Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011 FIDE Women’s Chess Grand Prix

By Chess Coach William Stewart Women's Chess Special Done Exclusively for Pogonina.com

Players of the 2011 Women's Grand Prix - Image Courtesy of ChessBase.com

This 12 player round robin tournament featured many of the strongest female players in the world, boasting an average FIDE rating of 2527. The Women's Grand Prix in Rostov was absolutely dominated by 17 year old Chinese phenom GM Hou Yifan (Yifan Hou), who finished in 1st place with 8/11 points and a 2697 performance rating. Hou's perfect 4-0 start enabled her to coast to the finish, although Ukraine's Kateryna Lahno attempted to come back with late victories over Yifan Hou and Stefanova Antoaneta in rounds 9 and 10. Former world champ Alexandra Kosteniuk must have been disappointed with a tough tournament, finishing at 3/11 with 0 wins, 6 draws, and 5 losses to end with a performance rating of 2354.

Hou Yifan is the new female "Magnus Carlsen"

Hou Yifan has been absolutely unstoppable in 2011

After the 4th round of the tournament Hou Yifan had a performance rating well over 3,000. Since she is only 17 year's old I truly believe we have not seen this young ladys full growth as a chess player. Watching her games and how she dominates the female chess scene truly leads me to believe this young prodigy may have the best chance of taking Judit Polgar's spot becoming the #1 chess player in the world. (We'll still have to see as her rating has hovered around 2550-2590 for nearly 2 years now). Ratings aside, Hou Yifan must be proud of her domination (and the 15,000 euros she's taking home must bring a smile as well) Despite being such a young talent even her rivals must have trouble disliking this young prodigy due to her excellent sportsmanship. This can be exemplified her beautiful statement from the grand prix's official website:

"I like the organization of the tournament. It was comfortable for me to stay here and I really enjoyed playing in this strong event. Of course I’ll be very glad if I have a chance to come back here again and participate in more tournaments. Sometimes it’s normal to lose one game during the tournament… So I just decided to continue playing normally last two rounds and I’m glad everything finished well."

Watch the Video where Kosteniuk plays against Hou Yifan





Game Description:
She plays fearlessly with the black pieces and her results have been an accurate reflection of this aggression. Opening with the Ragozin Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Hou was able to quickly achieve a dynamic position with tremendous pressure immediately. Kosteniuk was unable to find an active plan and was forced into a passive defense as Hou quickly seized space on both sides of the board with 9. ...g5 and later with 16. … b5. With an open H-file and excellent coordination, Hou was able to precisely finish the attack - forcing Kosteniuk’s resignation after 35. ...Qxe2+.

Kateryna Lahno scores 2nd - Deliver's Hou Yifan only Loss

Kateryna Lahno was the only player to give Hou Yifan a loss showing and scored and scored an impressive 2nd place down by only a a full point. Lahno is also a talented young prodigy, only 21 years old and in the top 10 in the world. She still holds the record as the youngest female to ever gain the WGM title (12 years 4 months) and still holds the title of being Ukraine's highest rated female chess player. She came back with quite a streak at the end of the tournament. However her slow played tie-game with GM Humpy Koneru shows that she has yet to fully dominate the field in the way that Hou Yifan has dominated.

Watch the Chess Video where Lahno deliver's Hou Yifan's only Loss!







Game Description:
Ukrainian GM Kateryna Lahno played a great tournament, eventually finishing in clear 2nd place with 7/11 to Yifan Hou's unstoppable performance with 8/11. This round 9 match-up made things interesting as Lahno gave the Chinese phenom her only loss of the tournament to try to catch up late. Hou's opening led her to a difficult position as she was unable to achieve the dynamic compensation necessary for her inferior pawn structure. It's tough to say exactly where black went wrong, although the forced complications after 17. ...h4!? certainly did not work out well. Maybe a better plan for black would have been to double the rooks on the e-file, however white would be able to force through with e4 and achieve a dangerous space advantage and attack. Instead of the greedy 21. h3?! to hold on to the extra pawn, Lahno chose the aggressive 21. e4! and achieved a decisive kingside attack due to black's lack of coordination. A great game and tournament by GM Lahno, although she was unable to catch up to Hou at the end.

Kosteniuk finishes in last - has a tough tournament ...

Kosteniuk being a good sport and keeping a smile through it all (image courtesy of ChessBase.com)

First of all we're big fans of Kosteniuk. Her chess videos and "marketing" of chess as a cool sport has led the way for other people such as myself to use the internet to spread the word and love of chess to newcomers. That being said, it's been a very, very tough year for Kosteniuk against many of the newcomers and her rating has undoubtedly suffered. Unfortunately this tournament was no exception. Hou Yifan, the current women's world champion, continues to dominate Kosteniuk (the former women's world champion) over and over again. That being said I think all sports players sometimes go through tough times and her domination of not only female, but male chess players as well shows that she may be out of her "rut" quite soon.

Original article on the 2011 FIDE Women's Chess Championship with matching interactive PGN's can be found on William's site.

By Chess Coach Will Stewart (USCF 2256, FIDE 2234). Follow William on Facebook and Twitter