Pool B of the FIDE Women's Candidates Tournament is held in the ancient city of Khiva, in Uzbekistan. The event takes place from November 28 to December 11 at Hotel Farovon Khiva. This bracket will see the clash between the 2020 runner-up Aleksandra Goryachkina, Alexandra Kosteniuk and Tan Zhongyi as the top finishers at the FIDE World Cup 2021, and Kateryna Lagno as one of the top-three finishers at the FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2019–2021.
Born September 28 1998
Aleksandra Goryachkina is a two-time world junior U20 champion (2012, 2013) and a two-time women's champion of Russia (2015, 2017). She is also the overall winner of the previous edition of the Women's Gran Prix, which was played between 2019 and 2021, after sharing first place in Monaco and Lausanne. She automatically qualified for the Women's Grand Prix 2022-23 by becoming one of the four semi-finalists of the FIDE Women's World Cup 2021 held in Sochi in July-August 2021.
Aleksandra was born on September 28, 1998, in Orsk, a city in the Orenburg region in the Southern Ural, where Europe meets Asia. Her father, Yury, a strong chess player, has helped his daughter since she was a child. Goryachkina immediately achieved a dominant position in her age group and improved her position by winning the world youth championships under 10 and 14 years old, as well as the European championships under 12 and 14 years old.
Soon, a rising star moved to Salekhard, the only city in the world that is located directly on the Polar Circle. Aleksandra started to work with a famous coach and GM, Vladimir Belov, and it was again a breakthrough: she won the Russian Women's Cup in Saint Petersburg (2011), became the world's second youngest woman grandmaster after Hou Yifan, won the European and world championships in higher age groups, while often being much younger than her rivals. Over the year, her rating grew by almost 300 points from 2045 to 2333.
In 2012, Goryachkina won the Russian Cup and then the world's junior U20 championship. In 2013, Aleksandra regained her "Chess Princess" title and debuted in the Superfinal of the Russian Championship. In her match against the best Russian female chess players, it took Goryachkina three attempts to achieve her goal: Aleksandra took first place in Chita 2015. In the same year, she won the Russian Women's Cup for the second time.
In 2017, Aleksandra Goryachkina became a two-time Russian women's champion and won the silver medal in the Individual European Women's Championship.
In 2013, Goryachkina debuted at the European Team Championship as part of the Russian national women's team. In 2015, she became the champion of the Old World as part of the national women's team and won the gold medal for the best result on the third board. In 2017, she won the World Team Championship as part of the Russian national women's team.
At the FIDE Women's Candidates Tournament (Kazan, Russia) in the end of May - June 2019, Aleksandra Goryachkina had an impressive victory with two rounds to go and qualified for the Women's World Chess Championship match against Ju Wenjun. The match, played in Shanghai and Vladivostok, was one of the most exciting ones in recent times. Despite being down on the scoreboard on two occasions, Goryachkina fought fiercely and managed to level the score by winning the 12th and last classical game, forcing a tiebreak. She lost one of the four rapid games, drawing the other three, which allowed Ju Wenjun to retain the title.
Born: December 27, 1989
Kateryna Lagno is a two-time European women's champion (2005, 2008), the women's World rapid champion (2014), a two-time Word blitz champion (2010, 2018), a two-time winner of the World Chess Olympiads – in 2006 as part of the Ukrainian national team and in 2014 as a member of the Russian national team.
Despite not winning any of the legs in the previous edition of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix, she finished in the third position in the overall standings for the series, thanks to her regularity: she obtained 3rd place in Gibraltar and 4th place in Skolkovo and Monaco. She qualified for the current edition by rating.
Lagno was born on December 27, 1989, in Lviv, a major city in Western Ukraine. Kateryna started her chess career as a prodigal child: she learnt to play when she was two, and at seven, she became the Ukrainian champion among girls under 10 years. She achieved that rank two more times; furthermore, Lagno became the national champion among girls under 12 years three times in a row.
In 2000, Katya enrolled in the famous chess school of Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, where she studied alongside Ruslan Ponomariov, Sergey Karjakin, Zahar Efimenko and other future grandmasters. In 2002, Lagno broke Judit Polgar's record (that seemed to be unbreakable), thus becoming the youngest woman grandmaster in history – she achieved the "honourable" rank at the age of 12 years and 4 months.
Kateryna Lagno took her first big steps in professional chess very soon: she made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the Women's World Championship (Elista, 2004), won the Women's European Championship in 2005, was first at the super tournament known as the North Urals Cup in 2006, became the Olympic champion as a member of the Ukrainian national team (Turin, 2006), and again the was victorious at Women's European Championship in 2008.
Kateryna became the World women's blitz champion in 2010, the world and European champion as part of the Ukrainian national team in 2013, and won the World women's rapid championship in 2014.
In 2014, Ekaterina Lagno filed an application to join the Russian Chess Federation; during the Olympiad in Tromso, she played on the first board of the Russian national women's team and became the Olympic champion for the second time in her career. Ekaterina is also the world and European champion as a member of the Russian national team.
In November 2018, one month after giving birth to her fourth child, Kateryna Lagno participated in the knock-out World Women's championship in Khanty-Mansiysk. She made it all the way to the final, where she lost to the reigning World Champion, Ju Wenjun, in a dramatic battle on tiebreak.
