On February 10, Fide Woman’s World Championship kicks off in Tehran, Iran. Until March 3rd, 64 players will compete for the title to replace current Champion Hou Yifan who will not participate. Go to official website.
Public controversy on Iran hosting the event
A lot has been written about the tournament beforehand. Fide’s decision to award Iran as host created a controversial debate due to the restrictions imposed on women in the country such as the obligation to wear hijabs. Learn more about it in our interview with Iranian top talent Dorsa Derakhshani.
In the end five players withdrew from particiation for different reasons. While Nazi Paikidze (US) and former World Champion Mariya Muzychuk (Ukraine) rejected to play for the above-mentioned restrictions, Irina Krush added a lack of safety. Current World Champion Hou Yifan‘s rejection is based on her opposition to Fide’s knockout system while it is still unclear why world no. 3 Humpy Koneru isn’t playing. Sadly, Romanian qualified legend Cristina-Adela Foisor recently passed away.
Who is the favorite?
Nominal favorite will be Chinese Ju Wenjun who just had an excellent performance at the Tradewise Gibraltar winning the prestigious women’s prize. Consequently, she crossed the 2600 elo barrier in the live ratings as one of the first women in chess history.
Another big favorite is no. 2 seed Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk. I recently watched her games in a rapid tournament held in Munich and honestly was deeply impressed by her play.
A player you should always have on your list is former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia). She is not only 3rd seed in the tournament but proved in the past that she has nerves of steel which naturally plays a big role in such a tournament mode.
However, with the knockout system it is likely we will not wait long for big surprises.
Do we have any preference?
Yes, we do! Our co-author Irene Kharisma Sukandar will participate in the tournament! In round 1, she will face Zhu Chen (Qatar). Just as a side note: I lost to both of them in the Qatar Masters 2015 so there is no indication who is better 🙂
In fact, Zhu Chen used to be World Champion from 2001 to 2004 with a peak rating of 2548! After she married Qatari grandmaster Al-Modiakhi and later became mother chess naturally has got less attention in her life. In any case, she is still quite strong as I painfully had to experience myself.
I’m rather sceptical that Irene will find time to post anything during the event. You can expect some insights from her at some point, though.