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Leader intact
R3-19The third round was by far less peaceful than the five draws and one decisive game might suggest. Natalija Pogonina drew with Black against Ju Wenjun, thus maintaining her sole lead. In the only decisive game, Zhao Xue - Nino Batsiashvili, White won after sacrificing a pawn and then a piece! Natalia Zhukova - Antoaneta Stefanova and Pia Cramling - Sarasadat Khademalsharieh featured intense fight, while Nana Dzagnidze vs Humpy Koneru and Harika Dronavalli vs Valentina Gunina had a marked positional character. As a coincidence, in the third round there were... 3 games ending in a three-fold repetition!
Round 3 results:

SNo. Name Rtg Res. Name Rtg SNo.
2 GM Zhao Xue 2506 1 - 0 IM Batsiashvili Nino 2485 12
3 GM Zhukova Natalia 2484 ½ - ½ GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2509 1
4 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2529 ½ - ½ GM Koneru Humpy 2583 11
5 GM Harika Dronavalli 2511 ½ - ½ GM Gunina Valentina 2496 10
6 GM Cramling Pia 2521 ½ - ½ IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2403 9
7 GM Ju Wenjun 2558 ½ - ½ WGM Pogonina Natalija 2454 8

Round 3 in progress

Ranking Crosstable after Round 3
Rank SNo. Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pts
1 8 WGM Pogonina Natalija 2454 RUS * ½ 1 1
2 11 GM Koneru Humpy 2583 IND * ½ ½ 1 2
3 3 GM Zhukova Natalia 2484 UKR ½ * ½ 1 2
4 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2529 GEO ½ * ½ 1 2
5 7 GM Ju Wenjun 2558 CHN ½ * ½ 1 2
6 2 GM Zhao Xue 2506 CHN 0 * ½ 1
7 1 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2509 BUL ½ ½ * ½
8 9 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2403 IRI ½ * ½ ½
9 12 IM Batsiashvili Nino 2485 GEO ½ 0 ½ * 1
10 5 GM Harika Dronavalli 2511 IND 0 ½ * ½ 1
11 6 GM Cramling Pia 2521 SWE 0 0 ½ * ½
12 10 GM Gunina Valentina 2496 RUS 0 0 ½ * ½

Let's have a look on what happened on the boards, especially since two games featured heavy theoretical battles, which ended with different results.

Zhao Xue - Nino Batsiashvili 1-0

In the first game between these players ever, White chose an ambitious Vienna line based on an early pawn sacrifice and continuing (again!) with a piece offer barely out of the opening...


12. Bxh6 was played (in the footsteps of Mamedyarov-Morozevich, 2009 - although in a blitz game)
12... gxh6 13. Qxh6 Re8

Nino did not seem to be caught unaware as she blitzed her first 13 moves, which induced her opponent to become circumspect and spend considerable amounts of time. This was not in vain as after Xue's novelty:


14.Qh5 the Georgian either forgot her analysis or found herself on her own. One way or another, Nino spent almost 25 minutes on her answer, which proved a mistake with heavy consequences given the ultra-sharp, Najdorf-Sicilianconcrete-like, position.

Zhao Xue didn't hesitate to wrap things up after the massive attack on the black king.

Natalia Zhukova - Antoaneta Stefanova 1/2-1/2

In the game between Natalia and Antoaneta, two players which have met quite a lot, White met the Grunfeld with the critical 8.Rb1 exchange variation. The novelty arrived slightly later than in the previous game, with 17.h4. But typically for the Grunfeld, Black's extra pawn proved a good match for White's initiative and space and the game liquidated into a drawn ending. It was nevertheless fascinating to follow the numerous spectacular lines mentioned by both players during the press conference.

Beautiful eyes + beautiful smile = great game too!

Ju Wenjun - Natalija Pogonina 1/2-1/2

A cautious opening choice (for some people's taste, a super-safe manoeuvring Reti variation), allowed Wenjun putting an end to Natalia's strings of victories. But the logical draw in an opposite-coloured bishops ending after a balanced positional fight maintains Natalias's sole lead in the tournament.

Roller-coaster-like schedule for most of the players...Wenjun is getting tired too.

There was one moment though, where both players agreed during the press conference, that White could have applied more pressure keeping Black's position closed and its pieces begging for more space.


To take or not to take on c5, that was the question...Wenjun decided to go for the trade, after which the Russian surgically defended and hold on to a draw. Instead,
22. b5 would have been preferable, keeping the options open and the upper hand.

Keeping a firm grip on the lead

Harika Dronavalli - Valentina Gunina 1/2-1/2

The ever friendly and big time chess lover - Harika

Both Harika and Valentina had a shaky start (even though this refers more to their results than the general class of play) making the slow-mode opening a suitable choice for each of them. Harika played the 'off-beat' (in fact quite a fashionable line these days on top level, employed by none other than Carlsen himself) 2.Bf4 London opening, but was surprised one move later by Valentina's 3...Bg4. Typically for this variation, the middlegame was not too eventful and after a series of exchanges a three-fold repetition sealed the draw.

Tough times never last but tough chess players do!

Nana Dzagnidze - Humpy Koneru 1/2-1/2

Playing with Black against Nana Dzagnidze, Humpy Koneru used the same opening as in the first round, the Tartakover Queen's Gambit. At this level, the players usually switch from one opening to another in order to avoid concrete preparation, but judging from this perspective it could have been precisely Humpy's consequence which surprised her opponent. White chose a somewhat "dry" setup, eventually resulting in a queenside domination with a beautifully placed knight on c6. Far from retreating to a passive defence, Humpy started active kingside counterplay, balancing the chances and achieving a draw.

In good spirits before the game

Because I have a high admiration for those tough decisional moments that built strong grandmasters and characters, I have to share with you what Nana played here:


27. g4! which I believe it is not an easy choice, as White's structure and king could become vulnerable later on.
27... Nf6 28. Nc6 Rd7 29. f3 However, it proved that Nana's idea to kick away the e4-knight and to improve her pawns was the right way to go. The game didn't lack interesting and sharp moments later on, so kindly check the remaining of the game for your own enjoyment.

Humpy's weapon from R1 (Tartakover) brought her only half a point this time.

Pia Cramling - Sarasadat Khademalsharieh 1/2-1/2

Pia Cramling managed to recover after her unfortunate start by drewing with White against Sara. The game was anything but peaceful and even in the final position, where players decided to repeat the moves, the structure was highly non-symmetrical. A fitting result for Pia and the continuation of a good tournament for Sara.

R3-16  R3-37

In chess as in life, ups and downs are inevitable. Here Sara played:


20... Rxa3 missing Pia's trickery with 21. Bxe6 Rxa1 22. Bxd7+ Kxd7 23. Rxa1
She could have gone instead: 20... Rf3 first, luring the king to e2 and only after that the capture on a3 is possible, as Bxe6 doesn't work anymore in view of Bb5+!

This was the 'peaceful' story of today and tomorrow there is a Valentine's Day to celebrate, especially for Valentina! How will she do that? Through hard work on the board, of course...

By the Press Officer Alina l'Ami

Round 3 photo gallery


Pairings & Results

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