Reports | November 17, 2012 13:00

Women World Championship R2 Tie-break: favorites knocked out

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.

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).


After the unexpected elimination of Koneru Humpy in the regular second round, all other favorites have been knocked out as well in the tiebreak. Hou Yifan lost to Monika Socko both games and so lost her World title. She has still the right to challenge the winner of this event in a new match next year, so she may be able to regain the title. Socko played very well and deservedly qualified for the next stage:

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In the second game Hou Yifan needed a win with Black to stay in the match and thus opted for a sharp Benoni. Even though Socko missed a quicker way to decide the Chinese fate, overall victory never was in danger:

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Another major upset was the elimination of Anna Muzychuk, who lost her tie-break with 2-0 against Anna Ushenina. Earlier this year Muzychuk became the fourth woman ever to break the 2600-barrier, but against the Ukrainian she didn't have much chance.

More drama was seen in the match between Pia Cramling and Irina Krush. In the regular games Krush was on the verge of elimination, but in the tie-break games she had luck on her side. In the first game the Swedish GM missed a simple tactic:

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In the second game Cramling could have levelled the score had she realized the black king had been corralled into a mating net.

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By rating the strongest player left in the tournament is now Zhao Xue, who eliminated the Georgian Nino Khurtsidze. A blunder in the first game had a big impact in the course of the match:

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After this exciting round with many surprises it's clear that there will be a new World Champion this year. This short match system has once more shown that rating favorites can easily be knocked out by committing just one mistake, and so the debate over the format determining the World Champion rears its head once more.

Current World Champion was knocked out by Monika Socko (1-3)

Wenjun Ju qualified for the next round by defeating Anna Zatonskih (4-2)

Other favorite Anna Muzychuk was sent home by Anna Ushenina

Nadezhda Kosintseva won with 3.5-2.5 against Lilit Mkrtchian and will play in the next round against her sister Tatiana



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.


Daniel's picture

Very interesting tournament indeed!

Stephen's picture

It'll be interesting to see a competitive game between the Kosintseva sisters :D will they try taking a couple of quick repetitions and let the tie-breaks decide?

John Montgomery's picture

I didn't realize this would cost Hou Yifan her title. This is a terrible way to determine the women's World Champion.

valg321's picture

me neither. I kinda feel flabbergasted tbh. What an unceremonial way to lose the crown. Only now can i imagine the psychological pressure Yifan was under.

Thomas's picture

"rating favorites can easily be knocked out by committing just one mistake"
This is the case for favorites, underdogs and equally strong players alike ... and "one mistake is one too many" (no more chances to win the event) might also apply for different formats.

But - at least according to the Chessvibes reports :) - both Hou Yifan and Koneru made far more than one mistake or inaccuracy against Socko and Zhukova, respectively.

Bartleby's picture

In any other format Hou Yifan would still be very much in competition for first place after 3 wins and 1 loss in the first four games.

Casey Abell's picture

Of course, Hou Yifan WAS very much in contention for first place after three wins and one loss in this format. She got knocked out after two more losses.

Frankly, if she takes three straight losses at Wijk aan Zee, she ain't gonna win there, either. But I don't think she has a prayer in the A group, anyway.

Bartleby's picture

She got knocked out in rapids. That's one straight loss and a bad tiebreak.

Niima's picture

"...a bad tiebreak". What does that mean? She lost two games in a row. There is no indication that the rating favorites are weaker in the tiebreaks. So if one of them loses two games in a row, give the other player credit instead of blaming the system.

Thomas's picture

In any other format, Hou Yifan wouldn't have had the opportunity to score two wins against an opponent with Elo 1821 ... . Did anyone complain when she got her title two years ago under the same format? Back then she may have benefitted from the format as some of her main competitors (defending champion Kosteniuk, Tatiana Kosintseva) were eliminated in an early stage by nominally weaker players.

It's easy to ask for longer matches, but who would want to spend six weeks in Siberia (or at any other venue)? One could reduce the field to 32 players - the first round was mostly a formality, the second round wasn't. One could spread it over several venues with breaks in between, but would there be enough organizers and sponsors for women's chess?

Bartleby's picture

I don't get it. Do you really think because of her first-round opponent was so weak, because it's hard to find money, and because the sky is blue, the randomness of the result doesn't matter and the format is appropriate for a championship?

Thomas's picture

Pointing out that Hou Yifan's first-round opponent was quite weak just meant to impy that her classical 3/4 score is relatively meaningless. In general, I think the format isn't perfect but maybe "as good as it gets": after all, male players with comparable ratings can only dream of such an event with such a prize fund.
Actually I wouldn't consider the eliminations of Hou Yifan and Koneru random results - both lost fair and square. Losing or not winning an Armaggedon game might be considered random, but even then the nominally stronger player hasn't proven her superiority.

Flaneur's picture

"Hou Yifan lost both games to Monica Socko and so lost her title." FIDE is ridiculous. Hou has defended her title in two full-length matches and has won the Grand Prix twice, and she loses her title in a Round 2 KO minimatch?! Absurd.

RG13's picture

You are absolutely right on. Imagine if we allowed the men's world champion to lose his title on the basis of two rapid games (instead of a full match).
It is a shame they allow the women's title to be cheapened this way.

ff2017's picture

Actually she defended the title only once (last year) which was a full length 10 game match and originally won the title in the same knock-out event 2 years ago.
If she skipped this event to attend class in Beida, or prepare for Tata, she'd also lose the title by default.
Maybe it'll be better for everyone to think of the title expiring upon the beginning of the knock-out event and the participants are playing to acquire the unowned title.

Bastian's picture

Good point, maybe its better to see it this way. However, I think two games are just too few. Maybe they should consider to play at least 4 games.

Anonymous's picture

and why not 6 games ? or 8 ? or 24 ?

Anonymous's picture

we can't fall on a system that gave her the title a little while ago ... the top 8 made LOTS of mistakes, too many if you consider their rank ... They probably took victory for granted ... a good lesson for the near future

RG13's picture

I think giving the World Champion some kind of advantage would make winning the championship more meaningful - in other words they can have a knockout (if they must) only to determine the official challenger and then play the reigning world World Champion a match of at least 10 games to dethrone her. If they have not separated themselves after at least 10 classical games THEN it would be o.k. to decide it by some rapid games. Otherwise the Women's World Championship is really just another tournament, no need for the title in that case.

RG13's picture

Of course the championship should only commence after at least a month or two after the official challenger is determined.

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