2010 Women's World Championship – Yifan takes early lead

by ChessBase
12/21/2010 – This year's final is an all-Chinese affair, though that is all they have in common. Hou Yifan is the brilliant 16-year-old prodigy seeking to break a world record, while Lufei Ruan is the tireless fighter who survived five nerve-wracking tiebreaks. We asked Jeff Sonas, the statistician, the odds on making it through even as favorite, and have also received annotations by GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

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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 finals

After nearly three weeks of grueling competition, we are finally down to the last two players to decide who will be crowned the Women’s World Champion. If you have followed the reports until now, you already know they are Hou Yifan and Lufei Ruan, both from mainland China. That said, one should not overlook the sharp contrast in the competitors.

Hou Yifan

Hou Yifan is certainly one of the world’s greatest prodigies, sporting a 2591 Elo and at a very precocious 16 years of age, she is vying for the world title for the second consecutive time. A world record is on the line too, the record of “youngest world champion ever” that is held by.... No, her name is not Gary. The title is held by the phenomenal Maia Chiburdanidze, who was not only world champion at the age of 17, a title she held for 13 years, but is also the only player in history to hold NINE Olympic gold medals, the last in 2008 by the way, playing board one in every one. So a little history could also be in the making. For all the talent she is endowed with, young Yifan cannot be above feeling a bit of the pressure of the moment, though she already dispatched her most dangerous opponent in the semi finals... Or did she?

Lufei Ruan

It would be a mistake to discard Lufei Ruan’s chances despite the obvious Elo handicap. Rated 2480, she is not the obvious finalist even among the alternate Chinese competitors, and was not even in the lineup for the Olympic team. Furthermore, she singularly survived tiebreaks in every one of her matches, suggesting she was unable to overcome her opponents at classical time controls. However, there is a flip side to this perspective, and that is the unquenchable competitive fire that fuels her, allowing her to hold her nerve so consistently when she needed it the most. This woman has fighting spirit in spades. Even if she should be unable to win the title, her journey here will have revealed her combativeness and composure to her country and there is little question we will see her more often anchoring its teams.

Speaking of the difficulty of getting to the finals, we sent Jeff Sonas, statistician extraordinaire, and owner of the Chessmetrics site, the following question:

"A player with a 100 Elo advantage is expected to score 63.7 points per 100. Therefore there is a probability for the player to lose a two-game match. The chance of losing that two-game match increases the more such matches are played, so the question is: what is the chance of said stronger player to fail to win five consecutive matches?"

Reply from Jeff Sonas:

This is not a trivial question to answer, because it depends on how aggressive/conservative the players are.  Knowing the expected score is not enough; you also need to know whether the points are made up of wins or draws.  For instance, let’s say you are expected to score 63.7% on average.  This could be accomplished through 63.7% wins, 0% draws, and 36.3% losses.  Or it could be accomplished through 27.4% wins, 72.6% draws, and 0% losses.  It is easy to see that if you never lose, then the only way you can lose a match is to have all draws followed by a draw in the Armageddon game when you have to win.  The chance of eight straight draws when you have a 72.6% chance is only about 8%, so let’s just say that you have an 8% chance of getting to the Armageddon game and then a 50-50 chance of advancing, so overall a 96% chance to win the match.  However, if you never draw, having 63.7% wins and 36.3% losses, then math tells you that you have about a 75% chance to win the match.  Note that this is a pretty simplistic calculation that doesn’t take color advantage into consideration.  It also assumes players have the same strength at different time controls.

So with a 100-point Elo advantage, you have somewhere between a 75% chance and a 96% chance to win one match, and raising either of those to the 5th power, you get the 75% player (the super-aggressive one) having only a 24% chance to win five straight matches, but the 96% player (the super-conservative one) having an 82% chance to win five straight matches.

Thus the short answer is that it depends a huge amount on how conservative the player is, as well as their skill at different time controls, but that player has between a 24% and 82% chance to win five straight matches.  And of course the player doesn’t have an exact 100-point advantage each time around; you really just need to calculate it, which is what I used to do when I wrote prediction articles for ChessBase for all the FIDE world championship knockouts.

