WWch Rd1 tiebreaks: Watch the clock!

by Albert Silver
3/20/2015 – It was a tense day for the players and thrilling for the spectators as 22 players fought for their lives in the tournament. Heart-wrenching for Argentina who saw two heroic players fall under the tiebreak sword, while Germany's Elizabeth Paetz also failed to make the cut. In the Armageddon, both Goryachkina and Kosintseva won their games on time. Report, pictures and more!

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Tournament conditions

The Women's World Chess Championship takes place from March 17 – April 7 in Sochi, Russia . The knock-out tournament is attended by 64 players, including the former World Champions Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia), Anna Ushenina (Ukraine), and Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria), the three-time Russian champion Valentina Gunina, the World Vice-Champion Humpy Koneru (India), and other leading grandmasters. Unfortunately, the reigning champion Hou Yifan was unable to come due to personal reasons, but she will still have an opportunity to challenge the new champion in a match, as the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix.

The first five rounds consist of mini-matches of two games with 90 moves per 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game with bonus 30 seconds per each move. The final match consists of four games.

If the match score is tied, its winner is determined on tiebreak: two rapid games of 25 minutes + 10 seconds per move. If the score remains equal, the players proceed to another two games with a slightly faster time control – 10 minutes + 10 seconds per move. If these games do not determine the winner as well, then there are two blitz games: 5 minutes + 3 seconds per move. Finally, if the score is still even, there is an Armageddon game: White has five minutes, Black has four minutes, and a three-second increment per move after the move 61.

Round one - tiebreaks

The tie-breaks of the Women's World Chess Championship were played in SCC Galactica (Sochi, Krasnaya Polyana) on March 19. 11 pairs of players who tied their first round matches 1-1 came today to find out who advances to the next round.

The tiebreaks were thrilling and tense

The day started with two-game matches played at 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. Two of them ended with perfect 2-0 scores – Zhao Xue (China) defeated M. Zuriel (Argentina), and S. Melia (Georgia) defeated I. Sukandar (Indonesia).

When one terrible mistake changes the tide

A true chess tragedy occurred in Daulyte (Lithuania) – Socko (Poland). The Lithuanian player won the first game and achieved a huge advantage in the second one. In mutual time trouble Daulyte had a mate in one on the board to advance to the next round, however, she hung her queen instead and resigned immediately.

Daulyte - Socko

All White needed to play was 57.b6 mate! Instead she played 57.Qa5+??

This devastating blow swung the momentum completely, and Socko dominated in the following mini match, winning it 2-0.

Ju, Wenjun - Wafa, Shrook

Tactics abound in rapid and blitz. Ju Wenjun dispatched her opponent with
this shot. White to play and win.

Lujan, Carolina - Galliamova, Alisa

Though Argentina sadly lost their two qualifiers in the tiebreaks, they did
not leave without drawing blood of their own. White to play and win.

Marisa Zuriel fought valiantly to take her much higher-rated opponent to the tiebreak, but
succumbed in the end.

Galliamova, Alisa - Lujan, Carolina

It was the former Russian Champion's turn to strike, and strike she did.
White to play and win.

The two closest matches extended to blitz games: A. Goryachkina (Russia) – L. Mkrtchian (Armenia) and M. A. Gomes (India) – T. Kosintseva (Russia), but even these could not separate the players thus in both matches the spectators witnessed the ultimate game – an Armageddon. In this final breaker of ties White gets five minutes, while Black only gets four but a draw counts as a win for Black.

Goryachkina and Gomes won the drawing of lots and both picked White. Goryachkina obtained an advantage in the opening, piled up the pressure and won convincingly. Kosintseva got a very good position as Black, but then either blundered or unsuccessfully sacrificed a piece, not getting much compensation for the lost material. However, the Russian kept fighting, and eventually won on time in a hopeless position.

The last handshake of the last game. with ten seconds left on her clock, Tatiana Kosintseva
flagged her opponent in a dead lost position

Interview with Alexandra Goryachkina

After the final games of the day, press officer Anastasia Karlovich interviewed young Alexandra Goryachkina, playing her first Women World Championship.

