FIDE Women’s World Chess Championship starts on Monday

11/13/2011 – The two opponents – Hou Yifan of China and Koneru Humpy of India – represent over a third of humanity. They are playing their match in a country of three million people, one that not too many people have had an opportunity to visit. We undertook the trip to Tirana in Albania and, together with all the details of the upcoming match, bring you pictorial impressions of the venue.

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The FIDE Women’s World Chess Championship Match between the current World Champion Hou Yifan of China and her challenger, Koneru Humpy of India, is scheduled to start on Sunday in the Triana International Hotel. The drawing of colours will be conducted during the opening ceremony, and the colours reversed after game four (the player getting the white colour in game one plays game five with the black pieces). The time control is: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

The winner of the ten-game match is the first player to reach 5.5 points or more. If the scores are level after the regular ten games, after a new drawing of colours, four tie-break games will be played, with 25 minutes for each player and an increment of ten seconds after each move. In these games the players do not need to record the moves – the arbiters will do that instead (the player on the move may stop the clocks and consult the arbiter’s score sheet and to find out if her next move will produce a threefold repetition or invoke the 50-move rule).

If the scores are level after the four rapid games, then, after a new drawing of colours, a match of two games will be played with a time control of five minutes plus three seconds' increment after each move. In case of a level score, another two-game match will be played to determine a winner. If there is still no winner after five such matches (i.e. after ten games), one sudden-death game will be played. This involves a drawing of lots, the winner being able to choose the colour. The player with the white pieces receives five minutes, the player with the black pieces four minutes, with an increment of three seconds per move from move 61 on. In case of a draw, the player with the black pieces is declared the winner.

The prize fund for this match is 200,000 Euros and will be split between the players as follows: 60% for the winner and 40% to the loser if the match ends within the 10 regular games. In case the winner is decided by tie-break games, she will receive 55% and loser 45%.

Schedule

Sunday 13 November 2011    Opening ceremony
Monday 14 November 2011 Game one
Tuesday 15 November 2011 Game two
Wednesday    16 November 2011 Rest day
Thursday 17 November 2011 Game three
Friday 18 November 2011 Game four
Saturday 19 November 2011 Rest day
Sunday 20 November 2011 Game five
Monday 21 November 2011 Game six
Tuesday 22 November 2011 Rest day
Wednesday 23 November 2011 Game seven
Thursday 24 November 2011 Game eight
Friday 25 November 2011 Rest day
Saturday 26 November 2011 Game nine
Sunday 27 November 2011 Rest day
Monday 27 November 2011 Game ten
Tuesday 27 November 2011 Rest day
Wednesday 27 November 2011 Tie-break, closing   

The games all start at 15:00h local time, which is also Central European Time = 17:00 Moscow, 19:30 New Delhi, 22:00h Beijing and 09:00 New York. You can find the starting time for other locations here. Note that if there is a winner before all ten games are played the organizer can re-schedule the closing ceremony for an earlier date.


Albania – first impressions

Photo report by Frederic Friedel


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Albania is located between Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Italy, in the heart of the Mediterranean, surrounded by both the Adriatic and Ionian seas. The country has many wonderful beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes and endless woods. Albania, a member of the UN and NATO, is an important entrance to the Balkans and to Eastern Europe. Apart from Kosovo, it is the only Muslim-majority sovereign country wholly within Europe, although the population is largely secular. Albania is a parliamentary democracy with a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to approximately 600,000 of the country's 3,000,000 people. It is hosting a world championship between two players who represent a total of 2,500,000,000 people.

Going from Hamburg to Tirana involves flying with Austrian Airlines via Vienna, with a total flight time of a little over three hours. The airline is remarkable in that they give you, for sustenance in coach class on each leg of the journey, one fresh apple. At least they have your health in mind.


Approaching Tirana we see that it is surrounded by rocky mountains, which are popular
with tourists for skiing and climbing. The highest peak is Mount Korab at 2,864m.

At the airport I was met by Toni, who drove me into town and gave me a great briefing on Albania and Tirana. We all know that the "People's Republic of Albania" was a fairly grim communist country between 1946 and the late eighties – "not communist," Toni said, "a brutal dictatorship" – and you can still feel the people reeling from it.

When I was invited to the World Championship in Tirana I facetiously asked the organisers if I could get a tent close to the well (so that it would be easier to fetch water in the morning). Tony drove me to the Tirana International Hotel, which is located at the middle of the city. It was built during the years of Albania’s isolation and it was characterized by an imposing architecture of the Socialist style. Until few years ago, it was the highest building in the country.

In 2011 the hotel underwent a full reconstruction, which transformed it into a four-star hotel of international standards, but at the same time it did not change the pomposity of the great space that characterized it.

The receptionist Elda was very competent, helpful, friendly, and cute – AND she said the magic words that make a man's heart jump for joy: "Internet? Yes, of course, wireless in every room. With a separate router on each floor. Cost? No, it's free, of course." And indeed, setting up a fast Internet connection in my room took all of 90 seconds. Let's call it a 4½-star hotel.

This is the view from my hotel window – Skanderbeg Square, which is the main plaza of Tirana. Since 2010 it has been under reconstruction, with the aim of modernizing and Europeanizing the square, making it into an area only for pedestrians and public transport.

Everywhere you see workers pouring cement, gravel, tar and topsoil to re-sculpture the square. Traffic and pedestrians are blocked or have to make detours, but the final result promises to be quite spectacular.

Albanians are smart and cultivated, that is our first impression. But they do not understand wet cement. Or the workers do not know how to set up clear barriers. Either way we saw a lot of the above around the hotel.

On Skanderbeg Square we also find the Et'hem Bey Mosque. Its construction began in 1789 and it was concluded in 1821. The Clock Tower on the left was built in 1822 and, at 35 metres (115 ft) it was the tallest building in Tirana at the time. We are going to have to climb the 90 steps to the top to have a different view of the plaza.

The National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, founded in 1953, is the largest theatre in the country. It is a repertory theatre, which also regularly offers premières of operas by Albanian composers. It is visible in daylight in the hotel window view above.

The National Historical Museum was opened in 1981 and, at 27,000 square metres, it is the country's largest. It was designed by the Albanian architect, Enver Faja, and has a gigantic mosaic over the main entrance entitled "The Albanians". It is a five-minute walk from the hotel and definitely a place we need to visit.

One thing we have learnt: the Albanians love popcorn and pizza. There are stalls all around the square with vendors producing them in real time. In fact the entire plaza smells of pizza, popcorn, tar and fresh cement. Interesting, and not unpleasant once you become used to it.

The equestrian statue of George Castriot Skanderbeg, the national hero of Albania, after whom the central square was named. This 15th-century Albanian lord defended the country against the Ottoman Empire for more than two decades. He is Albania's most important national hero and a core figure of the Albanian National Awakening.

So these are initial impressions on visiting Tirana for the first time. In the hotel we have run into both Hou Yifan with mother and Koneru Humpy with father, all in good spirits. On Sunday there will be a press conference at five p.m. and the opening ceremony at seven, all officiated by the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. And then on Monday the first game – which we will of course be broadcasting live on Playchess.


Links

The games will be 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 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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