Alexandra Kosteniuk, with the black pieces, was the only player to score a full point in the 10th round of the Women’s Grand Prix in Monaco.
She now joins Humpy Koneru in the second place, both trailing Aleksandra Goryachkina, who drew here match and keeps her one-point margin atop the point standings.
The match-up between Humpy and Goryachkina today may decide whether the Indian Grandmaster can draw level at top, having the white pieces in their direct encounter.
The leader came out unscathed from her two encounters with the Muzychuk sisters. After escaping defeat against Mariya on Thursday, Goryachkina drew with Anna on Friday. Anna got a very attractive position from the opening, but did not manage to find the best way in all complications. In the end, the Russian found a way to simplify into a drawn endgame.
Humpy, with the black pieces against Pia Cramling, tried to unbalance the game early on by giving her opponent an important space advantage. The Swede, who was the number one woman player in the world some 35 years ago, reacted well to the challenge. She seemed to get control of the game thanks to a better pawn structure, but Koneru actually achieved sufficient activity to keep the balance. At one point, Cramling hastily exchanged rooks, after which her task became difficult in the endgame. But she nevertheless held the draw thanks to precise defensive play. In her short post-game interview, the Indian indicated that all players were very tired and that her last-round battle against Goryachkina might well be a nervous fight.
In the game between Harika Dronavalli and Alexandra Kosteniuk, the Indian was expected to try her chance to join the lead, or at least to get closer to Goryachkina. She did not play the most aggressive opening, but things are rarely decided in this part of the game. The fight was balanced for a long time, until Dronavalli took a poisoned pawn in the endgame. The Russian used her chance perfectly, clinched victory and jumped to shared second with Koneru.
Both Nana Dzagnidze and Zhao Xue had chances to win their encounter. The Georgian was better at first, but found herself on the defending side after a few mistakes. In a titanic fight of 99 moves and five and a half hours, the longest so far in Monaco, the two champions eventually shared the point.
It looked as if Valentina Gunina was going to suffer yet another defeat in round 10. Mariya Muzychuk reached and advantageous position with the black pieces but hesitated a lot afterwards, and allowed the Russian back into the game. Gunina eventually secured her first draw in this event, and avoided a seventh consecutive loss.
Elisabeth Paehtz mixed up some moves in her opening against Kateryna Lagno but found a way to repeat the position around move 20 to secure a draw.
Results of round 10:
Nana Dzagnidze (Geo) – Zhao Xue (China) ½-½
Harika Dronavalli (Ind) – Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus) 0-1
Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger) – Kateryna Lagno (Rus): ½-½
Pia Cramling (Swe) – Humpy Koneru (Ind) ½-½
Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus) – Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) ½-½
Valentina Gunina (Rus) – Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr): ½-½
Standings after round 10:
1. Aleksandra Goryachkina – 7 points
2-3. Humpy Koneru and Alexandra Kosteniuk – 6
4-7. Anna Muzychuk, Harika Dronavalli, Kateryna Lagno and Pia Cramling – 5½
8. Mariya Muzychuk – 5
9. Nana Dzagnidze – 4½
10-11. Elisabeth Paehtz and Zhao Xue – 4
12. Valentina Gunina – 1½
11th and last round, 14 December:
Humpy Koneru (Ind) vs Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus)
Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr) vs Nana Dzagnidze (Geo)
Zhao Xue (China) vs Harika Dronavalli (Ind)
Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus) vs Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger)
Kateryna Lagno (Rus) vs Pia Cramling (Swe)
Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) vs Valentina Gunina (Rus)