Betul Cemre Yildiz
The first round of the Women’s World Championship, which is being held in Hatay, Turkey, ended Monday, and a few of the higher-ranked players are already on their way home.
The biggest upset was the victory of Betul Cemre Yildiz of Turkey over Pia Cramling of Sweden. Cramling was a semifinalist at the 2008 championship and is ranked No. 9 in the world among women. The manner in which she lost was also surprising as she simply used up all her time in the second game of her match before she could make her 40th move in a completely equal and uncomplicated position.
Other upset victims included Lilit Mkrtchian of Armenia, who lost tie-breaker games Monday to Zhang Xiaowen of China, Natalia Pogonina of Russia, who lost both regulation games to her countrywoman, Baira Kovanova, and Elina Danielian, the other entrant from Armenia, who was beaten by Tatiana Shadrina of Russia. Mkrtchian’s loss must have been particularly painful as she missed a couple of easy wins in the second tie-breaker game, which would have given her a chance to extend the match.
The championship is a knockout event, much like in tennis and with a similar seeding system. The main difference is that the matches are initially two games, so that each player gets a chance to have White, and matches that end in ties are decided by tie-breaker games. The field included 64 players, which has now been cut to 32.
Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia, the world champion, is the top seed, though she is not the highest-ranked player. The favorites, at least according to ranking, are Humpy Koneru of India, Hou Yifan of China, who lost the final to Kosteniuk in 2008, and Tatiana Kosintseva, one of two sisters who are each among the top five in the world. (Not sure why Nadezhda is not playing, but she is at the championship helping her sister prepare.)
The venue for the games on the first day was unusual: The Antakya Archaeological Museum, which is best known for its collection of Roman mosaics from ancient Antioch. Whether or not the chess players could appreciate the setting, it certainly made for some interesting photographs, which are posted on the championship Web site. (It does not appear that the tournament is still in the museum from the photographs from the second day or from the day for the tie-breaker games.)
Round 2 begins Tuesday, with the first regulation game.