Round 9 of the Women’s Grand Prix: Humpy Koneru Takes the Lead from Ju Wenjun!


Humpy Koneru wins her fourth game in a row and takes the lead at Skolkovo Women’s Grand Prix after the previous leader Ju Wenjun is defeated by Kateryna Lagno and drops to the second position.

Kateryna Lagno beat the tournament’s leader Ju Wenjun, in their first clash since their World Championship match played last November. The Chinese went for a Petrov’s Defense, in which Lagno managed to surprise her opponent with 20.h4. The critical moment appeared when Ju Wenjun broke up in the centre with 23…e5, a dubious move that allowed Lagno to gain the initiative. The weaknesses in Ju Wenjun’s camp made her king very vulnerable and Lagno carried out a mating attack with a firm hand.

Humpy Koneru accepted Valentina Gunina’s Blumenfeld Gambit, giving up the right to castle in return. To her credit, Humpy came up with an imaginative plan to activate her trapped kingside rook via h4 and Rh3. The position was very unbalanced but about equal, when Gunina made a blunder with 17…c4, which forced her to sacrifice an exchange. With precise play, Humpy converted the material advantage into a full point and became the new leader of the tournament with 7 points out of 9 games (+5 =4).

A very sharp position in the French Defense arose in the Russian derby between the namesakes Alexandra Kosteniukand Aleksandra Goryachkina. The former World Champion obtained a significant advantage out of the opening, but in the middle game, Kosteniuk allowed her young opponent to get a dangerous counterplay going on the kingside. Goryachkina didn’t let the opportunity slip and won some material, which later on became the decisive factor. With 6 points, she is clear third, just behind the leaders.

The encounter between Alina Kashlinskaya and Pia Cramling took a dramatic turn in the very end. The game started with 1.d4 and later transposed into a Hedgehog Sicilian. Cramling achieved a small edge, despite playing with black, and held the initiative for an extended period of time. However, being under time pressure, Pia blundered a piece with 40…Bh4, and resigned two moves later.

Harika Dronavalli, from India, and Elisabeth Paethz, from Germany, also went for a hedgehog set up in their game but quickly wrapped it up after a threefold repetition on the move 25. Another draw was agreed in the game between Marie Sebag and Antoaneta Stefanova. Sebag opted the Ruy Lopez Opening but the former World Champion equalized with relative ease.

Standings After 9 Rounds

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