News
Daredevil King, Deadlocked Standings
Kosteniuk vs. Shuvalova played a fascinating head-to-head. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Daredevil King, Deadlocked Standings

NM_Vanessa
| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

In the penultimate round, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk and IM Polina Shuvalova engaged in a captivating 95-move battle, featuring a daring white king and a wealth of unique dynamic possibilities. Shuvalova is in contention for first, just a half point behind the leaders of the Nicosia FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2022-2023.

GMs Tan Zhongyi and Harika Dronavalli and WGM Dinara Wagner are still in a standoff at the top of the scoreboard. Wagner and Tan themselves clashed, each trying to generate small advantages vs. their competitive co-leader before drawing with little material left.

GM Kateryna Lagno continues to have a clear lead in the race for Grand Prix points and Candidates qualification. Time is running out for GM Aleksandra Goryachkina or Kosteniuk to make a last bid for the second spot. A year's worth of competition will culminate in the next and final round.

The FIDE Women's Grand Prix finishes with round 11 on Saturday, May 27, starting at 3:00 a.m. Pacific/12:00 CEST.

How to watch?
You can watch live games of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix on our Events Page

Kosteniuk vs. Shuvalova

The opening in Kosteniuk and Shuvalova's game makes us rethink everything we know about king safety. In a Sicilian Four Knights, Kosteniuk's king balked at the idea of castling and eccentrically headed up the board on the kingside via e1-e2-f3.

But don't worry about the wayward white monarch—this is apparently all theory. This king is considered perfectly safe and even aids the other white pieces in developing, such as by guarding e3 for the dark-squared bishop.

The reason the king is oddly safe so close to the center is that, along with the locked center, the white queen can take up a commanding position on the d6-outpost, keeping watch of much of the board. Its dominating placement usually soon incites a trade of queens into an endgame where the white king is more comfortable centralized. 

As usual, Shuvalova played very quickly in the first 20 moves, demonstrating thorough preparation. She sacrificed a pawn with 18...g5, trying to open lines to the adventurous white king. Kosteniuk seemed to be caught off guard, accepting the sacrifice and responding resourcefully but overlooking the most pressing line. Try your hand at navigating White's way through the curiosities of this bizarre position. 

Kosteniuk works to weave her way through her opponent's maddening preparation. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Not surprisingly, the players adopted a more human approach. They traded queens, and Shuvalova gained compensation by creating pressure reminiscent of the Benko Gambit but on the opposite side, pressing down the open g- and h-files with her rooks, joined by her b7-bishop to aim toward White's kingside targets.

Kosteniuk safeguarded her weak points and cleared all her pieces off the a8-h1 diagonal, away from the light-squared bishop's intense stare. Shuvalova reacted by activating all her pieces and taking over the center with ...e5. In this critical position, Shuvalova missed her own opportunity to incite chaos. 

Granted a fresh chance, the 12th women's world champion undermined Black's center with a 45.g4!? break, soon sacrificing the exchange to enter a knight and two pawns vs. rook ending where she could press without risk. 

Though Kosteniuk tried to create subtle chances in the arising ending, Shuvalova held those ideas off. When the Chess Queen found herself in time trouble, she traded pawns and allowed the game to wind down to a peaceful finish. 

This fighting draw is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao.


Dzagnidze vs. Mammadzada

GM Nana Dzagnidze opted for the delayed Alapin Variation against IM Gunay Mammadzada’s Sicilian Defense, avoiding major theory and setting up for simple development and center control with Bd3-d2, and then castling and preparing d2-d4. 

Dzagnidze showed aggressive intentions when she pressed forward with 12.e5, but this offered Black d5 as an outpost for her knight. After a series of threats and dynamic exchanges in the center, material remained even but with a few positional plusses for Black: more coordinated pieces and a target in White's isolated d-pawn. Mammadzada made small improvements in her position to press her edge, but Dzagnidze was able to equalize in time with a few accurate trades. 

Despite playing black vs. a higher-rated competitor, Mammadzada drew from a position of strength. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Kiolbasa vs. Lagno

Lagno equalized with ease against IM Oliwia Kiolbasa's Ruy Lopez, achieving the thematic ...d5 center break. As the game developed, Lagno felt that her best opportunity to create chances was playing 22...b4!? before Kiolbasa shut down this possibility a move later by blocking it with her own pawn. As the center opened, many exchanges occurred when White missed her own opportunity to press for more by creating tactical possibilities. Can you find it?

