Round 4: Ju Wenjun joined Valentina Gunina at the head of the race in Skolkovo

The tournament leader Valentina Gunina (2502) was very close to biting the dust in her game against the veteran Pia Cramling (2487). Loyal to her style, the Russian jumped into some sharp tactical skirmishes as soon as she had the chance, but the complications didn't yield her any gain. Quite the opposite, when the dust settled it was the Swede who had a clear advantage, and she appeared headed for her first victory in the tournament. However, short of time, Cramling didn't manage to crack Black defences and, when the time trouble got serious, she decided to go for a threefold repetition to secure half a point.

A Modern variation of the Slav Defence was played in the game between Ju Wenjun (2576) and Marie Sebag (2450). Sebag lost the thread right after the opening, allowing Ju Wenjun's cavalry to infiltrate her position. By move 20, the position of the French Grandmaster was already very delicate, and the World Champion gave her no chance. This victory allows the Chinese to catch up with Gunina, with 3/4.
The second decisive game of the round was the fantastic victory of Alina Kashlinskaya (2487) over Harika Dronavalli (2503). In a Pirc Defence, white quickly traded the queens, dominated the centre, and formed a strong battery on the "h" file, which left black without counter-play. After gaining the initiative, Kashlinskaya showed excellent technique and converted her advantage into a flawless victory, her first one at the Women's Grand Prix.

It was a tough round for the Indian players since Humpy Koneru (2560) was also on the brink of being defeated. Alexandra Kosteniuk (2495) came out of the opening with a more dynamic position, an advantage that she later converted into a rook endgame with two pawns up. However, Humpy found some creative ways to defend her position – pulling up a final trick, with a stalemate setup, that allowed her to get away with a draw.

In the duel between western players, Antoaneta Stefanova (2491) and Elisabeth Paethz (2479) played a well-known line in the sharp Najdorf Defence. Even though the White pieces looked very menacing, Black's King was never really at risk. As soon as Paehtz was given the chance, she launched a counterattack that led to a perpetual check, reaching a draw after 25 moves.
The Russian duel between Goryachkina (2564) and Lagno (2545) ended in a draw. Goryachkina followed a modern idea in the Moscow variation, but Lagno managed to come out of the opening in full control of the position. However, the position was quite symmetrical, with only one open file, and after exchanging rooks the game came down to an opposite-coloured bishops endgame.

Standings after 4 rounds:
The fifth-round games will be played on September 15, at 3 pm local time (GMT +3).

Spectators can follow the games with English and Russian commentaries:

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A gallery with photos in high resolution is at the disposal of the press on the official FIDE Flickr account.

Text: Keti Tsatsalashvili
Photos: David Llada