The second leg of the Fide Women’s Grand Prix in Monaco seems to be adjusted like a clockwork. As on the previous day, the round ended with four decisive results and two draws.
The game between Mariya Muzychuk and Kateryna Lagno was a real roller coaster. Lagno’s opening choice clearly backfired, as she quickly found herself in a critical position.
But the King’s Indian were not the King’s Indian if Black could not try to muddy water by a desperate attack. The value of every move is very high and any mistake by White may turn the tables. Muzychuk spoiled part of her advantage with 30.Bb6 and even gave Black a winning attack with 31.fxe4.
But the position was so unusual and complex that both grandmasters failed to exploit their chances. As a result, Muzychuk emerged from the time trouble with a winning position and eventually won the game.
In fact, Mariya Muzychuk was not the only player to bounce back from a defeat in round two, as both Valentina Gunina and Aleksandra Goryachkina achieved the same feet. This proved particularly important for Gunina after her two initial losses. She actually won a very nice game against her compatriot Alexandra Kosteniuk, reminding everybody how dangerous an attacking player she can be.
In her post-game commentary, Goryachkina felt that her win had been rather smooth after her opponent Zhao Xue failed to handle the early middle-game properly. Indeed, she won a pawn with 23.Bxd5, and converted it confidently in the endgame.
Nana Dzagnidze inflicted a second consecutive defeat to Elisabeth Paehtz, when she handled the middlegame better. She gradually increased her advantage and obtained an endgame with Rook and Knight each, where her position was much more active.
The leader Humpy Koneru somewhat carelessly allowed Anna Muzychuk to grab a pawn on a7.
She admitted afterwards that she thought she could trap the adventurous Bishop. But she understood in time that she actually had to be careful, and managed to draw by repetition of moves.
Harika Dronavalli and Pia Cramling exchanged queens very early on. The symmetrical structure presaged a quiet game which indeed ended in a draw after 31 moves.
Koneru remains sole leader but faces one of her pursuers in the next round. With the white pieces, Dzagnidze will certainly try and overtake the Indian.
Results of round 3:
Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger) – Nana Dzagnidze (Geo): 0-1
Pia Cramling (Swe) – Harika Dronavalli (Ind): ½ – ½
Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus) – Zhao Xue (China): 1-0
Valentina Gunina (Rus) – Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus): 1-0
Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr) – Kateryna Lagno (Rus): 1-0
Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) – Humpy Koneru (Ind): ½ – ½
Standings after round 3:
1. Humpy Koneru – 2½ points
2-3. Nana Dzagnidze et Harika Dronavalli – 2
4-9. Mariya Muzychuk, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Kateryna Lagno, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Anna Muzychuk et Pia Cramling – 1½
10-11. Zhao Xue et Valentina Gunina – 1
12. Elisabeth Paehtz – ½
Round 4, 6 December
Nana Dzagnidze (Geo) vs Humpy Koneru (Ind)
Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus)vs Anna Muzychuk (Ukr)
Kateryna Lagno (Rus) vs Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr)
Zhao Xue (China) vs Valentina Gunina (Rus)
Harika Dronavalli (Ind) vs Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus)
Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger) vs Pia Cramling (Swe)