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FIDE Women's World Championship 2017 (Day 1)

Feb 10, 2017
StaffCoachWGM 2263
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Let's get a little bit more chess enthusiasm before the first round of the event! Soon we will review two important games from previous championships. Will you recognize them and know how to continue?

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was officially launched at the Hotel Espinas Palace by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Other important attending officials included FIDE CEO Geoffrey Borg, President of Iranian Chess Federation Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, President of Moldova Igor Dodon and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports of Iran Masoud Soltanifar. All female chess athletes received various nice Iranian gifts.

The top seed of the event, Ju Wenjun from China, drew white color for her first game of the first round. Therefore, the pairing in my previous blog is fully correct.

Venue controversy

I think it is important to also touch this topic - the venue. Why was Iran given the right to host this championship? Let's try to briefly answer it. First of all, it seems like finding sponsorship is a constant problem when it comes to the Women's World Chess Championship. Originally, the event had been scheduled for October 2016. However, FIDE had to postpone it for this year since they had not found an organizer for the event. During the 2016 Chess Olympiad in September, Iran was the only federation that offered hosting the event. Without an opponent, it is easy to win - and so Iran had.

Last year, after FIDE announced that the city of Tehran in Iran was chosen as the venue for the Women's World Championship 2017, controversy promptly sparked. Several players were concerned with Iran's dress code and behavior policies for women as well as security travel warnings from some countries. Particularly, the mandatory use of headscarf for women. This year's tournament has been marked by this controversy and the absence of some of the most recognized absent players are: Koneru Humpy, Mariya Muzychuk, and Irina Krush. Also by Nazi Paikidze who has gotten special media attention for being very vocal in social media on her choice not to play the tournament. On the other side of this story, we have ex-world champion Susan Polgar, who encouraged the qualified players to respect and embrace Iran's cultural differences and to play the tournament. She has also stated that some of the Iranian girls are looking forward to the opportunity of having such a big event hosted in their country.

And the positive reasons to give the event to Iran? The Iran Chess Federation is one of the most active chess federation in the world and their players are getting more notices. Especially within the female field where they have two young IMs and other young WGMs. Their chess culture is also vast, there are over 100 chess tournaments a day, and chess is rapidly growing. The Islamic State of Iran is interested in supporting female athletes throughout many sports.

Let's get back to chess:

The following game Hou Yifan vs Monika Socko happened during the 2012 FIDE Knock-out World Women’s Championship. It was the second round and the score was 2-1 in favor of Socko. Hou Yifan needed to win the game to keep fighting for the match. Playing for a forced result might change the decisions a player takes. For example, a player might make a worse move to avoid a forced draw, or they may be more biased against exchanging major pieces even when it is a good move. In this situation, it is also common for players to change their opening repertoire to avoid a line that leads to a draw. Let’s take a look:

Game 1:

Yifan Hou - Monika (Bobrowska) Socko 0-1

FIDE Knock-Out Women's World Championsh 2012.11.16

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3

The closed sicilian, unusual move for Yifan who usually plays 2.Nf3 and gets into the main lines. Probably she was trying to avoid any double-edged lines and was looking for less risky positions where she could still fight for an advantage.

2... Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.Nf3 Nge7 5.O-O a6 6.Bxc6 Nxc6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Qc7 ( Nxd4?!

BD_9973_457_0.pngDiagram #1

is not a good idea, after 9.Qxd4 Qc7 10.Be3 Black has problems to develop its black-squared bishop)


White is waiting for Black to take in d4.

9... Nxd4 (9... Bd6 it's a stronger option, not giving up to the pressure of capturing on d4. However this leads to more sharp variations which Black wanted to avoid since a draw would suffice for winning the match. An example of this variation is: 10.Nd5 exd5 11.exd5+ Ne5 12.f4 O-O 13.fxe5 Bxe5 14.Nf3 ~~ )

10.Qxd4 Qc5

Black wants to develop her bishop so she wants to get rid of the pressure on g7. Since Black is happy with a draw, she doesn't have any problem trading queens.


White doesn't want to trade queens, or at least needs to wait to trade them in better conditions.

11... Qc7 12.Bg5 f6 ( Bd6 is possible, but it gets complicated after ( Bc5?

BD_9973_457_1.pngDiagram #2

13.Nd5 exd5 14.exd5+ Kf8 15.Qe4 +- ) 13.Nd5 exd5 14.exd5+ Kf8 15.Qe2 Bxh2+ 16.Kf1 Be5 17.d6 Qxd6 18.Bd2 b6 19.Bc3 Bb7 ( f6 20.f4 +/- ) 20.Bxe5 Qc6 21.f3 Black has no need to get into these complications.)

13.Bh4 Bd6 14.Bg3

The bishop on h4 is not useful anymore so it's a good idea to exchange it.

