Batumi, 3rd stage of Women's Grand Prix. "Excellent marks in advance!

By beating Alexandra Kosteniuk with great adventures in round 9, Valentina Gunina leads alone. On the way to first spot in the table, she had to overcome the Great Wall of China: 

Gunina-Zhao Xue

17…Nf6?! – It is interesting to wonder what Zhao was counting on. Perhaps that Valentina would blunder the exchange on d5? 18.Rb5 – Would you like to blunder the queen?  18…Qc7 – No… 19.Rxb4 Bd7 20.c5 Rac8 21.Rc1 a5 22.Rc4 b5 23.cxb6 Qxb6 24.Qb3 Qxd4 25.Rxd4 Rxc1 26.Bf1 Rec8 27.Kg2 – After 27…Be6 28.Qa4 Ra1 a long battle would lie ahead, but she wanted to get the other rook to the first rank as soon as possible.

27… Re1? 28.Rxd7 Nxd7 29.Qb7 Nb6 30.Qxb6 Rcc1 31.Qxa5 – The white queen devours all in her path. Black resigns (1:0). By winning two whites in a row, the Moscow GM has somewhat unepectedly ensured herself overall victory with two rounds still to go. 

Anna Muzychuk at the same time scored only half a point (her 10th round game with Girya lasted 120 moves!), whilst Nana Dzagnidze lost both games.

9th round, M Muzychuk - Dzagnidze. Thus started a "black weekend"...

Kosteniuk-Dzagnidze

In the event of a rook exchange, Nana obviously did not like the prospect of the central passed pawn being supported by the king. Wanting to attack e5, and worried about the white knight in the heart of her position, and still bothered by memories of a bad defeat in round 9 …

Muzychuk-Dzagnidze

Nana took the committal decision to keep rooks on: 29…Rc8?! 30.Nd5 Rc6 31.Kg2 Kg7 32.Kf3 Re6 33.Ke4 Bd6 34.Rf5 Bb8 – White has activated to the maximum and after her next move, the sleeping Bc1 comes into the game. The result is not in doubt.

35.h4 gxh4 36.gxh4 Rg6 37.Rf2 Rg1 38.Bd2 Rg4 39.Kf5 h5 40.Nxb6 Ne7 41.Ke6 Ng6 42.Nd7 Bxe5 43.Nxe5 Re4 44.Rf7 Black resigns (1:0). Unlike the Russian player, the Georgian had two "black" days in a row, in the worst sense of the term …

Arbiters Nikopoulos Panacoupolos and Marika Dzhalaridze

The photo-correspondent is in the best mood of anyone!

Towards the finish, tiredness and nerves mean that the ladies sometimes make mistakes which would be completely unimaginable at other times:

Javakhashvili-Mariya Muzychuk

31…Kd6 – Now the straightforward 32.Rc1 looks good, as does the the more Jesuitical 32.a4 with the idea if the pawn is taken of playing for mate with 33.Bb5! 32.Reb1?! c2 – It was still not too late to return to the older plan with 33.Rc1, but instead, Lela gave perpetual check: 33.R1b6 Kd5 34.Rb5 etc. – Draw (½ : ½)  

The tournament still attracts attention from official persons

First prize is decided but much remains to be settled among the other players. Two contenders for second play each other - Zhao Xue - Kosteniuk. Nina Batsiashvili plays Gunina, who may be expected to have lost some motivation. But God knows what mood the unpredictable Valentina will come to the game in. Anna Muzychuk plays against the none too successful Elina Danielian, but the black pieces compensate for this. How will it all work out? We will not have to wait long... 

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