World Championship report and my impressions :-)

It is always a little difficult to write about World Championships as a whole. Not because I hadn’t played in any (I have played in 8 of them already – 6 youth and 2 women ones!) but because it is a global, very serious and a knock out event.
First of all, unlike men world championship, we learned about the pairing of the 1st round just one month before the event. Which made the preparation not very easy, considering the fact that with my rating of 2454 I had to play an IM with 2409 – so a similar rating to mine. Then there appeared a question how to fly to Hatay, Turkey 🙂 It turned out though that there is a simple solution – first we had to fly to Istanbul and then to Hatay, so at least quite easy for us who lived in the nearby country. The problem was worse for many others though who missed their connecting flights due to severe weather conditions. My husband was laughing later that always when we have the World Championships there are some terrible cataclisms going on 🙂 Volcano, snow, etc.

The preparation went pretty well – we first saw what my opponent plays, what is her style (although at this level the player is pretty much universal), what she likes and dislikes and set up a strategy for this match of at least two games (if the score after classical two games is 1-1, the players have to play 2 rapid games (25 mins+10 sec), if still 1-1 then 2 Blitz games (5+10 – strange time control which resembles Rapid chess more than Blitz) and if still 1-1 then an Armageddon game (White has 5 mins and has to win, Black has 4 mins and 3 seconds are added after each move, after move 60).
Also, around that time (1 month before the event) we learned that the players are forced to stay in one of the two hotels provided by the organizers and that a double room in Hatay costs 180 euro per night + full board. On the other hand we weren’t too surprised as the situation was similar also in 2006 when I played in Women’s World Championship for the 1st time. Double room was necessary as we have decided that in order for the tournament to go as well as possible my husband will accompany me and help with whatever is necessary. A wise decision considering the fact that the player should only concentrate on his chess and not to think about any problems with food, sleep, flights that may occur.
So, the flights went without any problems and we have arrived to a pretty nice and new looking hotel which was right on the main road of the city 🙂 You could sometimes hear cars passing, but at least the room was fine! Since we had a kettle, I could always drink a warm cup of tea which turned out to be very useful when around the 10th of Dec the temperature went from +20C to +5C and it started raining incredibly!
Anyway, also the food was generally fine, although I have heard a few times that the food wasn’t enough for all and that portions are small. For us both it was just fine. A couple of days later the organizers provided us with a very nice buffet with lots of salads and a variety of second courses which was even better!
The opening ceremony was wonderful (in my opinion) – the choir was singing prayers of 6 different religions in different languages and many had very good voices! A very enjoyable performance! Then we were all invited to a small cocktail party.
So, the day of the 1st round – always quite pleasant yet nerve wracking – possibly just two games will decide the fate of the player – if he continues to fight and advance to the next round, or will go back home after only 2 days of playing. I didn’t need to prepare for the opponent on that day as I have prepare at home from before (it was actually even quite strange – not to prepare at the day of the game – the difference between an open tournament and such event!), so I decided to enjoy a nice book and an early lunch. Exactly 45 minutes before the start of the round all the players had to gather in front of the hotel and were taken by bus to a Mosaic Museum where the 1st game had to be played. The museum was quite a modern building of two floors with very nice and ancient mosaics and other objects of the past. It felt strange and at the same time very special to play there! An orchestra was playing as we were going from the bus into the museum which was also very unique, not only for us players but also for the people passing by.
I drew the first game vs IM Munguntuul of Mongolia (she lives in Russia for many years) in which I was better and even much better at some point but failed to make a full point out of it. This meant that if any of us loses the next she is eliminated 🙂 She chose to play the Taimanov Sicilian and I had played something I have never played before, to keep the element of surprise and to stop her preparation but it didn’t fully work. In the second game we played the Richter-Rauzer variation of the Sicilian (I was on the Black side) and she repeated (up to a certain degree) the game N.Kosintseva-Dembo (which I won) from the European Women’s Championship of 2010, so I was prepared quite well, but didn’t find anything better than to start repeating the moves around move 40+. So draw again.
