“I hope that my husband was not watching today!” – Alina Kashlinskaya.
“Today was a bloody round” were GM Ilya Smirin’s first words to me when we left the venue this evening. None less than four out of the six games of the round had a decisive result: a huge percentage for this type of event.
But the official commentator's considerations had more to do with the ups and downs experienced during the games. Time-trouble, stranded centre kings, sudden attacks followed by counterattacks, rejected three-fold draw repetitions ... All in an afternoon’s work!
As I mentioned in yesterday’s report, the format and structure of the Women’s Grand Prix, in addition to the no-nonsense fighting approach of all the players, will undoubtedly give way to many more exciting rounds.
Aleksandra Goryachkina vs Kateryna Lagno (0.5-0.5)
Lagno tried to surprise her opponent with the Sicilian defence instead of her usual 1.e4 e5. However, Goryachkina was well prepared with the Alapin side-line variation, achieving a small advantage in the opening.
Lagno smartly bailed out into a slightly worse ending which she was able to hold to a draw after a small inaccuracy by her opponent.
With this result, Goryachkina keeps the lead in the event with 1.5/2.0, although three other players have caught up with her.
The two-time European champion and World Blitz and Rapid champion Kateryna Lagno was kind enough to share her thoughts with us in a short postgame video.
Zhu Jiner vs Dinara Wagner (1-0)
After defeating Hou Yifan a few days ago in the Chinese League, a lot of attention is being focused on the performance of the world’s top under-20 female player, Zhu Jiner. And she certainly didn’t disappoint today!
Her opponent, German WGM Dinara Wagner, went for the Sicilian Defence and Zhu Jiner brought her preparation to the table: the dangerous Prins variation. The line seemed to catch Wagner by surprise as, once again, she spent a lot of time navigating her way through the complications, while the Chinese player was practically blitzing out her preparation.
In deep time trouble, Wagner was unable to hold a slightly worse position and eventually had to succumb to Zhu Jiner’s fine tactical play.
“I am very happy with my win, but the tournament is long and complicated, so I am just trying to play my best and enjoy the event” was Zhu Jiner’s state of mind in the post-game interview.
Alexandra Kosteniuk vs Bibisara Assaubayeva (0-1)
Top Kazakh female player Bibisara Assaubayeva joins the lead with today’s win over former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk.
“It’s a very important win for me because I don’t have a good score against her,” said Assaubayeva after the game.
Nonetheless, after the opening, it was Kosteniuk who enjoyed a sizeable advantage. She caught her opponent with her opening preparation (Bibisara hadn’t analysed the 10.Nd5 line in the classical Sicilian Najdorf ) and eventually won a pawn.
However, Assaubayeva kept her cool, defended with success and spotted a move repetition which should have led to a draw.
With both players low in tome heading towards move 40, Kosteniuk decided to force matters and push for the win but fell into a devious tactical trap that Assaubayeva had prepared:
After 34….Qc7! hits the queen and also h2, the point being that 35.Qg3 loses to the fantastic 35…Qb6+! mating.
The current female World Blitz champion took us through the game in her post-game interview.
Zhansaya Abdumalik vs Tan Zhongyi (0.5-0.5)
Although this game ended in a draw, it was certainly one of the most complicated of the six. With White, Abdumalik went for an enterprising line of the Scotch opening, leaving her king in the centre and developing her kingside rook via h3, playing for the attack.
According to computer analysis, both players missed one or two chances to secure an advantage at different stages of the game.
Finally, after a very complex middlegame battle, Abdumalik won a pawn, but her opponent, former World Champion Tan Zhongyi, enjoyed a great deal of positional compensation, more than enough to force a three-fold repetition.
Vaishali R vs Alina Kashlinskaya (0-1)
For most of the audience in the auditorium, following the games live with local commentary by GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev, definitely the most exciting game of the round.
“I agree, it was a crazy game. I hope that my husband (GM Radosław Wojtaszek) was not watching it because he has to play in the Magnus online tournament today!” a very happy Kashlinskaya explained in her post-game interview.
In a trending Italian Opening, Kashlinskaya mixed up her opening preparation and went for an extremely dangerous pawn advance in front of her castled king. Vaishali quickly took advantage, sacrificed a piece – which Alina didn’t accept – and forced her opponent’s king out into the open.
However, a piece sacrifice was needed to finish off the job, and Vaishali faltered.
Instead of 20.f3? played in the game computer analysis suggests the idea of 20.gxf7 followed by 21.Qxg4, sacrificing the knight on d2.
As played, Black coordinated his pieces and fully employed the power of her e-pawn to score a full point.
Polina Shuvalova vs Elisabeth Paehtz (1-0)
After defeating her compatriot Wagner yesterday in a King’s Indian, Paehtz repeated Black this afternoon against Shuvalova.
The opening was a success: on move 15 she had secured a strong knight on the e5 in the Sicilian defence and had equalised comfortably. She even enjoyed a slight time advantage on the clock.
However, Shuvalova defended tenaciously, avoiding direct threats and complicating the position as much as possible. Just before move 40, with both players in deep time trouble, Paehtz blundered a double attack (39.Qc1!)
and was forced to resign after 39...Ra2 40.Qc8+ Kf7 (40...Rf8 41.Qxe6+) facing 41.Qe8#.
Standings after Round 2
Round three pairings are out, featuring the clash between co-leaders Alina Kashlinskaya and Aleksandra Goryachkina.
Round 3 | Astana | 20.09.2022
Lagno, Kateryna — Shuvalova, Polina
Kashlinskaya, Alina — Goryachkina, Aleksandra
Assaubayeva, Bibisara — Vaishali, Rameshbabu
Tan, Zhongyi — Kosteniuk, Alexandra
Wagner, Dinara — Abdumalik, Zhansaya
Paehtz, Elisabeth — Zhu, Jiner
Text: IM Michael Rahal, FIDE Press Officer, Astana
Photo: Anna Shtourman