Women’s World Championship ready to rumble

After uncertainty and concerns on the fate of the event last year, the FIDE Women’s World Championship was announced and organized in a flurry, and is held in Sochi, Russia. All the brightest stars will be playing with the exception of Hou Yifan, who reserves the right to challenge the winner as a result of her Grand Prix victory. Complete info, pairings, and pictures. Albert Silver reports

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 minutes 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.

Opening Ceremony

Andrey Filatov thanked the organizers of the championship, primarily Vladimir Dvorkovich, the Head of the Organizing Committee, whose efforts secured wonderful conditions for the players

Mr. Filatov also mentioned an innovative idea of the organizers: “This year the chess fans will also become visitors of a virtual art gallery. An exhibition of Russian art  dedicated to the 70th anniversary of winning in the Second World War is provided by the ART RUSSE fund, which supports and promotes Russian art of the XX century. Practically all authors fought in the war or were born during it”.

Alexandra Kosteniuk commented, “This is my 7th World Championship. I managed to win in 2008. Naturally I wish to regain the title, but one should be careful predicting the outcome of a knock-out tournament. I will live from one game to another, trying to show the best chess I can”.

Humpy Koneru, who recently wed, said, “This is my first visit to Sochi. I very much liked the playing hall, and I am looking forward to the first game. I am not completely satisfied with my play in the latest FIDE Grand Prix, and will try to do my best in Sochi”.

The press-conference was followed by the opening ceremony of the championship, which
took place in the Hunter Hall of the Grand Hotel Polyana. Igor Levitin, advisor of the Russian President, read Vladimir Putin’s greetings to participants and guests of the championship.

After the protocols and speeches had been made the entertainment started

There were several musical performances

Broadcast and art

An online video broadcast of the match in English and Russian is available on the match website and on the RCF website. Chess fans who follow the tournament will at the same time be visiting a virtual art gallery. An exhibition dedicated to the Second World War as reflected in the works of Russian artists has been timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of victory over Germany. Pictures and sculptures created in various styles and genres have been provided by the Art Russe foundation, which undertakes educational projects to support and promote twentieth-century Russian art. The virtual exhibition has been organised as part of the cooperation agreement signed last week between the foundation and the Russian Chess Federation.

Each of the works that will be displayed in the virtual exhibition conveys the artists’ experience of the tragic and heroic events of the Great Patriotic War. Practically all the artists served at the front or were war children.

For example, Freedom!, painted in 1962, reflects the personal experience
of Evsey Moiseenko, a master of the Leningrad school of painting who
volunteered to serve at the front, but was captured and then survived
three-and-a-half years in concentration camps.

Ivan Penteshin, who painted The Defence of Leningrad, miraculously survived the siege of Leningrad

The diptych “The Deserter”

… and “The Laundress”

plus “The Reunion” by Gely Korzhev portray the war as a personal event in an individual’s
life; a national tragedy is seen through the prism of a personal drama.

Visitors will see miniature copies by the sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich of his monuments The Motherland Calls and Soldier with Little Girl.

The bronze “The Motherland Calls” is a copy of the monument erected on
Mamayev Kurgan in memory of the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the bloodiest
battles in the Second World War, which marked the first global defeat of the
Nazis and the first step towards the long-awaited victory.

“Soldier with Little Girl” is a model of the central feature in the monument
to the heroes of the Soviet Army which is located in the Treptow Park
memorial complex in Berlin.

The originals of the works to be featured in the video broadcast are on display in London in the “Exploring the legacy of World War II in Russian Art” exhibition. The opening of this exhibition on 12 March 2016 at the Saatchi Gallery was a significant event in the cultural life of the British capital. The ceremony was honoured by the attendance of heroes of the Second World War – British veterans of the Arctic convoys.

Alexander Yakovenko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who opened the exhibition, noted that it was very significant that these pictures would be displayed in the broadcast of the FIDE Women’s World Championship.

The exhibition had 3,779 visitors in its first three days.

Full pairings bracket

Photos by Eteri Kublashvili


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