x
Chess - Play & Learn

Chess.com

FREE - In Google Play

FREE - in Win Phone Store

VIEW
Controversy, Few Surprises In Women's World Champs Round 1

Controversy, Few Surprises In Women's World Champs Round 1

JovankaHouska
Feb 14, 2017, 12:00 AM 40,338 Reads 364 Comments Chess.com News

Even before a single move had been played over the chessboard, the 2017 women’s world championship knockout is riddled in controversy.

Originally, the world championship was scheduled to be held at the end of the 2016 but with no bidders in sight and afraid that the event would be cancelled, FIDE made the decision at the Baku Olympiad to award the event to Tehran, Iran.

While Iran is a country rich in chess history, where chess currently enjoys a huge surge in popularity, there are some drawbacks to such a country hosting a female chess event—the glaringly obvious being that countries such as the U.S. had advised their citizens not to travel there and that females are forced to cover their heads.

This posed an unenviable dilemma for the qualifiers: Should they refuse to play and miss out on the chance of a lifetime and perhaps hinder women's opportunities in Iran? Or choose to play and compromise their own values of gender equality and security?

Certainly not an easy decision to make. Former world champion Mariya Muzychuk, Irina Krush, Nazi Paikidze and Carolina Lujan were just a few of the high-profile names who chose not to play.

Current world champion Hou Yifan also chose not to play but for different reasons, expressing her discontent with the alternating format of the world championship title (from knockout championship to match), calling the knockout system a lottery. 

The knockout format:

The women’s world championship knockout is a 64-player knockout event seeded on rating, with the top seed playing number 64, the second seed 63 and so on. It is bracketed in such a way that the top seeds—if everything goes to plan— only meet in the final.  

Each match is decided in the following way:

  • 2 classical games: 90 minutes for 40 moves, then 30 minutes with a 30-second increment starting from move one.

If the match is tied after two games, then the tiebreaks are decided in the following way:

  • 2 rapid games: 25 minutes + a 10-second increment. Followed if needed by:
  • 2 fast rapid games: 10 min + 10 sec
  • 2 blitz games: 5 min + 3 sec
  • and finally, if the score is still tied then the match is decided by an Armageddon game where White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4, but a draw counts as a win for Black.

The new world champion will take away the standard $60,000 first prize, an amount that has stayed remarkably unchanged over the years. The runner-up wins $30,000 and every first-round loser goes home with $3,750.

In addition, the new world champion will be expected to take part in a match in the third quarter of 2017 against Grand Prix winner Ju Wenjun. If Ju wins the knockout, then the challenger will be Grand Prix runner-up Humpy Koneru.   

The 64-player “Lottery”

Despite the withdrawal of several players, the tournament is still very strong, with nine players rated over 2500 and four former women's world champions competing (Alexandra Kosteniuk, Antoaneta Stefanova, Anna Ushenina and Zhu Chen).  

The tournament, however, started with the extremely sad news that International Master Cristina Adela-Foisor from Romania (who was due to play Olga Girya) had unexpectedly passed away due to illness a few weeks before the event.

FIDE decided to honor her place at the championships, leaving her spot empty and giving her first-round prize money to the family. It was especially poignant for her daughter Sabina Foisor who had been planning to compete alongside her mother.

Sabina Foisor in the first game. | Photo David Llada.

"Chess is not for the faint-hearted; it absorbs a person entirely...Chess is difficult. It demands work, serious reflection and zealous research." -- Wilhelm Steinitz.

There is just no hiding it; playing in a world championship is a huge thing and players will normally spend months in preparation for that first round. No one, whatever her rating says, is going to give you an easy ride.

With her criticism on the format, Hou Yifan probably doesn't like the way that a championship can be won or lost on the turn of a single game. She is right, of course. 

Knowing that you must win the match or go home leads to unbearable tension. What is bad for the players makes for a wonderful spectator sport. One bad mistake and just like that, your contest is over.

