Four white victories in the third round of the Women's Candidates

The third day of play at the Women's Candidates tournament was a very exciting one, with all the four clashes reaching a decisive result after very interesting games. Valentina Gunina recovered after her loss in the previous round and defeated her teammate Alexandra Kosteniuk. Anna Muzychuk lost the second game in a row, this time against Tan Zhongyi. Nana Dzagnidze had a better position right after the opening but it took her 5 hours to outplay Mariya Muzychuk. It seemed Aleksandra Goryachkina had only practical chances in the endgame against Katerina Lagno, but the youngest player of the tournament was fighting till the end and her efforts were rewarded.

After 3 rounds of play, Nana Dzagnidze and Alexandra Goriachkina are the leaders with 2.5 out of 3, while Tan Zhongyi is on the third place with 2 points. Valentina Gunina is fourth with 1,5/3. Mariya Muzychuk, Katerina Lagno and Alexandra Kosteniuk share fifth place with 1/3. Anna Muzychuk is on the last place with 0,5/3.
Valentina Gunina decided to surprise Alexandra Kosteniuk in the opening by playing the Scotch Game for the first time. According to Alexandra, she was pleasantly surprised by her opponent's choice as she was very happy about her position in the opening: "Scotch is such a tricky opening. I played it twice in my career and lost both games in 20 moves. White is undeveloped and you need to feel the position well". Even though Valentina missed something in the opening, she found an interesting plan later on after 17.Nb5, which led to a sharp and complex position. Alexandra felt that the most critical moment in the game was when she refused to play 22...c6. After 22...Bb5 the position became unpleasant for Black, it was clearly easier for Valentina to play it. Gunina eventually won an exchange and after that, the position was lost for Alexandra.

Kosteniuk, when asked if she was happy to finish her "first Russian Championship" here, she said: "I'm very happy! I always struggle against the Russian players and the Russian Superfinals are somehow the most difficult tournaments for me. Since my childhood, it was easier for me to become a world youth champion than to win the Russian youth championship. I'm not very happy about my result so far (-1) but it could have been worse".
After quite a normal development in the Meran Variation, Maria Muzychuk decided to sacrifice a pawn, which turned out to be not the best decision. "It was not a good game for me. I sacrificed a pawn and I thought I would get some compensation. I saw this idea in some other variations but probably it does not work here", said Maria Muzychuk at the post-game interview. To transfer the advantage into a full point required certain technique from Nana but the outcome was never on doubt in this game.

It was a tough day for Ukrainian players as the older sister Anna Muzychuk also lost in the round three. She got a very promising position in the opening, but later on, she omitted a few good opportunities to sharpen the game by playing 20....b5 or 22...Rd5. In the time trouble, both players lost the track but Anna was the one who made the last mistake.

The last game to finish was Goryachkina-Lagno. Aleksandra decided to go for the rare line with 8.Bb5 in the Gruenfeld Defence but could not get any significant advantage. After many exchanges, the game was transferred into a Rook ending, with practical chances for White to play for the victory. Katerina Lagno overlooked the chance to equalize the ending after 36...f6 and later on had to find the only moves to keep the balance. The final mistake was 54...h3 but after 54...c3! Black could have survived.
The fourth round will be played on Tuesday, June 4th, at 15:00 local time, with the following pairings:

Nana Dzagnidze — Valentina Gunina
Alexandra Kosteniuk — Tan Zhongyi
Anna Muzychuk — Aleksandra Goryachkina
Mariya Muzychuk — Kateryna Lagno

Report by Anastasiya Karlovich.

The organizers of the Women's Candidates are FIDE, Russian Chess Federation, Government of the Republic of Tatarstan, Ministry of Sports of the Republic of Tatarstan, and the City Administration of Kazan. The tournament is sponsored by PJSC PhosAgro and Russian Railways.
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