-- Jeff

For the games of the world championship, we have enlisted the help of GM Elshan Moradiabadi who will provide his entertaining and insightful commentary.

The traditional first move played by someone else. A tradition that will never reach
golf, for example.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Game one

Yifan,Hou (2591) - Ruan,Lufei (2480) [B12]
2010 Wch Women Antakya (1), 20.12.2010 [Elshan Moradiabadi]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3!?

A bold decision by Hou, who is seeking the title of "youngest world champion ever". Let us not forget that this line became fashionable with the help of Mr. "unpredictable genius" Ivanchuk!

Hou Yifan in game one

3...dxe4. The more fighting choice is 3...Qb6 4.a3N (4.a4 e6 5.c3 c5 6.exd5 exd5 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.Qe2+ Be7 9.dxc5 Qxc5 0-1 Nepomniachtchi,I (2695)-Ivanchuk,V (2741)/Havana 2010/CB24_2010 (54) with reasonable position for black) 4...e5 5.exd5 Nf6 6.dxe5 Bc5 7.exf6 Bf2+ 8.Ke2 0-0 9.Qd2 Re8+ 10.Kd1 Re1+ 11.Qxe1 Bxe1 12.Kxe1 Bf5 13.Be2 Nd7 14.dxc6 bxc6 15.Bd1 Re8+ 16.Ne2 Nxf6 17.Nbc3 Bc8 18.a4 a5 19.Rf1 Ba6 20.Rf2 h5 21.Ra3 h4 22.g3 h3 23.g4 Rd8 24.Nf4 Nd7 25.Rb3 Qd4 26.Nfe2 Re8 27.Ne4 Qxa4 28.Bd2 Qa1 29.Bc3 Ne5 30.Ra3 Qb1 31.Nd2 Qc1 32.Rxa5 Ng6 33.Rxa6 Nf4 34.Ra8 1-0 Ivanchuk,V (2754)-Jobava,B (2710)/Khanty Mansiysk 2010/CB39_2010

4.fxe4 e5 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Bc4 Nd7 7.c3

According to two surveys in CBMs 133 and 134 this move should enable white to get a promising position, however I personally do not believe that this assessment is fully correct. 7...b5. This is considered the main line. The prophylactic Bh5, which is played by Konstantin Landa, would be the next choice in this line. 8.Bd3 Ngf6 9.0-0 Bd6 10.Bg5 0-0 11.Nbd2 h6 12.Bh4 Qc7. White has a fine edge due to black's weakened queenside. 13.Qc2 Nh5 14.h3 Be6 15.Rae1 Nf4 16.Bg3 Nxd3 17.Qxd3 Rad8 18.Bf2 a6 19.Nh4?! Understandable but premature. The Chinese prodigy had to accede to the solid b3 or Qc2. 19...Nb6. 19...exd4!? 20.cxd4 Rfe8 and black's bishop pair has a wider scope and white has to accept the retreat of knight to f3. 20.b3 Rfe8 21.Qf3 b4 22.Rc1 bxc3 23.Qxc3 exd4 24.Bxd4 c5? A serious mistake which could cost the underdog the whole point. 24...f6 25.Nf5 (25.Qxc6? Bh2+ 26.Kh1 Qxc6 27.Rxc6 Rxd4 28.Kxh2 Rxd2 29.Rxb6 Rxa2 with a better ending for Black.) 25...Bxf5 26.Rxf5 Re6 is an unbalanced position with equal chances for both sides. 25.Bxg7 Bf4 26.Nhf3 Rxd2 27.Nxd2 Bxd2 28.Qxd2 Kxg7 29.Qc3+ Kh7 30.Qxc5 Qxc5+ 31.Rxc5