In December 2018, Lagno won the Word blitz women's championship for the second time in her career.
For the most part of the FIDE Women's Candidates Tournament 2019, Kateryna Lagno was the main rival of the tournament's future champion, Aleksandra Goryachkina, but in the end, she took third place.
Born April 23, 1984
Alexandra Kosteniuk is the twelfth Women's World Champion (2008–2010) and a three-time winner of the Chess Olympiad (2010, 2012, 2014) with the Russian national team. She won the Monaco leg of the WGM 2019-21, tied with Koneru and Goryachkina, but finished 8th in the overall standings for the series.
Alexandra was born on April 23, 1984, in Perm, a major industrial city in the east of the European part of Russia, where her father – a career military man – served. But as early as 1985, she moved to Moscow with her parents, where she spent her childhood. A true prodigy, Alexandra repeatedly won a number of European and world youth championships and became a Woman Grandmaster at the age of 14.
Alexandra's first major achievement in professional competitions dates back to 2001, when the 17-year-old girl reached the final of the 64-player knock-out tournament held in Moscow. Her rival was Zhu Chen, and the final was tied 2-2 after the classical games, but Chen took the title by winning 3-1 in the rapid tiebreak.
A few years later, in 2004, Alexandra became European Women's Champion in Dresden (Germany) with a performance above 2600, earning the Grandmaster title. She became the tenth woman in history to earn that rank.
Her second shot at the title would come in 2008, seven years after her first attempt. Alexandra made her childhood dream come true by winning the knock-out Women's World Championship in Nalchik. Under the guidance of grandmaster Yuri Razuvayev, Alexandra Kosteniuk demonstrated a remarkably balanced and mature playstyle, outscoring her rivals in a regular time to become the 12th Women's World Champion. In the final, Kosteniuk outplayed Hou Yifan, the future Women's World Champion.
Apart from her three golds at the Chess Olympiads, Kosteniuk is a five-time winner of the European team championships (2007, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017) as a member of the Russian national team. In individual competitions, she is a two-time Russian women's champion (2005 and 2016), the European women's champion (2004), and a two-time Chess960 women's world champion.
In the World Blitz Championship 2009 in Moscow, she outplayed outstanding grandmasters, such as Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian, and Judit Polgar. In 2013, she won the titles of both male and women's champions of Switzerland – since she holds dual citizenship.
2021 was a sweet year for Kosteniuk. Seeded 14th in the tournament, she won all of her classical matches without ever needing to play a tiebreak, and defeated Aleksandra Goryachkina in the final. This result earned her the qualification spot in the Women's Grand Prix. A few months later, in Warsaw, Kosteniuk would be crowned again World Champion, this time in rapid chess, with 9/11. Not only that, but she also finished second in the blitz event behind Bibisara Assaubayeva.
Apart from being a strong Grandmaster, Alexandra is an active chess promoter, having authored several books, organizing children's tournaments like the "Alexandra Kosteniuk Cup", and streaming.
Born May 29, 1991
Tan Zhongyi is a Chinese chess Grandmaster and a former Women's World Chess Champion (2017–2018). A young prodigy and one of the best players of her generation, she won numerous youth events, including twice the World Youth U10 Girls Chess Championship (in 2000 and 2001), and the World Youth U12 Girls Chess Championship the very next year.
Already in her early twenties, Tan kept winning at least one major event per year, demonstrating great consistency in her results. In 2012 she won the Women's World University Chess Championship held in Guimarães, Portugal. In 2013, she won the 3rd China Women Masters Tournament in Wuxi with a score of 6.5/9 points, 1.5 ahead of runners-up Valentina Gunina and Huang Qian. In 2014, she lifted the trophy at the Asian Women's Blitz Championship in Sharjah.
2015 was a breakthrough year when she achieved phenomenal results. To begin with, she became the Chinese Women's Champion for the first time, and shortly after, she also won the 5th China Women Masters with 7/9, a full point ahead of Lei Tingjie. Again in the Emirates, she won gold in the Asian Women's Rapid Championship held in Al Ain. She ended the year on a high note, defeating Ju Wenjun in the 1st China Chess Queen Match, a knock-out tournament held in Taizhou, thanks to a dramatic victory in the Armageddon tiebreak.
She was a member of the Chinese team that achieved the Bronze medal at the Baku Chess Olympiad in 2016, but sadly she missed the opportunity to be in the team in 2018 when China won the gold.
Tan was crowned Women's World Champion in 2017 after winning the one-month knock-out event held in Teheran. Her rival in the final was Anna Muzychuk, who was a very worthy opponent: Tan could only defeat her after winning the fourth rapid tiebreak match. This victory earned her the GM title.
She had to defend her title the next year against the Candidate Ju Wenjun. The match took place from 2 to May 20 2018, and was played in two halves, the first in Shanghai and the latter in Chongqing. Ju Wenjun won 5½ - 4½.
It will be Tan's second appearance at the FIDE Women's Candidates, having qualified thanks to her brilliant third place in the Women's World Cup 2021 in Sochi.
Photo: Anna Shtourman, Anastasiia Korolkova and Niki Riga