Tan Zhongyi produces surprise victory in women’s world championship

Tan Zhongyi produces surprise victory in women’s world championship

Mar 4, 2017, 3:10 PM |

The No9 seed beat Anna Muzychuk and Ju Wenjun on her way to the title in a tournament that was marred by controversy


The world women’s championship in Tehran ended with a shock on Friday afternoon when Tan Zhongyi, the No9 seed but little known outside China, defeated the No2 seed, Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, in speed tie-breaks to capture the crown. Tan Zhongyi had earlier knocked out the top seed, Ju Wenjun, but two of her other matches went to nine games and she more than once escaped elimination when opponents missed simple winners.


It cannot be called a good result for women’s chess, for Tan Zhongyi’s next move will be a match against Ju Wenjun, who won the women’s Grand Prix to become the official challenger. Two Chinese players, neither of them the all-time No2, Hou Yifan, who did not defend her title due to her dislike of the knock-out format, equals indifference from chess fans.


The championship was controversial from the start. The global chess body Fide awarded it to Iran as the only bidder, a decision which sparked immediate protests which intensified when it became clear that all competitors would be required to wear a hijab headscarf. The Americans and some other leading players boycotted the tournament.


Iran had high hopes for its own players, but all were knocked out early. Coincidentally or not, the Iranian chess federation president marked the occasion by banning two of its players, both resident in Spain, for their conduct at Gibraltar several weeks earlier. A woman IM was penalised for not wearing the hijab at the event and her 15-year-old brother because the organisers accidentally paired him with an Israeli in the opening round, though he only found out later. Normal Fide policy is that Iranians and Israelis are not paired to avoid the probability of a default. The statement from Mehrdad Pahlenanzadeh said that “our national interests have priority over everything” and that he would offer “no leniency”.


Iranian chess has been pilloried in the media this week yet it could be that a positive item for them was the most significant of all. At Moscow Aeroflot, Iran’s national champion, Alireza Firoudja, just 13 years old, played a wonderful tournament, scoring 6/9, his first GM norm, a 2746 rating performance and the youngest 2700 result in chess history. Allowing for age, this is better than all the other current teenage talents except perhaps China’s Wei Yi.


“One of the most boring tournaments I ever played” tweeted a competitor in the €130,000 Fide Grand Prix at Sharjah, where almost 75% of the games were drawn, many before the battle had really started. Russia’s Alex Grischuk played a canny strategy, halving quickly as Black and grinding with White and won on tie-break from Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shak Mamedyarov, who had led most of the way.


What really mattered were the Grand Prix points which will be added up following Moscow, Geneva and Palma de Mallorca later this year to decide two qualifiers for the 2018 candidates to produce a challenger for the jackpot – Magnus Carlsen’s world crown. The winning trio scored 5.5/9, just half a point in front of Hikaru Nakamura, but they were awarded 140 GP points to the American’s 70.


This means that Naka will be under pressure to win one of his remaining two tournaments, while Levon Aronian’s chances for the candidates have already taken a big hit. The Armenian’s listless 4/9 score earned him just seven GP points.


The Greek Gift Bxh7+ with a devastating attack on the king is one of the best-known tactics at all levels from club player up, so it is bizarre that Black allows it in a world title match. It was well telegraphed when White castled long and Black could have stopped it by 12...Nc5 or 13...f6. There were nuances after the bishop sac, but Muzychuk found the precise 15 Qd3+! and 17 Nxd5! after which Black was lost. In the final stages White’s rook and extra pawns easily crushed Black’s floundering knights.


Anna Muzychuk v Tan Zhongyi

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 f4 c5 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 Be3 Be7 8 Qd2 O-O?! 9 dxc5 Bxc5 10 O-O-O Qa5 11 a3 Be7 12 Bd3?! a6?! 13 h4! b5? 14 Bxh7+! Kxh7 15 Qd3+! Kg8 16 Ng5 f5 17 Nxd5! b4 18 Nxe7+ Nxe7 19 Bd2 Rb8 20 Qd6 Qc5 21 Bxb4 Qxd6 22 Bxd6 Ng6 23 Nxe6 Re8 24 Bxb8 Rxe6 25 g3 Bb7 26 Rh2 Nc5 27 Rd8+ Kh7 28 Bd6 Ne4 29 h5 Nh8 30 h6 Nf7 31 Rd7 Rxd6 32 Rxf7 1-0

3484 1 Rh8+ Kg6 2 Qg5+! hxg5 3 h5 mate.


Source: The Guardian
Link: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/03/tan-zhongyi-produces-surprise-victory-in-womens-world-championship