2010 Women's World Championship – Yifan and Ruan in final

12/18/2010 – It was a titanic semifinal with both top-rated Hou and Humpy in one match, and the surprise Zhao and Ruan in the other. Yifan beat Koneru who played a Berlin for the first time, and ended up in a rotten endgame. Their second game was a draw. Zhao and Ruan went into a tiebreak, and for the fifth straight time, Ruan prevailed and is now a finalist despite losing Elo. Report, pics, games.

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The Women's World Chess Championship is being held at Hatay, Turkey, from December 2nd to 25th. It is a 64-player knockout tournament, with two-game mini-matches qualifying a player to the next round, until the final and 6th round, which is a four-game match to determine the champion. In the event of a draw after the two tournament time-control games, there will be a rapid game tie-breaker, followed by a possible blitz playoff, and finally an armageddon blitz game. The time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, and a 30-second increment per move as of the first move. The games are held daily at 3 PM local time (2 PM Paris / 8 AM New York / 5 AM Los Angeles). The full schedule is available here.

Note that the organizers pulled out all the stops to provide coverage of the highest quality, including daily live video coverage during the rounds.

The podium where the semi finals took place

The semi finals

Semi finals

It was a semi final worthy of a final. The two highest rated players had torn through their competition thus far with but one goal in mind: the title of world champion. Two years ago, Hou Yifan had shocked everyone by not only navigating through the treacherous waters of the knockout tournament, but was also the youngest finalist in history second to none. Russian Alexandra Kosteniuk was her opponent, and had shown great class by outplaying her inexperienced co-challenger. Since then, the young Chinese has soared to the top of the women’s list, swapping second and third (Judit is still the untouchable queen of queens) with Humpy Koneru. Since Kosteniuk was the number one seed by virtue of the title, this meant that Hou and Humpy would meet in the semifinals should they live up to their ratings, and they both did so with nary a hitch. Both blustered their way through their mini-matches, with only one surprise, the second game loss by Yifan to Zhu Chen in the third round, a mistake she rectified the next day in the tiebreaks.

Hou Yifan, semi-finalist once more and impressively so

The  first game was a surprise in itself since Koneru showed up with a Berlin, a first for her, and one that she seemed ill-prepared for. The usual game that Black uses to try to counteract white never materialized and instead she found herself with an endgame reminiscent of a Ruy Lopez Exchange gone bad.

Humpy Koneru with her father watching in the background

Hou,Yifan (2591) - Koneru,Humpy (2600) [C67]
WCh Women Antakya TUR (5.1), 16.12.2010

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 Having found no games with Koneru playing the Berlin, it seems this is a first for her as black. 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 Ke8 10.Ne2 Be7 11.b3 a5 12.a4 Be6 13.Bb2 [13.Nf4 Rd8 14.Bb2 h5 15.Rad1 Rxd1 16.Rxd1 g5 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.Bc1 Rg8 19.Kf1 g4 20.Nd2 Kf7 21.Ne4 Rd8 22.Rxd8 Bxd8 23.Bg5 Bxg5 24.Nxg5+ Ke7 25.c3 1/2-1/2 Sokolov,A-Salov,V/Bukhara 1981/EXT 2002 (66)] 13...h5 14.Nfd4 Nxd4 15.Nxd4 Rd8 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17.Rad1 Kf7 18.g3 Bb4 19.Kg2 Bd2 20.Kf3 Rd5 21.Ke2 Rhd8 22.c4 R5d7 23.Bc1 Bc3 24.Rxd7+ Rxd7 25.f4

25...g6?! A strange decision since the black king's only route to join the battle was via g6-f5. Now this avenue is closed. 26.Rf3 Bb4 27.Rd3 Rxd3 28.Kxd3

This is a grim ending to have to defend with black, as many a player of the Ruy Lopez Exchange can attest to. Even if it is defensible, the task is arduous and unpleasant. 28...Be7 29.Be3 c5 30.Ke4 b6 31.Kf3 Bf8 32.g4 Be7 33.Kg3 c6 34.Kh3 Bd8 35.Bf2 Bc7 36.Bh4 hxg4+ 37.Kxg4 Kg7 38.Bf6+ Kf7 39.Bh4 Kg7 40.Bf6+ Kf7 41.Kg5 b5 42.Kh6 bxa4 43.bxa4 Bb6

44.Be7?? This tempting and aesthetically pleasing move is in fact a blunder and would allow Black to draw. The idea is correct, but it had to be prepared first. 44.h4! Bc7 45.Bg5! A small triangulation to force zugzwang. The immediate Be7 is strong, but this way it is even stronger. 45...Bb6 46.Be7! Bc7 (46...Kxe7 47.Kxg6 The difference between the game's blunder and here is that now the h-pawn is already on h4 and can just zip ahead. Now Black lacks the time to bring the bishop around. 47...Kf8 48.h5 Bd8 49.h6 Kg8 50.h7+ Kh8 51.Kf7 Kxh7 52.Kxe6 Kg7 53.Kd7 Bh4 54.f5+-) 47.Bxc5 Bd8 48.h5 gxh5 49.Kxh5 Kg7 50.Ba7! Kf7 51.c5! Kg7 52.Bb6+- 44...Bc7?? One of those cases of mutual blindness. The saving move was 44...Kxe7! 45.Kxg6 Bd8 and the bishop not only controls the entry to f6 but also the h4 square. 46.h4 (46.Kg7 Ke8) 46...Kf8 47.h5 Kg8 48.h6 (48.f5 exf5 49.Kxf5 Kg7 50.Ke6 Bc7) 48...Bh4 49.h7+ Kh8 50.Kf7 Kxh7 51.Kxe6 Kg7 52.Kd7 Kf8 53.Kxc6 Bg3 54.Kxc5 Bxf4= 45.Bxc5 Bd8 46.Bf2 Be7 47.c5 Bf8+ 48.Kg5 Be7+ 49.Kg4 Ke8 50.Be1 Bxc5 51.Bxa5 Be7 52.Kf3 Kd7 53.Ke4 c5 54.Kd3 Kc6 55.Kc4 Bh4 56.Bd2 Bf2 57.h3 [57.a5! Bh4 58.a6 Be7 59.a7 Kb7 60.Be3! Bf8 61.Bxc5] 57...Bg1 58.Bc1 Bf2 59.Bd2 Bg1 60.Kd3 Bf2 61.Be3 Be1 62.Kc4 Bb4 63.Bf2 Kb6 64.Be3 Kc6 65.Bg1 Kb6 66.Bf2 Kc6 67.Bh4 Bd2 68.Bg5 Be1 69.Be7 Bf2 70.a5 Be3 71.Bg5 Bf2 72.h4 Bg3 73.a6 Bf2 74.h5 gxh5 75.f5 exf5 76.e6 Bg3 77.e7 Kd7 78.a7 1-0. [Click to Replay]

