Ekaterina Lagno and Alexandra Goryachkina took first and second places in four stages of the FIDE Grand Prix and guaranteed their participation in the Candidates Tournament for the chess crown, which will be held in April next year in Toronto, Canada.

The achievement of Russian grandmasters was highly appreciated by the Russian Chess Federation.

"At the stage of the Women's Grand Prix, our chess players showed their fighting qualities, composure and skill. I wish success to Russian athletes in future competitions!" said Andrey Filatov, President of the organization.

The Russians achieved a high result despite the fact that they were not very successful at the final stage of the series, which was held in Cyprus. So, Lagno took fifth place in Nicosia, and Goryachkina - only eighth. But the previously mined margin of safety made it possible to achieve the main goal.

Before the start of the tournament, the first place in the composite ranking was occupied by Zhu Jin'er with 308 points, but the leadership of the Chinese was conditional, since she had already held all three of her stages, and the main pursuers had one more in reserve. Goryachkina was second with 263 points: she took second place at the stage in Astana and shared first place in New Delhi with Zhu and Bibisara Assaubayeva.

The third place was occupied by Alexandra Kosteniuk, now representing Switzerland (250 points), and quite a bit behind Lagno (245). The Russian won the stage in Astana and shared the 4th-5th place in New Delhi with compatriot Polina Shuvalova.

It was expected that the main struggle for victory in Nicosia would unfold between these three grandmasters, but unexpectedly Dinara Wagner, a native of Elista, performing under the German flag, joined it. In the first round, she defeated Goryachkina, then drew with Kosteniuk, beat Lagno and, having suffered only one defeat, took first place with 7 points.

"The situation turned out to be quite funny: the young, promising Dinara was not particularly visible in Russia, it seemed to everyone that this was an ordinary chess player. As a result, she married a German grandmaster, although we have enough of our own strong and beautiful grandmasters, I worked with him, and it turned out that she plays no worse than our prims, "Sergey Shipov commented on the success of the ex-Russian.

It was the defeat to Wagner that was the turning point for Lagno in the tournament. In the course of the game, she had a winning position, but made a fatal mistake.

"For me, the tournament can be divided into two parts. The beginning, until the weekend, turned out to be pretty good, and then I lost to Wagner very disappointingly and could not get my game back," Ekaterina admitted after the tournament.

At the same time, Lagno generally positively assessed her performance in the Grand Prix series. According to the chess player, now she can afford a good rest before starting to prepare for the next tournaments - the Global Chess League and the World Cup.

"Of course, I am very satisfied and very relieved. The main goal, of course, was to qualify for the Candidates Tournament, and winning the series is a nice bonus," Lagno said.

Shuvalova performed more successfully than other compatriots in Nicosia. She shared 2-4 places with Harika Dronavali and Tan Zhongyi, but in the final classification remained only tenth due to the failure in Astana. There, Polina lost six games and took the penultimate place.

It is worth noting that the participation of the Russians in the final stage of the Grand Prix was under threat, because initially it was supposed to take place in Poland. As you know, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of this country does not issue visas to Russians, which is why the International Fencing Federation recently even deprived the European Games held there of the status of the European Championship. Due to the political situation, the leadership of the international federation decided to transfer the competitions to Cyprus.

"It seems to me that FIDE is doing the right thing. In the current situation, this is a reasonable decision. Holding the Grand Prix in Poland could turn into big problems for our chess players, they could simply not be allowed into the country. Given that our chess players occupy a leading position in the overall standings, the entire Grand Prix series in their absence would simply go down the drain," said Sergey Smagin, Vice-President of the Russian Chess Federation.

Summing up the results of the Grand Prix, the experts agreed that Lagno and Goryachkina unconvincingly held the final stage. Smagin even called their performance in the second half of the stage a failure, stressing that the main task - getting into the Candidates Tournament - was completed, no matter what. According to Shipov, the fact that Kosteniuk's game did not work out also played into the hands of domestic chess players.

"We need to leave all emotions, because this is a sport, and in sports the most important thing is the result on the scoreboard, so we wish our chess players good luck at the Candidates Tournament. Two representatives of Russia have already got there, and in this regard, the task has been at least completed, but maybe someone else from the Russians will be selected, there will be plenty of opportunities for this, "the grandmaster emphasized.

The remaining participants of the tournament in Toronto will be determined by the end of 2023. In July, there will be a match for the chess crown between the 17th world champion Ju Wenjun and her compatriot Lei Tingjie, the loser will receive the right to play in the candidates tournament. Three more tickets will be played at the World Cup, as well as two of the best participants of the Great Swiss will go to Canada.