News / Monaco

Goryachkina and Dronavalli join Koneru in the lead

The last round before the free day proved extremely lively at the Yacht Club de Monaco. It feels as if all participants agreed to throw all their remaining strength into the battle before a well-deserved rest.

Humpy Koneru drew her fourth consecutive games on Sunday. She had to defend a slightly worse position with the black pieces against one of her direct pursuers, Alexandra Kosteniuk. The former World Champion reached a good version of the typical isolated pawn structure, where Koneru was deprived of the usual counter-play. Yet, the Indian managed to keep everything under control and hold the draw.


This result proved beneficial to two other participants. Aleksandra Goryachkina showed once again what a tough competitor she is. Playing with the black pieces against Pia Cramling, the most experienced player of the event, she displayed great technical abilities. The Russian reached a position with a pawn majority on the queenside, and skilfully steered to the favourable exchange of queens. She methodically increased her advantage and secured the full point.

Nothing led to predict that the symmetrical opening between Harika Dronavalli and Mariya Muzychuk would lead to a fascinating game. The Indian found a very active plan in the centre and achieved greater piece activity. She later managed to weaken Muzychuk’s King and get a winning attack. But there is nothing more complicated at chess than winning a winning position. Dronavalli played inaccurately and let her opponent escape in a drawish Rook ending. But in her turn, Muzychuk misplayed the defence and lost.


Both Goryachkina and Dronavalli thus catch up with Koneru in the lead. Nana Dzagnidze could have achieved the same in case of a win. She did get a space advantage from her opening against Kateryna Lagno, but in this version of the King’s Indian, Black actually obtains sufficient counter-play. The Russian pushed her a-pawn to destroy the structure on the queenside, after which Dzagnidze panicked and collapsed.

The encounter between both out-of-form players Elisabeth Paehtz and Valentina Gunina actually turned into a one-sided affair. The German showed very good preparation in the Caro-Kann, sacrificing a pawn for strong pressure. In a practical game, defending such difficult positions is almost impossible. Gunina failed to find the most resilient moves and lost material decisively.


In the last game to finish, Anna Muzychuk outplayed Zhao Xue on the black side of a Grunfeld. She found an ingenious way to transpose into a favourable position with Rook vs Knight and Bishop. The finale featured some nice artistic patterns, which Muzychuk skilfully combined to get the full point.

All players and officials are invited to a gala dinner at the Monaco Casino on Monday evening. Before that, some participants will simply relax, others will join an excursion proposed by the local organizers, while some others will go and visit Nice. Finally, the Muzychuk sisters and Elisabeth Paehtz will cross swords on the ice skating ring, when the German claims that she will win the race comfortably.

Results of round 6:

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

Standings after round 6:
1-3. Harika Dronavalli, Aleksandra Goryachkina and Humpy Koneru 4 points
4-5. Anna Muzychuk and Alexandra Kosteniuk 3,5
6-8. Kateryna Lagno, Nana Dzagnidze and Pia Cramling 3
10. Zhao Xue and Mariya Muzychuk 2,5
11. Elisabeth Paehtz 2
12. Valentina Gunina 1

9 December: free day
Round 7, 10 December at 3 pm:
Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus) – Nana Dzagnidze (Geo)
Kateryna Lagno (Rus) – Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus)
Humpy Koneru (Ind) – Zhao Xue (China)
Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) – Harika Dronavalli (Ind)
Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr) – Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger)
Valentina Gunina (Rus) – Pia Cramling (Swe)

Official website with live games and commentary by WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili, GM Josif Dorfman and GM Bartlomiej Heberla:
Pictures are available on our official Flickr channel.

Text: Yannick Pelletier
Pictures: Karol Bartnik