Hou Yifan or Humpy Koneru? Final Women's GP Underway in Sharjah

Hou Yifan or Humpy Koneru? Final Women's GP Underway in Sharjah

| 7 | Chess Event Coverage

The final stage of the 2013-2014 Women's Grand Prix Series, underway in Sharjah, UAE, will answer the question whether Hou Yifan or Humpy Koneru will emerge as the overall winner. 

That player will challenge the 2014 women's world chess champion in a 10-game match.

Each women's GP tournament is a 12-player, single round-robin with a 60,000 EUR prize fund. Eighteen players all play four of the six tournaments, in which they accumulate grand prix points: 160 grand prix points for first place, 130 for second place, 110 for third place, and then 90 down to 10 points by steps of 10. Only the best three tournament results are counted.

The 2013-2014 Grand Prix series started with a surprising victory for Bela Khotenashvili (Georgia) in Geneva, Switzerland. The next two GPs were won by Humpy Koneru (India), in Dilijan, Armenia and Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The following two were also won by one player: Hou Yifan (China) was victorious in both Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia and Lopota, Georgia.

The sixth and final Grand Prix was opened last Sunday in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The games are played at the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club. The tournament will mostly be about the fight between Hou Yifan and Humpy Koneru, who are number two and one in the overall standings, respectively.

Will the reigning world champion gain five points or more than her rival, win her third GP in a row, and take the trophy?

Women GP 2013-2014 | Standings After 5 Tournaments

# Player Rtg Geneva Dilijan Tashkent Khanty-Mansiysk Lopota Sharjah Played Best 3
1 Koneru,H 2598 160 160 50 x 3 370
2 Hou,Y 2661 45 160 160 x 3 365
3 Muzychuk,A 2555 130 120 85 50 4 335
4 Dzagnidze,N 2550 100 120 65 90 4 310
5 Khotenashvili,B 2494 160 10 120 20 4 300
6 Lagno,K 2540 60 120 85 3 265
6 Ju,W 2559 75 70 120 x 3 265
8 Dronavalli,H 2521 60 85 75 x 3 220
9 Girya,O 2484 10 30 55 130 4 215
9 Kosteniuk,A 2531 45 55 110 50 4 215
11 Kosintseva,T 2494 100 90 15 x 3 205
12 Stefanova,A 2505 60 30 65 75 4 200
13 Ushenina,A 2487 75 80 45 x 3 200
14 Danielian,E 2490 30 40 120 x 3 190
15 Zhao,X 2508 85 45 30 x 3 160
16 Batchimeg,T 2346 20 60 15 x 3 95
17 Cmilyte,V 2525 30 30 2 60
17 Muminova,N 2315 20 30 10 x 3 60
19 Nakhbayeva,G 2336 10 1 10
20 L'Ami,A 2446 x 0 0
21 Zhu,C 2461 x 0 0

A group photo during the opening ceremony. | Photo © Anastasiya Karlovich courtesy of FIDE.

The first round definitely went her way, as Hou Yifan started with a win, while Humpy Koneru lost her first game. Nafisa Muminova of Uzbekistan was hanging on for a long time, but as soon as Hou Yifan's attack started, there was no chance for survival.

Muminova and Hou at the press conference. | Photo © Maria Emelianova courtesy of FIDE.

Humpy Koneru was doing well out of the opening against the player with the most difficult name of all: Batchimeg Tuvshintugs of Mongolia. Things got very complicated in the middlegame, but the BQ-RRN position was still more than O.K. for Black, until she blundered material.

A bad start for Humpy Koneru.Muminova & Hou at the press conference. | Photo © Maria Emelianova courtesy of FIDE.

Ten more rounds will be played in Sharjah. The overall GP winner will challenge the 2014 women's world chess champion in a ten-game match. Should the Grand Prix winner be the same player as the 2014 world Ccampion, then the Grand Prix runner-up will play the 2015 championship.

The 2014 champion will be known after the world championship knockout tournament scheduled for October 11-31.  A venue for the tournament still hasn't been announced.

The situation of the women's world championship doesn't get as much attention as Sochi and the Carlsen-Anand match, but is all the more disturbing. Three days ago, Georgia's #3 female player Lela Jakashvili posted on Facebook:

According to the FIDE calendar, only a bit more than a month is left till the start of the Women’s world championship (October 11, 2014 is announced as the the starting date of the championship). However, the venue of the event is still unknown, moreover there are no guarantees that the dates of the competition won’t be changed. Thus, I as a participant have problems while settling my own tournament calendar – I am forced to decline other offers for this yet ephemeral competition. Unfortunately, the regulations of the championship do not state the minimum number of days FIDE has for sending the participants the contracts. What they carefully expound though are the conditions FIDE officials should be living in, as well as with which class they should fly to the venue of the tournament (paragraph 3.21.3).”

Jakashvili also wrote about “violations of FIDE rules during the Women’s Grand Prix 2013-2014.” She referred to paragraph 6.4 which would be “constantly violated”:

“6.4. If a player withdraws from the GP for any reason whatsoever, less than two weeks prior to the commencement of the GP series or even during the series, then FIDE reserves the right to select one or more players, as may be required, to compete 'hors concours' in the withdrawn player's GP tournament schedule. The replacement players selected will be from the top 40 (...).”

Several times, a player outside the top 40 has been allowed to participate. Geoffrey Borg has now responded on behalf of FIDE:

“Regarding GP we have HAD to Replace in Tashkent with A Player WHO WAS not TOP 40 but again there is always the proviso that the Presidential Board, represented by the President can change regulations. Similarly now in Sharjah, we have replaced with Zhu Chen and L'Ami to reduce their impact at such a critical stage.

We prefer to add a player who will not have an influence on the tournament particularly since she is hors concours. Also the time window is very small and we find the first available player who can satisfactorily fill the above requirements.

However for future regulations the "Top 40" should be removed to stop any such complaints. We can also review article 6.3 accordingly.”

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