players agreed on a draw just after the time control. Note that draw offers are only allowed after move 40.

Lei Tingjie chess
A tense endgame. Photo: Michal Walusza/FIDE.

In the second game on Wednesday, it was Muzychuk’s turn to play an opening surprise. After playing 1…d5 four times against Koneru’s 1.d4, this time the choice was the Grunfeld Defense. She couldn’t rely too much on preparation as Lei played the 7.Be3 variation, which she had never done before. Still, also in this game, there was quite a lot of theory with Lei following play that, among others, GM Dmitry Andreikin has tried a lot recently.

The critical moment occurred after move 18, when Lei decided to go for the thematic pawn push e4-e5. Cutting off the g7-bishop can give White the advantage sometimes (especially if h4-h5 and hxg6 are thrown in), but it comes at the cost of losing control over the d5-square and Muzychuk used that square perfectly to equalize.

Lei Tingjie and Anna Muzychuk in their second game. Photo: Michal Walusza/FIDE.
Anna Muzychuk (right) surprised with the Grunfeld, but was surprised to see Lei choosing the 7.Be3 variation. Photo: Michal Walusza/FIDE.

The 2022-23 Women’s Candidates Tournament is an elite event featuring eight top female players, who compete in a knockout format for a share of the €250,000 prize fund and the right to play in the Women’s World Championship match against Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun. The tournament’s first quarterfinals began on October 25; the final will be in the first quarter of 2023. The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. A draw offer before move 40 is not allowed.

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