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Aleksandra Goryachkina first in Women’s Grand Prix cycle

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New Delhi: The final, eleventh round of the third leg of the Women’s Grand Prix cycle ended with all three tournament leaders drawing their games and finishing on six points. Aleksandra Goryachkina was awarded first place for having better tiebreaks.

As per tournament regulations, all prize money and WGP points were divided equally among the players with an equal final score. This means that Goryahckina, Assaubayeva and Zhu all got 12,333 euros and 133 points each.

The first one to finish, after around two hours and 45 minutes of play, was China’s Zhu Jiner. Playing as Black against Nino Batsiashvili, the position was even and after forced exchanges of heavy pieces, the two agreed to split a point. With this draw, Zhu reached her third GM norm (having collected the first two in the previous two tournaments of the Women’s Grand Prix – in Astana and Munich). China and the world now have a new Grandmaster – Zhu Jiner.

Just a few minutes after Zhu, Aleksandra Goryachkina – the other of the three favourites – drew as White with India’s top player and world number two, Humpy Koneru. In the Queen’s gambit accepted, both sides played precisely. It was a balanced game, ending in an even position.

Some 15 minutes later, Bibisara Assaubayeva (one of the three leaders) agreed to split a point with Kateryna Lagno. In the Reverse Benoni, Assaubayeva had slightly more initiative, but it was overall even. With this tournament in New Delhi, Bibisara Assaubayeva also achieved her second Grandmaster norm.

After more than five hours of play, Polina Shuvalova beat Harika Dronavalli in the Ruy Lopez, while Vaishali Rameshbabu lost a drawn-rook endgame to Nana Dzagnidze.

With a total of 308 points, China’s Zhu Jiner is currently in the lead in the overall standings of the Women’s Grand Prix. She is followed by Aleksandra Goryachkina, who is on 263 points, while Alexandra Koteniuk (who skipped New Delhi) is in third place on 250, closely followed by Kateryna Lagno, who is on 245 points.

Zhu’s lead is, however, only symbolic. New Delhi was her third and final appearance in this edition of the WGP cycle. (In the previous events, she secured a third-place finish in Astana, earning 110 points, and fetched another 65 points in Munich.) She will be overtaken after the next and final leg of the Women’s Grand Prix, where top favourites such as Goryachkina, Kosteniuk and Lagno will take part. Still, New Delhi will be a memorable tournament for Zhu as in this event she has also secured her third Grandmaster norm.

With this victory in New Delhi, Aleksandra Goryachkina now has 263 points and is currently in second place in the overall standings. Goryachkina came in second in the first tournament in Astana (where she collected 130 points), and first place in New Delhi got her additional 133 points. As this was her second tournament in this WGP cycle, Goryachkina is due to play in the fourth and final leg, which will take place in Cyprus in May. This makes her a very strong contender for the winner of the 2022/2023 edition of the Women’s Grand Prix.

The event in Delhi was also the second tournament in the WGP cycle for Bibisara Assaubayeva. Having collected just 30 points in Astana in the first tournament, second place in New Delhi and 133 points boosted her place in the overall standings, as well as her chances to reach one of the top places in this edition of the WGP.

The tournament in New Delhi was the third in a series of four which make up the Women’s Grand Prix (WGP). Altogether 16 players are taking part in the series, with each participating in three of the four tournaments. The two players who score the greatest number of cumulative points in the series shall qualify for the FIDE Women Candidates Tournament 2023-24.

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