Humpy Koneru Wins Skolkovo FIDE Grand Prix
Humpy Koneru. Photo: David Llada/FIDE.

Humpy Koneru Wins Skolkovo FIDE Grand Prix

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45 | Chess Event Coverage

Humpy Koneru (India), not Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun (China), won the Women's Grand Prix in Skolkovo, Russia. Humpy took over the lead after the ninth round and didn't let go.

The Indian grandmaster scored eight points in 11 games with six draws and five wins. She won 15,000 euros and got 160 Grand Prix points. Ju tied for second place with Aleksandra Goryachkina, and both earned 11,000 euros and 120 GP points.

The remaining three Grand Prix tournaments will be held in December 2019 (Monaco), March 2020 (Lausanne, Switzerland) and May 2020 (Sardinia, Italy). The Grand Prix winner and the runner-up qualify for the Women's Candidates' Tournament to be held in the first half of 2021.

Ju Wenjun 2019 FIDE Women Grand Prix Skolkovo
Ju Wenjun was leading the tournament after eight rounds. Photo: David Llada/FIDE.

Ju was leading the tournament with three rounds to go (see our first report), but everything changed on Friday. The world champion suffered her first defeat of the tournament against Kateryna Lagno in their first clash since the final of the 2018 FIDE knockout world championship.

Lagno was extremely well prepared, which was possible because Ju has played this Petroff with the topical 6...Bf5 several times, including against Lagno herself. The Russian grandmaster could play her first 20(!) moves fast, and it was 20.h4 that surprised Ju.

After 19 minutes the Chinese GM played her reply, but only a few moves later she made an inaccuracy with 23...e5. The pawn break didn't bring her relief and, like Bobby Fischer so clearly showed half a century ago, Lagno demonstrated why a position like this with bishop vs. knight is clearly better for White.

Kateryna Lagno Ju Wenjun 2019 FIDE Women Grand Prix Skolkovo
Kateryna Lagno was the only player to defeat Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun. Photo: David Llada/FIDE.

Half a point behind Ju, Humpy grabbed her chance. The Indian grandmaster defeated Russia's Valentina Gunina, who tried the rare Blumenfeld Gambit, named after the Russian master Benjamin Blumenfeld (1884-1947). Gunina's modern interpretation of this old counter-gambit was a mix with the Benko/Volga Gambit as she went 6...a6!? instead of the more common 6...d5.

In the early middlegame Gunina miscalculated and was forced to sacrifice an exchange. She came back into the game but made another tactical error, and then Humpy finished it off:

Humpy Koneru Valentina Gunina 2019 FIDE Women Grand Prix Skolkovo
Humpy Koneru won a key game versus Valentina Gunina in round nine. Photo: David Llada/FIDE.

The new order was as follows:

  1. Humpy with 7 points,
  2. Ju with 6.5,
  3. Goryachkina with 6, and
  4. Lagno with 5.5.

The penultimate round saw the clash between Ju and Goryachkina, a preview of their world championship match that will be split between Shanghai, China and Vladivostok, Russia and is tentatively scheduled for January 2020.

Ju got a big advantage in the early endgame but let her opponent slip away until Goryachkina erred. The basic rook endgame that ensued was winning for White but, to everyone's surprise, Ju failed to convert:

Ju Goryachkina 2019 FIDE Women Grand Prix Skolkovo
A surprising endgame blunder by Ju vs. Goryachkina. Photo: David Llada/FIDE.

This moment basically decided the tournament. Humpy kept her sole lead, and having the white pieces in the last-round game versus Ju was obviously pleased. The Indian GM comfortably held the draw and scored her first big success since returning to competitive chess at the 2018 Olympiad after a two-year break due to motherhood.

2019 Skolkovo Women Grand Prix | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Pts SB
1 Koneru,Humpy 2560 2677 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 8.0/11
2 Goryachkina,Aleksandra 2564 2639 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 7.5/11 37.25
3 Ju,Wenjun 2576 2638 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 7.5/11 36.75
4 Lagno,Kateryna 2545 2572 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 6.5/11
5 Paehtz,Elisabeth 2479 2546 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 6.0/11 31.25
6 Gunina,Valentina 2502 2544 0 ½ 0 1 0 1 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 6.0/11 29.5
7 Harika,Dronavalli 2503 2481 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 5.0/11
8 Kosteniuk,Alexandra 2495 2450 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 1 4.5/11 21.75
9 Kashlinskaya,Alina 2487 2450 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 1 0 ½ 1 1 4.5/11 20.5
10 Sebag,Marie 2450 2420 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 4.0/11 23.5
11 Stefanova,Antoaneta 2491 2417 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 4.0/11 20
12 Cramling,Pia 2487 2302 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 0 1 ½ 2.5/11


Games rounds 9-11 for replay: 




Previous report:

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