White's advantage is clear now. 31...Ra8 32.Ra5?! This is the first of a number of inaccuracies by Hou Yifan which let the win slip out of her hands. 32.Rc6! Nc8 (32...Nd7 33.Rxe6 fxe6 34.Rf7+ and White wins.) 33.Rd1 Ne7 34.Rc7 Ng6 35.Rd6 There is no forced line but it is clear that White dominates and sooner or later the a6 pawn falls. 32...Nc8 33.Rc1 Nd6 34.e5?! It is obvious that Hou does not want to give counterplay to her opponent, nevertheless she should have played Ra4 in order to keep Black's minor pieces restricted. 34...Nf5 35.Kf2 h5 36.Rc2 Nd4 37.Rd2 Nc6 38.Rc5 Ne7 39.b4 Kg6 40.a3 Kf5 41.Ke3?! White's advantage evaporates with this, however I do not see a clear way to improve. 41...Rg8 42.Ra5 Rg3+ 43.Kf2 Rb3 44.Rxa6 Nd5. White may have three pawns but in compensation Black has four strong active pieces! Do not forget to include the king! 45.Ra5 Ne3 46.Rc5 Nc4 47.Rc2 Nxa3 48.R2c3 Rb2+ 49.Kg3 Nb1 50.Rf3+ Kg5 51.h4+ Kg6 52.Rc7 Kg7 53.Rf6 Kg8 54.Rf4 Rb3+ 55.Kh2 Rb2 56.Rc5 Na3 57.Rc3 Nb5 58.Rg3+ Kf8 59.Rg5 Nc7 60.Rxh5 Nd5 61.Re4 Kg7 62.Rg5+ Kh7 63.Rc4 Rb3 64.Rg3 Rb2 65.Rg5 Rb3 66.Rd4 Nxb4 67.Rg3 Rb2 68.Rc3 Nd5 69.Rcd3 Ne7 70.Rd2 Rb5 71.Re2 Ng6 72.Rde4 Bf5 73.e6 Bxe6 and the draw is sealed after a breath-taking fight between the two ladies! 1/2-1/2. [Click to Replay]

Game two

The favorite of this final proved the importance of surprise in such important moments in this game. By her choice of opening, she was able to confound her opponent and though the position was equal, Ruan Lufei failed to stay on track.

Ruan,Lufei (2480) - Hou,Yifan (2591) [B83]
2010 Wch Women (2), 21.12.2010 [Elshan Moradiabadi]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be2 Be7 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Be3 0-0 9.f4 e5!?

An odd choice. This move became fashionable thanks to the 9th world champion Boris Spassky. 10.Nxc6. 10.Nb3 a5 11.a4 Nb4 12.Bf3 Be6 13.Kh1 Qc7 14.Rf2 Rfd8 15.Rd2 Bc4 0-1 Karpov,A (2700)-Spassky,B (2650)/Leningrad 1974/Candidates (63) With a very rich game that requires class and understanding from both sides. 10...bxc6 11.Kh1 exf4 12.Bxf4 Be6 13.Bf3 Qb8. The safest choice. Qb6 is rather risky in face of Qe1 and Nd5 as shown by Kamsky. 13...Qb6 14.b3 Rfd8 15.Qe1 Nd7 16.Nd5 cxd5 17.exd5 Bg4 18.Qxe7 Bxf3 19.Rxf3 Nf6 20.Be3 Qa5 21.Rxf6 gxf6 22.Qxf6 Re8 23.Qg5+ Kf8 24.Bd2 1-0 Kamsky,G (2671)-Svidler,P (2743)/Sofia 2006/CBM 113 14.b3 Qb4 15.Qe1N 15.Qd2 Rfd8 16.Rad1 Rac8 17.Qe3 d5 18.Be5 Qa5 19.exd5 Nxd5 20.Nxd5 cxd5 21.Bh5 d4 22.Qe4 g6 23.Bf3 Bf5 24.Qf4 Bg5 25.Qxg5 Qxe5 26.Bg4 h6 27.Rxf5 Qg7 28.Qe7 gxf5 29.Bxf5 Re8 30.Qd6 Rcd8 31.Qa6 Qg5 32.Bd3 Re7 33.Rf1 Kg7 34.g3 Qd5+ 35.Kg1 Rd6 36.Qc8 Qe6 37.Qb8 Rb6 38.Qd8 Rd6 39.Qb8 Rd5 40.Rf4 Rg5 41.Rf3 Qe5 42.Qd8 h5 43.Rf2 Re6 44.Qd7 Rf6 45.Re2 Qf4 46.Re4 Qf2+ 47.Kh1 h4 0-1 Svidler,P (2727)-Movsesian,S (2732)/Nanjing 2008/CBM 128 15...a5 16.Rd1 Rfe8 17.e5 dxe5 18.Bxe5 Rac8 19.Qg3 g6 20.Na4?!

