Women Candidates Pool B Kicks Off in Khiva, Uzbekistan

PHOTO: FIDE/Timur Sattarov

Four players, two games, two draws, the first day of Women's Candidate's Pool B was concluded. The event is taking place from 29 November to 11 December, and the winner qualifies to the Candidates finals, facing Pool A winner, Lei Tingjie, for the right to participate in the Women's World Championship Match against Wenjun Ju.

During yesterday's opening ceremony, the highest rated player of each pair, chose between boxes containing either a white or a black queen; Both Aleksandra Goryachkina and Kateryna Lagno chose the one containing a black, giving the white pieces to their opponents for the 1st and 3rd game of their matches.

The Event Format

For the Women Candidates 2023, an 8 players knockout tournament format was adopted by the FIDE Council, played in 2 separate pools of 4 players - with the winners of each meeting in the final match, fighting for the world championship spot.

According to the event regulations, the first two rounds shall be played with 4 games matches, while the final with a 6 games match.

  • In case the match is tied, four games of 15 minutes plus 10 seconds increment shall be played;
  • In case the match is still tied, two games of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds increment shall be played;
  • In case the match is still tied, a game of 3 minutes plus 2 seconds increment shall be played until a player wins, with colors alternating.

For more details, you can read the tournament regulations.

The total prize fund is 250,000 euros, with 60,000 going to the winner.

The Pool's Lineup

Pool B is going to treat us with a much-anticipated match, between Aleksandra Goryachkina, the runner-up of 2020 Women's World Championship match and 2nd highest rated woman since November 2020 rating list, versus Alexandra Kosteniuk, the 2008-2010 Women's World Champion and 2021 Women's World Cup winner.

The second match of the pool features yet another former World Women's Champion, Tan Zhongyi, holding the title for 2017-18, facing Kateryna Lagno, former women's Blitz and Rapid chess Champion, and two times European Women Champion.

With four highly experienced and competitive players, exciting games and close matches are definitely to be expected - let us know whom you are rooting for in the comments!

Round 1 Game 1

Alexandra Kosteniuk v Aleksandra Goryachkina

PHOTO: FIDE/Timur Sattarov

With the Berlin Defence played, the players had deviated from the main lines already by move 9; Kosteniuk played Kh1 preparing a Ng1 -- Ne2 maneuver, keeping the options of f4 or Ng3 aiming for the f5 square, depending on her opponent's play. Goryachkina replied with the fairly flexible 9...b6. By move 16, the two players had reached an equal on first sight position, however Kosteniuk's g3 allowed Goryachkina to execute a new plan, rerouting her knight all the way from f4 to the queenside --- winning a tempo in most steps!

Indeed, she began with 17... Nh3 18. Rf1 Ng5 19. Qe2 Nf7 20. b3 Nd6 21. Nh4 Nb5 (threatening Bd4 -- Nc3!) In the resulting position, white had the option to play f4 exf4 gxf4 and postpone c3 until her opponent played f5, with a still complicated game and good chances, however she decided to play c3 first. After retreating her knight, Goryachkina played the a4 - a5 pawn break and soon managed to paralyze her opponent's position. Black played f5; keeping up the tension, activating her queen on h5 and later playing b4 to further weaken white's kingside and trying to invade with her pieces would be better. Goryachkina indeed managed to create an isolated f5 pawn for her opponent that was proven insufficient (she also had to keep in mind her own doubled c pawns), and the two players agreed a draw after move 40.

Zhongyi Tan v Kateryna Lagno

PHOTO: FIDE/Timur Sattarov

For the first time in their games against each other, the two players explored a fairly solid line of the Queen's Gambit Declined. Lagno tried to gain an advantage on the queenside with 11..a5followed by Na6 - b5-b4. Tan's 18. axb4 allowed black to gain the bishop pair with Nxb4 (she however decided to give her own lightsquared bishop for her opponent's knight later in the game).

However, the two players kept the game quite balanced and not managing to gain any substantial advantage, they simplified into an equal endgame and agreed a draw on move 40.

Lichess Coverage

Daily, Lichess will be providing a broadcast of the games played in real-time. Stay tuned on our social media and blog for more chess content in the coming days!

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