WWch Rd2 tiebreaks: the hand of fate

by Albert Silver
3/23/2015 – After the second round of standard time control games had been played, the sixth day of the FIDE Women's World Championship ushered in another series of tiebreak games played at rapid and blitz time controls. This time ten players were left to settle the score. As if the nerve-wracking rapid and blitz games were not enough, Anna Ushenina missed her first game by a cruel twist of fate.

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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), as well as other leading grandmasters. Unfortunately, the reigning champion Hou Yifan was unable to come for personal reasons, but as the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix she will still be able to challenge the new champion to a match.

The first five rounds consist of mini-matches of two games played at 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game and a 30-second increment per move. The final match will consist of four games.

In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined by a series of tiebreak games: two rapid games of 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. If the score remains equal, the players then proceed to two more games played 10 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. If the score continues tied a final mini-match will be played of two blitz games of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds per move. Finally, an Armageddon game will be played to decided the winner in which White has five minutes and Black has four minutes, with a three-second increment per move after move 61. Black will be declared the winner if the game is drawn.

Round two - tiebreaks

The beautiful Grand Hotel Polyana where the competition is taking place
As a quick reminder, starting with an almost leisurely 25 minutes + 10 seconds per move in the first mini-match, the next, if necessary, is sped up to 10 minutes + 10 seconds and if that doesn't do it, then there are two blitz games: 5 minutes + 3 seconds per move. Finally, if the score is still tied up, an Armageddon game is used as a last resort means to decide the players' fates.

At the start of the round a certain panic spread around the room as former world champion Anna Ushenina failed to appear on time and lost the first game due to the zero-tolerance rule. 

Anna Ushenina explains with a wry smile the cruelty of fate

She had been seen at lunch a bit earlier and everything seemed fine, so what could have happened? A call to the hotel uncovered the trivial yet tragic incident that led to the forfeit of her first tiebreak game: her mobile phone had switched off, and after powering up had reset the clock back to the Ukrainian time zone, which is one hour behind Sochi. Ushenina didn't notice the difference and consequently missed the round's start.

Ushenina gets ready to battle

The Ukrainian showed up few minutes later and then patiently waited in the media room for her turn to play the second game. With white Ushenina soon achieved a significant advantage and won a pawn, but the French GM Marie Sebag Sebag defended stubbornlu and eventually earned a draw, qualifying for the next round.

Marie Sebag was not about to squander her golden opportunity and held

Another former world champion, Antoaneta Stefanova, also had no luck with white, and Inna Gaponenko easily held a draw, but she struck back in the next game as the Bulgarian pulled a powerful performance and showed the tremendous potential of the Berlin-like pawn structure. White's majority on the kingside counted for nothing and Black steamrolled the enemy's queenside, thus Stefanova made it to the third round.

Antoaneta Stefanova (left) showed how to use the Berlin to win

In her tiebreak match against Irina Krush, Harika Dronavalli started with a win. However, in the second game, she nearly botched it when she tried to exchange too many pieces with white, nervously hoping to simplify, but getting into trouble. The Indian was graced with a little bit of luck as Krush failed to find the way to increase her advantage and the game soon fizzled into a draw. 

Harika Dronavalli beat Irina Krush to go to the third round

“I made up my mind that today somehow I am going to win. I came with this idea”, Harika said after the match. She is set to play former world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk in the next round.

Mariya Muzychuk convincingly outplayed Monika Socko 2-0, but during the games Muzychuk
looked quite nervous. She later explained, "I was very afraid to miscalculate, to blunder
something. Also the fact that Monika had won an absolutely lost position in the first round
tiebreak also affected me."

The most closely contested was the match between Bela Khotenashvili (Georgia) and Huang Qian (China). After having drawn both their standard games, the players proceeded to draw their four next rapid games in the tiebreak, taking it to the blitz games.

Bela Khotenashvili broke the deadlock with a black victory in the first blitz game, but the
return game had everyone in the press room on the edge of their seats

The commentators Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Elisabeth Paehtz

It looked completely equal, with a symmetrical pawn structure, but Huang stepped up the pace and broke through on the queenside, winning a piece and reaching a completely won position. She had plenty of time on the clock, more than one minute compared to Khotenashvili’s meagre 20 seconds. Huang Qian was going to equalize and take the match to the Armageddon game. Suddenly, the Chinese player experienced some form of mental blackout...

