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Alexandra Kosteniuk, Tan Zhongyi, Elisabeth Paehtz and Nana Dzagnidze got off to a perfect start with wins as the second leg of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix kicked off in Munich, Germany on Thursday. One of the draws was not without controversy.
12 of the world's strongest female players are competing in the second of four legs of the 2022-3 FIDE Women's Grand Prix. The first last year in Astana was won by Kateryna Lagno, while after the second event in Munich there will be another in India in March and in Poland in May. Each of the 16 players in the Grand Prix will take part in three out of four events.
The top two finishers qualify for the Women's Candidates Tournament at a location and time yet to be announced.
Players from same federation were paired in the first round to avoid any last-round controversy. That led to a bloody round, with four out of six games ending decisively.
One game that was not decisive was the encounter between the Ukrainian Muzychuk sisters Anna and Mariya. It was a sharp game in the Benoni Defence, where Mariya got a piece for three pawns, but despite the unbalanced position, the game was drawn after just 30 moves.
While FIDE in its official report called the game "most exciting", the peaceful result was actually the 22nd consecutive draw between the sisters in tournament play, according to databases. The last decisive game between the two was a rapid game in France in 2015.
The draw between the sisters yet again led to speculation of pre-arrangement on social media.
The "Move of the Day Award", if there is one, goes to Elisabeth Paehtz for her crushing 24-move win with White against Dinara Wagner. The 33-year-old had her GM title confirmed by FIDE, becoming the 40th female player to hold the title in history, and seems to be in excellent shape playing on home soil.
For Wagner, something went wrong in the opening, as she was already clearly worse after move 6 and lost after move 7.
Her 22.Rd7! was a particularly beautiful finish, even if it was far from the only winning move.
Paehtz later explained that she received help in preparing the opening.
My coach prepared an opening for me. Meanwhile, my dad also worked on something totally different. Then, my dad said that I can’t play other stuff because he typed everything for three or four hours and it shouldn’t be for nothing. I said to my dad that I will play his stuff, and basically I won the game because of him.
Alexandra Kosteniuk, now represented by the neutral FIDE flag before her switch to Switzerland, also started with a win by defeating her former countrywoman Alina Kashlinskaya, now representing Poland.
A seemingly dry Petroff livened up when the former Woman's World Champion seized control with doubled rooks on the e-file.
In an unpleasant position, Kashlinskaya made a serious mistake to allow her to be finished off directly.
31...Ne7? 32.Rf6! Qe8 33.Rxd6! and the loss of a heavy piece is inevitable as White threatens mate on g7. 1-0
“One thing is to get a good position; another thing is to actually get through", the 38-year-old said in the post-game interview.
The game between Zhansaya Abdumalik and Nana Dzagnidze was also a sharp battle, with the latter unleashing the thematic Rxc3 sacrifice in the Sicilian Defence. That gave the Georgian a clear advantage. Abdumalik missed a chance to hold the game before the time control, but it was Dzagnidze who won in the end.
34...Re2 35.Kxh4?? The computer suggests 35.Qe8 Kh7 36.Kxh4 as White escapes after 36...Rxe3 37.Qxf7 Rh3+ 38.Kg4 Qf3 39.Kf5. 35...Rxe3 36.Qf6 Re2 37.Kg4 g6 38.Qd5 Rd2 39.Qe5 f5+ and White is getting mated. 0-1
“I got a very pleasant position in the opening as my opponent lost several tempi. After I sacrificed on c3 I have a huge advantage: I have easy play and it’s not at all easy for my opponent to defend,” said Dzagnidze.
Tan Zhongyi scored the last decisive win as she beat her countrywoman Zhu Jiner after 38 moves. That game was also a sharp battle with opposite-side castling.
Tan Zhongyi eventually took advantage of Black's weaker king, then found the decisive blow.
38.Re8! And Black resigned due to the double threat on the queen and on h7. 1-0
The last game between the two Indians, Harika Dronavalli and Humpy Koneru, was drawn in 41 moves after reaching an equal queen and rook endgame.
Games start at 9am ET/15.00 CET/19:30 IST and can be followed on chess24's broadcast page. The prize fund in the Grand Prix is 80,000 Euro with 15,000 Euro and 160 Grand Prix points for the winner.
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