What should one call this? Decentralization? Eccentricity? I can't seem to find a suitable word to describe it.

Unfortunately for her new flock of admirers, Lufei Ruan was not at her best in game two

20.Bd4 c5 (20...Rcd8? 21.a3! Qxa3 22.Bxc6 with advantage for White.) 21.Bxf6 (Or keeping the tension by 21.Be5!? Red8 22.Bxf6 Bxf6 23.Nd5 Bxd5 24.Bxd5

The one who attacks with the opposite-colored bishop is a piece up. Botvinnik, I presume?!) 21...Bxf6 22.Nd5 Qh4 23.Nxf6+ Qxf6 24.Bd5 Qe7 could make things difficult for Hou. 20...Nd5 21.Bxd5 cxd5 22.Bc3 Qg4 23.Qxg4 Bxg4 24.Rxd5 Bb4 25.Bxb4 axb4 26.Rd2 [26.h3] 26...Bf5 27.Kg1?! The second inaccuracy which makes the day more difficult for the Chinese fighter! 27...Rxc2 28.Rxc2 Bxc2 29.Kf2 Bd3. White should be able to hold by winning the b-pawn in exchange for her queenside pawns, leaving a primitive 3-2 on the kingside, however...one step at a time! 30.Re1 Rc8 31.Ke3 Bb5 32.Rd1? A decisive error which Yifan does not forgive! 32.Rb1! Ra8 (32...Rc2 33.Rb2) 33.Rb2 Bxa4 34.bxa4 Rxa4 35.Kd3= 32...Re8+! This simple check makes it a gloomy day for Ruan Lufei! 33.Kf4 Re2 34.g4 Bxa4 35.bxa4 Rxa2 36.Rd4 Rxa4 37.h4 The rest is the matter of technique. 37...Kf8 38.Re4 f6 39.Rc4 Ke7 40.Rd4 Ke6 41.Ke4 Ke7 42.Kf4 h6 43.h5 gxh5 44.gxh5 Kf7 45.Re4 Kf8 46.Kg4 f5+! Finally! By returning a pawn Hou puts her rook behind her passed pawn. Dr. Mueller might like the idea! Though I believe she could also do it by getting her king to e6. 47.Kxf5 Ra5+ 48.Kg6 Ra6+ 49.Kh7 Rb6 50.Rf4+ Ke7 51.Rf1 b3 52.Kg7 b2 53.Rb1 Ke6 54.Kxh6 Kf5+ 55.Kg7 Kg5 56.Kf7. 56.h6 Rb7+ 57.Kf8 Kxh6 58.Ke8 Kg5 59.Kd8 Kf4 60.Kc8 Rb3 would not have changed the result. 56...Kxh5 57.Ke7 Kg4 58.Kd7 Kf3. A precious win for the Chinese prodigy! 0-1. [Click to Replay]

Pictures by Turkish Federation

Europe Echecs is providing daily video reports

Final results

Ruan, Lufei
Hou, Yifan

About the annotator

Born in Tehran, Iran in 1985, Elshan Moradiabadi learned chess at the age of seven from his father. He became one of Iranian chess’s "New wave" players, which included many talents, some of whom are GMs and teammates. In 2001 he won the Iran Championship with a score of 10.0/11 and a 2712 performance. After entering the Sharif University of Technology, Iran’s top engineering school, to study Chemical Engineering, despite being only rated 2350 at the time, he became an IM and GM within 18 months. This leap included a run of three GM norms in three tournaments in a row in 27 days in 2005.

His interests include books,movies, old songs and music, and stand-up comedy, and his favorite thinkers are Erich Fromm, Sigmund Freud, Alain Badiou, Avram Noam Chomsky and Richard Dawkins.


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