John Saunders reports: As I write, the Gibraltar leg of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix is five rounds away from a conclusion. As it is part of a four-tournament Grand Prix, different players have different objectives. Some are playing for a larger share of the money prize here in Gibraltar and a higher place in the Grand Prix points table, while others have their eyes on an additional objective - a place in the forthcoming Women’s World Championship Candidates’ tournament. This can be a little confusing for spectators and fans to follow, so I am trying to summarise the competitors’ objectives as I see them. Of course, I could be wrong!
Let’s look at some of the main contenders in current score order.
Currently we have two leaders on 4½/6: Zhansaya Abdumalik (KAZ) and Mariya Muzychuk (UKR). Neither of these players can score enough Grand Prix points in Gibraltar to qualify for the Candidates’ tournament, so their aspiration will be to continue to score well enough to win the tournament and reach a high place in the Grand Prix table. Zhansaya has an additional objective: to score enough points to reach the rating threshold to qualify for the grandmaster title. She already has all her norms. We think that +5 (a score of 8/11) will be good enough to take her from her current rating of 2472 to 2500. She would need a further 3½/5 against Dzagnidze, Kashlinskaya, Gunina, Lagno and Anna Muzychuk. Of course, against such a strong field, this is a very tough task, but she has played splendidly so far, and nobody should underestimate her.
In third place currently is Kateryna Lagno (RUS) with 4/6. Kateryna will also be hoping to win the tournament, but she may be a little more focused on the place in the Candidates’ tournament. After round six, she is ahead in that race but there are still five rounds to go. But she will be looking over her shoulder at Nana Dzagnidze who is now the main threat to her Candidates’ tournament hopes. Both have 180 Grand Prix points, so if they finish level in Gibraltar they would have the same Grand Prix points total. However, Kateryna’s scores in Skolkovo (6½) and Monaco (6½) add up to more than Nana’s scores in Monaco (5) and Lausanne (7), so Kateryna would finish ahead. Kateryna also has to watch the progress of Anna Muzychuk, on 3/6, who still has very real chances of snatching the Candidates’ slot with a good run of results.
Three players currently share fourth place in the tournament on 3½. Two of these, Elisabeth Paehtz (GER) and Gunay Mammadzada (AZE) are interested only in scoring as well as possible in this tournament as they cannot qualify for a Candidates’ place. However, the third player on 3½, Nana Dzagnidze is, as mentioned above, in a battle with Kateryna Lago and Anna Muzychuk for the Candidates’ place. She must score half a point more than Kateryna, otherwise the tie-break explained in the above paragraph may eliminate her. (And finish at least level on points with Anna.) However, there is another possibility: should both Kateryna and Nana finish strongly, overtaking all their tournament rivals in Gibraltar, then they can finish in first and second place, or shared first place. In that case they would both surpass Humpy Koneru’s Grand Prix score, and both Kateryna and Nana would qualify for the Candidates’ tournament at Humpy Koneru’s expense.
In joint seventh currently are Anna Muzychuk (UKR) and Valentina Gunina (RUS) with 3/6. Valentina will be concentrating on improving her tournament score, as will all the players not yet mentioned who have fewer points, but Anna Muzychuk still has a very real chance of reaching the Candidates’ tournament if she scores a lot of points in her remaining games and finishes with a higher score than both Kateryna and Nana. She has already played her two rivals for a Candidates’ place and her run-in consists of Saduakassova, Paehtz, Mammadzada, Bulmaga and Abdumalik.
I started getting a headache trying to figure out all these Grand Prix permutations! There may be other possibilities: for example, perhaps Anna plus Nana or Kateryna could also surpass Humpy if they finish 1st/2nd or 1st=. I hope the above will make things a little clearer. If I have only succeeded in confusing people even more, I apologise in advance.