All Decisive Games: Wagner Beats Top Seed, Tan Bests Kosteniuk

All Decisive Games: Wagner Beats Top Seed, Tan Bests Kosteniuk

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Every single game of the first round of the Nicosia FIDE Women’s Grand Prix 2022-2023 ended decisively. With imaginative and fearless play, GM Tan Zhongyi defeated her fellow women’s world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. WGM Dinara Wagner‘s determination scored her an astonishing upset vs. GM Aleksandra Goryachkina, the top seed and the second highest woman in the world. 

GM Harika Dronavalli won a positional masterclass with ease vs. IM Bibisara Assaubayeva. GM Kateryna Lagno steadily set up a dangerous kingside attack despite IM Polina Shuvalova‘s tries for counterplay. Lastly, IM Gunay Mammadzada converted her material edge vs. IM Oliwia Kiolbasa with clear-headed endgame play. 

The final leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix continues with round two on Wednesday, May 17, starting at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

How to watch?

You can watch live games of the Superbet Chess Classic on our Events Page. The rounds start each day at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

The 2022-2023 FIDE Women’s Grand Prix culminates in Nicosia, Cyprus. The fourth and final leg features twelve of the strongest women in the world, including five of the top 10:

#2 Goryachkina

#4 Lagno

#7 Kosteniuk

#8 Tan

#10 Dzagnidze

The players received a warm and distinguished welcome at the opening ceremony. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

The field also includes two former women’s world champions, Kosteniuk and Tan. In addition, all three winners of the previous Grand Prix events are present:

Lagno: Astana in September 2022

Kosteniuk: Munich in February 2023

Goryachkina: New Delhi in March-April 2023

In this tournament of champions, who will rise above the field?

A friendly introduction before the start of intense competition. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

As we enter the last grand prix event, Goryachkina, Kosteniuk, and Lagno lead the battle for the two coveted qualification spots in the 2023-2024 Women’s Candidates Tournament. In addition, WGM Zhu Jiner, who finished her final event in New Delhi, is the current leader in grand prix points. Though Zhu is not competing in Nicosia, she is certainly present in the players’ minds when it comes to the scoreboard. 

Assaubayeva, Dzagnidze, Dronavalli, and Tan are also still in contention to qualify, though they are underdogs in must-win-first positions in order to have a chance―and it would still ultimately depend on how their rivals performed too. 

Festive performances to kick off this significant tournament. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

The opening ceremony was an elegant affair featuring musical and dance performances along with a speech by five-time world champion GM Viswanathan Anand. 

Anand shared an anecdote from his own experiences in qualifying for the Candidates. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

After the fun-spirited commencement, the competitors showed that they’re ready for a fierce fight: Every single game of round one ended decisively. 

Dronavalli vs. Assaubayeva

Dronavalli scored a seamless positional win vs. Assaubayeva, starting with the simple yet effective idea behind 14.Nd2, clearing the way for her bishop to exchange on c6 and saddle Black with doubled, isolated c-pawns. 

In response, Assaubayeva made a mystifying choice, nearly mirroring her opponent by exchanging her own finachettoed bishop―which had a perfect, open view of the one of the longest diagonals on the board―for a white knight, but without the purpose of creating any weaknesses in the enemy position. 

Dronavalli herself expressed her shock at her opponent’s decision: “But Bishop into c3 I was taken aback. I thought maybe there was something I missed. I didn’t know what it is. But then after that, it got easier for me to play. From there, I didn’t have any trouble to make moves. It was just an easy flow.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK4Q134XDa0

From that point on, the Indian grandmaster’s deep positional understanding took over, and she began accumulating one advantage after another. By the minor piece ending, Donavalli’s limited material had chased all of Black’s pieces to the back row. Soon she saw the opportunity to exchange into a winning knight vs. bishop endgame and then created an unstoppable passer. 

Kosteniuk vs. Tan

A particularly rivalrous matchup to kickstart the event was the battle between the previous women’s world champions: Kosteniuk (the 12th player to hold the title) and Tan (the 16th).

