At the start of the seventh round, the tension was palpable, as if an irresistible urge to play chess seized the champions. In the encounter between Humpy Koneru and Zhao Xue, the game immediately took an unusual turn, when the Chinese opted for b5 on move 2. The leader of the Grand Prix Series thought for a while and reacted aggressively. This seemed promising, but the Indian did not follow through and soon faced problems. Zhao Xue played well for a long time but erred when she modestly decided to give back a pawn she had won earlier. Both players exchanged inaccuracies, until the Chinese miscalculated and gave a piece. This settled the fight, as Koneru did not look back.
Aleksandra Goryachkina and Nana Dzagnidze delivered an equally tense fight, where each had the advantage on one part of the board. The Russian amounted pressure against the king, whereas her opponent possessed a valuable passed pawn on the other side. Dzagnidze should have resisted the temptation to push her main trump too early, as it suddenly fell. Goryachkina did not look back and collected the full point.
The third leader before this round, Harika Dronavalli, had the difficult task to defend the black pieces against Anna Muzychuk. The game ended on a threefold repetition on move 24, but this short battle was tense nevertheless.
The three other games all followed a lively course and ended decisively. The Russian duel between Kateryna Lagno and Alexandra Kosteniuk was rather one-sided, as Black made a mistake after the opening. Lagno confidently overcame her opponent’s resilience and won on move 48.
The encounter between Mariya Muzychuk and Elisabeth Paehtz developed in a very similar way, when the German weakened her castle after the opening. Nothing terrible happened immediately, but the damage was done in the long-term. After mutual inaccuracies, White won a pawn and later the game.
Valentina Gunina’s suffering continues in Monaco. Her opening play was not convincing, as she allowed Pia Cramling to reach a comfortable position with the black pieces. The rest day definitely proved beneficial to the oldest participant in the event. The Swedish legend displayed the same freshness as in the first rounds and efficiently used her opponent’s inaccuracies to score her second victory.
Aleksandra Goryachkina and Humpy Koneru are now joint in the lead, ahead of Harika Dronavalli. Round 8 witnesses a highly interesting Indian duel, whereas the Russian will also face a compatriot, Valentina Gunina.
Results of round 7:
Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus) – Nana Dzagnidze (Geo): 1-0
Kateryna Lagno (Rus) – Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus): 1-0
Humpy Koneru (Ind) – Zhao Xue (China): 1-0
Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) – Harika Dronavalli (Ind): ½-½
Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr) – Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger): 1-0
Valentina Gunina (Rus) – Pia Cramling (Swe): 0-1
Standings after round 7:
1-2. Aleksandra Goryachkina and Humpy Koneru 5 points
3. Harika Dronavalli 4½
4-6. Anna Muzychuk, Kateryna Lagno and Pia Cramling 4
7-8. Alexandra Kosteniuk and Mariya Muzychuk 3½
9. Nana Dzagnidze 3
10. Zhao Xue 2½
11. Elisabeth Paehtz 2
12. Valentina Gunina 1
Round 8, 11 December at 3 pm:
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) – Valentina Gunina (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, both in high resolution (for printing) or low resolution (for internet / social media).
Text: Yannick Pelletier
Pictures: Karol Bartnik