Reports | November 15, 2012 16:38

Women World Championship Round 2: Koneru Humpy eliminated

View of the playing hall in Khanty-Mansiysk

Khanty-Mansiysk - The Women's World Championship is taking place from 11th November to 3rd December. The strongest 64 female chess players are playing 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.) 

The first round in action | 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 second round saw top seeds struggling. The biggest surprise of all was the elimination of Koneru Humpy, who lost her match against Natalia Zhukova. On Wednesday the Ukrainian managed to defeat the runner up of the last World Championship with the black pieces quite convincingly. The next day Koneru tried hard to level the score, but didn't grab the chances offered by her opponent in the middlegame and Zhukova eventually won and secured a place in the 1/8 finals.

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The biggest upset of the second round: Natalia Zhukova defeats Koneru Humpy with 2-0

Top seed and reigning World Champion Hou Yifan initially didn't have any problems with her opponent Monika Socko. In the first game the Chinese got a comfortable position out of the opening, gradually extended her advantage and easily brought home the full point. In an absolute must-win situation Socko exploited the odd-looking treatment of the Sicilian with 4.Qxd4 and seized the initiative in the centre. After a couple of inaccuracies Black's d-pawn proved to be an annoying force to reckon with, and thus Hou Yifan is forced to play the tie-breaks tomorrow.

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Anna Muzychuk and Zhao Xue also failed to demonstrate their superior ratings in the classical games against their opponents, respectively Anna Ushenina and Nino Khurtsidze, and so the faster time-control will decide who advances to the next stage. Kateryna Lahno was trying hard to survive a clearly inferior rook endgame against Lela Javakhishvili, but in vain, so the Georgian goes to the next round, where she will play against Dronavalli Harika. The Indian won the first game with White against her teammate from MIKA Yerevan, Elina Danielian, thanks to superb preparation. In the second the Armenian opted for the aggressive Four Pawns Attack against the King's Indian, but couldn't pose Black any serious problems.

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Dronavalli Harika thanked her trainer GM Elizbar Ubilava for the excellent preparation

Two former World Champions crossed swords in the bottom half of the field. Antoaneta Stefanova seemed to be in a good shape and deservedly eliminated Zhu Chen, who misplayed the Slav from the white side. Another ex-World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk has been sent home as well, as her Sicilian Rauzer didn't turn out to be waterproof. Natalija Pogonina obtained a stable advantage out of the opening and was finally rewarded for patiently shuffling around with her pieces. 

GM Viktorija Cmilyte (2524) was sent home by the Chinese WGM Qian Huang (2465)

Two ex-World Champions: Zhu Chen (left) and Antoaneta Stefanova (right). The Bulgarian won 1.5-0.5

Marie Sebag (2521) goes through to the 3rd round after defeating Olga Girya (2467) with 1.5-0.5

Top seed Hou Yifan forced to play the tie-break after Monika Socko won her game with Black

Top GMs and present as seconds in Khanty-Mansiysk: Viktor Bologan (left) and Alexander Riazantsev (right)

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.


Ruralrob's picture

Let loose the flood of complaints about the knockout format (though it is fine when the top seeds win)....

ff2017's picture

What complaints? Hou and Anna Muzychuk in the finals please!

MW's picture

Knockout format doesn't need any particular happenstance to show it's a poor format for serious events. It simply is.

ff2017's picture

"he winner will face Hou in a World Championship match next year. (If Hou herself wins, she will face the runner up in the 2013 match.) "

Actually if Hou wins she will face Koneru. Runner Up seems to imply runner up in this championship, which is incorrect.

C's picture

Surely this doesn't make sense- if Hou gets to the final, couldn't she lose on purpose to get a potentially easier world championship match?

RG13's picture

I actually thought that Hou is playing because that guarantees that she will be the official challenger to the person that takes her title (if she loses her next championship match).

Rambus's picture

Hou knows she'll beat Koneru easily. She has gained total psychological mastery over Koneru.

ff2017's picture

If Hou loses on purpose, she will no longer be the Women's World Champion. The participants are not playing to become the Knock-out Women's World Champion... they are playing for _THE_ Women's World Championship.

Thomas's picture

The whole situation is confusing because there are two overlapping cycles with different systems. Let's try to sort things out:

The winner of this ongoing event will be the next official Women World Champion. That person has to defend her title against the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix Series which has already taken place and was won by Hou Yifan - but if Hou Yifan wins the current event she won't play against herself but against the runner-up of the Grand Prix, namely Humpy Koneru.

