Humpy Koneru Wins Skolkovo Grand Prix

In her first tournament back after a two year layoff, Humpy Koneru won the 2019 Skolkovo Women’s Grand Prix with a score of 8/11, half a point ahead of Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun and her newly crowned Challenger Aleksandra Goryachkina.

While Humpy led after nine rounds, she had to navigate two tricky pairings in the final rounds. In Round 10 she faced the dangerous Kateryna Lagno, and the game entered the well-studied waters of the Petroff Defense, an opening that appeared in eight of the 66 games in Skolkovo.

Lagno deviated from the Round 8 Paehtz-Humpy encounter with 14.Be2, but she played passively, and soon the players found a way to repeat moves and split the point.

Trailing by half a point, it appeared that Ju Wenjun might be able to close the gap with a win over Goryachkina, but something went wrong in a theoretically winning rook and pawn ending, resulting in a draw.

Koneru – Ju Wenjun (photo Boris Dolmatovsky)

This set up a dramatic final round pairing between Humpy and Ju, where a win for the Chinese player would leapfrog her into first place. On her 26th move Ju chose to play “for two results” with 26…Qxa3, but after the precise 27.Qxd3 a4 28.Qa6! Humpy solved her remaining problems and the game was drawn. The result gave Humpy first place and €15,000 along with 160 Grand Prix points. Ju takes home €11,000 and 120 points.

Aleksandra Goryachkina (photo Boris Dolmatovsky)

Goryachkina defeated Pia Cramling in the final round to claim her share of second place. She also won €11,000 and 120 Grand Prix points for her efforts.

The Skolkovo Grand Prix was the first of four events in the Women’s FIDE Grand Prix Series. Remaining events will be held in Monaco (December 2-15), Lausanne (March 1-14), and Sardinia (May 2-15). Full details and schedules, including player lists, are available at the Women’s Grand Prix website.

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