Friday, June 8, 2012

Barden's Report on 2012 Women's World Rapid Chess Championship

A report on the recently-concluded Women's World Rapid Chess Championship

Series: Leonard Barden on Chess

Women's chess enjoying a surge in popularity, particularly in Georgia

Times are good for the world's best women chessplayers, who are mainly based in Russia, eastern Europe, China and India. Tournament prizes are rising, and more events are being launched. The all-time No1, Judit Polgar, and the 18-year-old world champion, Hou Yifan, are eagerly sought after by organisers and have thousands of fans. The 2010-11 women's Grand Prix ran much more smoothly than its male counterpart, in which some planned tournament venues did not take part.

Last week's World Rapid (one-hour games) and Blitz (10-minute games) championships in Batumi, Georgia, had a huge $100,000 prize fund. All the players stayed at the five-star Sheraton and the field, though lacking Polgar and Hou, attracted the cream of the female elite, a dozen of whom have ratings above the 2500 male grandmaster level.

That Georgia should host the eight-day event was no accident. The country's long tradition dates back centuries to when a chess set was part of a Georgian bride's dowry, and reached its zenith in 1962-1991 when, for three decades, only Georgian women held the world crown. Since then China and Russia have become the top nations, but Georgia remains in the top three.

The UK representative in Batumi, Keti Arakhamia-Grant, learnt her chess in Georgia, married a Scot, has won the Scottish title and has finished second in the British championship, both against men. She played to her rating in both the rapid and blitz but finished in midfield in both.

Antoaneta Stefanova won the World Rapid by half a point. The Bulgarian had luck when, in lost positions for her, two of her main rivals allowed mates in one and two, but she is a strong GM and a shrewd speed player, as below where her 11 Qg4!? (11 Qf3) offers the d4 pawn for attack. Black would be safe by 14...Nf6 but her 14...f5? created a weakness which White pounced on by 18 Bxe6+! and 20 Rd7! winning.

A Stefanova v N Khurtsidze
1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 e3 c5 4 Bd3 b6 5 0-0 Bb7 6 c4 Be7 7 Nc3 cxd4 8 exd4 d5 9 cxd5 Nxd5 10 Ne5 0-0 11 Qg4!? Nf6 12 Qh4 Ne4 13 Qh3 Qxd4 14 Bf4 f5? 15 Bc4 Rf6 16 Rad1 Qc5 17 Nxe4 Bxe4 18 Bxe6+! Rxe6 19 Qb3 Qc8 20 Rd7! Nxd7 21 Qxe6+ Kh8 22 Nf7+ Kg8 23 Nd6+ 1-0
3257 1...Qc1+ 2 Kh2 Qc7+ 3 Kh1 Bc6 traps White's queen.

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