Aleksandra Goryachkina leads the women’s candidates’ tournament in Kazan, Russia with the score of 5/6. Eight more rounds will be played. Goryachkina, a 20-year-old grandmaster from Russia, is the youngest player in the field and the lowest seed. 

Many cultures have folklore about dragons, and in the sport city of Kazan, it is the mythical Zilant that provides the inspiration even if it does confusingly have the head of a dragon, the body of a bird and the legs of a…chicken!

We have yet to see any actual “dragons” on the chessboard at the 2019 women’s candidates’, but fire seems to be charging through our eight challengers.

Round 4:

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

After three rounds, Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia and Goryachkina had emerged as the early frontrunners.

You can find our report on the first three rounds here.

Round four saw two interesting draws. The tail-ender Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine managed to grovel a draw against Goryachkina while Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia and Tan Zhongyi of China split the point in a very accurately played Petroff.

It was a good day for the Russian Kateryna Lagno, as she recovered from her third-round loss to defeat Mariya Muzychuk with some exemplary middlegame technique.

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A convincing victory with the black pieces by Kateryna Lagno over Mariya Muzychuk. | Photo: FIDE.
A convincing victory with the black pieces by Kateryna Lagno over Mariya Muzychuk. | Photo: FIDE.

Dzagnidze, on the other hand, put on an almost effortless display to completely wipe out Valentina Gunina of Russia.

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Dzagnidze makes playing against the French look easy. | Photo: FIDE.
Dzagnidze makes playing against the French look easy. | Photo: FIDE.

Round 5:

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

The headline tussle between Kosteniuk and leader Dzagnidze was an exciting clash. True to her attacking style, Kosteniuk continuously sought to force the play while the ever-slippery Dzagnidze, in return, attempted to steer the game into uncharted waters.

The equilibrium between dynamism and creativity had been hanging delicately in the balance until the following position.

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I have got a plan, a c3-plan. GM Kosteniuk. | Photo: FIDE.
GM Kosteniuk. | Photo: FIDE.

One might have been forgiven for thinking that the game between Goryachkina and Tan would finish in a very quick and a very tepid draw. However, some poor choices by Tan allowed the young Russian to produce a very instructive double-rook-and-pawn masterclass.

The problems for Tan began to occur after she failed to find the straightforward continuation:

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Drawn endgame? We will see! Tan Zhongyi (black) and Aleksandra Goryachkina face off. | Photo: FIDE.
Drawn endgame? We will see! Tan Zhongyi (right) and Aleksandra Goryachkina face off. | Photo: FIDE.

Unsurprisingly, the craziest moment of the day came courtesy of grandmasters Gunina and Mariya Muzychuk. With seconds on her clock, Gunina, playing White, missed one of the most unexpected shots of the tournament.

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 “Knight…wait, queen e7!?” Even Mariya Muzychuk is taken aback. | Video: FIDE.

Round 6:

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

Round six was by far the most dramatic.

It was good news for Ukrainian fans as both the Muzychuk sisters managed to score their first victories. However, with both of them languishing on 2.5/6 there is still a lot of ground to cover.

Anna had the privilege of playing a model exchange variation to defeat Gunina’s Caro-Kann. Simplicity at its finest:

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Jubilant Anna Muzychuk cannot hide her happiness after playing a great attacking game. | Photo: FIDE.
A jubilant Anna Muzychuk cannot hide her happiness after playing a great attacking game. | Photo: FIDE.

It has to be said that the three remaining games all ended in rather sad circumstances. It was still very much a fight between Mariya Muzychuk and Kosteniuk until the latter self-imploded in the following position:

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Mariya Muzychuk settling into her round six game versus Kosteniuk. | Photo: FIDE.
Mariya Muzychuk settling into her round-six game vs Kosteniuk. | Photo: FIDE.

Kosteniuk was not the only round six casualty. Dzagnidze had played the most perfect game against Goryachkina, that is until she went overboard and sacrificed a piece on move 49.

True to her classical style, Goryachkina remained calm and collected the given point in a very technical manner.

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The beginning of a fairytale? Lowest seed Aleksandra Goryachkina with a magnificent 5/6. | Photo: FIDE.
The beginning of a fairytale? The lowest-seeded Aleksandra Goryachkina with a magnificent 5/6. | Photo: FIDE.

The winner when it came to unexpected twists was the game between Tan and Lagno.

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At first Kateryna Lagno played the role of escape artist but then Tan Zhongyi began to take over that part. In the end, Lagno settled on the part of trickster. | Photo: FIDE.
At first Kateryna Lagno played the role of escape artist but then Tan Zhongyi began to take over that part. In the end, Lagno settled on the part of trickster. | Photo: FIDE.

FIDE Women’s Candidates’ Tournament | Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts
1 Aleksandra Goryachkina 2522 2807 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 5.0/6
2 Kateryna Lagno 2554 2589 0 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 3.5/6 8.5
3 Nana Dzagnidze 2510 2589 0 0 1 ½ 1 1 3.5/6 8.25
4 Alexandra Kosteniuk 2546 2470 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 0 2.5/6 9
5 Anna Muzychuk 2539 2470 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 2.5/6 7.5
6 Tan Zhongyi 2513 2481 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 2.5/6 6.75
7 Mariya Muzychuk 2563 2470 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 2.5/6 6
8 Valentina Gunina 2506 2419 0 ½ 0 1 0 ½ 2.0/6

The playing days in Kazan 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.


Previous reports:

https://www.chess.com/news/view/fide-womens-candidates-2019-round-6