These heavyweights came ready for a dynamic duel. As Kosteniuk strived to create a powerful presence in the center, Tan struck from the flanks and then disrupted her opponent’s play in the center with the shot, 20…Nd5!? Kosteniuk countered with a speculative knight sacrifice. Tan declined, and the game stablized. The players traded a number of pieces away as they made the second time control. 

Just as the game looked to be winding down with a perpetual check, Tan discovered another enterprising idea, walking her king up the board to recover one of her captured pawns. Though Kosteniuk’s queen and knight dove into the black position in pursuit, the brave black monarch found unexpected safety on g5. With White’s forces distracted by their aggressive intentions, suddenly it’s Tan’s queen and bishop that are finishing off the white king. 

World champions meet. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Wagner vs. Goryachkina

 Wagner started the tournament with a shocking 154-point upset over the top seed, Goryachkina―currently ranked higher than the reigning women’s world champion, GM Ju Wenjun, and every other woman in the world except GM Hou Yifan

In a highly theoretical duel in the Catalan, Wagner gained a significant edge by giving her opponent four pawn islands―the maximum amount possible―including two sets of doubled, isolated pawns. Despite her advantage, when offered a repetition draw against such a highly ranked player, Wagner had to overcome her doubts and find a sense of fortitude:

“Of course, I was considering to repeat moves because I had a bad experience at the last grand prix. I lost my first two games, and I just wanted to start not with a loss and with any point. But I thought my position is really nice. I have no risk, so I have to play on because I have this great opportunity to play in the grand prix, and I have to use it.”

I have this great opportunity to play in the grand prix, and I have to use it.

-Wagner

The game raged on, and Goryachkina activated her pieces and created counter-threats. As the minutes dwindled away in the last time control, the eval bar for the queen and bishop ending hovered between a slight edge for Wagner and equality. Yet, the German competitor continually pressed forward through force of will, searching for progress in persistent, cat-and-mouse style. After five and a half hours of struggle, the top seed faltered under the pressure, and Wagner shook the crosstable with her stunning victory. 

This exemplar of determination our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao.

Wagner seized her chance to defeat the top seed. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Lagno vs. Shuvalova

Lagno wove the game into a blazing king attack with steady maneuvering in a Four Knights Game. Shuvalova struck first with 21…d5, breaking in the center and sacrificing a pawn. Unfazed, Lagno set her sights on gradually building up on the kingside. Can you find her plan?

Lagno would not let her opponent’s king out of her sight. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Dzagnidze vs. Khotenashvili

In a King’s Indian Defense, Dzagnidze and Khotenashvili found their way to an unusual pawn structure: symmetrical and each with an isolated queen pawn but on their opponent’s side of the board. As the players rallied for better piece positions, the game became a double-edged fight for control of the critical center squares. 

In the midst of this tense struggle, both players overlooked a clever way for Dzagnidze to take over the game. Can you spot it?

Ultimately, Dzagnidze gained better piece coordination when Black advanced her pawn to d3, opening up her fianchettoed bishop, but allowing the white forces to surround and soon capture her passer. 

Kiobasa vs. Mammadzada

In a Sicilian Scheveningen, Mammadzada was ready for her opponent’s less-common line and soon gained the upper hand, winning a pawn vs. White’s overextended position. Though Kiolbasa fought for counter-chances into intense time pressure, Mammadzada maintained her edge and grinded her down in the rook ending. 

Results – Round 1










White

Black
Lagno 1 – 0 Shuvalova
Wagner 1 – 0 Goryachkina
Kosteniuk 0 – 1 Tan
Dazgnidze 1 – 0 Khotenashvili
Dronavalli 1 – 0 Assaubayeva
Kiolbasa 0 – 1 Mammadzada

Standings – Round 1

Pairings – Round 2










White

Black
Assaubayeva  –  Shuvalova
Mammadzada  –  Lagno
Khotenashvili  –  Kosteniuk
Goryachkina  –  Dzagnidze
Dronavalli Wagner
Tan Kiolbasa

All Games – Round 1

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