Like Sharks, Goryachkina Rises From The Depths

Like Sharks, Goryachkina Rises From The Depths


Resurging after her round-one disappointment, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina was the only victor of round four at the Nicosia FIDE Women’s Grand Prix 2022-2023 on Friday. She scoured the ending with a microscopic edge until she induced mistakes by her opponent, IM Oliwia Kiolbasa. With her second win of the event, Goryachkina nears the top of the scoreboard, pursuing the leaders by half a point. 

WGM Dinara Wagner is proving to be the bottom seed with bite, pressing a pawn-up ending vs. GM Nana Dzagnidze for over five hours. With coldblooded defense, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk survived positional and material pressure from GM Harika Dronavalli.

GMs Kateryna Lagno and Tan Zhongyi continue to lead, but four players are close on their tails: Wagner, Harika, IM Polina Shuvalova, and Goryachkina. 

The final leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix continues with round five on Saturday, May 20, starting at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

How to watch?

You can watch live games of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix on our Events Page. The rounds start each day at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

Harika vs. Kosteniuk

Harika and Kosteniuk have been two great white sharks of the chess world for decades. Their epic matchup led to fascinating and murky waters in a very unorthodox pawn structure. With a locked center and three sets of doubled pawns on the board, Harika searched for a crack in her opponent’s position, but Kosteniuk’s coolheaded, resourceful, and active defense kept her opponent’s threats at bay. 

Two favorites clash in unorthodox territory. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Goryachkina vs. Kiolbasa

After a Catalan where Kiolbasa equalized with ease, a series of curious events took place on move 21. Goryachkina’s king landed on e3 with many pieces still on the board. Perhaps distracted by the fearless monarch, Kiolbasa made a rather elementary mistake, blundering a pawn. Yet, in a moment of mutual blindness, Goryachkina overlooked the hanging pawn, steering the game to a nearly equal ending. Can you spot why the pawn is free?

With only a small advantage in pawn structure, Goryachkina continued to push in the endgame. Commentator GM Alik Gershon shared why it was likely that Goryachkina would press her opponent as much as possible for chances: “After the first few rounds, you often see who is in good form and who is in worse shape. And then like sharks, the players try to go after the blood.” Playing white vs. some of the lower seeds who are having a rough tournament, Goryachkina likely felt a lot of pressure to squeeze out the full point. 

And then like sharks, the players try to go after the blood.

―Alik Gershon

With her opponent’s pieces circling the queenside, Kiolbasa offered Goryachkina another opportunity. Can you find the flaw in the Polish international master’s innocuous-looking king move?

Goryachkina overlooked this nuanced winning line but kept pressing. As the rooks were traded, Kiolbasa may have thought she was out of troubled waters. That was when she made her last mistake, and the top seed caught the wandering black bishop in a net―forcing a trade into a winning king and pawn ending.

This imperfect yet relentless victory is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao.

Assaubayeva vs Mammadzada

Despite the game starting in the usually tranquil seas of the Slav Exchange Variation, Gershon noted that: “With Bibisara, any opening can become explosive.” As if overhearing the commentator’s siren call for a more lively game, IM Bibisara Assaubayeva began launching her g- and h-pawns up the board and then brought her king forward to e2, a surprising move in an open middlegame.

The 19-year-old international master soon carried out her plan, navigating to a better endgame due to her greater space and activity. Yet, IM Gunay Mammadzada countered with perceptive defense, safeguarding her weaknesses and nullifying her opponent’s attempts to increase her edge. 

Though Assaubayeva hasn’t scored her first win yet, she certainly tested her opponent’s defenses this round. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Wagner vs. Dzagnidze

For the second time, Wagner played the longest game. Until she was down to 20 seconds on the clock, she pressed her edge vs. Dzagnidze, a player rated nearly 100 points higher. 

In the middlegame, Wagner’s central play led to the win of a pawn. From there, she traded down to a promising knight vs. bishop ending with the hopes of converting her extra material.

In response, the experienced Dzagnidze demonstrated a high understanding of her defensive task, placing all her pawns on the opposite color of her bishop―so her only minor piece could roam the board freely and work together with the pawns to control squares of both colors, creating a dam to hold back White’s king and knight. 

After exhausting virtually all of the time on her clock and all of her chances to incite play, Wagner allowed the exchange of the last set of pawns to draw. 

Undefeated and just a half point out of first, Wagner has been a formidable bottom seed. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Tan vs. Shuvalova

Tan vs. Shuvalova pitted two players at the top of the scoreboard against each other. So far, both have shown great form. Tan is tied for first while Shuvalova is tied for third, just a half point behind. 

After an early trade of queens and a pair of rooks, Tan pressed, expanding on both sides of the board and looking for chances from her first move advantage. Shuvalova responded actively with full board awareness, keeping the equilibrium. After a series of exchanges leading to an equal same-color bishop ending, the players drew. 

Khotenashvili vs. Lagno

GM Bella Khotenashvili and Lagno looked to be in their home preparation for the entire game, heading into a known drawish ending out of the opening and finishing the game with more time left on their clocks than they started with. Lagno, currently tied for first and playing with the black pieces, seemed content with a draw to have good chances to maintain her lead. It’s unclear why Khotenashvili didn’t try for more with the white pieces.

Results – Round 4


Assaubayeva 1/2 – 1/2  Mammadzada
Tan 1/2 – 1/2  Shuvalova
Khotenashili 1/2 – 1/2 Lagno
Goryachkina 1 – 0 Kiolbasa
Dronavalli 1/2 – 1/2 Kosteniuk
Wagner 1/2 – 1/2 Dzagnidze

Standings – Round 4

In round five, Goryachkina will get her shot at Lagno, one of the leaders. Will Lagno use her chance with the white pieces to try to increase her lead or stay in the safe harbor? Will Goryachkina be content with a peaceful result or try to storm the scoreboard despite playing black?

Pairings – Round 5


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

All Games – Round 4

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