Double Indian Win At Women's GP, Koneru Leads Overall

Double Indian Win At Women's GP, Koneru Leads Overall

| 6 | Chess Event Coverage

Why not take a selfie with grandma? GM Harika Dronavalli broke out with early wins to take the lead at the FIDE Women's Grand Prix event in Chengdu, China. She then cruised with four draws late to tie for first and claim her first career title in the series. She actually eclipsed fellow Indian compatriot GM Humpy Koneru on tiebreaks, but that was mostly a formality since the duo shares the prize money and Grand Prix points evenly according to tournament rule 7.1.

All photos courtesy FIDE.

Both women earned 145 points for the fortnight of play. The result opens up a lead for Koneru on the field in the Grand Prix series. The unique rules of the event state that each woman plays three out of five events. Unlike the men's Grand Prix, where the top two finishers advance to the Candidates' Tournament, the women are playing for first place only. The top finisher in the series goes on to play a 10-game match for the Women's World Championship.

Koneru's lead is tenuous since the number-two woman, GM Ju Wenjun, has bagged a first- and a third-place finish and has played only two events thus far. At the end of this report you'll find a breakdown of all the women still in the chase and their individual scenarios.

From left to right, third-place Ju Wenjun; first-place Harika Dronavalli and her gold trophy; and (technically) second-place Humpy Koneru.

The event in Chengdu began on July 1 and concluded today with some last-round drama. After losing her head-to-head matchup with Dronavalli in round seven, Koneru caught her in the final with a win. In fact, the two got to the winning score of 7.0/11 in much different ways. Dronavalli went undefeated with three wins and eight draws while an undulating Koneru bagged five wins (including three in a row early on) and two losses.

Dronavalli admitted that she reduced her aggression in the tournament's final days to protect her margin.

Video courtesy Goran Urosevic of FIDE.

Dronavalli stormed out front with two wins in the first two days; then she cooled off by drawing eight of her final nine games. She was only interrupted by that win against Koneru.

Backing up to the beginning, in round one, Dronavalli survived an opponent that was intent only on checkmating.

Starting the next day, Koneru reeled off three straight victories. Her "turkey" meant she briefly took the sole overall lead after round four. Here's the final game of that mini-streak, where Black's rook on the kingside could never find harmony with the rest of her pieces. It often takes two passed-pawns to win opposite-colored-bishop endings, but not today!

We should also mention this fun attack by GM Antoaneta Stefanova, who finished in a tie for third with GM Wenjun Ju and GM Anna Muzychuk. In round three, all of White's pieces were centralized. The problem? The three clustered minor pieces were all under attack at the same time!

Even in photography, Dronavalli still aims for the center.

The two Indian GMs drew rounds five and six prior to their big clash in round seven. White was a smidgen better for most of the game, and the advantage became decisive when Black went for immediate queenside liquidation with 34...a5? Instead, sitting tight and allowing the rook and five pawns versus rook and four pawns ending might have offered better resistance.

Dronavalli called it the best game of the event.

Coming down the stretch, Ju's chances for another first-place finish took a severe hit when she dropped a game as White to GM Zhao Xue in round nine. In her only other Grand Prix event, Ju took clear first in Tehran.

The field for Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.

Also in that round, Koneru lost another game (to Anna Muzychuk), seemingly knocking her out of contention. But not so! The next day she took revenge on the other Ukrainian sister (They share both a last name and a rating!) by beating former World Champion GM Mariya Muzychuk with the Pirc Defense.

The gap was still a half point, but Koneru closed that today with a win when she needed it. Thus, she tied Dronavalli, who finished out with her fourth-straight draw.

Not only did the two Indian ladies split the Grand Prix points (145), they also each take home 9,125. Koneru also reclaimed the spot as women's world number two as Ju slipped back to third. GM Hou Yifan, the top female, dropped out of the Grand Prix after winning the first leg in Monte Carlo last year. She has also said she will not play the next knockout world championship.

Ju Wenjun is not in first in the Grand Prix, but due to the math, she may well be the favorite to compete for the next women's world championship.

The final Grand Prix event will be October 12-27, 2016 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Ju will be the top seed, but she will not be the only one who can catch Koneru. Here are the standings followed by a breakdown of the women remaining in contention for first and what they need to do in Russia.

FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2015–16 Standings (Top 15)

Rank Fed Player Sep. 2015 Rating Monte Carlo Tehran Batumi Chengdu Khanty-Mansiysk Total
1 Koneru Humpy 2578 120 70 145 335
2 Ju Wenjun 2542 160 93⅓ pending 253⅓
3 Zhao Xue 2524 120 70 60 250
4 Anna Muzychuk 2549 30 100 93⅓ 223⅓
5 Mariya Muzychuk 2528 120 40 60 220
6 Valentina Gunina 2529 45 160 pending 205
6 Nana Dzagnidze 2573 50 85 70 205
8 Alexandra Kosteniuk 2530 65 130 pending 195
9 Dronavalli Harika 2508 45 145 pending 190
10 Antoaneta Stefanova 2500 65 15 93⅓ 173⅓
11 Natalia Pogonina 2445 85 85 pending 170
12 Hou Yifan 2671 160 160
13 Sarasadat Khademalsharieh 2397 10 120 pending 130
14 Pia Cramling 2513 85 30 10 125
15 Nino Batsiashvili 2500 15 100 pending 115
    • Ju Wenjun trails by 81.66 points. She needs to finish in fourth place or higher. A two-way tie for fourth will also be good enough.
    • Valentina Gunina trails by 130 points. She needs either clear first place or a two- or three-way tie for first. She only ties Koneru by finishing in sole second place.
    • Alexandra Kosteniuk trails by 140 points. She needs either a clear first place win or a two-way tie for first.
    • Harika Dronavalli trails by 145 points. She needs clear first place. She only ties Koneru by finishing in a two-way tie for first.
    • Everyone else is eliminated since they are more than 160 points behind (the value of sole first place).

    The winner of the overall series also takes the top cash prize of €25,000.

    No!! Don't do it. Stefanova and the Muzychuk sisters contemplate taking up Chinese Chess.

    That's more like it. Stefanova learns to play the Guzheng (Chinese Zither).

    FIDE Women's Grand Prix Chengdu  | Final Standings

    Rank Fed Title Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pts SB
    1 GM Harika Dronavalli 2526 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 7 37.5
    2 GM Koneru Humpy 2575 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 7 36
    3 GM Ju Wenjun 2578 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 6 32
    4 GM Stefanova, A. 2512 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 6 31.75
    5 GM Muzychuk, A. 2545 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 6 33.25
    6 GM Khotenashvili, B. 2454 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 29.25
    7 GM Zhao Xue 2510 ½ 0 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 28.5
    8 GM Muzychuk, M. 2545 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 27.75
    9 IM Javakhishvili, L. 2487 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 5 26.5
    10 WGM Girya, Olga 2444 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 5 27.25
    11 WGM Tan Zhongyi 2495 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 4 21.25
    12 GM Cramling, Pia 2463 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 20

    Previous reports on the Women's 2015-2016 Women's Grand Prix Events

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    Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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