Kosteniuk Pulls Off Houdini Escape In Crucial Matchup

Kosteniuk Pulls Off Houdini Escape In Crucial Matchup


The penultimate round of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix took place on Sunday in Munich and featured a miraculous escape from GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who managed to save a completely lost endgame against GM Koneru Humpy in the round’s most important matchup.

The showdown lived up to the hype as Koneru came within a whisker of knocking over the tournament leader, who has played like a cat with nine lives en route to her staggering 7.5/10 score. Koneru, 6.5/10, is the only player within striking distance of Kosteniuk going into the final round.

Four decisive results transpired on the other boards with GMs Nana Dzagnidze, Harika Dronvalli, Zhansaya Abdumalik, as well as WGM Dinara Wagner all playing combative chess to push themselves up the standings.

How to watch?
The games of the Munich Women’s Grand Prix can be found here. The rounds start each day at 6 a.m. Pacific/15:00 CEST.

Koneru arrived ready to fight with black in round 10 and chose the Ruy Lopez: Morphy Defense to try and gain an edge over Kosteniuk. Looking to put an end to the “Chess Queen’s” reign atop the leaderboard, Koneru found a way to open the queenside in her favor.

The game, which was eventually drawn, was full of twists and turns and was undoubtedly the Game of the Day. GM Rafael Leitao has provided his annotations below.

Dzagnidze moved to 6/10 and into third place after scoring a win with the black pieces over GM Tan Zhongyi. The English Opening quickly transposed into the Queen’s Gambit Declined: Three Knights, Semi-Tarrasch Defense, and the Georgian GM happily allowed her queen’s pawn to become isolated.

Dzagnidze’s +1 score has her in third place. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Unable to crack open the center, Tan tried her luck on the queenside but was met with counterplay that saw her drop a pawn. The players soon exchanged into an opposite-colored bishop ending where Dzagnidze was up a pawn but possessed two passed ones and a decisive advantage. With a win in sight, the former European women’s champion blundered away her position with 36.f4??, but the chance was missed by Tan, and Dzagnidze proceeded to convert.

After nine straight draws, Dronavalli broke the half-point curse and won in style against GM Anna Muzychuk. Employing the English Opening, which the Indian GM only plays on move one in approximately 14 percent of her games, Dronavalli was able to muddy the waters early with the tactical “Spielman, Geller Variation.”

The calm before the storm. Symmetry does not always end in a draw! Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

A series of complex exchanges led to a middlegame that Muzychuk appeared to have under control. However, a one-move blunder on move 25 meant that the Ukrainian GM’s rook was suddenly trapped. Dronavalli snapped up the opportunity to paralyze the rook and secured a win 10 moves later.

Wagner showed in round 10 that being the lowest-rated player in a tournament doesn’t exclude dishing out an occasional attacking masterclass as she scored her first win of the tournament over IM Alina Kashlinskaya. Although the game wasn’t the cleanest, the sharp 35. Rxg7!! rook sacrifice was the highlight of the tournament for the German WGM. 

Despite a poor start to the tournament, Abdumalik has scored wins over Wagner and GM Mariya Muzychuk in the last two rounds. The Kazakhstani GM, who heads up a popular chess academy in Almaty, felt that the game against Muzychuk was “very smooth” thanks to her pair of bishops that were able to dominate the middlegame.

The final round of the FIDE Munich Women’s Grand Prix will see WGM Zhu Jiner take the white pieces against the tournament leader Kosteniuk, while Koneru will do her best with white to tie up the standings by pressing against Tan. While they are not in striking distance for first place, Dzagnidze and Dronavalli will face each other to decide the bottom of the podium.


All Games – Round 10

The FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Second Leg (of four) takes place February 1-14, 2023, in Munich, Germany. The format is a round-robin tournament with 12 players. The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, plus a 30-second increment starting on move one. The prize fund is 80,000 euros.

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