When Kiolbasa overlooked this, the game returned to equality, and the players soon drew.

Lagno shared her mindset and feelings about the event: "Nothing special yet because the tournament is not over. It's a hard tournament, and everyone is tired already. But, what to do, still one game to go, and I should concentrate myself."

Despite her challenging score, Kiolbasa has often had winning chances vs. her top-notch opponents. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Harika vs. Khotenashvili

In the English, Harika gained a slight edge with the long-term strength of her g2-bishop, aiming down the longest open diagonal on the board, and her knight on the potent d5-outpost. However, GM Bella Khotenashvili's position out of the opening was very stable with no real weaknesses. White's main plan is to prepare the queenside break of a pawn push to b4, but Black blocked this by beating her to it.  

As the queenside files opened, the players tried to create small imbalances in activity and pawn structure. But ultimately, there was a slew of exchanges: all the rooks on the queenside and the light-squared bishops—neutralizing White’s mighty fianchettoed bishop—and the game remained level.

Wagner vs. Tan

Wagner and Tan played into the very balanced Bogo-Indian, which leads to an early trade of dark-squared bishops, giving each side more space to get a comfortable position. Many trades ensued until the players reached an even knight and pawn ending. 

In the endgame, the players maneuvered for modest gains: Wagner brought her knight to the d5-outpost and gained space on the queenside. To counter, Tan expanded on the kingside. 

Soon, all the center and kingside pawns were traded away. Though Tan had a more active king, with just two pawns left each on the same queenside files, the players agreed to a draw. 

The leaders fought for nano-advantages in their ultimately balanced game. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Assaubayeva vs. Goryachkina

IM Bibisara Assaubayeva played the solid Exchange Variation of the Slav Defense, going into an even symmetrical position where both sides have a comfortable game. Goryachkina equalized without any difficulty, and the players repeated the position starting on move 17.

Results - Round 10

White Black
Assaubayeva 1/2 - 1/2 Goryachkina
Harika 1/2 - 1/2 Khotenashvili
Wagner 1/2 - 1/2 Tan
Dzagnidze 1/2 - 1/2 Mammadzada
Kosteniuk 1/2 - 1/2 Shuvalova
Kiolbasa 1/2 - 1/2 Lagno

Standings - Round 10

After this all-draw round, the standings remain the same with three players still deadlocked in a tie for first: Wagner, Harika, and Tan. With just one round remaining, who is most likely to win this event? Of the top three, Tan is only the one with the white pieces, giving her the best opportunity to press for the full point and clinch the tournament outright.

If the three leaders draw or lose, Shuvalova is just a half point behind and with white faces Kiolbasa. With this chance to potentially join in a tie for first, she might go all out for the win. Lagno is also in the same position, but she is likely to prioritize Grand Prix points than take a risk. 

If it does come down to a tie, Tan and Shuvalova have the advantage in the first tiebreak: a higher number of games with the black pieces. Both will have played black six times. 

The tension mounts in the penultimate round. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

For the two Candidates qualification spots, Lagno is the frontrunner, on track to finish at the top with 325 points. For the second spot, the pressure is on in the final round for Goryachkina or Kosteniuk to finish high enough to pass GM Zhu Jiner.

The FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2022-2023 series culminates on Saturday with the final round.

Pairings - Round 11

White Black
Lagno  -  Assaubayeva
Shuvalova  -  Kiolbasa
Mammadzada  -  Kosteniuk
Tan  -  Dzagnidze
Khotenashvili - Wagner
Goryachkina - Harika

All Games - Round 10


Previous Coverage:

NM_Vanessa
NM Vanessa West

Vanessa West is a National Master, a chess teacher, and a writer for Chess.com. In 2017, they won the Chess Journalist of the Year award.

You can follow them on X: Vanessa__West

More from NM NM_Vanessa
Kids Take 1st Victory: Atwell, Paragua Beat Nemo, Cramling

Kids Take 1st Victory: Atwell, Paragua Beat Nemo, Cramling

Carlsen Wins Inaugural Casablanca Chess, Climbs Kasparov's Everest

Carlsen Wins Inaugural Casablanca Chess, Climbs Kasparov's Everest