"... women are actually clever enough to realize that there are much more important things in life rather than chess ..."
Anish on World Women Championship 2010 with game analyses
At the end of last year, chess world saw yet another World Championship. This time those were women, that fighting for the World title. It was yet another knockout system tournament, like the previous one, which was won by Alexandra Kosteniuk who managed to beat Hou Yifan in the final. This year's edition turned out to be not any weaker, with only Judit Polgar not taking part in the championship from the top players. It isn't a surprise, since Judit obviously belongs to the top of not just women, but also men. Recently, by the way, she proved it again, convincingly beating Topalov and Ivanchuk in four games matches in a rapid tournament in Mexico.
But let's turn back to the Women World Championship that is given short and mysterious abbreviation WWCC. Obviously women chess are rather different from those of men. Perhaps the reason for the difference is that women are actually clever enough to realize that there are much more important things in life rather than chess (Robert James wouldn't agree with my reasoning?(ed. Anish means Bobby Fischer)). As a result, we rarely see deep theoretical battles and accurate positional masterpieces as in our, tough, men-chess-world. The competition however doesn't suffer from it at all and games are usually lively and entertaining and the winner is mainly the one whose nerves were stronger that day. Though I must say, lately especially with the emergence of tandem Kosintseva-Kosintseva-Dokhoyan (famous coach of Kasparov and now Karjakin), we do see some theoretical stuff and I am sure a few games from Women chess are saved into files of some theoreticians.
But well, now, let's get back to our tournament. The fact that the tournament was a knockout one, made the chance of surprises higher and at the end indeed the final was indeed half surprising, with the unsurprising half being the Chinese Hou Yifan, who at her 16 already had experience of playing the World Championship Finals. The surprising half was however Ruan Lufei, another Chinese player, who was however much less famous than Hou, and was almost 200 points less rated. But wait, let's go step by step.
When looking through games I marked a few that I thought were in certain way special. The first one that was striking was a what-usually-is-veeery-boring Berlin game, with? white crushing black in just some twenty moves. Funny to compare it with the one played in last round in London, in a game of men top- Anand-Kramnik.
At the same time in the very first game Hou Yifan, one of the favorites of the tournament made it clear to all, that she wasn't in a bad shape at all?
Hou Yifan-Heredia Serrano
The tactics and tricks play very important role in women chess and this tournament wasn't an exception. While watching the games I spotted a few nice tactical blows that scared the hell out of me. Good none of these women are playing in Wijk aan Zee A. Some game fragments can be seen here:
At about quarterfinals I realized that it's going to be either a Chinese or an Indian player that is going to win the championship. Surprisingly enough, the top Russian women among them Tatiana Kosintseva and Alexandra Kosteniuk, the ex-World Champion, have had bad luck (and it really was bad luck?) and were kicked out rather early.
Game between two strong Chinese players- Hou Yifan and Zhu Chen reminded me of the important game played in the same month by Ian Nepomniatchti vs Peter Svidler. (That game by the way had also a big sportive importance and might have been decisive for the tournament).
Hou Yifan-Zhu Chen
The semi-finals saw three Chinese players- Hou Yifan, Zhao Xue, Ruan Lufei and Humpy Koneru from India. Hou playing Humpy might have been the match of the tournament. Unfortunately for Humpy she lost her first game. She didn't use her chance to equalize the ending and found herself in what seems like a lost bishop endgame. She then however got another chance, but it wasn't easy to spot and she failed.
Hou Yifan-Koneru Humpy
The second game was a complicated one and even though at some point Humpy seemed to have some edge, it was never stable and Hou secured her place in final.
The other finalist was as you know also a Chinese player- Ruan Lufei. I must admit, I haven't heard a lot about her before the actual tournament (though it doesn't mean anything?), but it was quite impressive how she kept on beating such players as Kosteniuk, Zhao Xue, Harika all on tie breaks. It actually seemed as if she was just winning all those matches on her character, no matter what the positions were. Her matches never seemed very convincing and one sided to me, and I haven't spotted any special opening preparation, but she always kept on fighting and?winning! And in the final when in the last round she desperately needed to win to stay in the match, she did it again!
Ran Lufei-Hou Yifan
This game Ruan basically won twice- first time she got winning position then blew it away and then she managed to concentrate and outplay Hou again. After such game you would expect Hou to lose control over the match in the tie-break, but even a bit surprisingly (for me at least), she showed no weakness and simply dominated the whole tie-break. She convincingly won 3-1 and became the youngest World Champion ever!
Congratulations to Hou Yifan!