Women's Candidates: Dzagnidze, Goryachkina Take Early Lead
Round three of the Women's Candidates underway in Kazan. | Photo: FIDE.

Women's Candidates: Dzagnidze, Goryachkina Take Early Lead

| 27 | Chess Event Coverage

Three rounds have been played at the women's candidates' tournament in Kazan, Russia. Enjoying their first rest day, Aleksandra Goryachkina (Russia) and Nana Dzagnidze (Georgia) lead with 2.5/3.

It might have taken approximately 20 years and a FIDE metamorphosis to reinstate the women's candidates' tournament to its former glory, but as the Tatars say, "Соң булса да, уң булсын" or as it is commonly known in English: better late than never. And that is why in the sports city of Kazan, eight of the best female chess players lined up to face off in, what might arguably be the strongest and longest female tournament ever held.

With a mere 55 rating points separating the top and bottom seeds (Mariya Muzychuk's 2560 versus Goryachkina's 2505) and a marathon 14 rounds, it will certainly be a tough fight to determine the next challenger to women's world champion Ju Wenjun's crown.  

FIDE Women's Candidates 2019
The eight contenders. | Photo: FIDE.

With four of the eight participants hailing from Russia - (GMs Kateryna Lagno, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Aleksandra Goryachkina), two Ukrainian sisters Anna and Mariya Muzychuk as well as Nana Dzagnidze from Georgia and Tan Zhongyi from China, there is no place for sibling or patriotic loyalty. It's a fight to the end where only the winner takes it all. 

You can read more about the players in the full preview here

Round 1: There is music for those who listen

Dzagnidze, Nana vs. Tan, Zhongyi ½-½
Gunina, Valentina vs. Lagno, Kateryna ½-½
Kosteniuk, Alexandra vs. Goryachkina, Aleksandra ½-½
Muzychuk, Mariya vs. Muzychuk, Anna ½-½

In order to avoid any form of collusion, tournament regulations stipulated that the players must be paired against their compatriots in the early rounds. Thus, the Muzychuk sisters would meet in round one and round eight, whilst the four Russian players would  play each other in rounds one to three, and eight to 10.

To the surprise of probably no-one, the first round got off to a very peaceful start with four draws on the table. Whilst there were no pulses racing in the short(ish) draws between the Muzychuk sisters and Tan-Dzagnidze, the same could not be said of the two all-Russian derbies.

Kosteniuk Goryachkina FIDE Women's Candidates
The first move of the tournament between Kosteniuk and Goryachkina. | Photo: FIDE.

The first slightly unexpected result was that the newly crowned IMSA Masters rapid champion Kosteniuk barely managed to escape the pressure exerted on her by the young Goryachkina. 

Aleksandra Goryachkina FIDE Women's Candidates
Aleksandra Goryachkina. | Photo: FIDE.

Branded the tournament "tactical magician" by commentator IM Elisabeth Paehtz, Gunina, fully lived up to the name by producing the following piece of sorcery in her game against Lagno.

Valentina Gunina FIDE Women's Candidates
A little prayer never harmed anyone... GM Valentina Gunina. | Photo: FIDE.

Afterward, both Gunina and Lagno expressed some discontent with the playing venue. Not only was the room too cold but even worse it was very noisy. In fact, the noise was so loud that the organisers have taken the radical decision to move the chess action into a different room, starting from round four.

Round 2: "To catch a Tatar" - To encounter or be forced to reckon with someone or something that proves more powerful, troublesome or formidable than one expected

Goryachkina, Aleksandra vs. Gunina, Valentina 1-0
Lagno, Kateryna vs. Kosteniuk, Alexandra ½-½
Muzychuk, Anna vs. Dzagnidze, Nana 0-1
Tan, Zhongyi vs. Muzychuk, Mariya ½-½ 

Failing to tame that formidable opponent was undoubtedly the take-home message from the games in rounds two.  Both Lagno and Muzychuk failed to maximise their pleasant advantages against Kosteniuk and Tan respectively.  However, as the saying goes when you are young and talented, everything is easy and Goryachkina made it look effortless with a beautiful endgame finesse against Gunina.

It is certainly a nice puzzle to solve!

Showing her endgame prowess, Goryachkina talks to Russain commentator Sergei Shipov. | Photo: FIDE.
Showing her endgame prowess, Goryachkina talks to Russain commentator Sergei Shipov. | Photo: FIDE.

But it was the Georgian GM Dzagnidze's remarkable display of dynamism over Anna Muzychuk that really stole the show:

Nana Dzagnidze FIDE Candidates' Tournament 2019
In powerful form: Nana Dzagnidze. | Photo: FIDE.

Round 3: The whitewash

Dzagnidze, Nana vs. Muzychuk, Mariya 1-0
Goryachkina, Aleksandra vs. Lagno, Kateryna 1-0
Gunina, Valentina vs. Kosteniuk, Alexandra 1-0
Tan, Zhongyi vs. Muzychuk, Anna 1-0

Ruthless situations demand cut-throat measures and the third round, much to the crowd's enjoyment saw four decisive games. When its a white-wash with the white pieces -  black is certainly not OK. Once more, Dzagnidze showed off some powerful form to win a very convincing game against top seed Mariya Muzychuk.

Nana Dzagnidze vs Mariya Muzychuk FIDE Candidates
The secret to good chess? Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. An impressive display from Dzagnidze against M.Muzychuk (seated). | Photo: FIDE.

Things got a lot more competitive between Gunina versus Kosteniuk:

Gunina vs Kosteniuk FIDE Women's Candidates
Gunina vs. Kosteniuk. | Photo: FIDE.

Former women's world champion Tan also scored her first win against Anna Muzychuk, after the Ukranian missed a beautiful trick.

Tan Zhongyi won her first game to reach 2/3. | Photo: FIDE.

The game between Goryachkina and Lagno demonstrated the importance of knowing basic rook versus pawn endgames, just when it looked like Lagno had saved a hard fought draw. The following happened.

Goryachkina Lagno FIDE Women's Candidates 2019
Not all rook and pawn endings are drawn. Goryachkina (white) vs Lagno. | Photo: FIDE.

2019 FIDE Women's Candidates' | Round 3 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Goryachkina,Aleksandra 2522 2814 1 ½ 1 2.5/3 3
2 Dzagnidze,Nana 2510 2817 ½ 1 1 2.5/3 2.5
3 Tan,Zhongyi 2513 2657 ½ ½ 1 2.0/3
4 Gunina,Valentina 2506 2540 0 1 ½ 1.5/3
5 Kosteniuk,Alexandra 2546 2407 ½ 0 ½ 1.0/3 1.75
6 Muzychuk,Mariya 2563 2401 0 ½ ½ 1.0/3 1.25
7 Lagno,Kateryna 2554 2405 0 ½ ½ 1.0/3 1.25
8 Muzychuk,Anna 2539 2250 0 0 ½ 0.5/3

Monday is a rest day, as there is one after each set of three rounds. The playing days are May 31 – June 2, 4-6, 8-10, 12-14, and 16-17. Tie-breaks (if needed) and the closing ceremony will take place on June 18.

The Women's Candidates' has a record prize fund of 200,000 Euros with a first prize of 50,000 Euros. The winner will become Ju Wenjun’s challenger, with half a million euros at stake in the title match.

The tournament venue is the Nogai Hotel in Kazan, Russia. The rounds start 3 p.m. local time, which is 14:00 CEST, 8 a.m. Eastern, 5 a.m. Pacific. You can watch the games of the Candidates' Tournament here as part of our live portal. The official website is here.

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