Round 1: Smooth sailing at the top, slugfest at the bottom

Due to the seeding system, things went relatively smoothly with very little surprises. Some 21 women advanced to the second round with the privilege of not needing to play a tiebreak and after three days of chess the top 12 all live to see another round.

Classical Results

Ju Wenjun

CHN

2-0

Lane, Nancy

AUS

Mezoud Amina

ALG

0-2

Muzyhuk, Anna

UKR

Shamima Akter Liza

BAN

1-1

Harika, Dronavalli

IND

Dzagnidze Nana

GEO

1-1

Mona, Khaled

EGY

Ni Viktorija

USA

0-2

Gunina, Valentina

RUS

Stefanova, Antoaneta

BUL

2-0

Marrero Lopez, Yaniet

CUB

Martinez, Ayelen

ARG

1-1

Zhao Xue

CHN

Tan Zhongyi

CHN

1.5-0.5

Foisor Sabina

USA

Gvetadze Sofio

GEO

0-2

Batsiashvili Nino

GEO

Pogonina Natalia

RUS

1.5-0.5

Zhou Qiyu

CAN

Arribas Robaina Maritza

CUB

1-1

Shen Yang

CHN

Hoang Thang Trang

HUN

1-1

Buksa Nataliya

UKR

Pourkashiyan Atousa

IRI

0.5-1.5

Paehtz Elisabeth

GER

Goryachkina Aleksandra

RUS

1.5-0.5

Zhai Mo

CHN

Hejazipour Mitra

IRI

1-1

Bodnaruk Anastasia

RUS

Girya Olga

RUS

W\O

Foisor Cristina

ROU

Pham The Thao Nguyen

VIE

0.5-1.5

Javakhishvili Lela

GEO

Cramling Pia

SWE

1.5-0.5

Nemcova Katerina

USA

Guramishvili Sopiko

GEO

1-1

Khademalsharieh Sarasadat

IRI

Socko Monika

POL

1-1

Savina Anastasia

RUS

Charochkina Daria

RUS

1-1

Huang Qian

CHN

Zhukova Natalia

UKR

0.5-1.5

Khurtsidze Nino

GEO

Ziaziulkina Nastassia

BLS

0.5-1.5

Ushenina Anna

UKR

Danielian Elina

ARM

0.5-1.5

Padmini Rout

IND

Melia Salome

GEO

1-1

Atalik Ekaterina

TUR

Mkrtchian Lilit

ARM

0.5-1.5

Ni Shiqun

CHN

Zimina Olga

ITA

1-1

Khotenashvili Bela

GEO

Saduakassova Dinara

KAZ

1.5-0.5

Nechaeva Marina

RUS

Gaponenko Inna

UKR

1.5-0.5

Kovalevskaya Ekaterina

RUS

Cori T. Deysi

PER

0.5-1.5

Kashlinskaya Alina

RUS

Zhu Chen

QAT

1.5-0.5

Sukandar Irine Kharisma

IDN

Top seed and favorite Ju Wenjun from China, riding high from her tremendous performance at the Gibraltar Chess Festival, played against WIM Nancy Lane from Australia. Nancy had prepared with her enthusiastic 12-year-old son Ryan (incidentally a Chess.com addict!) but Ju thwarted their efforts by taking Nancy into a strategic game where she demonstrated her superiority. 

WIM Nancy Lane. | Photo David Llada.

Second seed Anna Muzychuk sailed through to the second round in style with the following cool defense.

Other favorites, such as Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina, Antoaneta Stefanova and Nino Batsiashvili, all won their matches 2-0 to secure entry into the second round. Things also went surprisingly smooth for Vietnamese The Thao Nguyen Pham and Ni Shiquin from China, who defeated Lela Javakhishvili and Lilit Mkrtchian respectively.

That's the smooth part over! From here on the chess audience were privy to:

Brilliant attacks:

When a win is tantamount to gold (or $1,750 to be exact!) we had the privilege of seeing some sparkling attacks.

