Astana wrap up: thoughts of a participant

3/14/2013 – Alina L'Ami was part of the Romanian team at the FIDE Women's World Team Championship, and also our reporter and photographer. In her closing report the 2353 rated WGM searches for explanations for the inconsistency of play in women's chess – which also provides the main ingredient for a very exciting events. Here are Alina's musing and pictorial impressions from the closing day.

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The city of Astana in Kazakhstan hosted the Women's World Chess Team Championship from March 2nd to 12 in the Duman Hotel in Astana. Ten best teams in the world participated: China, Russia, Ukraine, USA, India, France, Turkey, Georgia, Rumania and Kazakhstan. Each team consisted of five players, with four playing in each of the nine rounds of this round robin tournament. Time control was 90 minutes per 40 moves and thirty minutes until the end of the game plus 30 seconds increment per move.

Farewell from Astana

Bobby Fischer famously said: “I don’t believe in psychology, I believe in good moves.” Since I just finished a rather tough event, the World Women’s Team Championship, I started to look for scapegoats. And the emotional side of women’s chess fits the profile. Is this a plausible reason for the inconsistency of our play? No easy answer to that one, but it’s just that, at times, a game of chess changes into a personal fight, which is not good or bad of course. It just the way it is. Probably not the fastest route for chess improvement, but definitely the personal approach is much more fun for the public. For the team captains, to be the leader in a ladies lineup – that’s a nerve-wracking activity! Full respect for those who manage to pass the test!

Our reporter in Astana: WGM Alina L'Ami, playing for the Romanian team

So there you have it, two ingredients for a very interesting chess recipe:

  1. Women, with their fighting spirit;
  2. Team competition – another factor which gives chess a different dynamic, a very appealing one in my opinion.

The FIDE Women’s World Team Championship in Astana proved to be all of the above and more! A very exciting competition, filled with unexpected results, blunders, passion and captains pulling out their hair, as a reaction to what was happening on the boards.

Truth be told, once I started to write down my current impressions, I remembered that chess is not only about moves, technique, strategy, ideas. It is also about surviving under pressure, coming back in difficult positions, setting up tricks for your opponent – in other words one has to be tough. So, if in this context, after a player had defended tremendously a very difficult game, should we be surprised that in the end the opponent couldn’t take it anymore, but lost her vigilance and cracked?! This is usually what happens before a blunder pops up, it’s not just out of the blue. Of course, there could be additional factors which nobody can control, so for the moment I should limit myself to the logical explanation of what happened in some of the games in Astana. Everybody experiences this by the way, sooner or later. How else can you learn?

As I said, one of the key ingredients to make a tournament appealing is to give it an extra twist. In our case it was the mere fact of it being a team event; even better: a women’s team event!

The photographer Alina in action

Being part of our Romanian delegation taught me once more the importance of surprising your opponent, the importance of choosing the right player for a particular line and color, and last but not least: what a difference it can make if you put your own personal goals aside and place the team first. Maybe it sounds idealistic, but it actually happens very often in practice, despite what people may believe. For example, you have a completely drawish position, but you have to push and find some ways, since the result of the match depends on you (as it happens, you might even lose). Or let us say that one team member has a forced line to win – what a nice feeling for the others, to know that now there is room for quite play, and that they can even settle for a draw if necessary. Therefore, chess is a team sport and strategy matters. I am lucky to have been surrounded by a wonderful team spirit, although our result was not the best possible one. We didn’t manage to win any matches but we drew against Ukraine, the champions!

Probably there was something in the cold air of Kazakhstan which we can blame on for the sometimes disastrous over the board decisions. Emotions and pressure are part of the game, so don’t tell me that you haven’t enjoyed the beautiful organization of the WWTC! Which by the way reminds me of one detail: live transmission with computer analysis. This is of course a great invention, it brings chess much closer to the general public, and even my mother understands now what’s going on the board. As for the players themselves, they are more exposed than before to criticism, especially when you see the engine going crazy, from +5 to –5 for example. I even surprise myself that the first thing I do, if I am kibitzing, is to check what the computer is saying, without really trying to figure out with my own head the dangers and subtleties of the position. And then yes, it is so easy to comment and judge, whereas in a real game the story is slightly different.

Of course computer analysis is a revolutionary creation and I am actually happy about it. But chess can be so rewarding without a mouse in your right hand. A kind of analogic approach may help us understand that all the moves are played with some reasoning behind. Long before the emergence of the chess engines, Bobby Fischer excelled at finding pretty good moves and spotting mistakes in the others players’ games and comments. With all the due respect, there is psychology in chess!

Pictorial

Astana is a modern town with a lot of truly spectacular architecture,
combining Islamic, Soviet, Western and futuristic influences.

International House Almaty, with a bronze couple standing bravely in the snow

The monument and observation tower Bayterek is the most famous landmark in Astana. It is meant to embody a folktale about a mythical tree of life and a magic bird of happiness, Samruk, that has laid its egg on a poplar tree. I heard some locals call it the giant "Chupa-Chups" because of the undeniable lollipop shape. The tower is 105m tall, the gold-mirrored egg, 22m in diameter, contains the observation deck. From there it is possible to see much of the newly built city. I regret I didn't have the time to climb all the way up.

The Akorda Presidential Palace is the official workplace of the President of Kazakhstan,
was built in three years and officially opened in 2004. The building's height is 80 meters.

Girls in traditional Kasakh costumes at the closing ceremony

The victorious Ukrainian women's team, with GM Natalia Zhukova, IM Inna
Yanovska-Gaponenko, IM Mariya Muzychuk, GM Kateryna Lahno, GM Ushenina Anna

Silver went to China, with IM Shen Yang, WGM Guo Qi, WGM Tan Zhongyi,
WGM Huang Qian, WGM Ju Wenjun, and their trainer

Bronze for the Russian team, with trainer GM Sergei Rublevsky, IM Alisa Galliamova,
GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, WGM Natalija Pogonina, IM Valentina Gunina and WGM Olga Girya

The first three prizes on board one went to IM Gunina Valentina (Bronze),
WGM Ju Wenjun (Gold) and GM Kateryna Lahno (Silver)

And the first three on board two: GM Kosteniuk Alexandra (Bronze),
GM Ushenina Anna (Silver) and IM Irina Krush (Gold)

Irina with her new perm – or is it a fur hat to fight cold weather in Astana?! The American IM had 7.0/9 points (= 77.8%) on board two, with a 2607 performance. She was only surpassed by Ju Wenjun, who had the same score on board one but a 2651 performance. These two ladies were the only ones with 2600+ performances.

A little dance number at the closing ceremony

Final standings of the Women's World Team Championship (after nine rounds)

Rank
Team
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
MP
Pts.
1
Ukraine
*
3
2
3
3
2
4
16
24½
2
China
1
*
2
3
3
3
4
15
25½
3
Russia
2
2
*
2
3
4
13
24
4
Georgia
1
1
2
*
2
3
3
12
21½
5
India
1
2
*
2
3
2
9
18
6
USA
½
½
2
*
2
2
2
8
15½
7
Kazakhstan
1
1
1
2
*
2
3
6
15½
8
Romania
2
1
½
1
2
2
2
*
2
2
6
14½
9
France
0
½
½
½
2
2
*
4
12
10
Turkey
0
0
1
1
2
½
*
1
9

Report and photos provided by WGM Alina L'Ami


Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.


Topics Astana
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