GM Alexandra Kosteniuk continued her unbeaten run in the Munich FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in round four after slaying GM Tan Zhongyi’s Hyper Accelerated Dragon. The fourth straight victory for the “Chess Queen” pushes her out to a remarkable 1.5-point lead over the field as the tournament nears the halfway point.
GMs Humpy Koneru and Mariya Muzychuk were the only other players to secure full points on Sunday and are joined by GM Nana Dzagnidze on 2.5/4 as the key contenders in pursuit of the leader.
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.
Kosteniuk’s fourth straight win was a messy affair and in stark contrast to her grinding endgame from round three against WGM Dinara Wagner. In order to assert herself at the top of the leaderboard, the former women’s world champion had to overcome the dangerous Sicilian Defense: Hyper Accelerated Dragon, opting for a delayed Alapin setup as her weapon of choice.
Tan showed her willingness to fight and castled queenside on move seven but ended up regretting the decision, eventually taking the brunt of a well-timed assault after a move-23 mistake. GM Rafael Leitao has unpacked Kosteniuk’s conversion and annotated our exciting Game of the Day.
Post-match, the tournament leader was critical of her own performance, stating: “The result was very nice, but I wasn’t happy at all.” She indicated that she felt that her creativity had “backfired” in the opening.
Despite the imperfections in her game on Sunday, the perfect start on the leaderboard for the “Chess Queen” has driven her live rating up by 17 points and has left her only 25 points shy of a career peak of 2561 (which she achieved in 2018).
For the Muzychuk sisters, it was a day of contrasting results, with Anna’s Grunfeld falling to Koneru, while Mariya found a way through with black against WGM Zhu Jiner, procuring her first win of the tournament.
Jiner looked to be headed for a regulation draw on the white side of the Sicilian Defense: Nyezhmetdinov-Rossolimo Attack and traded into an endgame where she held a slight edge despite a one-pawn disadvantage. The pressure got to the Chinese GM, though, and after a trio of inaccuracies, Muzychuk’s previously inactive bishop was liberated, resulting in a game-ending attack.
After a miraculous save in round three, Koneru looked to press with the white pieces against her Ukrainian opponent and benefitted from an inaccurate exchange sacrifice in the middlegame. Open file domination became the Indian GM’s top priority in the ensuing moments, and this proved decisive. Muzychuk was unable to make inroads to account for the material deficit.
The biggest fight in the remaining games came from Wagner and GM Nana Dzagnidze, who slugged out 63 moves of near-perfect play before agreeing to a draw. After lodging a passed pawn on the third rank, the Georgian GM would have felt there were still some chances to press; however, a bishop blockade rescued the position for Wagner.
The games between GMs Elisabeth Paehtz and Harika Dronavalli, as well as IM Alina Kashlinskaya and GM Zhansaya Abdumalik, ended in tame draws. After struggling with the white pieces so far in the event, Abdumalik should have been pleased to find a slashing rook sacrifice that earned her equality and enough respect from her opponent to agree to a draw several moves later.
Round five will see Kosteniuk face one of her toughest challengers yet in Dronavalli who remains undefeated thus far in the event. Despite a long history of tight matches between the pair, in their current form, their round-five clash will be a classic case of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
All Games – Round 4
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.