This year both the Women’s Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships were announced – thanks to the Association of Chess Professionals and Batumi, Georgia, the city which agreed to host it. This news came as a pleasant surprise for many players, because normally either none or just one of those events is held at all.
While considering whether this championship would fit my schedule, I found out that people, who had a published rating over 2500, as well as World and Olympic champions, receive personal invitations and special conditions. I was seduced by the offer and decided to take part. In addition to the above-mentioned contestants each federation could nominate a certain number of players, depending on how high-rated they were.
When I arrived on Batumi, the World Chess Championship was in the tie-break stage. We had to postpone our trip around the city with Alexandra Kosteniuk until the end of the rapid games. At first I was anxious to go, but then I got excited with the show and couldn’t stop watching! Here are some interesting expert opinions about the match.
While I was familiarizing myself with the city, two guys asked me to pose with them so they could take a picture. I doubt they knew who I was though. And here are some pics I took to give you a sense of the environment we were playing in:
A luxury hotel
View from my window
A lighthouse and a wheel
Overall, I found most of my colleagues focused and very motivated. While I personally prefer classical chess to anything else, many of the participants were looking as concentrated as if the supreme chess crown was at stake. One well-known player, a friend of mine, said that she believes that rapid chess is the future of the game, and that hence she would like to win the event very much. Whenever I went out, most of the participants would stay in their rooms and prepare. I am not sure how and what they were preparing, given that one could find out in advance the pairings for just one game out of three and that many players were experimenting with openings in rapid chess, but that's the way it was.
The financial conditions were rather tough for the players. The prize fund was $100,000 ($59,000 for the rapid championship and $41,000 for blitz). Given that the field included 50 competitors, you can get an impression of how much an average participant would make. On a positive note, winning the championship gives great bragging rights, as well as earns one a real crown – what else does a girl need?
The line-up included five former World Women’s Chess Champions (Gaprindashvili, Chiburdanidze, Zhu Chen, Stefanova, Kosteniuk) and most of the world’s best female chess players. A notable absentee was the reigning chess queen Hou Yifan. Being busy playing in a Chinese super tournament, she couldn’t come.
The rapid part of the tournament lasted 4 days: 3 rounds, 3 rounds, 3 rounds, 2 rounds. The time control was standard for such events – 25 minutes/game + 10s/move. You can find the final standings here. As usually, most of the games were very tense: mutual mistakes, amazing tactics, nerve-racking time troubles. Below I will offer you a selection of some interesting positions – positive examples and, using Mark Dvoretzky’s terminology, tragicomedies:
P.S. The blitz tournament is taking place on June 5th-6th. You can follow it at the official website.