Hence Hou Yifan already knows that she will play a WCh match, but not against whom or whether she will defend or try to regain the title. And this situation actually has nothing to do with the fact that she is the current world champion. If someone else had won the GP Series, that person (Koneru, Kosintseva, whoever ...) would now be in the same situation.

Daaim Shabazz's picture

That's why in my reports I don't refer to this tournament as a World Championship. It really depends on who wins.

Macauley Peterson's picture

Thanks for highlighting that! You're correct. She would play the runner-up in the Women's Grand Prix series: Koneru.

valg321's picture

this tourny is shaping up pretty nicely. I loved it how Galliamova destroyed the cocky Gunina today. i reckon Valya will remember this game for a long time.

Casey Abell's picture

Knew I jinxed Humpy when I picked her as the favorite. Funny thing, I get the feeling that Monika will oust Hou Yifan if she can survive the two 25-minute games. But I'm probably jinxing her, too.

Jambow's picture

I don't think the complaints are so much for knock out matches as much as that they are based on just two games is absurd, and the results here and at other times keep making it obvious. Still enjoying the chess just won't be convinced the best man or woman has won in most instances. Five games is the absolute minimium imho and probably 7 makes more sense really. Race to four two games a day with one on the last day if it goes the distance. You can spread this out and have some flexabillity if needed such as participating in several events when possible it doesn't have to be copleted all in one session.

Anonymous's picture

It's not that absurd really. The best player is still most likely to win, if she can master her nerves.

AK's picture

I must say that this tournament is pretty fun. Way more exciting than most of the men tournaments. Sure level of play is not 2700+, but 2400-2500 is pretty good chess and some mistakes make it even more interesting.

I also must say that ChessTV has really taken live chess coverage to another level in the past year or so. I'm not even sure that I wish to follow a tournament without it.

RealityCheck's picture

@AK Agree about the tournament being fun. Kind of feels like watching collegiate football or basketball when compared to watching the NFL or NBA. Quite lively. Lot's of un-expected turns etc..

Bartleby's picture

The two-game matches creates suspense in every game, especially since the women tend not to do the reasonable thing and go to the rapids with two unfought draws.
If the organizers are happy, the participants get decent pay. The format is ok for a competition like this. Just don't use it for serious tournaments.
I liked Zhukova's first win. A structurally damaged opening line single-mindedly focused on producing a stubborn little c pawn hero.

Anonymous2's picture

My prediction of a Hou-Muzychuk final is starting to look shaky.

brock's picture

Pogonina is playing very solidly and i think she has good chances here, tho hou still has to be the favorite assuming she bounces back from this extremely uncharacteristic beating she received. Having said that it will be very tough for her in the rapid tiebreaks as her rapid play is not notably superior to her peers

AAR's picture

I have a doubt - in the first game is it difficult for white queen to fight against two black rooks? Is that lone pawn that good? Why not repeated checks against black king.

RG13's picture

Humpy seems to get nervous when she plays in very important events.

Anonymous's picture

.... whereas she won her last grand prix tourney convincingly, with strong nerves in a must win situation for overall 2nd place in GP standings. Now it seems that achievement doesnt count for much, since Hou and herself got eliminated here and Hou will challenge the winner of this knock-out event in her next world championship match.

Septimus's picture

Socko really took Yifan to the cleaners on that one. Turning out to be a tournament of surprises. Third game was a lot of fun to calculate.

Casey Abell's picture

Can't resist a little nationalistic cheering for Irina Krush, who got past Pia Cramling.

Poor Pia blundered horrendously in the first rapid game when she overlooked an obvious pin. Then she missed a forced win in the second rapid game and eventually blundered into a one-move mate. Just a godawful day for her.

With so many of the top seeds out, Irina might have as good a chance as anybody. Irina will probably never live down the slapped king in that YouTube video. But winning this tournament would sure help some.

Anonymous's picture

The only thing to rely on in women's chess seems to be its unpredictability ...

Morley's picture

Hou got rocked in the tiebreaks. Quite an upset! Glad to see Irina advance! Looking forward to the finish.

jambow's picture

Lol all the best players are in trouble here Hou, Humpy and Muzychuk might be eliminated.
As far as the odds of the best player winning they are actually much less than 50% yet they increase significantly as more games are added. Perhaps if someone more qualified doesn't I will figure the odds. If all three of the top women are eliminated then it becomes even more appearant.