This meant that we will play tie-breaks. I thought that exactly here I have more chances to win as my practice in rapid and blitz events show that my level is higher than my current Elo (A couple of years ago I have shared 1st place in rapid event in Serbia, where there were 30 GM, 20 IMs and many other strong players and my rating on ICC is around 2800). So again, a little preparation, to improve what was played, to perhaps play something a little bit new and forward! The Mongolian player played the first game very well – she was a pawn up, but I managed to neutralize the dangerous pawns and the game was drawn. And although I felt that she doesn’t play well in time pressure – I didn’t manage to use it in the first game. In the 2nd game though, I have created a very interesting and even slightly wild position (:-)) as I had sacrificed a pawn in order to create a very strong pawn center, and my King was open in the middle. I already thought that I will manage to create something when she started giving checks and I assumed she plays for a draw, but she wasn’t! She just didn’t find the best moves to get a clear advantage as she had only 2-3 minutes (for the whole game) on the clock. Then at some point, I started thinking and caught myself calculating a losing move! Quickly rearranged my thoughts and found the only normal move after which she suddenly erred incredibly – due to time pressure – and lost a piece and the match!
So, one goal was achieved. I entered the Top 32 in the World from 2010 to 2012 – this is when the next World Championship will be next. On the other hand my next opponent – T.Kosintseva, 4th female player in the world by rating, a GM with elo 2581 was a tough pairing. And also, she had the time to prepare against me while I was playing tie-break games! Thankfully, I have played her already in the European championship, we drew, so I remembered her repertoire a little. Therefore, after a few hours I knew what I am going to play and most likely what she will 🙂 But as it turned out, I was mistaken. She played something completely new and I think not only surprised myself but also herself as she kept on thinking starting from move 12 or so. Unfortunately, probably from tie-breaks which were played the previous day, but brain wasn’t operating very well and while having a very nice position after the opening I managed to spoil it in just 4-5 bad moves and get a lost one! And already when I thought about how many more moves I will last in that position, she not only didn’t find the easy win, but managed to make some mistakes in a row and create an unclear position! Then, in the endgame with R+N vs R+B I thought she should just keep the position and slowly improve it – I had a serious weakness in the face of an isolated pawn, she suddenly made a blunder, winning two pawns (so she was already 3 pawns up!), but then it turned out that her Knight Is not coming out and the game is lost. When GM Fontaine asked for my impressions after this game, I said that at first it was a disaster, but she made some mistakes after which it wasn’t so bad anymore and after her blunder she was already lost 🙂 All he could say, laughing together with my husband was “Honest!” Naturally! 🙂 What else to say 🙂
The day of the 2nd game. This day was tough as well, as on one side I should be thinking on playing solid and making a draw to win the match (many people, by the way, we asking me about my strategy), on the other hand if you play for a draw, you may actually lose, because you start playing too cautiously, possibly, passively, etc. So my strategy was not to burn any bridges if possible, but to play actively and to try to win again if I can! So a very active strategy! The game was also very interesting – I played a sharp system of the Sicilian being white, left my King in the middle, and so did she. Slightly after the opening, I made a serious mistake and got myself into a dangerous position, possibly even a worse one. She nicely sacrificed a pawn which I didn’t take as it would mean a bad Bishop and very weak dark squares teamed up with the King which was in the middle (not a very wise decision :-)) and a few moves later I sacrificed a pawn myself which she took and gave me counterplay. Then I sacrificed another pawn to activate my pieces and although many people thought I could take an exchange and have a better position, I didn’t like it at all as I had given two pawns already, so it would have been a worse position! And finally came mutual time pressure when we had some seconds to one minute on the clock with still quite some moves to be made. She made a very serious mistake (Qb6) after which I managed to win an exchange but then I didn’t find any way to play for a win and decided to wait and together with it improve my Rook. After giving a whole lot of checks she settled for a perpetual check which meant elimination for her.
This meant that I don’t need to play tie-breaks and can enjoy a rest day as well as some interviews for various websites and magazines and then prepare for the next match. My opponent was a very serious player from China – GM Zhao Xue whom I have seen as a leader of Chinese Olympic team on 2006 Olympiad in Turin. She had won a game against me there. It also meant that I have to try to get revenge for that game 🙂
Unfortunately, I didn’t choose a good line playing Black in the first game (an aggressive one, that is for sure, but not more than that :-)) and after eliminating my threats she had a winning position. In fact, she didn’t have to drag me to a long endgame and could have finished the game much earlier. So the strategy for the 2nd game was to try not to lose (0-2 loss wouldn’t be very nice :-)) and to try to win if possible. And it almost worked! The game turned out to be very eventful and complicated (Ruy Lopez), at first I had a slight advantage but she had a good center, then she had many weaknesses but active pieces and after the 40th move I didn’t find one very tough Rybka/Fritz plan (who would find?:-)) and one not too difficult plan (which would have given me some winning chances) and was even worse but managed to make a draw. Thus I lost the match 0.5-1.5 and was eliminated with the honor of being in Top 16 in the World! 🙂 Many thanks to all those who rooted and believed in me!

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