The first round of the second leg of the 2022-2023 Women's Grand Prix kicked off this afternoon in the Kempinski hotel with four decisive results in the six games.
After the introductions and reminders, Chief Arbiter Jens Wolter initiated the clocks punctually at three o'clock, and, after the customary handshakes and pre-game smiles, the twelve players sat down to battle it out.
The traditional ceremonial first move was performed on three different boards at the same time. Dana Reizniece Ozola, Deputy Chair of the FIDE management board, opened the game between Kosteniuk and Kashlinskaya; Roman Krulich, CEO of the Krulich Immobilien Group and main sponsor, opened the Muzychuk vs Muzychuk game and finally, Manuel Pretzl, CSU leader for Munich, opened the local game between Paehtz and Wagner.
As in the first leg in Astana, the Munich Grand Prix is repeating the 30-move special regulation, much appreciated by chess fans all over the world. Notwithstanding the fact that women's events are traditionally extremely hard-fought, the regulations of the tournament expressly forbid draw agreements before Black's 30th has been played on the board, with the exception of move repetition or stalemate.
Adding to this the 90-minute for 40 moves plus 30 extra minutes time control, exciting games are to be expected, and no less than four decisive results were scored in today's first round.
Muzychuk, Mariya — Muzychuk, Anna (0.5-0.5)
Although most of the encounters between the two Ukrainian sisters happily end in a draw - and today wasn't an exception – this afternoon's game proved to be most exciting.
Playing with Black, Anna chose the very active Benoni defence, maybe in an attempt to unbalance her sister's opening preparation. After the key theoretical move 15.f4, Anna sacrificed a piece for two pawns and a dangerous initiative against Mariya's castled king.
Mariya went into the tank for a few minutes and decided to avoid most of the complicated lines. She chose the solid option, which ultimately ended in a move repetition around move thirty.
According to the engines, the final position is balanced, although White does enjoy the advantage of a piece for three pawns - there is still a lot of play in the position.
Paehtz, Elisabeth — Wagner, Dinara (1-0)
Something went wrong for Wagner in the opening. Out prepared in a side-line of the Sicilian defence, she spent nearly an hour on her sixth move, quickly falling into a completely lost position.
In conversation with IM Michael Rahal, FIDE Press Officer for the event, Paehtz explained the reasoning behind her opening choice: "My coach prepared an opening for me. Meanwhile, my dad also worked on something totally different. Then, my dad said that I can't play other stuff because he typed everything for three or four hours and it shouldn't be for nothing. I said to my dad that I will play his stuff, and basically I won the game because of him."
Paehtz took her time to convert the advantage but finished off the game with a very cool tactical motif beginning with 22.Rd7!
Black has no way out since 22…Bxd7 fails to 23. Nf6+ Kg8 24. Qc5+. Dinara tried 22…Qb6 but capitulated after 23.Bc4! h6 24. Nf6+ 1-0
Harika Dronavalli — Humpy Koneru (0.5-0.5)
The game between India's top two female players was a solid affair. Humpy Koneru uncorked the Petroff Defence and proceeded to exchange off all of her opponent's minor pieces.
Nonetheless, Dronavalli Harika retained a small edge thanks to the control of the only open file, but that alone is seldom enough to win the game. She might have missed an opportunity on move nineteen: the engine suggests 19.Nh4 instead of the mass simplification initiated with her choice 19.Ne5.
After neutralizing the pressure, Humpy Koneru forced an equal rook plus three pawn ending, and both players agreed to a draw on move forty-one.
Kosteniuk, Alexandra — Kashlinskaya, Alina (1-0)
Representing FIDE, Alexandra Kosteniuk notched up her first win in the tournament by defeating Poland's number one female player, Alina Kashlinskaya.
"Alina opted for the Petroff defence choosing a different line today, very solid. I noticed that Koneru vs Harika was the same kind of structure with a different piece setup. I didn't remember my opening preparation, and I was unsure of some moves, but I think that she should have played …Qf5 to exchange queens, and maybe I am very slightly better but definitely not much," were Kosteniuk's feelings in her brief post-game press conference.
Kosteniuk opened up the position and combined the domination of the e-file with a direct attack against Kashlinskaya's weakened kingside position, ultimately winning a piece and the game.
"One thing is to get a good position; another thing is to actually get through," were her final words before leaving the venue.
Tan, Zhongyi — Zhu, Jiner (1-0)
In the bout between the two Chinese players – a theoretically symmetrical English opening - Tan Zhongyi quickly took the upper hand damaging her opponent's castled king. Unfazed, Zhu Jiner struck back with rapid centre piece development, ultimately winning a pawn but weakening her king.
But Tan Zhongyi was clearly in for a long struggle. She gradually transferred her pieces to the kingside and initiated a direct attack, strongly supported by a tremendous bishop on c3, pointing towards the black king on h8.
Under pressure, Zhu Jiner miscalculated on move twenty-four and lost her way: a few moves later, she was forced to sacrifice the exchange and resigned shortly afterwards.
Abdumalik, Zhansaya — Dzagnidze, Nana (0-1)
The game saw a fierce battle in a double-edged opposite-side castled kings Sicilian defence. Dzagnidze thematically sacrificed an exchange, destroying the pawn protection of Adbumalik's castled king, achieving huge positional compensation for the material.
"I got a very pleasant position in the opening as my opponent lost several tempi. After I sacrificed on c3 I have a huge advantage: I have an easy play, and it's not at all easy for my opponent to defend," said Dzagnidze in a brief post-game interview.
Asked about her expectations in the tournament, Dzagnidze was quite frank: "I usually don't like to talk about expectations. This WGP is very strong, and I just try to play game by game and hope to show my best chess here".
Standings after Round 1:
Text: IM Michael Rahal (Munich, Germany)
Photos: David Llada
Official website: womengrandprix.fide.com/