Pitted against higher rated rivals, K. Humpy and R. Vaishali saw off some anxious moments before coming out unscathed in the all-draw fifth round of the FIDE Women’s Candidates 2024 in Toronto on Tuesday.

Humpy held favourite Aleksandra Goryachkina at bay while Vaishali came up with the right answers against Anna Muzychuk.

Leader Tan Zhongyi did not try too hard with white pieces against lowest rated Nurgyul Salimova but Kateryna Lagno had reasons to feel disappointed after failing to nail defending champion Lei Tingjie.

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Vaishali-Anna encounter saw the Giuoco Piano where the locked pawn-structure does not leave much scope of penetration into the rival half. With the first pawn-capture coming on the 34th move, the proceedings followed an expected course. Eventually, when the game ended in 48 moves, the players had the rook-pair with Anna having seven pawns to Vaishali’s six.

Humpy encountered a phase where she had to dig deeper to deny Goryachkina. After the queens were off the board without really being part of the action and the position seemed simplified, Goryachkina managed to get her rook and knight, not to forget a well-placed bishop, into Humpy’s territory.

At this stage, Humpy came up with a nice tactical shot, involving trade of bishops and knights, to equalize. Goryachkina saw no point in pressing for advantage in a position where the players had a rook and four pawns each.

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Lei continued to ride her luck. After starting her campaign with a loss to compatriot Tan, Lei was extremely lucky to escape defeat to Anna in the fourth round.

On Tuesday, Lagno had a great opportunity to win after Lei made a series of poor choices between moves 24 and 27. On the 31st move, Lagno enlarged her advantage with a brilliant pawn-capture by offering her knight. Soon, what saved Lei was Lagno’s moves of sub-optimal strength, particularly on the 39th move, that shrunk all her advantage. Thereafter, draw appeared the most likely outcome.

Fifth-round results

K. Humpy (2) drew with Aleksandra Goryachkina (FIDE, 3) in 44 moves in Semi-Tarrasch Defence; R. Vaishali (2.5) drew with Anna Muzychuk (Ukr, 2) in 48 moves in Giuoco Piano; Tan Zhongyi (Chn, 3.5) drew with Nurgyul Salimova (Bul, 2.5) in 58 moves in French Advance; Lei Tingjie (Chn, 2) drew with Kateryna Lagno (FIDE, 2.5) in 45 moves in Two Knights Defence.

Sixth-round pairings

Vaishali-Lagno; Humpy-Lei; Tan-Anna; Salimova-Goryachkina.