The FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament

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Right now in Kazan, eight women are competing to become the challenger to the current Women’s World Chess Champion, Ju Wenjun. After he was elected in October of 2018 as FIDE (World Chess Federation) President, Arkady Dvorkovich announced that improving the process to become Women’s World Champion was one of his priorities. Thus, the 2019 Women’s World Championship cycle has a similar format to the absolute World Championship; that is, a Candidates tournament followed by a match between the winner of the Candidates tournament and the World Champion.

The Ministry of Sports of Tatarstan and the Russian Chess Federation have organized a double round-robin competition that spans May 29-June 19, with a substantial increase in prizes from the knockout format used previously to determine the women’s challenger. The 2019 FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament has a prize fund of 200,000 €.

Within this article, I link to the tournament’s website, which is excellent. You can find photos, games, news, etc., in either Russian or English. There is also live commentary. На русском комментируют МГ Сергей Шипов и МГ Илья Смирин, which means the Russian language broadcast commentary is by Grandmasters Sergey Shipov and Ilya Smirin. The English language broadcast commentators are GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko and IM Elisabeth Paehtz.

In Round One, all games were drawn. In Round Two, two players won. One of the winners played a beautiful move, featured in both the official FIDE press release and by Grandmaster Judit Polgar on her Facebook page.

The answer is 72. Nh4! Because if 72….Rxh4 2. Ra4+ forcing a trade of rooks and then White promotes her h-pawn. So Black (Valentina Gunina) tried 72…Kg3 73. h8 (Q) and White won on move 92.

Interestingly enough, Goryachkina only got into the Candidates Tournament because the top-rated woman in the world, Hou Yifan, declined her invitation. Hou Yifan was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, a fully funded postgraduate award to study at the University of Oxford. So she is too busy with her studies to play in the Fide Women’s Candidates Tournament.

Anna Muzychuk vs. Nana Dzagnidze
Anna Muzychuk vs. Nana Dzagnidze
photo by Eteri Kublashvili, courtesy of FIDE

The other winner in Round 2 was Nana Dzagnidze, who was Black against Anna Muzychuk.

[pgn][Event “FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament”]
[Site “Kazan”]
[Date “2019.06.01”]
[Round “2.4”]
[White “Muzychuk, Anna”]
[Black “Dzagnidze, Nana”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B31”]
[WhiteElo “2539”]
[BlackElo “2510”]
[Annotator “Root, Alexey”]
[PlyCount “84”]
[EventDate “2019.??.??”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. c3 Nf6 6. Qe2 O-O 7. d4 d5 8. e5
Ne4 9. Rd1 cxd4 10. cxd4 f6 11. Nc3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 fxe5 13. Nxe5 Qc7 14. Nd3 Bf515. Bf4 Qa5 16. Bxc6 bxc6 17. Nb4 Rac8 18. Rac1 Be4 19. Bg5 c5 20. dxc5 Qxc5 21. Be3 d4 22. Bxd4 Bxd4 23. Qxe4 Bxf2+ 24. Kh1 Qe3 25. Qc2 Rc5 26. Nd3 Rg5 27. Qb3+ Kg7 28. Nxf2

{[#] This move is a mistake. Can you find Black’s exciting reply?}

(28. Qb4 a5 29. Qd4+ {Trading queens is best for White, though Black still
has an advantage.})

28… Rxg2 $3 29. Qb7

(29. Kxg2 Rxf2+ 30. Kg1 Rb2+ 31. Kh1 Qf3+ 32. Kg1 Qg2#)

29… Rxh2+ $1

{Offering this rook again as a sacrifice. This time, White accepts the sacrifice as if 30. Kg1 Qxf2#}

30. Kxh2 Rxf2+ 31. Qg2

{If White tries to avoid giving up her queen, she is checkmated quickly by
Black.}

(31. Kg1 Qg3+ 32. Kh1 Qh2#)

31… h5 32. Re1 Qd2 33. Qxf2 Qxf2+ 34. Kh1 e5 35. c4

(35. Rxe5 Qf3+ 36. Kg1 Qg3+ {Wins a rook for Black.})

35… g5 36. c5 g4 37. Rf1 Qh4+ 38. Kg1 Qg3+ 39. Kh1 Qh3+ 40. Kg1 Qe3+ 41. Kh1 Qe4+ 42. Kg1 g3

{White resigned. If she tried 43. c6, to promote her pawn, 43….Qe2 leads to a checkmate.}

(42… g3 43. c6 Qe2 {With the threat of ….Qh2, for example 44. Rfd1 Qh2+ 45. Kf1 Qf2#} 44. Rfd1 Qf2+ 45. Kh1 Qh2#) 0-1[/pgn]

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on Amazon.com.