Reports | November 13, 2012 19:17

Women World Championship Round 1: No big upsets

View of the playing hall in Khanty-Mansiysk

The Women's World Championship is taking place in Khanty-Mansiysk from 11th November to 3rd December. The strongest 64 female chess players will play in a World Cup (knock-out) format to determine who will unseat Hou Yifan as World Champion. The winner will face Hou in a World Championship match next year. (If Hou herself wins, she will face the runner up Koneru Humpy in a 2013 match.)

View of the playing hall | Photos courtesy of FIDE

Event Women's World Championship | PGN via TWIC
Dates November 11th-December 2nd, 2012
Location Khanthy-Mansiysk, Russia
System 64-player knockout
Players The top 10 on rating is Hou Yifan, Humpy Koneru, Anna Muzychuk, Zhao Xue, Kateryna Lahno, Nadezhda Kosintseva, Viktorija Cmilyte, Marie Sebag, Valentina Gunina, Pia Cramling
Rate of play

90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an
increment of 30 seconds per move from move one

Tie-breaks 2 rapid games (25 minutes + 10 seconds increment), 2 blitz games (10 minutes + 10 seconds increment), 2 blitz games (5 minutes + 3 seconds increment), 1 sudden-death (5 vs 4 + 3 seconds, increment frome move 61).


The first round of the Women's World Championship in Khanty-Mansiysk did not bring any major upsets. The reigning World Champion, Hou Yifan, faced no problems against Sachini Ranasinghe (rated 1861) and won her match 2-0. Other pre-tournament favorites Humpy Koneru, Anna Muzychuk, Zhao Xue, Kateryna Lahno and Nadezhda Kosintseva also convincingly defeated their significantly lower rated opponents with the maximum score.

The drawing of lots decided that World Champion Hou Yifan got to play the white pieces in Game 1

The bottom half of the field usually offers more interesting pairings for the first round, where players closer in strength are facing each other. Former FIDE World Champion Zhu Chen (playing for Qatar) had a much harder time against the 17-year old talent Nastassia Ziaziulkina (2367) from Belarus, who tried too hard to win the first game of the match, and instead lost then failed the next day to level the score playing with the white pieces.

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The most spectacular game of the first round was played between Anastasia Bodnaruk and Lela Javakhishvili where White exploited her opponent's lag in development. A splendid attacking game by 20-year old Russian IM/WGM.

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The Knock-Out system offers usually lot of excitement and drama. In the first game Almira Skripchenko went too far in her winning attempts and eventually overlooked a simple tactic.

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Kateryna Lahno won her first round match with 2-0 against  Mona Khaled from Egypt, rated 2155

Polish women: Iweta Rajlich (left), lost 0.5-1.5 to local favorite Olga Girya. Monika Socko (right) eliminated Skripchenko

View of the playing hall in Khanty-Mansiysk

Tie-break: Natalija Pogonina (right) defeated Svetlana Matveeva (left) and plays against Alexandra Kosteniuk in round two

Anna Muzychuk easily went through the first round

Robert Ris's picture
Author: Robert Ris

Robert Ris is an International Master, professional trainer and teaches in schools, clubs and individually. He is one of the editors of ChessVibes Openings and ChessVibes Training and from time to time also writes book reviews. Other interests: travelling, sports and Greek food.


Anonymous's picture

Judit Polgar will never win the over-all World Championship at this stage of her career. Therefore she should step up and win Women's World Championship and pocket the cool 60,000 Euro first prize. The fact that she doesn't means that she is either retired from chess, very rich or an arrogant fool.

filiusdextris's picture

way to stay classy, anon!

jsy's picture

Judit will play in a super tournament in London in Dec - one of many that she has played in her lifetime (with a peak world ranking of eighth). She can make money without demeaning herself with mixing with 63 other players who have never participated in a true super tournament ever.

Anonymous's picture

Winning is never demeaning. Even Kasparov plays simuls from time to time and demands that the participants have never been over 2000.

katar's picture

Your otherwise brilliant analysis of Judit's reasons for not playing omits a fourth possibility -- she does not compete for the Women's WC because... she is secretly a man.

RealityCheck's picture

What's so demeaning about playing for the womans world championship title? Nothing! (G. Kasparov's Simuls with a rating cap of 2000 Elo is demeaning.) It would have been a pleasure to see Judit prove her superiority over the same sex. Non-participation will never prove anything.

Her opposite sex super tournament particiption is trumped up only because she's a woman, a minority. Granted she's achieved an masculine Elo but, her super tournament results are not envied by her colleauges GM's Anand, Aronian, Carlson, Ivanchuk, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Topalov, and the list goes on.

Anonymous's picture

Well Kasparov just doesn't want to work that hard for his simul money anymore. He already proved his simul ability by winning a clock simul against 5 young grandmasters at once (if memory serves).

Anonymous's picture

@Anon You're probably right. I saw him wipe out the german national team but, that was the other Garri Kasparov.
The thing he has most in common with Fischer is turning into sour grapes shortly after winning the world title. Total losers.

