Women's World Chess Championship: Koneru, Goryachkina, Tan, Zhao Out
Photo: Ugra Chess.

Women's World Chess Championship: Koneru, Goryachkina, Tan, Zhao Out

| 7 | News

In the second round, some big favorites were eliminated at the women's world championship in Khanty-Mansiysk, including Humpy Koneru, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Tan Zhongyi and Zhao XueIM Jovanka Houska reports.

A quick check on the weather forecast shows that the Siberian town of Khanty-Mansiysk can expect temperatures of up to -18 degrees C, with a chill so cold even the lungs heave with the effort. But if the weather outside in Khanty is just a tad chilly, inside the halls of the Ugra Chess Academy, the heat and tension of the women's world knockout championship were fast causing temperatures to rocket. The perfect yin and yang. Leaving the (totally British!) preoccupation with weather aside, what was no doubt clear that with 32 ambitious contestants, 16 matches and just 16 spots to the third round there were going to be no easy matches. Guaranteed drama!

Round 2 results:

Ju Wenjun (CHN) 1½-½ Krush Irina (USA)
Zawadzka Jolanta (POL) 1½-½ Koneru Humpy (IND)
Lagno Kateryna (RUS) 3-1 Hoang Thanh Trang (HUN)
Bodnaruk Anastasia (RUS) 0-2 Muzychuk Anna (UKR)
Kosteniuk Alexandra (RUS) 3-1 Ni Shiqun (CHN)
Galliamova Alisa (RUS) 2-0 Goryachkina Aleksandra (RUS)
Muzychuk Mariya (UKR) 2½-1½ Atalik Ekaterina (TUR)
Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (UZB) 2½-1½ Tan Zhongyi (CHN)
Gunina Valentina (RUS) 1½-½ Ushenina Anna (UKR)
Socko Monika (POL) 0-2 Alinasab Mobina (IRI)
Dzagnidze Nana (GEO) ½-1½ Lei Tingjie (CHN)
Khotenashvili Bela (GEO) 1½-2½ Harika Dronavalli (IND)
Stefanova Antoaneta (BUL) 2½-1½ Saduakassova Dinara (KAZ)
Zhu Jiner (CHN) 2-4 Pogonina Natalija (RUS)
Abdumalik Zhansaya (KAZ) 2½-1½ Zhao Xue (CHN)
Zhai Mo (CHN) 2-0 Batsiashvili Nino (GEO)

After two days of classical chess, there were seven decisive match results, but there were also games that gave the crowd everything : unexpected twists, masterpieces, gruelling marathons and attacks that were worthy of a hashtag #checkmatethatking. 


Women's world champion Ju Wenjun playing a near-perfect game. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

Top seed and women's world champion Ju Wenjun got off to a flying start by defeating Irina Krush (USA) 1.5-0.5. Ju's victory with the white pieces was so impressive it looked like she had unlocked the secret to chess. 

There were a few eyebrows raised, on the first day, when four of the rating favorites Mariya Muzychuk, Nino Batsiashvili, Monika Socko and Natalia Pogonina all succumbed to "weaker" opposition.

nullChess legend IM Alisa Galliamova arrived to game one armed with the latest chess novelties. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

One of those weaker opponents was Alisa Galliamova (RUS) a seasoned world championship challenger, who in recent years had stopped playing professional chess in order to focus on her extremely successful business. Without breaking sweat, Galliamova dispatched the rising star Alexandra Goryachkina in a chance-less 2-0 encounter.

Luck favors the lucky and the lady did indeed favor WGM Zhai Mo, who not only managed to survive dangerous attacks but turned the tables round twice (!) against the higher-rated Nino Batsiashvili. 

nullGM Lei TIngjie looks on as WGM Zhai Mo defeats GM Nino Batsiashvili 2-0. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

If there were any concrete lessons to be gleaned from the first round it was that under no circumstances should the rating of anyone under the age of 20 be trusted! WIMs Zhu Jiner (CHN) and Mobina Alinasab (IRI) proved to be cases in point when they continued their Cinderella fairy-tale by bouncing into day two with some magnificent attacking victories. Zhu Jiner's game was especially primitive but oh, so, effective! #checkmatethatking 

Zhu's story would contain a few more plot twists and turns. Things moved in a linear path for Iran's WIM Mobina Alinasab; not only did she defeat Polish GM Monika Socko with an impressive 2-0 but her first outing was nothing short of a model game. 

In an extension to day one, day two was a similarly tumultuous and nervy affair—first into the third round was GM Anna Muzychuk, who defeated IM Anastasia Bodnaruk with yet another perfect 2-0.


In the words of Mae West, "too much of something is...wonderful" Anna Muzychuk, the only player on a perfect 4/4. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

Bad decisions make good stories: Koneru, Dzagnidze, Ushenina out

Knockouts are tough events; a critical mistake in the second game can suddenly catapult absolutely anyone right out of the tournament and onto the next plane home. Victims of that vicious round-two catapult were GMs Nana Dzagnidze (GEO), Anna Ushenina (UKR) and Humpy Koneru (IND) who all lost their second game losing to Lei Tingjie, (CHN) Valentina Gunina (RUS) and Jolanta Zawadzka (POL) respectively. 

nullGM Humpy Koneru, suffered one bad day and was knocked out of the competition | Photo: Ugra Chess

Knock-out events have historically not been kind to Koneru but in this particular game she was the victim of her own over-ambition and Zawadzka's truly excellent play.


With a spring in her step, Jolanta Zawadzka told reporters the first thing she needed to do was rebook her flight! | Photo: Ugra Chess

Get out of jail card: "nothing is over until it’s actually over"

There was also an extraordinary does of luck for some of the participants. GM Mariya Muzychuk, IM Natalia Pogonina had both been fighting with their backs to the wall after having lost their first games. Both needed to pull it from the brink for that chance at the tie-breaks.

The first miracle came in the shape of this heart-breaker:

nullA big fan of JK Rowling and escape magic apparently: GM Mariya Muzychuk. | Photo: Ugra Chess.

The second miracle seemed to be out of thin air:

Another person who looked likely to be catapulted out of the competition was GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. Playing out a lost ending against Ni Shiqun, Kosteniuk had resigned herself to an early flight home...when she was handed an escape card in an unbelievable manner.

The curse of the tiebreaks: Tan Zhongyi and Zhao Xue fall

For GM Kateryna Lagno "it is difficult to switch from classic chess to rapid games...It’s not easy but your opponent is in the same condition." Yet it was precisely her adaptability that allowed her to spot the trick that helped clinch an important match victory over Hungarian GM Hoang Thanh Trang.

It was a hard day for the Chinese delegation; both GM Chinese grandmasters Tan Zhongyi and Zhao Xue succumbed to some venomous attacks by teenagers Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova (UZB) and Zhansaya Abdumalik (KAZ). The experienced Harika Dronavalli (IND) and Antoaneta Stefanova (BUL) defeated Bela Khotenashvili (GEO) and Dinara Saduakassova (KAZ) respectively. Stefanova, in particular put in a very assured performance.

But what of our lucky three: Mariya Muzychuk, Natalia Pogonina and Alexandra Kosteniuk? Well, it should come as no surprise to hear that all three women won with relative ease. As it turns out there is something empowering about going to the edge of the precipice and looking down. After all, when you stare down at the abyss, the abyss winks back.

The women's world championship takes place November 3-23 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Russia. A field of 64 players from 28 countries will be fighting in a knockout format to determine the new champion. More details on the official website.

Games via TWIC.

Previous reports:

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