What goes around doesn't always come around as Armenian grandmaster Elina Danielian found out against Indian IM Padmini Rout. After letting a win slip past in the first game, perhaps Danielian hoped for some sympathy from Padmini. She was in for a nasty surprise from the lower-rated Indian:

Absolutely mesmerising eyes: IM Padmini Rout | Photo David Llada.

Former world champion Anna Ushenina showed some deadly opening precision against Nastassia Ziaziulkina from Belarus.

 

One of the most dramatic matches would be between Georgian IM Salome Melia and Turkish IM Ekaterina Atalik who exchanged punches in a rather dramatic fashion. 

My favorite moment came in their first game when we saw of all things a beautiful king hunt emerge from nowhere.

Fierce concentration by IM Salome Melia. | Photo David Llada.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda:

The matches were not always determined by moments of bravery but some absolutely heartbreaking moments...

...and this tragic blunder from local hope WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan:

Recipient of a little luck: IM Elisabeth Paehtz from Germany. | Photo David Llada.

In what could have been the sensation of the first round, Mona Khaled from Egypt had defeated Georgian grandmaster Nana Dzagnidze and was on her way to securing a second victory. Later on in an interview Nana would describe her play in this game as simply inexplicable.

As a professional chess player Nana could have expected many things but even she didn't predict that her path into the tie break would be so bumpy.

 

Winning with the back against the wall:

There were some notable heroes in the second game with Ayelen Martinez (ARG), Anastasia Bodnaruk (RUS), Ekaterina Atalik (TUR), local favorite Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (IRI) and Daria Charochkina (RUS) all managing to win on demand thus taking the games to tie-break. 

It was Bodnaruk who did it in the most stylish way. 

Tiebreak heartbreak:

Tiebreak results below.

Shamima Akter Liza

BAN

0.5-1.5

Harika, Dronavali

IND

Dzagnidze Nana

GEO

3-1

Mona, Khaled

EGY

Martinez, Ayelen

ARG

0-2

Zhao Xue

CHN

Arribas Robaina Maritza

CUB

0-2

Shen Yang

CHN

Hoang Thanh Trang

HUN

0.5-1.5

Buksa Nataliya

UKR

Hejazipour Mitra

IRI

4-5

Bodnaruk Anastasia

RUS

Guramishvili Sopiko

GEO

2-0

Khademalsharieh Sarasadat

IRI

Socko Monika

POL

0.5-1.5

Savina Anastasia

RUS

Charochkina Daria

RUS

0-2

 

 

Melia Salome

GEO

1.5-0.5

Atalik Ekaterina

TUR

Zimina Olga

ITA

2-0

Monika Socko

POL

 

The highest-rated casualty in the tiebreak was 13th seed Hoang Thanh Trang from Hungary who fell to the tactical prowess of under-20 world champion Nataliya Buksa from the Ukraine.

A casual stance from the World U20 girls Champion Nataliya Buksa. | Photo David Llada.

Things will start to heat up in round two when we see some very close pairings:

Ju Wenjun

CHN

Zhu Chen

CHN

Bodnaruk

RUS

Girya

RUS

Zhao Xue

CHN

Padmini Rout

IND

Tan Zhongyi

CHN

Ushenina

UKR

Harika Dronavali

IND

Saduakassova

KAZ

Buksa Nataliya

UKR

Guramishvili

GEO

Dzagnidze Nana

GEO

Zimina

RUS

Shen Yang

CHN

Savina

RUS

Muzychuk

UKR

Kashlinskaya

RUS

Goryachkina

RUS

Pham

VIE

Stefanova

BUL

Melia

GEO

Batsiashvili

GEO

Khurtsidze

GEO

Kosteniuk

RUS

Gaponenko

UKR

Paehtz

GER

Cramling

SWE

Gunina

RUS

Ni Shiqun

CHN

Pogonina

RUS

Huang Qian

CHN

 

Online Now