Georgia Takes Early Lead At Women's World Teams

Georgia Takes Early Lead At Women's World Teams

| 8 | Chess Event Coverage

After two rounds in the 2015 Women's World Team Championship in Chengdu, China, already none of the 10 teams has a perfect score. That was in large part because two of the top seeds, Georgia and Russia, played to an opening-round 2-2 tie. 

(photo is of IM Shen Yang, courtesy Liu Yungpeng)

The tournament is taking place from April 19-28, and is organized by the Chinese Chess Association, FIDE and the Chengdu Municipal Government.

Going into round three, Georgia, China, USA and Poland all shared first with 3 match points (2 points for a match win, 1 for a draw in the four-versus-four event). Georgia then squeezed past Poland to become the only team on 5 points, while the USA drew Kazakhstan and the Russians beat the host Chinese squad. Russia and the USA are thus tied for second with 4 points.

China now sits at 3 points along with Poland, Ukraine, Armenia and Kazakhstan. India has 2 while Egypt, the traditional African representative, is still looking for its first win or draw.

Chengdu is the home of a research base devoted to giant pandas. The drawing of lots piggybacked this theme.

She drew the number two for the Ukrainian team, but she's the new women's world champion, GM Mariya Muzychuk (photo: Liu Yunpeng).

Historical powerhouse Georgia is the fourth seed, but the top five teams are all very tightly packed. Ukraine has a four-GM lineup (once the title is conferred upon Mariya Muzychuk for winning the Women's World Championship) with an average rating of 2509. Russia clocks in at 2500 even, while close behind is China (2487), Georgia (2482) and India (2468). After that the rating drop-off is rather severe. 

The Chinese delegation at the opening ceremony in the Wang Jiang Hotel (photo: Anastasiya Karlovich).

Besides Ukraine's early struggles (they were trounced 3.5-0.5 by the Poles in the opening round), USA's early success is perhaps the most surprising, since they are playing without their top two players. GM Irina Krush skipped the event after playing in the Women's World Championship and U.S. Women's Championship, and IM Anna Zatonskih has been relatively inactive recently. The USA's average rating is just 2263, ranking it ninth.

In that opening round, Polish number one GM Monika Socko exacted some revenge. After being knocked out of the 2015 Women's World Championship by the eventual winner, she beat Mariya's sister, GM Anna Muzychuk, with a clean positional effort.

Any chance to level the match came undone when Ukraine's board two, former Women's World Champion GM Anna Ushenina, didn't press her clock accurately and lost on time in a (perhaps) defendable position:

Chief Arbiter Takis Nikolopoulos explained:

"Anna Ushenina explained that she had pressed her clock but the flag fell. The clock was checked in front of both players and the captain of Ukrainian team and it was found it was working properly. According to the article 6.10 A every indication given by the clocks is considered to be conclusive in the absence of any evident defect. So the result remained the same and Ushenina lost the game. Most probably Anna didn’t press the clock correctly because she was in the time trouble. There was no appeal after the end of the game." 

A big reason why the Americans are surprising is the play of first- and fourth-boards, WGM Tatev Abrahmyan and FM Alisa Melekhina, respectively. Both had forgettable results in the U.S. Women's Championship, which ended less than a week before this event began. They are on 2.5/3 and are tied for most individual points along with GMs Elina Danielian (Armenia) and Bela Khotenashvili (Georgia).

WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, regaining her form through the powers of pandas and penguins? (photo: Alisa Melekhina)

Melekhina's tournament looked liked it might not even happen. The airlines mixed up her itinerary and she was stranded in Beijing until 3 a.m. the morning of the opening ceremony. She eventually got a flight to Chengdu and arrived 30 minutes before the opening ceremony.

"I was terribly sleep-deprived but had to recoup quickly to be in shape for playing Egypt the next day," she said.

Team Egypt (left) against Team USA (right) with FM Alisa Melekhina in the foreground (photo: Anastasiya Karlovich).

