The eighth round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Monaco began under the cameras of Monaco TV Channel. The event held at the Yacht Club has an important status for the Principality and is duly covered by the local media. As a leading member of the women’s team of Monte-Carlo at the European Cup, Humpy Koneru was kind enough to agree to a short TV interview before the start of the round. The leader of the Grand Prix Series is used to concentrating deeply before her games, and this small interruption luckily did not disturb her. The Indian duel against Harika Dronavalli remained very balanced. Koneru played solidly with black and made a draw in 31 moves.
This allowed Aleksandra Goryachkina to grab the sole lead, as she earned the whole point against her compatriot Valentina Gunina thanks to a good preparation in the Catalan. Gunina finds herself in a terrible downward spiral in Monaco. She overlooked a trap right after the opening, and her position became difficult straight away. The challenger to the World Championship final converted the advantage with her usual impeccable technique.
Alexandra Kosteniuk won a very inspiring game against Nana Dzagnidze. She sacrificed a pawn early on with Black with the aim to obtain long-term chances against the enemy King. Under serious pressure, the Georgian found nothing better than giving back the pawn back in order to exchange Queens. The endgame was difficult for her, and the Russian managed to win two pawns and later the game.
Pia Cramling and Mariya Muzychuk made a draw after more than five hours. The Ukrainian tried hard to convert a two-pawn advantage in the endgame, but the task was very difficult. The Swedish legend held with her usual stamina after 85 moves.
Zhao Xue and Kateryna Lagno played a very balanced game, where the Chinese exerted very slight pressure throughout. But Lagno defended confidently and the game ended in a draw.
Elisabeth Paehtz did not challenge Anna Muzychuk in the Marshall Variation of the Ruy Lopez and quickly repeated moves to share the point.
Thanks to her victory, Aleksandra Goryachkina is now leading the field alone. She has made an amazing comeback after her slow start, scoring 5,5 in the last 6 rounds. But her task in the last 3 rounds can be considered complicated, as she will face both Muzychuk sisters in the coming days. Humpy Koneru has a nominally easier program and will also have the white pieces against Goryachkina herself in the last round. In short, the final sprint promises to be exciting.
Results of round 8:
Nana Dzagnidze (Geo) – Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus): 0-1
Zhao Xue (China) – Kateryna Lagno (Rus): ½-½
Harika Dronavalli (Ind) – Humpy Koneru (Ind): ½-½
Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger) – Anna Muzychuk (Ukr): ½-½
Pia Cramling (Swe) – Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr): ½-½
Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus) – Valentina Gunina (Rus): 1-0
Standings after round 8:
1. Aleksandra Goryachkina 6 points
2. Humpy Koneru 5½
3. Harika Dronavalli 5
4-7. Anna Muzychuk, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Kateryna Lagno and Pia Cramling 4½
8. Mariya Muzychuk 4
9-10. Nana Dzagnidze and Zhao Xue 3½
11. Elisabeth Paehtz 2½
12. Valentina Gunina 1
Round 9, 12 December at 3 pm:
Valentina Gunina (Rus) – Nana Dzagnidze (Geo)
Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus) – Zhao Xue (China)
Kateryna Lagno (Rus) – Harika Dronavalli (Ind)
Humpy Koneru (Ind) – Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger)
Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) – Pia Cramling (Swe)
Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr) – Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus)
Official website with live games and commentary by WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili, IM Almira Skripchenko and GM Josif Dorfman: https://wgp2019.fide.com
Pictures are available on our official Flickr account.
Text: Yannick Pelletier
Pictures: Karol Bartnik