RG13's picture

Carlsen has already stated in an interview that he doesn't think the World Chess Championship is as important as having the number one rating. So maybe Polgar feels the same way vis a vis women.

Thomas's picture

Polgar's supertournament results could well be comparable to those of Svidler and Adams - to name two male players about her age or older. By now she may be "semi-retired" in the sense that her family matters more than chess, she plays less events and selects them carefully. No reason to travel to Khanty-Mansiysk for an event where, in terms of prestige, she has little to gain and a lot to lose? Even if she did go to Siberia for the last World Cup, eliminating Movsesian, Karjakin and Dominguez before losing to Svidler ... .

That being said, a bit strange that noone talks about the _actual_ participants of the event - true they are 'mediocre' by male standards, but still. If anyone is interested, the tournament bracket can be found at Wikipedia:
I couldn't even find it at the official webpage!?

Macauley Peterson's picture

The link to the official site can be found in the grey info box on this article, as usual:

Thomas's picture

I know about the grey box (as a regular reader and former contributor) and I did 'find' the official webpage - but I didn't find any info about the tournament bracket there.

Morley's picture

By the same token, Anand, Aronian, Carlsen, and Kramnik also don't envy the tournament results of Svidler, Grischuk, Adams, Kamsky, Morozevich, Leko, Bacrot, or any number of other 2700 somethings who maintain a decent rating but have very few tournament wins in the last few years.

Casey Abell's picture

Let's say Judit's rating coasts down into the mid-2600s over the next five to ten years. That would not be unusual for a player her age. When does the "I'm too good for women's events" approach start seeming a little weak?

It's hardly impossible that another female player could pass Judit on the rating list as she gets older. I wouldn't be amazed to see her eventually play in the women's world championship cycle, at least.

And to comment on the players actually in the championship, Humpy somehow managed to lose to Natalia Zhukova with white in the first game of the second round. I knew I jinxed Humpy when I picked her as the favorite. Oh well, she could bounce back tomorrow.

Casey Abell's picture

Just to expand on my comment a little further. Judit's rating dipped to about 2680 a couple years ago. Some good results since then have put her back in the 2700 club, but only just.

Sorry to be ungallant, but Judit is one of the oldest players in that club right now. Let's face it, the years go by, nobody gets any younger, blah blah blah. I think it's a lot more likely that Judit's rating will look something like 2670 five years from now, rather than 2770.

And by then Hou Yifan or Anna Muzychuk or Humpy Koneru or some other female player nobody expects may well be at 2630 or 2640. (Hou's been there already.) So really, Judit would have no more of an advantage on the female field than Magnus currently has on the male field.

Long story short: I think she'll play in women's events sooner or later, and maybe sooner than most people think.

None of this is to dump on Judit, who is obviously the strongest woman player ever. But even at this stage of her career, I don't think women's events would be "demeaning" for her. And a few years from now, they might look a lot less demeaning.

RG13's picture

But wouldn't it be semi-tragic (from a legacy standpoint) if she finally agreed to play in a Women's World Championship and finally won the crown when she could have won the title so many times during her career? To avoid this she can just dig in her heels and never agree to play for the women's title.

redivivo's picture

Polgar will never play in women's events, she would rather withdraw since there's nothing to prove for her or gain by playing events like this when she has played events like this:

valg321's picture

true, it's a matter of ego as well

Casey Abell's picture

Well, yeah, but the last time Judit played in group A at Wijk aan Zee, this happened...

Hey, 6/13 against this competition is really, really good. But are the results going to get better for Judit from now on?

I think she might play women's events before anybody expects. We'll see.

RG13's picture

She performed slightly better than her 2700+ rating and finished only half a point behind Kramnik who was rated 2799 at the time.

Thomas's picture

Here I agree with redivivo: Polgar playing a future World Women Championship would be like Karpov or other former world top players (Korchnoi, Timman, Portisch, Ljubojevic, ...) participating in the World Senior Championship which is currently underway - to my knowledge, it never happened.

Bartleby's picture

Korchnoi did. Polgar could do it, too. Why not? She can stay away from it, or play it, just as she likes.

Casper's picture

Judit Polgar has always made it a point to compete with the best of the best, regardless of gender. Why would she, now that the years might start to count, change her mind? Have some respect for the best female chess player ever. It's almost like wanting a fully abled but aging and slowing down ex world class track athlete to compete in a race for disabled runners. They might compete on the same level now, but that doesn't mean they should enter the same race.

Daaim Shabazz's picture

The games have been interesting, but a number of blunders... pieces flying and mates in one missed on the board. Time pressure no doubt. Even Kramnik has missed mate in one. :-) Humpy-Zhukova had a cute ending today!

There are arguments for a women's circuit, but I don't believe women will ever gain in strength playing in a majority of these tournaments. Judit tests herself against the best since she was a young teen and strengthened with the support of her older sisters.

At this point, I don't see any of the current group of women (Hou Yifan included) ever reaching Judit's height of #8 in the world. Hou is young enough to do it, but the talent pool is so deep with fifty 2700s. Having to take these type of blows round after round will be a gargantuan task for the Chinese player, not to mention the five or so 2800s that will emerge in the next few years.

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