I think an organization that represents chess on the world scale FIDE should know this.

My newest proposal is any player that maintains a elo higher than the world champion for 1 consecutive year can challenge them outright and any champion has to defend their title at least once a year and can opt to defend it more than that.

Thomas's picture

Who are the best players? The ones who did better in other events (=higher Elo) or the ones who performed better in the given event?

All three favorites (and also fifth seed Lahno against #28 Jakashvili) lost fair and square, a matter of nerves and/or the opponent was simply better at this key occasion. None of the underdogs were merely aiming for tiebreaks - only favorite Muzychuk against Ushenina (offering a draw with white after 16 moves in an unclear position in their second classical game). It seems at least questionable whether the favorites would have prevailed in longer matches.

The WCh cycle goes along with special tension - hence I wouldn't want anyone to bypass it (neither Carlsen among the men nor Polgar among the women). First they have to prove that they are better than their (other) peers, according to the second option in my first paragraph. Then - if and only if they succeed - a WCh match.

AK's picture

So true.
I'm also bothered by the fact that a lot of people qualify thanks to rating or some FIDE wildcard. Look at Men Grand Prix. It's a joke. Only 5 players qualified properly, all other were nominated or had high enough rating. Prove it on the chess board that you deserve a place in the WCh cycle. Ratings only reflect past performances, nothing more.

Anonymous's picture

No matter the format, it's always better to qualify in a tournament than to qualify just by numbers.

jambow's picture

Let me clarify when the individual matches are lengthened the odds of the strongest player advancing increases.

brock's picture

like i said, hou is not so strong at rapid tiebreaks. she was easily beaten by short in their rapid tibreak in gibralter. while of course some may say its different as he is an experienced male gm, they should simply see the poor quality of her play in those games to see it is consistent w this more recent pair of losses

Anonymous's picture

the players who get eliminated are clearly not the strongest players in event. Knock out is not so bad and the winner will be a worthy challenger.

Chessguy's picture

Once again, the winner will NOT be the challenger but the official womens world champion. Hou Yifan will be the challenger in the next WC, which is then a match again.

Anonymous's picture

In other words the Women's World Champion has lost her title on the basis of TWO rapid games. Pretty cheap title then.

ff2017's picture

Well, it's the same as in many professional sports. You are world champion for one year and then have to start anew. If Hou didn't participate at all, she would have also lost her title by default. Unlike the Men's championship, you just get to keep the title for one year.

Anonymous's picture

In this type of knock-out system, underdogs have a psychological advantage because it pays to be fearless now that they are cornered but the normally superior or fancied players suffered the anxieties of must win and fearful of upsets. This helps to constrain their performance. A better system would be letting the winner of the grand prix (being held every year instead) to challenge the world champion yearly. But of course, if this entails too much work and layout for FIDE, perhaps just alternates the grand prix and championship each in a 2-year cycle.

Anonymous's picture

Just look at it, after only 2 rounds, seeds 1,2,3,5,7
out of the top eight seeds were already KNOCK-OUTed!!!

Anonymous's picture

Knocked TFO!

ff2017's picture

Vinny Testeverde in 1999, Derek Jeter in this year's playoffs and now Hou Yifan... I feel sick. At this rate, I bet the world ends in December 21st.

jambow's picture

@Thomas the problem with two game elimination mini matches is that it injects a very high degree of chance into the equation. Go to an elo formula page inject the odds and as matches are shortened it almost becomes random as to who will win, which is exactly what we see here and in the mens also. This probably falls within the standard deviation and these results are predictable or more accurately put predictably unrelated to chess abillity.

There is a very good reason that world championship matches are long to allow the better player to have improved odds of winning. Nothing at all with sudden death if the matches are long enough to remove randomness from the equation.

I mean why not just toss a coin or decide it over a single blitz game? Maybe boxing should be two rounds also it would be about the same.

jambow's picture

That said I have enjoyed the chess so far, and some want to use this as evidence that mini matches are a bad format instead of recognizing its a horrible imlimentation of them. Like making square wheels and then concluding that wheels are a bad idea. Which is a good analogy if I don't say so myself as adding sides to a polygon has the same effect of making it roll smoother with diminishing returns.

;o] Thats my perspective take it for what its worth.

Gary's picture

Where could someone get a table like the ones the women are using in this tournament? Just the table not the board. Any information will make my day. Thanks to whomever. Gary

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