Hou Extends Lead in Women's World Championship
By IA Carol Jarecki   
November 21, 2011
International Arbiter Carol Jarecki reports from the scene of the Women’s World Championship in Albania, where she is the Deputy Chief Arbiter* in the match between Hou Yifan and Humpy Koneru.

The Tal Memorial is dominating chess headlines this week but taking Jen Shahade’s, “Play Like a Girl” into consideration, it’s not a bad move to watch the Women’s World Championship Match underway at the Tirana International Hotel in Tirana, Albania. 

Yesterday the inevitable happened.  When the players were deep in thought after move ten a spectator with a camera thought he could get a great shot by coming closer to the stage.  There’s a wall of 8x8 ft. plastic panels separating the playing stage from the audience and, of course, the dude crashed right into it, camera first.  Besides the alarming noise he almost knocked himself out.  Reporters and players alike have referred to the barrier as a “glass wall”.  Fortunately, it’s not glass.

The stage is well lit but the rest of the room is dark so the audience can’t be seen.  One advantage is that it would be useless to try to send any signals to the players (not that anyone has such an intention.)  

GM Hou Yifan, the Chinese defending champion, won the title last year at the age of 16, the youngest world champion ever.  Indian GM Humpy Koneru, 24, is the challenger by virtue of her win in the Grand Prix cycle. With a FIDE rating of 2600, Humpy is the second rated woman in the World, behind only GM Judit Polgar.

The chief sponsor and organizer of the match is Rezat Taci, owner and CEO of Taci Oil International.  He recently became president of the Albanian Chess Federation and is anxious to develop the sport in his country and promote the Albanian chess image internationally.  In cooperation with FIDE he is expected to work on developing school chess programs as well.  Taci, himself, was a national junior champion but gave up chess when the Communist travel restrictions prevented him from participating in international tournaments. He eventually went to Italy for university and returned to Albania nine years later when the political situation had changed.

Hou is a charming girl always with a friendly smile and warm personality, poised, informal in her jeans and sneakers and gracious.  She is accompanied by her mother, a photographer/film maker, her coach GM Ye and a couple of supporters.

Koneru is a bit more formal and reserved. Her father is with her as well as her coach, GM Chanda Sandipan. Both players and their entourages are mild mannered and undemanding making the organizers’ and arbiters’ lives less stressful.

I am writing this report as the 6th game is being played.  Unknown to anyone but the FIDE officials, arbiters and Chinese team, Hou Yifan was taken ill last night with severe stomach pain.  She was unable to walk by herself as she was escorted to a waiting car and taken to a nearby hospital about 10:30.  She spent several hours there undergoing examination and tests but the doctors’ opinion was the pain resulted from stress and, perhaps, unfamiliar food.  She was not allowed to postpone today’s game since the match regulations prevented any postponements.

Despite this setback she appeared at the board in her usual pleasant spirits.  She soon got behind on the clock, not seen in her previous play, and at one point was an hour behind Koneru—a dangerous situation at 40/90 +30 seconds.  It looked like she would never be able to make time control.  When the dust settled at move 38 she had 2:17 minutes to Humpy’s 57 seconds and mate was just a couple moves away. 


IA Carol Jarecki
An amazing game under very difficult personal conditions. The score in the ten-game match now stands at four points for Hou Yifan and two for Humpy Koneru.

Tomorrow is a rest day, which both players need badly.  The rest of us are going on an excursion to Durres on the Adriatic coast.  Perhaps we’ll have a chance for some time on the beach before the seventh game begins on November 23rd.

Stay posted on the Women’s World Championship on the official site.

*Correction- The chief arbiter of this event is Panagiotis NIkolopoulos and Carol Jarecki is the deputy chief arbiter.