News / Gibraltar

Round 5: Zhansaya and Mariya Hold the Lead

by John Saunders, 26 May 2021

After round five of the Gibraltar leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix, played at the Caleta Hotel on 26 May 2021, two players share the lead on 4/5 points: Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kazakhstan) and Mariya Muzychuk (Ukraine). Two players, Kateryna Lagno (Russia) and Elisabeth Paehtz (Germany) have 3½ points.

The round was opened by Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar. After welcoming the players and complimenting the organisers on a ‘very impressive’ lay-out for the tournament, he expressed the wish that one day a Gibraltarian flag would appear alongside one the competitors, who would compete alongside the top women’s world championship contenders.

It wasn’t long before one of the games started to go downhill for one of the players. Antoaneta Stefanova came badly unstuck against Zhansaya Abdumalik’s Scotch Opening. Her 10...Bd6 was a grave error, and the young Kazakh player took full advantage, forcing the win of her opponent’s queen for two minor pieces, followed by a brisk mopping-up exercise. This took the overnight co-leader to 4/5 and threw down the gauntlet to her two main rivals to try and catch her.

Another overnight leader, Kateryna Lagno, was unable to follow suit, despite have a promising position from an Italian Opening against Anna Muzychuk. Kateryna should perhaps have reacted more directly with 23 Qxe4 but she still managed to annex a pawn on move 25. However, Anna had calculated that she might have sufficient positional compensation for the material and so it proved. Kateryna returned the pawn to secure a drawn position.

Alina Kashlinkskaya is having a nightmare tournament. For the third time in five games, she let a winning advantage slip and lost. At first it seemed that her opponent, Elisabeth Paehtz, was suffering a bad dream as she played a calamitous move, 9...Nfd7, in a QGD Tarrasch Defence, allowing her opponent a combination lead to a big plus. Elisabeth was unable to castle and her rooks couldn’t connection, so the resourceful German player hit on a plan of developing her entombed rook via the h-file. Later analysis revealed that it should not have been successful but mutual time trouble led to a chaotic position in which Elisabeth gradually gained the upper hand. By the time control poor Alina was looking at a wreck of a position and a material deficit. After a few mating tries were rebuffed, she was forced to resign. All credit, though, to Elisabeth who, not for the first time in this tournament, rode her luck and displayed her resourcefulness.

The three remaining games were long and hard-fought. Gunay Mammadzara plays some of the most exciting chess of the players present in Gibraltar and she gave Nana Dzagnidze a really good game, coming close to a win. The opening was a Semi-Slav and Gunay managed to isolate and pressurise Nana’s d-pawn. As well as this she opened up lines against the white king on h2 and might have missed a couple of tactical shots (e.g. 25...gxh3 and if 26 gxh3 Bxh3!) along the way when in her habitual time trouble. Nana too might have missed some counter-chances such as 38 Qb4 to wrest the initiative. Eventually it came down to Gunay’s three pawns against Nana’s knight and nothing, but the only possible result was a draw.

The remaining two games boiled down to rook and pawn endgames, both of which were won by the player with the extra pawn. Valentina Gunina told us she had been told to be more circumspect by her coach rather than overindulging tactics, and this proved a sage move. The opening was a Queen’s Indian (or possibly a Bogo-Indian) and Dinara Saduakassova was unable to mount a sufficiently active defence, soon being tied to the defence of a weak d-pawn. After the time control the pawn dropped off and, with some careful, patient play, Valentina was able to engineer a passed e-pawn and also infiltrate her king at b5, after which the fight was over.

Mariya Muzychuk quickly secured a slight but persistent edge against Irina Bulmaga from a Sicilian with Bb5, but she felt that Irina might have put up a more solid defence had she played 19...Kf6 rather than 19...Kd7. As played, White was quickly able to gain an extra pawn when, despite a few technical problems, the endgame also looked likely to be a winning one. Mariya thus joined Zhansaya as overnight leader on 4/5.

The two leaders, Zhansaya Abdumalik and Mariya Muzychuk, clash in round six on Thursday 27 May at 15.00 GMT+2 with Nigel Short and Fiona Steil-Antoni providing the commentary. The rest day is on Friday 28 May, after which former world champion Veselin Topalov takes over commentary duties from Nigel Short.

Round 5 Results

Z. Abdumalik (3)          1-0      A. Stefanova (2)
M. Muzychuk (3)         1-0      I. Bulmaga (1½)
N. Dzagnidze (2)         ½-½   G. Mammadzada (2)
A. Kashlinskaya (1½)    0-1      E. Paehtz (2½)
V. Gunina (1)                1-0      D. Saduakassova (½)
K. Lagno (3)                  ½-½    A. Muzychuk (2)

Crosstable after Round 5

(in draw order - superscript characters indicate colour and round number)