Dzagnidze and Goryachkina Lead in Kazan after Three Rounds

After three rounds of play, Nana Dzagnidze and Aleksandra Goryachkina share the lead in the 2019 Women’s Candidates Tournament with 2.5 points each. Former Women’s Champion Tan Zhongyi is alone in third place with 2 points. The winner of the tournament will go on to challenge Ju Wenjun for the Women’s World Championship.

The field for the 2019 Candidates is remarkably strong, with eight of the top twelve female players in the world (as of the June list) playing in Kazan. It is also intensely competitive – the difference between the top seed (Mariya Muzychuk) and bottom seed (Valentina Gunina) is just 57 rating points.

After a tepid start in Round 1, the players have gotten increasingly combative, and all four games in Sunday’s third round featured decisive results.

Round 1

Valentina Gunina — Kateryna Lagno | draw
Alexandra Kosteniuk — Aleksandra Goryachkina | draw
Nana Dzagnidze — Tan Zhongyi | draw
Mariya Muzychuk — Anna Muzychuk | draw

While the Muzychuk-Muzychuk and Dzagnidze-Tan games were drawn fairly early, the remaining two games were anything but boring. Kosteniuk had to summon all of her defensive skills to ward off Goryachkina’s advances, and Gunina was only able to save her position with a bit of stunning calculation.

Round 2

Kateryna Lagno — Alexandra Kosteniuk | draw
Alexandra Goryachkina — Valentina Gunina | 1 — 0
Tan Zhongyi — Maria Muzychuk | draw
Anna Muzychuk  — Nana Dzagnidze | 0 — 1

With their wins in Saturday’s Round 2, Nana Dzagnidze and Aleksandra Goryachkina staked early claims to the lead.

Dzagnidze’s opening surprise – 2. … Nc6 in the Sicilian instead of her normal 2. … d6, leading to a Najdorf – threw her opponent, Anna Muzychuk, off-balance, and Dzagnidze won in 41 moves.

Goryachkina found a brilliant ‘only-move’ to win what looked to be a drawn ending against Valentina Gunina.

Round 3

Aleksandra Goryachkina —  Kateryna Lagno | 1 — 0
Nana Dzagnidze — Mariya Muzychuk | 1 — 0
Tan Zhongyi — Anna Muzychuk | 1 — 0
Valentina Gunina — Alexandra Kosteniuk | 1 — 0

The third round was filled with fighting chess. Any of the games would have been suitable for highlighting in this report, but here we offer two of the better battles of the round.

Valentina Gunina took the initiative after Alexandra Kosteniuk’s dubious 22. … Bxb5, and her skillful use of the bishop pair soon garnered her the exchange and then the game.

Goryachkina-Lagno (photo A. Karlovich)

Goryachkina continued to show impressive technique in her win against Kateryna Lagno. Lagno defended an inferior rook and pawn ending for many moves, but as is so often the case, one slip destroyed all of her hard work.

Play continues tomorrow at 3pm Kazan time, or 8am EDT. GM Evgenij Miroshnichenko and IM Elisabeth Paehtz offer live commentary via the FIDE YouTube Channel. Rounds will be played daily through June 17th, with rest days on June 7th, 11th, and June 15th. Tie-breaks, if needed, will be contested on June 18th along with a Closing Ceremony.

A complete set of games is available at Chess24 (with embedded YouTube coverage) and at The Week in Chess. Popular Twitch streamer Alexandra Botez is also offering a livestream of each round’s games.

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