Anastasia Karlovich: Please welcome Alexandra Goryachkina, the Russian player who just won the match with Lilit Mkrtchian. Alexandra, this is you first World Championship, what are your impressions?

Alexandra Goryachkina: Yes, this is my first Women's World Championship. I am very impressed of course. My goal was to win at least one match, and I achieved it. Perhaps I will keep moving forward.

The full interview conducted in its original Russian
AK - This was quite a hard match, you even had to play an Armageddon. What was the most difficult part?

AG - We were equal in classical games. Maybe I had some chances in the first game, but definitely not in the second one. As the time control was getting shorter, my confidence grew. However, I just could not hold as Black at all, no matter how well I played in the opening.

Losing the first blitz game was a heavy blow for me. I have a big problem with making comebacks – basically, I simply cannot come back after losing a game. However, here I somehow managed to equalize the score, with the opponent's help, of course. At some point I was a pawn down and resigned myself to losing the match, however, I got lucky again. Another lucky moment occurred during the drawing of lots in the Armageddon. My opponent had to choose the color, and she took Black. I had Black once in such situation, and it is very unpleasant, I tell you. White rules!

AK - The game itself went very easy for you – you never had a worse position. What did you feel during the game?

AG - I never had a worse position for sure, but the main factor was a very poor time management by my opponent. By the move 20 she already had almost no time left, while I had over three minutes. I even thought it didn't matter what moves I made, since I would simply flag her no matter what.

On the video feed, one could see the incomprehensible unfold. In an Armageddon game
with no increment before the 61st move, Black simply let her time run out.

AK - Who is your next opponent? Have you met her before?

AG - Anna Muzychuk. We played only once and it was a rapid game a very long time ago. Strangely, I won.

Solutions to positions:

[Event "WCh Women 2015"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2015.03.18"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Ju, Wenjun"] [Black "Wafa, Shrook"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E09"] [WhiteElo "2557"] [BlackElo "2058"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2bRnrk1/1rq2pp1/2N1p3/1pQ4p/8/6PP/PP3PB1/3R2K1 w - - 0 26"] [PlyCount "3"] [EventDate "2015.03.17"] 26. Rxc8 $1 Qxc8 27. Ne7+ 1-0 [Event "WCh Women 2015"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2015.03.19"] [Round "1.3"] [White "Lujan, Carolina"] [Black "Galliamova, Alisa"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B44"] [WhiteElo "2349"] [BlackElo "2484"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/r5k1/3pB2p/4p1bP/4P3/5QPK/pqP2P2/R7 w - - 0 54"] [PlyCount "18"] [EventDate "2015.03.17"] 54. Rxa2 $1 Qb7 (54... Rxa2 55. Qf7+ Kh8 56. Qg8#) 55. Rxa7 Qxa7 56. Qf5 Qb8 57. Qg6+ Kh8 58. Qf7 Qd8 59. c4 Bf6 60. f4 exf4 61. gxf4 Bg7 62. Bf5 Qb8 1-0 [Event "WCh Women 2015"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2015.03.19"] [Round "1.3"] [White "Galliamova, Alisa"] [Black "Lujan, Carolina"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A46"] [WhiteElo "2484"] [BlackElo "2349"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4k2r/p3qp1p/4p3/5pNQ/Pp4r1/1Pb3P1/2P2P1P/3R1RK1 w k - 0 24"] [PlyCount "11"] [EventDate "2015.03.17"] 24. Nxf7 $1 Qxf7 25. Rd8+ $1 Ke7 26. Rd7+ $1 {winning the queen.} Kxd7 27. Qxf7+ Kd6 28. Qxa7 Rd4 29. a5 {The pawn means Black will not be able to muster any defense or counterplay.} 1-0