14... Bxg3 15.hxg3 O-O 16.Rad1 b5 17.a4 b4 18.Nd5 Qc5 ( exd5??

BD_9973_457_2.pngDiagram #3

19.Qxd5+ Kh8 20.Qxa8 +- )

19.Ne3 a5 20.Rd2?!

BD_9973_457_3.pngDiagram #4

White is delaying the queen exchange, however this is something that has to be done since White can't use her queen to get any advantage. It's best to exchange queens now that Black hasn't been able to develop it's bishop and the d7 pawn is a potential weakness.

( 20.Qd6 Qxd6 21.Rxd6 Ra6 22.Red1 Rd8 23.f3 +/= White holds a small advantage. It might not be what Yifan was hoping for, but at least White can try to play for a win here.)

20... Rd8 21.Red1 Bb7 22.Qd4

White realizes that the queen exchange needs to be done, but it is too late to get anything good out of it since Black has had enough time to organize her pieces.

22... Rac8 23.Qxc5 Rxc5 24.f3 = 24... Bc6 25.b3 Kf7 26.Rd4 Ke7 27.Rc4 Rxc4 28.Nxc4 d5 29.Nxa5 Ba8 30.exd5 ( 29. Nxa5 was a suspicious move considering that the night is trapped after capturing the pawn. However it would have worked if White had played 30.Rd4 dxe4 31.Rxb4 Rd1+ ( exf3 ( e3?

BD_9973_457_4.pngDiagram #5

32.Kf1 +/= ) 32.gxf3 Rd2 33.Nc4 ( 33.Rc4 Bxf3 34.b4 = )) 32.Kf2 We need the king to stop the pawn ( 32.Kh2??

BD_9973_457_5.pngDiagram #6

32... e3)32... Rd2+ 33.Ke3 Rxc2 34.fxe4 = In both cases the position is equal, but at least White can keep playing and wait for some opportunities.)

30... Rxd5 31.Rxd5 exd5 32.c3?

BD_9973_457_6.pngDiagram #7

This move loses the game. It's common for players to blunder after their winning chances have been exterminated.

( 32.Kf2 Kd6 =/+ )

32... bxc3 33.b4 d4 34.Kf2 Bd5 35.Ke2 c2 36.Kd2 d3 37.b5 Kd6 38.b6 h5 39.Kc1 g5 40.Kd2 h4 41.g4 Kd7 42.Kc1 Bxf3 43.Nb3 Bxg2 44.a5 Kc6 45.Nd4+ Kc5 46.Nb3+ Kb5 47.Kd2 h3

Altough Hou Yifan was a much stronger player than Monika Socko, this game is clear example of how the pressure of a certain result can have an important impact on the player's moves.


The next game is from the previous Knock-out FIDE Women’s World Championship in 2015 which was won by Mariya Muzychuk.

Game 2:

Mariya Muzychuk - Koneru Humpy 1-0

FIDE Women's World Chess Championship 2015.03.26

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qf6 6.c3 Nge7 7.g3 d5 8.Bg2 dxe4 9.O-O O-O 10.Nd2 Bb6 11.Re1 Nxd4 12.Nxe4 Qf5 13.Bxd4 Nc6 14.Bxb6 axb6

Up to this point everything has been theory. However, Black seems to have a much better opening outcome as she has managed to equalize and has better possibilities on the queenside.

15.f4 Be6 16.b3 h6 17.h3 Ra3 18.Qd2 Qa5 19.b4 Qa4 20.g4

White needs to find some activity on the kingside before it's too late.

20... Rd8 21.Qf2 Rxa2 22.Rxa2 Bxa2 23.b5 Na7?!

BD_9973_457_7.pngDiagram #8

This move it's a little too slow. Black has already culminated her attack on the queenside by capturing the a2-pawn. Now it's time to start thinking about defending the kingside. Going for a second pawn is too ambitious.

( Much better was Ne7 24.g5 hxg5 25.Nxg5 Rd1 -/+ )

24.g5 hxg5 25.Nxg5 f6??

BD_9973_457_8.pngDiagram #9

26.Qd2 +-

An unexpected combination that wins the game. Altough anyone could miss this strong combination, Black should have felt something could be off with this move since almost all her pieces were in the border of the board.

26... Rf8 27.Bd5+ Bxd5 28.Qxd5+ Kh8 29.Qf7

Overall there is a great history behind the Women’s World Chess Championship. Hopefully all the rare media attention this year’s tournament has gotten can be redirected to promote women’s chess. Let’s hope that in the future, sponsors and FIDE will come together to give women’s chess the priority and support it deserves. For now, we will have to wait and see who takes home the biggest prize: the title of Women’s World Chess Champion.

I hope you will follow the event closely! :)

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