The second game of the 2022 FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament, Pool B, played this afternoon in the magnificent Farovon Hotel venue in Khiva, Uzbekistan, ended in a draw after forty moves. After a very equal encounter, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina and GM Tan Zhongyi are now tied 1-1 in the match: two classical games are left to decide the winner before resorting to the tiebreak.
In her quarter-final match against Kosteniuk, Goryachkina faced 1.e4 in both of her games with Black; today we got to see her preparation against 1.d4. Her choice was the Semi-Slav Defense, deviating from the pure Slav Defense which she used to defeat Tan Zhongyi very recently in the Astana leg of the 2022 Women’s Grand Prix.
Tan Zhongyi seems to have a preference for the Carlsbad pawn structures, so it was hardly a surprise to see her exchange pawns on d5, following a game that she had played back in 2017 against GM Wei Yi, one of China’s best +2700 players.
By move transposition, they left the realms of the Slav to return to the kingdom of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, exchange variation. Most surely Goryachkina had prepared this line very well: Tan Zhongyi went for the same structure in her second quarter-final classical game against Lagno.
On move eleven, after thinking for about four minutes, Goryachkina introduced the novelty Bd6!?, which had only been seen once before, in an old 1946 game between Steiner and Denker. Alternatively, 11…Bf5 is by far the main move in this position, featured in many games between top-level players.
Tan Zhongyi went into the tank for nearly ten minutes and eventually declined the pawn sacrifice, probably fearing home preparation – there is some positional compensation for the pawn.
However, her proposal wasn’t as testing, and after several solid moves and exchanges, Goryachkina more or less equalized the position going into the middlegame. Maybe at some point, Tan Zhongyi did enjoy a very tiny edge – the engine oscillates between 0.0 and +0.5 – but at no stage did Goryachkina seem to be in any kind of real danger.
After more exchanges and precise play, they arrived at a theoretically drawn rook ending which both players agreed to not play out to the inevitable draw.
The players will enjoy a free rest day tomorrow and return to the venue for game three on Friday, December 9th at 3 pm.
Text: IM Michael Rahal
Photo: Timur Sattarov