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    Entries in Women's Grand Prix (5)

    Thursday
    Oct032013

    Humpy Koneru Wins Women's Grand Prix Event in Tashkent

    In part because I've spent a boatload of time working on a big post on the Keres-Botvinnik ending from 1948 - the one that some allege to be proof that Keres threw games to Botvinnik - I've fallen behind on the tournaments. So let's get that caught up and then get to the alleged fix.

    We begin with the Women's Grand Prix tournament in Tashkent, which finished a couple of days ago. Humpy Koneru led throughout and was the deserved winner, finishing with a draw to clinch first. The only player with a chance to catch her going into the last round was Harika Dronavalli, but she lost, allowing both Kateryna Lagno and Bela Khotenashvili to skip ahead of her and tie for second, a point behind Humpy. A pity for Harika, who for all or almost all of the tournament was headed by no one but Humpy. That's sport: one must fight all the way to the finish.

    This is the second Grand Prix event Humpy has won in this cycle; in fact, she has won both of the Grand Prix events she has entered! Pending a disaster in her remaining event(s), she is a pretty big favorite to win the cycle and clinch a title match in 2015.

    Monday
    Sep302013

    Women's Grand Prix: Koneru Leads By A Point Entering The Last Round

    Which means it's not over yet. Bela Khotenashvili drew with Kateryna Lagno, which meant that each put the other out of contention, as Humpy Koneru's win over tailender Guliskhan Nakhbayeva gave her a point and a half lead over that duo. One member of the tie for second did win, and that's Harika Dronavalli. She beat the next-to-last-place player, Nafisa Muminova, to stay within a point. In the last round Humpy will have Black against Olga Girya, and Harika will have Black against Zhao Xue (a tougher pairing, at least on paper).

    (Tournament site here.)

    Saturday
    Sep282013

    Catching Up on the Grand Prix

    (Or Grands Prix, if you prefer. You can find all sorts of interesting discussion about this on the interweb.)

    In the men's/open Grand Prix in Paris two more rounds have passed since we last took notice, and at the end of these two rounds - making six in total of the eleven to be played - Boris Gelfand is still in front, but sharing the lead with Fabiano Caruana. Gelfand has drawn his last two games, whlie Caruana just won, taking advantage of the precipitously plummeting Vassily Ivanchuk.

    Ivanchuk had shared the lead after four rounds, but it was very shaky, as he was lost or nearly lost in the two games he went on to win. In round five against Alexander Grischuk he got another lousy game early on, but this time there was no reprieve. Despite having the white pieces, he was crushed in just 31 moves. In round six, as already mentioned, he lost to Caruana - weirdly. First, he committed a fingerfehler on move 16, intending or at least calculating 16...f6 and then playing 16...Bd7. (Chalk this up as another of the horrors we discussed here some weeks ago, as well as yet another odd episode in Ivanchuk's strange [though often spectacularly successful] career.) Second, he resigned rather prematurely, even if his position may have been lost with best play by Caruana. Ivanchuk should have continued, but he just couldn't stand his position!

    All the other round 6 games were drawn, while in round 5 there was a second decisive game: Etienne Bacrot defeated Anish Giri with the black pieces. So Gelfand and Caruana lead with four points, and remember that if Caruana takes clear first in the tournament he qualifies for the Candidates'. Likewise if Grischuk wins, but for the moment he's a point behind, in a six-way tie for 4th-9th place. Just so I don't have to be accused of "forgetting" something, I'll note that Hikaru Nakamura is in third, half a point behind the leaders.

    In the Women's Grand Prix (in Tashkent, Uzbekistan), round nine was very strange. After eight rounds Humpy Koneru was plowing through the field with a great score of 6.5/8, gaining tons of rating points and making steady overall progress towards winning a spot in the 2015 World Championship match. She led by a point over the persistent peleton led by Harika Dronavalli and Kateryna Lagno, both of whom were a full point behind. So what happened in round 9? All three lost!

    Their relative positions are obviously the same, and no one has passed any of them. Someone has joined the tie for second, though, and that's Bela Khotenashvili, who defeated Humpy in round 9. Two rounds remain, and as Humpy's last two opponents aren't doing very well in the tournament she's still a strong favorite to take clear first.

    Saturday
    Mar052011

    Women's Grand Prix: Koneru Ties for First, Earns Title Match

    Very impressive! Humpy Koneru won when it counted, and everything else went just so for her to tie for first in the Women's Grand Prix tournament in Qatar and qualify for a world championship match later this year against Hou Yifan.

    Coming into the last round, she was tied with Marie Sebag for second in the tournament, half a point behind Elina Danielan. Koneru needed to finish tied for first, but with no more than one of her two rivals. On paper it didn't look good at all: while she was facing a tail-ender, Zhu Chen, she would had Black. Further, Danielan was also facing a tailender, but with White, while Sebag, though Black, was facing the second lowest-rated player in the tournament. And yet it all worked out: Danielan was quickly held to a draw by Antoaneta Stefanova, Koneru won, and after a long struggle Sebag overpressed and lost.

    By tying for first, Koneru leapfrogged Nana Dzagnidze and came in second in the overall Grand Prix standings, thus qualifying for a match against the World Champion. Why didn't the first place finisher qualify instead? That's because she - Hou Yifan - is already the World Champion. When they play, it will be their third match in a world championship, but their first world championship match in a proper sense. In the last two k.o. events, they played in the semi-finals, with Hou winning both times. Those were mini-matches; this time around they'll play 10 games, probably in or around August or September.

    Wednesday
    Mar022011

    The FIDE Women's Grand Prix: The Good, The Good, and The Ugly

    Elina Danielan started with 5/5 and 6.5/7, but today finally had her comeuppance at the hands of the player who needed it most: Humpy Koneru. As I understand the FIDE rules (which can always be changed at the President's whim in any case), world champion Hou Yifan is supposed to play the winner of the current Women's Grand Prix cycle or - in case Hou herself wins it - the runner-up.

    Entering the event we're following now, the finale of the current GP cycle, Hou (who isn't playing) leads the series, while Nana Dzagnidze is in second, Tatiana Kosintseva is in third and Humpy Koneru is in fourth. Kosintseva isn't playing in the current event (in Qatar), but Dzagnidze and Koneru are. For simplicity's sake, let's ignore Hou in the overall standings. If Koneru wins this event or ties with at most one other person and Dzagnidze comes in no better than shared second place, then she will face Hou in the title match; otherwise, Dzagnidze gets the match. (So says TWIC, anyway.)

    Coming into round 8, Koneru was two points behind the seemingly unstoppable Danielan, but the Indian won and closed to within a point. Further, she has what at least looks like a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, while Danielan's last three games are against players in the middle of the pack. Dzagnidze matters too, of course, and she's just half a point behind Koneru (and Sebag), with a moderately difficult schedule ahead of her. To summarize, here are the leading standings after round 8 (of 11):

    1. Danielan 6.5

    2-3. Koneru, Sebag 5.5

    4. Dzagnidze 5

    Some games from the tournament have caught my eye, and lest anyone got the wrong idea and possibly take offense, the title of this post refers to the three games I'm going to present and not to any of the players! The two "goods" refer to nice attacks that culminated in queen sacrifices, while the "ugly" refers to one of the worst-played rook endgames I've ever seen at the professional level. (Errare humanum est!) Have a look!