Round one tiebreaks

Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Zhao, Xue 2527 1 1           2
Zuriel, Marisa 2219 0 0           0
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Yuan, Yuanling 2257 0 ½           0.5
Muzychuk, Marya 2526 1 ½           1.5
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Lujan, Carolina 2349 1 0 0 ½       1.5
Galliamova, Alisa 2484 0 1 1 ½       2.5
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Gomes, Mary Ann 2354 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 3
Kosintseva, Tatiana 2483 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 4
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Guramishvili, S 2367 ½ ½ 1 ½       2.5
Javakhisvili, L 2481 ½ ½ 0 ½       1.5
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Paehtz, Elisabeth 2479 ½ ½ 0 0       1
Arabidze, Meri 2374 ½ ½ 1 1       3
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Huang, Qian 2473 ½ 1           1.5
Kovanova, Baira 2381 ½ 0           0.5
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Socko, Monika 2463 0 1 1 1       3
Daulyte, Deimante 2395 1 0 0 0       1
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Melia, Salome 2459 1 1           2
Sukander, Inne Kharisma 2415 0 0           0
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Shen Yang 2459 ½ 1           1.5
Kashlisnskaya, Alina 2436 ½ 0           0.5
Player Rtg G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Goryachkina, Aleksandra 2456 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 4
Mkrtchian, Lilit 2443 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 3


Round 1 - 64 players
March 17 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 18 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 19 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 2 - 32 players
March 20 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 21 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 22 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 3 - 16 players
March 23 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 24 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 25 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 4 - 8 players
March 26 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 27 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 28 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Round 5 - 4 players
March 29 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
March 30 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
March 31 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
Rest day - April, 1
Round 6 - 2 players
April 2 Game 1 3:00 p.m. local time
April 3 Game 2 3:00 p.m. local time
April 4 Game 3 3:00 p.m. local time
April 5 Game 4 3:00 p.m. local time
April 6 Tie breaks 3:00 p.m. local time
April 7 Closing Ceremony*  
*Closing Ceremony can be shifted to
April 6 in the absence of tie breaks

Report by Albert Silver and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos by Eteri Kublashvili and Vladimir Barsky


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 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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Wastrel Wastrel 3/21/2015 09:12
I agree that the armageddon games are ridiculous. We usually only see armageddon games after several (many) rounds of classical, then some rapid, then some blitz, and the armageddon is a tie-breaker of last resort. To have armageddon after just 2 games and a tie-break cheapens the result.

On the other hand, this is not really for the Women's World Championship; it's to decide who will lose the Women's World Championship in a match with Hou Yifan.
BeachBum2 BeachBum2 3/21/2015 01:52
As with almost everything (IMHO) - busyness first. Please correct me if I'm wrong - but currently chess is surviving due to managing to find some sponsors... And as I see more and more events in Russia, and with current "Russians-placed" FIDE president - this seem to be a bit of a political thing (Russian government trying to show that at least in some areas Russia is "the world's big power"). From what I read - it was not easy to find sponsors for some events, some budgets were small, and in some cases (India? Norway?) governments (directly or indirectly) had to sponsor the events due to their people playing (and it would be embarrassment otherwise).

I think government's financial involvement is wrong. I would not watch, say, 10 km run or spear throwing... they are not fun and I don't care. I do not want my taxes to sponsor that, while we have kids cancer hospital running out of money... So while I personally like chess - I think it should be treaded same way as other "niche" sports - no money from government.

I think chess can earn money. But it needs to be exciting, it needs to have loved public heroes and drama. I think chess rules should be changed too (some randomized initial piece placement)? I often skip first ~12 moves watching many tournament games - "when will they get to some action and stop boring theory"? In a sport I play most (beach volleyball) they significantly changed rules several years ago - some older players did not like it, but I think it made sport more attractive to the audience and more friendly to TV broadcast (part of the change was to change scoring system to make game's overall time more predictable - better for TV).

I totally understand that serious players think differently, and I'm totally fine for those maybe few thousand players in the world who want serious chess to keep playing 6 hour games... But I only watch Daniel King's/etc 15 min review of them - the rest would be too boring for most "normal people" only somewhat interested in chess... I do not see how those slow games with first almost 15 moves being some deep theory can be popularized into more mainstream, "money making" sport. I have enough thinking at my job every day to waste my brain on that...
Jacob woge Jacob woge 3/20/2015 11:52
To the surprise of nobody, I happen to belong to the handful of people who enjoy six-hour games. Preferably in real time. I might even know the other four.

