Wagner Wins Nicosia Grand Prix; Lagno, Goryachkina Claim Candidates Spots
Wagner's score of 7/11 is enough to claim outright first. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Wagner Wins Nicosia Grand Prix; Lagno, Goryachkina Claim Candidates Spots

| 53 | Chess Event Coverage

WGM Dinara Wagner secured victory with the black pieces in the fourth leg of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2022-2023 after defeating GM Bela Khotenashvili and moving to 7/11. After Wagner suffered a loss in round nine that allowed GMs Harika Dronavalli and Tan Zhongyi to catch her, she pulled out all the stops to claim the crown and a GM norm.

GMs Kateryna Lagno and Aleksandra Goryachkina also had reason to celebrate as they were announced as the overall winners of the Grand Prix and both earned the two spots on offer to the next Candidates Tournament.

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

Khotenashvili vs. Wagner

When Wagner showed up at the board for her round-11 clash, she had everything to play for. While outwardly the German WGM was playing for first place in the event, the eventual winner would later bring to light that by winning her match, she had confirmed her maiden GM norm.

An unusual opening in the final game meant that all three results were possible in Khotenashvili-Wagner. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Though she didn't mind a draw, Wagner embraced imbalance when Khotenashvili took steps to create an unusual position in the English Opening: Carls-Bremen, Smyslov System. Her Georgian opponent attempted to put pressure on Wagner's queenside, but the IM was able to hit back with twice the force on the kingside.

Our Game of the Day, which decided the tournament's winner, is analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Wagner picked up 27 FIDE rating points, pushing her live rating to 2444 and well on her way to the required 2500 for the GM title. Wagner was the lowest-rated player heading into the event, so to claim victory in Nicosia is a true underdog story.

Wagner moved up 14 spots in the world rankings and is now the 28th highest-rated women's player. Image:

Goryachkina vs. Harika

A 12-move, 20-minute draw played out between Goryachkina and Harika, who both had competitive reasons to split. For Goryachkina, a draw would cement her spot in the top-two overall Grand Prix standings while for Harika, she would be guaranteed to finish on the podium in Nicosia. Though Wagner would eventually leapfrog her, the Indian GM was still able to bank €10,000 in prize money with her 6.5/11 score.

Goryachkina-Harika was basically over before it began. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Lagno vs. Assaubayeva

Like in Goryachkina's case, Lagno was not interested in taking risks on Saturday and played a known drawing line in the Sicilian Defense: Canal, Main Line, Sokolsky Variation in order to secure her spot atop the Grand Prix standings. Although the game lasted 18 moves longer than Goryachkina-Harika, it was over even faster.

Upon qualifying, Lagno would say: "Well, of course, I am very happy and relieved. The main goal was to qualify for the Candidates, but to win the overall series like a bonus."

Lagno finished her game with an extra eight minutes on the clock! The GM also confirmed her Candidates spot. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.'s Opening Explorer was able to provide an interesting revelation on move 20, indicating that the exact position had been reached 40 times at the master level and had been drawn each time.

GM Peter Heine Nielsen, most famous for being GM Magnus Carlsen's long-time coach, posted a tweet hinting at the possibility of collusion going on in the backend of the tournament but did not elaborate further.

Tan vs. Dzagnidze

The showdown between two of the tournament's most volatile combatants, Tan and GM Nana Dzagnidze, lived up to expectations and was the most unique game of the entire event. In the Sicilian Defense: Najdorf, Adams Attack, Tan built an aggressive position early with a focus on her bishops and their scope. Dzagnidze's response was to sacrifice the exchange, giving birth to a strong bishop pair of her own.

FIDE's commentators GM Alik Gershon and WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili began to notice live that Tan, who had been playing for a win and first place heading into the last round, was in serious trouble. With her pawns dropping off the board at the mercy of Black's two bishops, Tan had to dodge a queen trade to keep her chances alive, and she quickly followed up with what seemed to be a routine knight check.

Unknown to the former women's world champion, Dzagnidze had hatched a master plan and proceeded to sacrifice her queen for the knight, creating an imbalance that Gershon had "never seen before." Astoundingly, the two bishops and four pawns were superior to White's queen and three pawns, and with a dynamic king walk, Dzagnidze would have secured the result.

In all sorts of trouble, Tan needed to execute a Houdini-like escape to cling to an equal second in the tournament. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Even with an extra 40 minutes on the clock after the time control, the line proved too difficult for the Georgian, who eventually had to settle for threefold repetition. Usually keeping her emotions to herself, Tan could barely contain her satisfaction and was visibly excited by the extraordinary hold.

Shuvalova vs. Kiolbasa

IM Polina Shuvalova was the only player other than Wagner to win her round-11 clash and managed to do so against the tournament's second lowest-rated player, IM Oliwia Kiolbasa, in a brutal attacking game.

The Trompowsky Attack: Big Center Variation appeared in Shuvalova-Kiolbasa. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

The evaluation bar did fall in favor of the winless Kiolbasa at one stage in the opening after two mistakes by Shuvalova, but the Russian IM quickly rectified these with a potent knight sacrifice on h6!

A queen sacrifice was on the menu once again, and this time it was used to polish off the game in style. Though Shuvalova's win couldn't secure her first, an equal second-place result in Nicosia is an outstanding comeback for her after losing her opening game of the event against Lagno.

Despite the win, Shuvalova professionally noted: "I'm not happy with the quality of the game. In the opening I played badly; she could have a winning position on 10.f3?."

Mammadzada vs. Kosteniuk

The game between IM Gunay Mammadzada and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk ended in a draw on move 38 and had little bearing on the top end of the leaderboard. Though the game itself was long, most of the time was spent by Mammadzada ensuring that Kosteniuk did not gain any initiative and that pieces would eventually fly off the board with few dramatics.

Mammadzada secured a draw with the white pieces against former women's world champion Kosteniuk. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

For Mammadzada, a 5.5/11 score saw her gain seven FIDE rating points. However, for Kosteniuk, her 5/11 score left her disappointingly short of a top-two spot in the overall Grand Prix standings. After a tournament win in Munich and a strong showing in Astana, the subpar score in Nicosia has left her needing to find another way to qualify for the next cycle of the Women's Candidates.

Results - Round 11

White Black
Lagno 1/2-1/2 Assaubayeva
Shuvalova 1-0 Kiolbasa
Mammadzada 1/2-1/2 Kosteniuk
Tan 1/2-1/2 Dzagnidze
Khotenashvili 0-1 Wagner
Goryachkina 1/2-1/2 Harika

Standings - Round 11

For her efforts in Nicosia, Wagner wins the biggest monetary prize of her career, bagging €15,000 alongside the trophy and a GM norm. The trio who tied for second place—Harika, Tan, and Shuvalova—each earns €10,000 while Lagno and Goryachkina receive €20,000 and €16,000 respectively for their overall Grand Prix standing.

The FIDE Women's Grand Prix Fourth Leg took place May 15-28, 2023, in Nicosia, Cyprus. The format was a round-robin tournament with 12 players. The time control was 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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