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Women's World Championship in Istanbul?

3/25/2008 – The Atatürk International Women Masters was a great success, enjoyed by all involved. At the closing ceremony, where the players were given a tour of the sponsoring bank, there was an important meeting between the Turkish Sports Minister and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Result: the faltering Women's World Championship will most likely be held in Istanbul. Big illustrated report.
 

İş Bankası - Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament

The tournament, announced in December last year, took place from March 10th to March 21, 2008. The venue was the İş Bankası Towers Complex, which has a total area of 225,000 square meters. It is the largest of its kind on the European continent.

Istanbul, historically known as Byzantium, later Constantinople, is Europe's most populous city and the 4th largest in the world. It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and extends across both Europe and Asia, making it the only city in the world that is located on two different continents.

[We have been informed, by Ugur Yuvarlak of Istanbul, that Istanbul is not the only city in the world that has a place in two countries. Actually Turkey has two such cities, the other being "Çanakkkale" (pronounced Chah-nak-kah-leh) where the heroic battle of Çanakkale took place in 1915, in which united armies of France and United Kingdom couldn't break through the Turkish defences on both the sea and the land. After this battle the United Nations wasn't able to transfer aid to the allied Zar of Russia. Thus the Russian revolution was effectively influenced by this battle, and later the liberation war of Turkey was greatly inspired by the battle that took place here. Also the famous Troy Legend took place in this province.]

Istanbul served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). Today it is the cultural and financial center of Turkey, whose political capital is the city of Ankara.


The city of Istanbul in a twilight panorama across the Bosporus Strait

The above picture, by Tunc Tezel, can be viewed in high resolution if you click it. If you look carefully you will see a slender crescent Moon above the Topkapi Palace walls. The palace was built in the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, the 15th century conquerer of the city that was then Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. The well-lit domed building immediately to the left of the palace is Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), a famous example of Byzantine architecture, now a museum. Still farther to the left is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.


The Istanbul skyline during the day (click image to enlarge and scroll in Firefox)

The Closing Ceremony

On the last day of the İş Bankası - Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament the players were taken to the İş Bankası Museum for the closing ceremony and for a special tour of the bank museum.


At the closing ceremony: Minister of Sports Murat Başesgioğlu chats with Turkish Chess Federation President Ali Nihat Yazici and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of the World Chess Federation FIDE. A very important decision was taken during this conversation (more about it later)


The FIDE President speaks to the players and thanks the organisers for this beautiful event


Sports Minister Murat Başesgioğlu does likewise and tells the audience that 1.5 million pupils are being taught chess in Turkish schools. The Minister confirmed that his government will support the staging of the Women's World Chess Championship later this year.

Background: The Women's World Chess Championship was scheduled to be held in Argentina from June 18 to July 11 this year. It is a knock-out event with 64 participants. Unfortunately the Argentinian bid has been retracted, after FIDE extended the deadline a number of times. Now it was too late to find a new sponsor – until the Turkish Chess Federation stepped in and made an informal bid. However the time constraints were most severe and nobody was sure that the estimated $500,000 staging costs could be found at such short notice. Ali Nihat Yazici and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov discussed the matter with Minister Başesgioğlu, who spontaneously offered the full support of his government. The TCF and İş Bankası can now spring into action. We estimate (based on past exprience) that they will pull it off. Ladies, prepare for a stay in Istanbul – here are some useful phrases to start you off: Merhaba (Hello), Günaydin (Good day), Hosgeldiniz (Welcome), Nasilsiniz (How are you), Tesekkür ederim (Thank you).


The winner of the tournament, Hou Yifan of China, receives her trophy from the Minister


Second placed Pia Cramling receives her prize from the FIDE President


A group photo for the press and for the bank archives

In the picture you see (left to right): Bank Director Ersin Özince, Zhao Xue, Zhu Chen, Ali Nihat Yazici, Hou Yifan, Lela Javakhishvili, Harika Dronavalli, Betül Cemre Yildiz, Ekaterina Atalik, Murat Başesgioğlu and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.


Just the girls: Xue, Chen, Anna, Betül, Lela, Harika and Yifan

Note that in the above caption we are using first names. The Chinese players have a family name and a first name: Zhu Chen is referred to formally as "Zhu Chen", but called "Chen" by her friends. Zhao Xue asked us to call her Xue. Harika, as mentioned in a previous report, is just Harika, like Cher.


Yifan, the cute little one who won the tournament


Anna Ushenina, Fatma Yildiz (in charge of live broadcast) and Zhao Xue

The Bank Museum

The closing ceremony took place in the building of the main sponsor, İş Bankası. The bank has a museum that documents its connection to the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Actually İş Bankası was founded in order to create credits for entrepreneurs and accumulate capital for the economic development of the infant Turkish Republic in 1924.


The players getting a tour of the bank: Zhu Chen, Harika, Anna Ushenina, Zhao Xue, Lela Javakhishvili, Pia Cramling and the bank museum guide


Chess ladies: IM Harika Dronavalli from India and IM Anna Ushenina from Ukraine


Model of the first central building of İş Bankası, built in Ankara in 1925


Celâl Bayar, the first General Director of the bank, who went on to become Prime Minister and then the third President (1950-1960) of the Turkish Republic


The obligatory bust of Atatürk, the best respected personality in Turkey

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938) was an army officer, revolutionary statesman, and founder of the Republic of Turkey as well as its first President. He initiated a major programme of political, economic and cultural reforms, turning the ruins of the Ottoman Empire into a modern, democratic, secular, nation-state. The principles of Atatürk's reforms are often referred to as Kemalism and continue to form the political foundation of the modern Turkish state.


Tunnel vision: one of the chess players poses in a passage with special light effects


Recognise her? It's GM Zhu Chen, former women's world champion 2001-2004

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