News / Monaco

Humpy Koneru, early leader in Monaco

The second leg of the Women's Grand Prix started at a slow pace at the Yacht Club de Monaco. Five games were drawn and only Humpy Koneru managed to clinch a win after over 5 hours play, despite being on the defensive side for most of the game. Her opponent Valentina Gunina got an advantage out of the opening, as she forced the black Knight to the awkward square b7. The Russian steadily increased her domination but failed to find winning continuations after move 30.

Black’s position remained unpleasant after the time-control, but the Indian managed to keep the balance. Probably unhappy with the turn of events and with the clock ticking, Gunina lost her objectivity and overpressed. Koneru reacted perfectly and timely switched to a “winning mode”. After several mistakes by Gunina, Humpy converted her advantage and took the whole point.

Pia Cramling and Alexandra Kosteniuk delivered a fascinating fight. It looked as if Black could hope to gain some advantage around move 20, but the Swedish legend unleashed the great move 22.d5. Kosteniuk was clearly confused and did not assess the consequences of this pawn sacrifice accurately. Instead of 22…Bxd5, taking the pawn with the Knight would have led to a draw. The classical double sacrifice of bishops on h7 and g7 admittedly looks dangerous, but it turns out that White would have had to make a draw by perpetual check. As a result, a few moves down the road the former World Champion found herself in a losing position. However, Pia missed the winning 30.Qd4 and later simplified into an equal rook ending.


The all-Russian game between Aleksandra Goryachkina and Kateryna Lagno was rather tense. Lagno said afterward that she had been under pressure throughout, with the depressing perspective of having no counter-play. Goryachkina certainly failed to put more pressure at critical moments, and both players agreed to a draw by repetition.
The game between Elizabeth Paehtz and Zhao Xue was a quiet affair. Following a fashionable line of the Sveshnikov Variation, none managed to create any chances for an advantage. The draw was signed on move 31, just after the limit of 30 moves stipulated in the regulations.


The first game to finish was actually the encounter between Mariya and Anna Muzychuk. It is well-known that both sisters do not fight against each other in classical chess, and Monaco was no exception to the rule.

Harika Dronavalli and Nana Dzagnidze played a balanced game. The Georgian felt that she was under slight pressure in the endgame but was happy to decide on a pawn sacrifice to activate her rook. The draw was signed shortly after.
In other news, during his speech at the opening ceremony, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich announced a new partnership between the International Chess Federation and Total SA, a French multinational founded in 1924, and considered one of the seven "Supermajor" gas and oil companies in the world.

Results of the first round:
Harika Dronavalli (Ind) – Nana Dzagnidze (Geo): ½-½
Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger) – Zhao Xue (China): ½-½
Pia Cramling (Swe) – Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus): ½-½
Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus) – Kateryna Lagno (Rus): ½-½
Valentina Gunina (Rus) – Humpy Koneru (Ind): 0-1
Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr) – Anna Muzychuk (Ukr): ½-½

Round 2, 4 December at 3 pm:
Nana Dzagnidze (Geo) – Anna Muzychuk (Ukr)
Humpy Koneru (Ind) – Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr)
Kateryna Lagno (Rus) – Valentina Gunina (Rus)
Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus) – Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus)
Zhao Xue (China) – Pia Cramling (Swe)
Harika Dronavalli (Ind) – Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger)

Official website, with live games and commentary by WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili, GM Josif Dorfman and GM Bartlomiej Heberla
Pictures are available on this Dropbox folder

Text: Yannick Pelletier
Photos: Karol Bartnik