Istanbul GP: Four players lead after three rounds

by ChessBase
3/10/2009 – The opening ceremony of the Is Bank Atatürk FIDE Women Masters in Turkey featured reigning Women's World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk and Turkish media mogul Ahmet Çalik as special guests. After three rounds there are four players in the lead, with 2.5/3 points each. Top seeds Humpy and Hou Yifan, followed by Zhao Xue and IM Martha Fierro from Ecuador. Big pictorial report.

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İş Bankası - Women Grand Prix Series in Istanbul

Pictorial report by Özgür Akman

The first event of the FIDE 2009/2010 Grand Prix cycle is being held in Istanbul: It is called the Is Bank Atatürk FIDE Women Masters, and is actually the second edition of a women’s super tournament in Turkey. It is taking placed from the 6th to 20th of March in Istanbul, at Cybele Art Gallery in Is Bank Tower.

Kosteniuk in Istanbul

Women’s world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk came to the Turkey for the first time in her life. She was not in Istanbul in order to play in the event, but to attend the FIDE Presidential Board meeting which was held on 5-8 March at Grand Cevahir Hotel in Istanbul, where the players stay this year. Alexandra Kosteniuk received a warm welcome upon her arrival to Istanbul Atatürk Airport and was one of the centers of attention.

Waiting for the World Champion: young Turkish fans at the airport

There she is, Alexandra Kosteniuk, and is greeted with flowers

Posing with the youngsters – this is Alexandra's first visit in Turkey

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony of the Is Bank Atatürk FIDE Women Grand Prix was held on March 6 at the 41st floor of the Is Bank Tower, which was the playing hall in last year’s Atatürk International Women Masters. However, this year it is the Cybele Art Gallery Hall which is at the entrance floor of the Is Bank Towers.

The drawing of lots: Hou Yifan picks the white bishop and with it the start number four

Maia Chiburdanidze picks a pawn and gets the start number nine

The surprise honorary guest of the opening ceremony was Ahmet Çalik, owner of the Çalik Conglomerate and Turkuvaz Media Group, the second largest media group in Turkey. It owns the popular newspaper Sabah and the ATV channel. Among Çalik’s opponents is none other than the well-known media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov with media mogul Ahmet Çalik and TCF President Ali Nihat Yazici

The Presidents and the players pose together for a press shot

Round 1

Although the draw offers by players are forbidden, there is no real need to apply this rule for women, since they are always eager to fight. There were some crucial games in the first round, including the one between Hou Yifan and Maia Chiburdanidze – a 15-year-old Chinese prodigy against the living legend of women’s chess, who has been on top of all women’s rankings since her early teenage years. Hou Yifan had difficult moments against her experienced opponent, but in the end was able to hold.

The great Maia Chiburdanidze with her trademark hat

The youngest player with her trademark hair clips: Hou Yifan

Humpy Koneru, the top seed, won an important game with the black pieces against Pia Cramling in a compicated Ragozin.

Indian GM Humpy before the start of her first game in Istanbul

Martha Fierro started with a win against Zeinab Mamedyarova, the eldest member of the Mamedyarova clan, but not without difficulties, since Mamedyarova had the better chances for some time. Zhao Xue won a quick game, exploiting the knight moves of her opponent Shen Yang in the opening, which seemed to be losing too much time, as both players explained in the press conference after the game.

A nice first-round victory for late-comer Martha Fierro

Zeinab Mamedyarova, the sister of world-class GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Elina Danielian sacrificed an exchange against Marie Sebag for consolidation of the queenside pawns, which paid off after the trade of the queens.

Sheer determination: IM Elina Danielian from Armenia

Last but not least: in the game between Betül Cemre Yildiz and Antoaneta Stefanova, the Turkish girl played very accurately in a complicated opening and got the upper hand. She was an exchange up close to winning at some point. But inaccurate play and time trouble led to Yildiz actually losing the game. Stefanova emphasized it was a difficult first round encounter and that Betül had improved a lot since their first game in Calvia in 2004.

Türkish WIM Betül Cemre Yildiz came close to defeating former Women's World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova

Round 2

The second round had some quiet draws, including the ones between Shen Yang and Marie Sebag and between Maia Chiburdanidze and Zhao Xue. Hou Yifan beat Zeinab Mamedyarova, but the latter could almost be winning at some point, as both players agreed in the press conference.

Sister and brother analysing: Zeinab Mamedyarova and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Stefanova made an interesting sacrifice, opening the whole kingside of her opponent Martha Fierro. But after the time trouble, during which the Bulgarian grandmaster could not find the correct moves, Fierro had a strong counterplay.

Veteran Pia Cramling, who bounced back in round two and beat Yildiz

Not doing so well: former women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanova

The thriller of the round was the harsh punishment inflicted by Pia Cramling when Betül Yildiz mishandles the opening. Humpy Koneru scored her second victory in succession, this time against Elina Danielian in the English Opening.

Round 3

Humpy Koneru lost her sole lead after drawing against the host country's Betül Cemre Yildiz. The Indian star had a four vs three pawns on one side, with a rooks and one knight on the board. But Betül held on and a rook + knight vs.rook position appeared on the board. The Turkish girl defended with her sole rook, and although she missed some stalemate opportunities, in the end her six-hour long resistence was paid off with a draw.

Hou Yifan vs ex-world champion Antoaneta Stefanova. The Chinese girl won in 78 moves

Hou Yifan scored her second win in a row in a queen endgame against ex-world champion Antoaneta Stefanova. Zhao Xue refuted a Zeinab Mamedyarov sacrifice and also joined Humpy and her younger compatriot to share the lead with 2.5 points.

Chinese GM Zhao Xue

Martha Fierro, the late entry, upset the experienced Pia Cramling who does not seem to be showing her usual level, one that chess fans have been witnessing for decades.

Top female French player Marie Sebag

Maia Chiburdanidze and Marie Sebag drew their game, as did Elina Danielian and Shen Yang, who both missed good opportunities to win against each other.

Current standings


Thursday March 05: 18:00h Arrival
Friday March 06: 14:00 Opening
Saturday March 07: 15:00h Round 1
Sunday March 08: 15:00h Round 2
Monday March 09: 15:00h Round 3
Tuesday March 10: 15:00h Round 4
Wednesday March 11 Rest day
Thursday March 12: 15:00h Round 5
Friday March 13: 15:00h Round 6
Saturday March 14: 15:00h Round 7
Sunday March 15: 15:00h Round 8
Monday March 16 Rest day
Tuesday March 17: 15:00h Round 9
Wednesday March 18: 15:00h Round 10
Thursday March 19: 15:00h Round 11
Friday March 20 Departure
March 2009
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