Bela Khotenashvili vs Huang Qian

In this position, Black played the incredible ...Rxc3?? squandering a won game

After many adventures the game was finally drawn and Khotenashvili advanced to the third round where she will play Zhao Xue.

Report by Albert Silver and Eteri Kublashvili
Photos by Eteri Kublashvili, Anastasia Karlovich, and Vladimir Barsky

Round two results

Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Lei, Tingjie CHN 2444 0 0               0
Koneru, Humpy IND 2581 1 1               2
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Ju, Wenjun CHN 2557 ½ 0               0.5
Pogonina, Natalia RUS 2456 ½ 1               1.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Goryachkina, Aleksandra RUS 2456 ½ 0               0.5
Muzychuk, Anna UKR 2552 ½ 1               1.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Cmilyte, Vktorija LTU 2530 1 ½               1.5
Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina RUS 2438 0 ½               0.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Shen, Yang   CHN 2459 0 ½               0.5
Kosteniuk, Alexandra RUS 2529 1 ½               1.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Gunina, Valentina RUS 2528 1 1               2
Girya, Olga RUS 2459 0 0               0
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Melia, Salome GEO 2459 ½ 0               0.5
Zhao, Xue CHN 2527 ½ 1               1.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Muzychuk, Mariya UKR 2526 ½ ½ 1 1           3
Socko, Monika   POL 2463 ½ ½ 0 0           1
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Gaponenko, Inna UKR 2384 ½ ½ ½ 0           1.5
Stefanova, Antoaneta BUL 2552 ½ ½ ½ 1           2.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Khotenashvili, Bela GEO 2513 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½   4.5
Huang, Qian   CHN 2473 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½   3.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan SCO 2379 ½ 0               0.5
Cramling, Pia SWE 2495 ½ 1               1.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Harika, Dronavalli IND 2492 ½ ½ 1 ½           2.5
Krush, Irina USA 2477 ½ ½ 0 ½           1.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Arabidze, Meri GEO 2374 ½ 1               1.5
Marrero Lopez, Yaniet CUB 2322 ½ 0               0.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Tan, Zhongyi CHN 2487 ½ 0               0.5
Javakhishvili, Lela GEO 2481 ½ 1               1.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Sebag, Marie FRA 2482 ½ ½ 1 ½           2.5
Ushenina, Anna UKR 2486 ½ ½ 0 ½           1.5
Player Fed Rtg G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Galliamova, Alisa RUS 2484 1 ½               1.5
Kosintseva, Tatiana RUS 2483 0 ½               0.5


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


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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genem genem 3/23/2015 09:16
Quote from the above article:
Finally, an Armageddon game will be played to decided the winner in which White has five minutes and Black has four minutes, ...

I am curious, where did FIDE find the magic orb that told them 5min for White and 4min for Black was the exact fair time ratio? I would like to ask the magic orb some other questions.

For fairness the players must BID - for how little time they would be willing to live with for the privilege of playing as Black with the huge advantage of draw-odds. Lowest bid earns Black.
Wallace Howard Wallace Howard 3/23/2015 06:01
Did Ushenina not look at ANY clocks in the hotel, ever? Couldn't someone else "remind" her of the time? Did she not have a coach, or second, or a friend to ask.
I've never seen a tennis player show up late for their round at Wimbleton and complain about their phone.
This is for the world championship. Maybe check a clock or ask somebody next time.
And, yes, the Chinese names are frequently butchered.It's silly not to follow the result table.
ff2017 ff2017 3/23/2015 02:23
@Fabien Simonis : Just to second Fabien, Chinese names with two syllables, you gotta use either the last name, e.g. Huang, Zhao or the full name, e.g. Huang Qian, Zhao Xue when referring to them. If you have 3 syllables, then you can Last name, first name or full name., e.g. Hou or Yifan or Hou Yifan.
eltollo eltollo 3/23/2015 10:34
In the 2nd picture, Ushenina is wearing a big watch...
But I guess it's a picture from another event, considering the length of her hair.
Fabien Simonis Fabien Simonis 3/23/2015 10:30
Please get the names of the Chinese participants right! The article from March 21 referred to Lei Tingjie as "Tingjie", which is her personal name. ("Top-seed Koneru sweated to overcome Tingjie.") Today's report is now referring to Huang Qian as "Qian" (also her personal name), and proceeds to misspell her name as "Huang Qin". I wonder what our Chinese readers (and perhaps the players themselves) will think when they see their names consistently butchered. If in doubt, follow the result table, which is accurate.