Her results have been prodigious from the age of 8, but her greatest feat comes at 21. Kazakh Zhansaya Abdumalik has swept the last of the four Women’s Grand Prix tournaments, to which she was invited as a reserve. Since she has played two of them, and three are required to achieve a place in the Candidates Tournament, the one who gets that ticket is the Russian Kateryna Lagno.
All this has happened in Gibraltar, whose organizers have been striving every year since 2003 to bring the best female chess players in the world for its famous festival in January, suspended this year due to the pandemic.
“I am very happy, but already thinking about the World Cup [to be played in July in Sochi (Russia)], where I will try to get that place in the Candidates Tournament,” explained Abdumalik after signing a fairly quick draw in the last round. with Ukraine’s Anna Muzychuk.
The Kazakh wins the tournament with 1.5 points more than Mariya Muzychuk (Ana’s sister) and, with the 160 Grand Prize points that this victory entails, accumulates enough to be one of the eight contestants of the Candidates Tournament. But the regulation says that only the titular players of the Grand Prize, who dispute three of the four tests, have the right to do so.
Abdumalik won many medals in Europeans and World Cups of different ages from U8 to U20. Her enormous potential was evident, but it was in Gibraltar where she has established herself as a young star whose life is not limited to chess: she is a councilor for the Alma Ata City Council, the largest city (and former capital) of Kazakhstan, with almost two millions of inhabitants.
The winner of the combined Grand Prix classification is Russian Alexandra Goriáchkina, who already has a place awarded in the Candidates Tournament for being the current runner-up in the world (she lost the 2020 match against China’s Wenjun Ju in the quick tiebreaker).
The 2nd after the sum of the four tournaments is the Indian Humpy Koneru, who has not been able to compete in Gibraltar due to the terrible situation of the pandemic in her country. But, despite the fact that she has only played two tournaments (as Abdumalik) she was a titular player of the Grand Prix (not a reserve, like the Kazakh), and the International Federation (FIDE) accepts that her absence in El Peñón is due to a cause. force majeure.
Therefore, Koneru will occupy one of the two places that the Grand Prize awards for the Candidates Tournament. And the other is for Lagno. Abdumalik still has three ways to be among those privileged eight: being a finalist in the World Cup; win the Grand Swiss, which will be played at the end of October on the Isle of Man (UK); or that the Candidates Tournament is played in Kazakhstan and she occupies the position of direct appointment.
The venue for the Grand Prix has been the same as the Gibraltar Festival, which brings together more than 400 players every January: the La Caleta hotel, decorated with huge photos of the twelve participants.
The main minister, Fabián Picardo, and several members of his Government have taken turns taking the honor kick for most of the eleven rounds, in a clear sign that they want to reinforce the connection of the image of Gibraltar with chess. Organizer Brian Callaghan announced at the closing ceremony that in January 2022 there will be a special tournament, with women once again as special protagonists.
Abdumalik will undoubtedly be one of the guests. Its manifestations indicate a maturity much higher than normal at 21 years of age. Asked this Wednesday about his previous participation in the World Cup, in 2018, his answer was: “I passed three rounds and I fell in the fourth. But then he was young ”, as if he had stopped being young.
Final classification in Gibraltar: 1st Abdumalik 8.5 points; 2nd Mariya Muzychuk 7; 3rd-4th Lagno and Mammadzada (Azerbaijan) 6.5; 5th-6th Dzagnidze (Georgia) and Paehtz (Germany) 6; 7th Anna Muzychuk 5.5; 8th Kashlínskaya (Russia) 5; 9th-10th Stefánova and Gunina 4,5; 11th Saduakássova (Kazakhstan) 4; 12th Bulmaga (Romania) 2.
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