Goryachkina Tops 3rd Leg Of Women's Grand Prix; Zhu Claims GM Title
Goryachkina is now in the top three of the overall Grand Prix standings with a tournament in hand over most of her competitors. Photo: Ismael Nieto/FIDE.

Goryachkina Tops 3rd Leg Of Women's Grand Prix; Zhu Claims GM Title

| 25 | Chess Event Coverage

GMs Aleksandra Goryachkina, Bibisara Assaubayeva, and Zhu Jiner tied for first in the recently concluded third leg of the 2022-2023 FIDE Women's Grand Prix with scores of 6/9 in New Delhi, with Goryachkina edging out the trio on tiebreaks.

Following a difficult start that saw three of the participants withdraw before the tournament (citing organizational issues) and a pairings shake-up after GM Elisabeth Paehtz followed suit, there ended up being plenty to celebrate at the end of the 11th round.

Zhu was crowned as China's 39th GM after crossing a 2500 FIDE rating, while Assaubayeva received her second GM norm in what was an exhibition of the future of women's chess.

The fourth and final leg of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix will take place in Nicosia, Cyprus, and commence on Monday, May 15, 2023.

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The early leader in the tournament was none other than Kazakhstan's Assaubayeva, who started with a dominant 4.5/6. Four wins over WGM Rameshbabu Vaishali, GM Nino Batsiashvili, GM Harika Dronavalli, and IM Polina Shuvalova were marred only by a tough loss to the eventual winner, Goryachkina.

The 19-year-old played enterprising chess throughout and the win against Vaishali on the black side of the Sicilian Defense: Hyperaccelerated Dragon was a particularly classy display.

Though Assaubayeva drew her remaining four rounds and lost sole leadership, her score was enough to secure a second GM norm, her first coming at the 2021 Women's Chess Grand Swiss Tournament in Riga, Latvia.

As the tournament's top-rated player, Goryachkina was never going to sit in the shadows and let Assaubayeva run away with the event, and after a near-perfect drubbing of the leader in round four, the women's world number two stepped things up a notch and won two of her next four games.

Despite her 3.5/9 score, Dronavalli was conquered by just three opponents. Photo: Ismael Nieto/FIDE.

The contrasting nature of her victories demonstrated her versatile skillset, the first of which displayed her acute tactical awareness...

The second, against a stoic Dronavalli, required a little more finesse, and a positional exchange sacrifice coupled with bishop pair domination made this game more characteristic of an elite-level clash.

For Goryachkina, two short draws were enough to secure equal first. It was only after an intense final game between Dronavalli and Shuvalova ended (which Shuvalova won) that it was confirmed that the former women's world championship challenger had accrued better tiebreak points than Assaubayeva and Zhu.

Goryachkina (right center) poses with the winner's trophy alongside Assaubayeva (left center) and Zhu (right) Photo: Ismael Nieto/FIDE.

Like Goryachkina, Zhu had a slow start to the event with three draws, and after a mid-field finish in the second leg in Munich, the Chinese GM seemed to be heading towards a similar performance in New Delhi. In rounds four and five however, Zhu's fortune's flipped, courtesy of a barnstorming win with the black pieces over GM Humpy Koneru, which was undoubtedly a candidate for game of the tournament.

Zhu found her form in round four. Photo: Ismael Nieto/FIDE.

In a combative Nimzo-Indian Defense middlegame, Zhu found the magnificent 21. Ne4!! and continued to fire shot after shot at her opponent's king, ending the game with a final exchange sacrifice in a game where she had played three brilliant moves.

The 20-year-old picked up where she left off in the following round against GM Kateryna Lagno, dealing her opponent her only loss with a picturesque knight sacrifice. Players opted to play cautiously against Zhu after this and the GM didn't find another opportunity to strike until round 10, this time defeating a down-and-out Vaishali with a remarkably similar attack to her round five victory.

Possessing three GM norms coming into the event, Zhu needed 11 rating points to attain the 2500 points required to reach the coveted title and had done so by the time five rounds were complete. For a country whose first GM title came in the year 1990 (GM Ye Rongguang), the number of GMs emerging is nothing short of impressive.

China has now crowned 39 GMs and currently holds three out of four of the open world championship contender spots (both spots in the women's and one in the open category), as well as the women's world championship title (GM Ju Wenjun).

In terms of the 400 Grand Prix points and the 37,000 euros in prize money for first, second, and third, they will be split equally amongst Goryachkina, Assaubayeva, and Zhu. While Zhu will not appear in Nicosia for the fourth leg (players are only allowed to play three legs), Goryachkina and Assaubayeva will aim to leapfrog those whose Grand Prix appearances have come to an end. 


All Games

The FIDE Women's Grand Prix Third Leg (of four) takes place from March 24 to April 6, 2023, in New Delhi, India. 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.

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