20 March 2015

Armageddon in the mountains

Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili reporting about the first round of the Women's World Championship.

The Women's World Championship, which had no organizer for a long time, started in Krasnaya Polyana. The elite mountain resort in Sochi is one of the best venues in the history of women's chess, according to everybody – participants, trainers, honored guests, and journalists. Everybody enjoys Krasnaya Polyana very much, and the participants are very thankful to the organizers and sponsors at their press-conferences.

With exception of Hou Yifan, Nana Dzagnidze, and Kateryna Lagno, the elite of women's chess is present in Sochi. Among the players are our Valentina Gunina, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Olga Girya, Alina Kashlinskaya, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya, Tatiana Kosintseva, Alexandra Goryachkina, Natalia Pogonina, Baira Kovanova, and Alisa Galliamova.

The opening ceremony of the championship took place on Monday, March 16. The official press-conference was attended by the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, RCF President Andrey Filatov, the 12th World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, and the top seed player Humpy Koneru. The adviser of the Russian President Igor Levitin read the welcome address of Vladimir Putin. The participants listened to the speeches of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Andrey Filatov, Russian Deputy Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov. The Chief Arbiter of the even Zsuzsa Veroci made a drawing of lots with assistance of Humpy Koneru.

Grandmasters Ilya Smirin, Sergey Shipov and Evgeny Miroshnichenko, who were invited to the championship to provide commentary on the official stream, all agreed that the first round will surely produce some surprising results. They were right. 

And while the clear favorites of their matches Mariya Muzychuk and Alisa Galliamova managed to come back in the second game and then won on the tie-break, Elina Danielian was sensationally defeated by the Cuban Yanet Marrero Lopez. Former European champion Natalia Zhukova also had a rough start, dramatically losing the second game to her friend and compatriot Inna Gaponenko. Hoang Thanh Trang also lost her starting round match to the experienced Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant. 

Valentina Gunina, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Olga Girya, and Ekaterina Kovalevskaya did not have to play the tie-breaks, as they all won their matches in classical chess. This is a good sign for the Russians, because those extra games are always very draining. 

There were 11 tie-break matches, and many of them turned into thrilling and dramatic shows. Two pairs advanced to the ultimate Armageddon game, and in both of them there were Russian players. Fortunately, our compatriots prevailed and advanced to the next stage.

The tie-breaks started with two rapid games. Zhao Xue and Salome Melia defeated their less experienced opponents with the perfect score – 2-0. The score 1.5-0.5 occurred in three other matches: Mariya Muzychuk defeated the Canadian Yuan Yuanling, and the Russians Alina Kashlinskaya and Baira Kovanova lost to Shen Yang and Huang Qian, becoming first local players eliminated from the championship. 

A real chess tragedy occurred in Daulyte-Socko. The Lithuanian won the first game and was very close to winning the second one. However, in the position with three extra pawns she missed a mate in one and blundered her queen instead!

Daulyte – Socko

Black just retreated her king to а7 and is about to get mated by 57.b6#. Unbelievably, Deimante played 57.Qa5+??, hanging her queen, and resigned at once.

The young Lithuanian was unable to deal with such psychological blow and lost the next two 10-minute games. 

After a lengthy battle or wills and nerves Alisa Galliamova defeated Carolina Lujan. Several years ago these players met in the first round of the Women's World Championship, and the plot was almost exactly the same: Galliamova lost the first classical game, then won the second game and prevailed on the tie-break. This time the Russian had to come back not once, but twice, and she was very close to losing the second 10-minute game, too. Nevertheless, the Russian Vice-Champion advanced to the next round.

Also in the 10-minute matches secured their wins Lela Javakhishvili (over Sopiko Guramishvili) and Meri Arabizde (over Elisabeth Paehtz). The German player will stay in Sochi until the end, though, because she is invited to comment the English live stream with Evgeny Miroshnichenko.

The closest matches advanced to the blitz stages: Goryachkina-Mkrtchian and Gomes-Kosintseva. The players exchanged blows in the 5-minute games and proceeded to the Armageddon. Alexandra Goryachkina got White and literally crushed her opponent, not giving her a slight chance. Tatiana Kosintseva played Black, and it did not go well, as the Russian dropped a piece in the early middlegame. She had no real compensation for the material, however, the time factor sometimes costs more than a piece in a blitz game without an increment. This was exactly the case here – Mary Ann Gomes lost on time, already being a queen up, and Tatiana Kosintseva came up the ladder.

There are two Russian clashes in the 2nd Round: Gunina-Girya and Kosintseva-Galliamova. Kovalevskaya will play Cmilyte, Goryachkina's opponent in Anna Muzychuk, Kosteniuk will play Shen Yang, and Pogonina faces Ju Wenjun.

Support our girls, follow online broadcasting on the RCF website, and enjoy the art gallery show during the breaks.