A Tale of Three Sicilians: Wagner Takes Clear Lead
Four leaders become one frontrunner in one pivotal round. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

A Tale of Three Sicilians: Wagner Takes Clear Lead

| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

WGM Dinara Wagner leapt to the clear top of the scoreboard by defeating fellow leader, GM Kateryna Lagno, in a tactical slugfest at the Nicosia FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2022-2023 in round seven. With this victory over the world number five, Wagner has gained 24 FIDE rating points so far, rising two more spots in the live rankings into the top 30 women. 

GMs Harika Dronavalli and Tan Zhongyi are tied for second, chasing the new leader by half a point.

In our Game of the Day, IM Bibisara Assaubayeva scored her first win by overcoming GM Alexandra Kosteniuk in a fierce battle for the initiative. In addition, GM Nana Dzagnidze defeated IM Oliwia Kiolbasa in a double-edged game that culminated in a stunning tactical shot.

Fascinatingly, all three of today's victories were from the black side of the Sicilian Defense. 

The FIDE Women's Grand Prix continues with round eight on Wednesday, May 24, starting at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

How to watch?
You can watch live games of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix on our Events Page. The rounds start each day at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

After their peaceful day off in the Mediterranean, the players returned with fresh verve for the second half of the event. 

Kiolbasa vs. Dzagnidze

In a highly dynamic Sicilian duel, Kiolbasa expanded aggressively on the kingside and sacrificed a pawn on the queenside to loosen her opponent's dark squares. In the spirit of the position, Dzagnidze countered by offering the pawn back to generate her own pressure. While the 23-year-old international master loaded up her heavy pieces to barrel down on Black's kingside, the experienced grandmaster set up a tactical shot that blazed onto the board like a lightning bolt. Can you find it?

Lagno vs. Wagner

Lagno chose the Rossolimo against Wagner's Sicilian, steering away from the Open Sicilian to more positional territory but keeping some dynamic possibilities. In the middlegame, the latent combative potential erupted as Lagno burst open the center with 34.e5! and began circling the black king with her pieces.

In tune with the energetic nature of the position, Wagner warded off her opponent's threats while activating her own pieces. On the last move before time control, Lagno blundered. Ready to switch gears from defensive to tactical, Wagner quickly spotted the flaw behind White's move. Test your own tactical awareness below:

After the game, Wagner shared that she felt invigorated by the game's complexity: "With Black usually, I'm happy with a draw. But when things became really complicated, I thought: This is my chance. Maybe I can spice things up."

 I thought: This is my chance. Maybe I can spice things up.

-Dinara Wagner

Kosteniuk vs. Assaubayeva

Assaubayeva gained her first win of the tournament convincingly vs. Kosteniuk. The Swiss grandmaster sacrificed a pawn to gain greater piece activity and create pressure on Black's f7-pawn. Despite having less development, Assaubayeva found an opportunity to shake her opponent's active pieces and gain the upper hand. How did Assaubayeva wrestle the initiative from the 12th women's world champion?

Up a passed pawn with the bishop pair, the Kazakhstani international master converted cleanly, despite Kosteniuk's attempts to stir up counterplay. Assaubayeva's cool-headed victory is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao.

Showing no sign of her challenging earlier rounds, Assaubayeva was in excellent form today. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Mammadzada vs. Goryachkina

Dominating the center with her leaping knights, IM Gunay Mammadzada gained a commanding middlegame position vs. the world number two. With keen tactical awareness at the pivotal moment, the Azerbaijani international master followed this up by winning her opponent's queen with a powerful discovered attack with 28.Qc5!

Yet, down a queen for a rook and knight, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina coordinated her forces to create nagging counterplay against White's king and weak pawns. In the end, overwhelmed by Black's active pieces and advanced passer, Mammadzada settled for a perpetual check. 

No queen? No problem. Goryachkina fought for the initiative with her other forces. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Tan vs. Khotenashvili

GM Bella Khotenashvili also survived being down a queen to a rook and a minor piece. In the opening, Tan created a dominating center with pawns on d5 and e5, supported by pawns on c4 and f4. Improving her position move after move, Tan's space edge grew to overwhelming proportions.

In the critical position, the 16th world champion converted her vast positional advantage to a material one but allowed Khotenashvili counter-chances in the process. With no opposing counterpart, Black's light-squared bishop could solidify one color of the board, stopping White's pawns in their tracks. In addition, with fewer pieces for both sides, the Georgian grandmaster had more chance to get her connected queenside passers rolling down the board. Ultimately, Tan also took the opportunity to draw with a perpetual. 

Shuvalova vs. Harika

IM Polina Shuvalova and Harika seemed to be testing each other's opening preparation in the Four Knights Game. In their highly theoretical game, Harika sacrificed two pawns and two exchanges to head into a forced perpetual check. Shuvalova finished the game with six more minutes than she started with, while Harika used only 13 minutes, showing that much forethought for both sides must've gone into navigating such a complex position. 

Results - Round 7

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

Standings - Round 7

Wagner has the chance to extend her lead in round eight with the white pieces vs. Shuvalova. Yet, the 22-year-old international master has been a relentless fighter this tournament. Perhaps she will try to catch the leader and play for a win herself. 

Two heavyweight matchups are also on deck: Goryachkina vs. Tan and Dzagnidze vs. Lagno. Will any of them gain ground on the leader?

Pairings - Round 8

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

All Games - Round 7

Previous Coverage:

NM Vanessa West

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

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