This win was decisive in the match as the Indian was unable to force a win in the second game, and there were no further chances. With this, Yifan became a finalist for a second consecutive time, and without wishing to besmirch her opponent, she enters a very clear favorite.

The second semifinal was a match between the two surprises this far, both excellent players, but neither of whom was really expected to have made it this far, and by being paired against each other, this also meant one of them would be an even bigger surprise finalist. While Xue Zhao managed clean victories over Chiburdanidze and Skripchenko on her way to the semifinal, Lufei Ruan actually played tiebreaks in every single match *including* this one, and it was in an exciting tiebreak game that Ruan broke her opponent’s resistance and made it to the final.

The two surprises, Xue Zhao facing Lufei Ruan, the queen of tiebreaks this year

Zhao,Xue (2474) - Ruan,Lufei (2480) [D18]
WCh Women Antakya TUR (5.4), 18.12.2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Nh4 e6 7.Nxf5 exf5 8.e3 Bb4 9.Bxc4 0-0 10.0-0 Nbd7 11.Qc2 g6 12.f3 Nb6 13.Bb3 Rc8 [13...a5 14.Na2 Be7 15.Kh1 Nh5 16.Nc3 Rc8 17.Rd1 Bb4 18.Qf2 Nf6 19.e4 fxe4 20.Nxe4 Nbd5 21.Nc5 Nd7 22.Nd3 Bd6 23.Bd2 Re8 24.Re1 Qb6 25.Bc4 Nb4 26.Bxb4 Bxb4 1-0 Eljanov,P (2720)-Inarkiev,E (2669)/Elista 2008/CBM 128 (61)] 14.a5 Nbd7 15.e4 c5 16.dxc5 fxe4 17.fxe4 Bxc5+ 18.Kh1 Ng4 19.Bf4 Qh4 20.Bg3 Qh5 21.Qe2 Ngf6 22.Rf3 Bd4 23.Raf1 Nc5 24.Nd5 Nfxe4 25.Ne7+ Kh8 26.Be1 Rce8 27.Qc4 Nxb3 28.Rxb3 Qc5 29.Qxc5 Nxc5 30.Rb4 Bg7 31.Bf2 Nd3 32.Rxb7 Bf6 33.Bxa7 Rxe7 34.a6

The spectators were riveted watching the extremely exciting finish to this game and match. No doubt a draw would have been the fairest of results, but with such a volatile position it was anyone's guess what the outcome would be, especially in the last minutes of a rapid game. 34...Rxb7 35.axb7 Be5 36.Rd1 Nb4 37.Rc1 Na6 38.Rc8 Kg7

39.b4 [39.Be3 threatening Bh6+ was stronger. 39...Rh8 40.b4! h6 (40...Nxb4? 41.Bd4!!) 41.b5] 39...f6 40.g3 Kf7 41.Kg2 Re8 42.b5 Nb8 43.Kf3 Ke7 44.h3 Kd7 45.Rc2 Bd6 46.g4 h6 47.Rc1 Be5 48.Rc2 h5 49.gxh5 gxh5 50.Rc1 Bc7 51.Rc2 Bd6 52.Rc1 Ke7 53.Rc2 Nd7 54.Rc8 Bb8 55.Be3 [55.Bxb8! Nxb8 56.Kg3 f5 57.Kf4 Kd7 58.Rxe8 Kxe8 59.Kxf5 Kd7=] 55...Ne5+ 56.Ke2 Kd7 57.Rc2 Rg8 58.Kf2 Nf7 59.Rd2+ Nd6 60.Bf4 Ke7 61.Re2+ Kf7 62.Rc2 Nxb7 63.Be3 Nd6 64.b6 Rc8 65.Ra2 Nc4 66.Rc2 Nxb6 67.Rb2 Nc4 68.Rb7+ Kg6 69.Bd4 Be5 70.Ba7 Rc7 0-1. [Click to Replay]

Lufei Ruan has shown incredible resilience by surviving tiebreaks
in all five of her matches to reach the final. Hou had better watch
herself should she be unable to come through in the first four games!

It is not unremarkable that even though she will have survived no fewer than five matches to reach the finals, she is also losing six Elo for the privilege, an oddity made possible by these matches which can go as long as seven games, but of which only two are classic time controls, and thus rated.

Pictures by Turkish Federation

Europe Echecs is providing daily video reports

Semi final results

  Round 5 Match 01
Ruan, Lufei
Zhao, Xue
  Round 5 Match 02
Koneru, Humpy
Hou, Yifan


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