Chess is first and foremost a game. The more thinking is done during the game, the bigger the chance we will see something interesting. For a World Championship in particular, the games should be worth playing through.

Efforts are put into confining chess to being just sport. The consequence is: The result is everything. The game is nothing.
BeachBum2 BeachBum2 3/20/2015 08:49
Chess is a sport. As in any sport, the most important thing is to be profitable. For this, we need enough excitement, enough drama, enough promoted and world-recognizable "heroes" and yes, even enough attractive, sporty, sexy looking people to represent it.

Only a handful of people will understand subtleties of some 6 hour long game, while armageddon and "GM missed mate in one" can attract youtube links etc.

So IMHO whatever make sport fun, interesting to broader audience is great. For those interested in deep theoretically battles and "real chess" - you can always play computers and there are tournaments with different rules.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 3/20/2015 07:21
What is important in chess is not as much the result, as the game. How were the moves? This is why anybody cares about and remembers positions from games more than a century old. Not because of who won.

With blitz and armageddon finishes, this is down the drain. Those games can be forgotten right after clocks are stopped. It is just not very interesting to follow, when the sporting aspect takes over completely.
iniyan iniyan 3/20/2015 10:35
Good fight by Mary Gomes against a higher rated player. Though she lost the battle,amazed with here fighting spirit.
Karbuncle Karbuncle 3/20/2015 10:06
With regard to the clock, remember that it's your own fault if you can't play with the same speed and accuracy as your opponent. Goryachkina EARNED the option to be able to play any moves at the end because she played better than her opponent. I'd also like to point out that there have been COUNTLESS classical games that were equal until time trouble ensued trying to make it to the 40th move, where the game was decided right then and there in a mad scramble.

The clock is part of chess skill and strategy. We should by now all have learned to live with that.
oputu oputu 3/20/2015 09:17
@ Wallace. In soccer (if you follow that sort of thing), several crucial games and even a world cup have been decided by penalties. In a 100m sprint race Bolt (if you know him), has been disqualified for a false start when we all knew he would have won even if he started last. Kindly explain those. Their answers are closely related to armageddon in chess.
shihongk shihongk 3/20/2015 08:49
Respectfully, I disagree. In soccer, there are also penalty shootouts, which is no indication of the quality of the game as well. Furthermore, just because it is a 10 minute game, it does not mean there won't be any time scramble. Typically, players would still end up exhausting their time, leading to the above-mentioned scenario anyway. Managing time is just as big a part of chess as it is the quality of thinking. Someone who is able to be competitive at blitz and classical game is akin to a triathlete who can compete in multiple events. They may not necessarily be the best marathoner, or the best cyclist, or the best swimmer, but they are just all-rounded. No harm in that.
Wallace Howard Wallace Howard 3/20/2015 06:37
Just a quick follow-up to make my point. Goryachkina said:
"I even thought it didn't matter what moves I made, since I would simply flag her no matter what."

Exactly. If it doesn't matter what moves you make, then it's probably not good chess. It SHOULD matter what moves you make in a World Championship.
Wallace Howard Wallace Howard 3/20/2015 06:29
These armageddon games are ridiculous. The last 5-10 seconds have almost nothing to do with chess. I remember the US Women's championship being decided by such a debacle, and everyone saying how stupid that was. But this is for the WORLD championship. Don't we want to see decent chess instead of mad scrambles were players make illegal moves and knock over the pieces? It only takes 20 minutes to play a game where both players get 10 minutes, which at least allows for sensible play. You can play 6 games in two hours. Is that really such a long time? In an eight hour day, that's 24 games. Make a rule that if anyone goes up +2, they win the match. It could all be over in 40 minute, or more likely a few hours. Worst case scenario: armageddon in game 25. But at least you'd get 24 decent games of chess first and not a bunch of random moves and people shuffling pieces closest to the clock. Why do we no longer have time for candidate matches? No even eight hours mini-matches?