Melekhina took out some of her frustrations on WGM Wafa Shrook in round one with a piece sac and hard-charging attack:

Also in the opening round, the Russia-Georgia clash went on for quite some time. With the score tied 1.5-1.5, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk tried to win with several extra pawns versus IM Lela Javakhishvili, but surprisingly the win may not have been there. She did miss 33. Rf6 Qe8 34. Rxe6 earlier on, which would have made things easier.

In round two, China and India played to a 2-2 draw. Chinese #1 GM Hou Yifan, now the highest-rated woman in the world, is not playing, which left GM Ju Wenjun to play GM Humpy Koneru, probably the strongest woman in the world never to win the top women's title (assuming we're not counting GM Judit Polgar of course).

Koneru won, as in the final position, her king can safely walk forward while Black cannot avoid the multitudinous threats of Rxf8+, Bxg7, Bd6 and Qc5.

On board two, Chinese WGM Lei Tingjie preserved the single match point by beating WGM Mary Ann Gomes. Boards three and four drew.

On the same board as Ushenina's clock incident, more strangeness ensued one game later. WGM Natalia Pogonina complained of the lighting. Her game with IM Lilit Mkrtchian was moved to a private room.

WGM Natalia Pogonina is getting used to playing one-on-one. She was a finalist earlier this month in the 2015 Women's World Championship (photo: Liu Yunpeng).

They drew, as did their teams (Russia and Armenia had one win apiece).

On Tuesday, Georgia took sole possession of first with a 2.5-1.5 win against the giant-killers Poland (the opening ceremony commenced 990 years to the day that the Kingdom of Poland came into existence!). The only win came from IM Nino Batsiashili, whose bishops swallowed up her opponent.

Team Georgia (left) is currently in first, while Team Russia (right) is currently tied for second. They already met in round one. (photo: Anastasiya Karlovich)

Russia cruised past China 3-1 to regain a footing near the top. Both GM Olga Girya and Kosteniuk won. Girya is two for two, and is the only player with a perfect score in Chengdu. She won with the in-vogue Qb3 versus the Gruenfeld, eventually showing her rook superior to the pawn majority.

The U.S. has yet to play any of the top seeds; its final six rounds will be brutal: Ukraine, India, Georgia, Armenia, China, Russia.

Team USA -- (left to right) Alisa Melekhina, Sabina Foisor, Katerina Nemcova, Tatev Abrahamyan, Viktorija Ni (photo courtesy Alisa Melekhina).

Melekhina said the conditions are "top-notch," with all players having their owns rooms in a luxurious hotel.

She also said that good sportsmanship is prevailing, even off the board. After round two, the American ladies were waiting in the lobby when some of the members of the Ukrainian team approached. Mariya Muzychuk had found a $100 U.S. bill and was tracking down the true owner, who was in fact part of the U.S. delegation. So it seems Muzychuk is a world champion with impeccable character.

GM Mariya Muzychuk -- strong and honest. (photo: Anastasiya Karlovich)

Here's Abrahamyan interviewed by WGM Anastasiya Karlovich following her round-three win:

And here's Karlovich's interview with IM Melia Salome, where she discusses the Georgian strategy from round three:

USA plays Ukraine in round four with much more on the line than 100 bucks! Also Russia plays India; Egypt plays China; Armenia plays Poland; and Kazakhstan plays Georgia.

2015 Women's World Team Championship | Standings After Round 3

Rank Team Games + = - MP Pts. SB
1 GEORGIA 3 2 1 0 5 12,50
2 RUSSIA 3 1 2 0 4 7 13,25
3 USA 3 1 2 0 4 7 8,00
4 POLAND 3 1 1 1 3 7 9,50
5 CHINA 3 1 1 1 3 6 8,75
6 UKRAINE 3 1 1 1 3 6 7,75
7 ARMENIA 3 1 1 1 3 6 5,50
8 KAZAKHSTAN 3 1 1 1 3 5 9,00
9 INDIA 3 0 2 1 2 6,00
10 EGYPT 3 0 0 3 0 2 0,00

At press time the fourth round has been finished already. Georgia kept its lead by beating Kazakhstan 3-1 but Russia is keeping pace with  2.5-1.5 win over India. USA lost 3-1 to Ukraine. This round will be included in our next report.

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