Monday, March 17, 2008

Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament

Although this article is dated March 18th, it seems to be a bit dated, since the event has already begun! However, it contains lots of good information about the Ataturk International Women Masters as well as women's chess in Turkey. Enjoy! New women’s chess tournament seeks to get girls into the game The Turkish Chess Federation and İş Bank are organizing the first of what is hoped to be a tradition of major international women's events in İstanbul, aiming in the long run to become one of the most renowned tournaments in women's chess and also help promote women's chess in Turkey and raise more talented females to win medals in the Chess Olympiads. Some of the world's best chess players were in İstanbul to compete in the first Türkiye İş Bank Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament on Tuesday. Ten female players with ELO ratings -- the system of grading in chess -- above 2460 will be competing for 10 days in İstanbul. İş Bank, one of Turkey's oldest banks, and the Turkish Chess Federation believe that the tournament will become one of the world's most esteemed in no time. Two players in the tournament are Grand Masters (GM), three have Women Grand Master (WGM) titles, one holds a WGM and an International Master (IM), three hold the title of International Master and one holds Women's International Master (WIM). Some of the world's best female chess players, including GM Pia Cramling of Sweden and GM Zhu Chen of China, are competing in the tournament. İş Bank has been sponsoring the Turkish Chess Federation's activities since 2005 and is now very proud to be hosting this particular tournament, said Suat Sözen, İş Bank's public relations manager, in a speech made to the press on opening day. "The tournament title bears Atatürk's name, and it is important for us. We think of it as an important opportunity to remember one more time the value he gave him to women," he said. But is it not humiliating for women to have these separate chess championships? "I think there is absolutely no difference between men and women in chess," says Cramling, who was also the first woman ever to qualify for the ("Men's") World Championship cycle. "However, the problem is there are so few women chess players. Only 5 percent of the world's [registered] players are women," told Cramling who regularly plays on the Swedish ("Men's") team in the World Chess Olympiads, told Today's Zaman. She started playing chess at the age of 10 after she saw her brother play and says these women-only tournaments bring together female players, who are grossly outnumbered by their male counterparts, giving them the opportunity to meet each other and also making for good practice, giving women twice as many changes to play in tournaments. Cramling said that for now, there are benefits to these women's tournaments. However when there are more women chess players, such tournaments will no longer be necessary, she said. Cramling ties the recent success of Chinese women in chess to the increasing popularity of the sport to Xie Jun, a Chinese GM who became the Women's World Chess Champion in 1991 and repeated the achievement in 1996, making her only the second woman to hold this title twice. Her success worked wonders in popularizing chess in China. Ten players from eight countries are competing in the tournament being held on the 41st floor of İş Towers in İstanbul. The players in the tournament are Sweden's (GM) Cramling, China's (GM) Zhu Chen, (WGM) Xue Zhao, (WGM) Hou Yifan, Georgia's (WGM-IM) Lela Javakhisvili, Ukraine's (IM) Anna Ushenina and (IM) Irina Krush, India's (WGM) Harika Dronovalli and Turkey's (IM) Ekatarina Atalık, who holds the 2006 Europe Championship title and (WIM) Betül Cemre Yıldız, who placed third at the 2007 World Youth Chess Championship. On Tuesday, the players played the first round after drawing lots. The games can be viewed online on the Chess Federation's Web site at www.tsf.org.tr. The federation certainly hopes that the İş Bank Atatürk tournament will work to popularize chess in Turkey. Federation head Ali Nihat Yazıcı said at a press conference on the tournament's opening day that Turkey, with 137,000 licensed chess players, was doing increasingly well in the younger age categories. "One-third of the licensed players are girls and women, something that is very pleasing," he said. Turkey's women chess players Women have been doing increasingly well in international tournaments in the past few years. In fact, Turkey's two best chess masters are currently two young women. These stars are WIM Betül Cemre Yıldız and WFM (Women's FIDE Master, FIDE is the World Chess Federation) Kübra Öztürk. Betül is now 18 years old and has been playing chess since she was eight. She has three elder brothers, all of whom play chess, and together they run a chess center in İzmir. Betül is studying both law and management at two different universities, thanks to chess scholarships. Once a prodigy in Turkey, she won the Turkish title in her age group just one year after she started playing chess. Betül won five Turkish Women's championship titles in a row, between 2001 and 2006. Kübra, who is only 16, has already become one of the sports celebrities of Turkey. She won two consecutive European titles in the Under 16 section, which attracted great attention in the media. She started playing chess at the age of seven. She says that it was a very instructive experience to go abroad for the first time in 1999 for the World Youth Championship in Under 10. Kübra's story makes her very popular in Turkey. Born and raised in an Ankara shantytown, Kübra is now a rising star of the chess world and has already won scholarships to US universities due to her success in the game.

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