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Hou and Kosteniuk to Meet in Final Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
September 12, 2008
GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, Photo couretsy chessdom.com
GM-elect Hou Yifan of China and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia will meet in the World Women's Championship final, set for Nalchik, September 14-17. Alexandra Kosteniuk coasted into the final with a semifinal 1.5-0.5 victory over GM Pia Cramling. Hou Yifan's battle against tournament favorite GM Humpy Koneru was much tougher. After the young Chinese star won game 1, Humpy rebounded in this game to tie the match 1-1. If Hou had not blundered with Nxa5 she could have sidestepped the tiebreaks.


The tiebreak 25-minute round was like a repeat of the regular games. Hou won her first game easily and seemed to be doing fine in the second. Then she blundered a piece and Humpy evened the score again.



Hou Yifan, Photo chessdom.com

In the blitz (5+10 second increment), Hou Yifan broke the pattern, winning convincingly, 2-0. This mercifully avoided the dreaded Armageddon match, in which as we now have learned, White can win N v.N!



U.S. Women's Olympic team member WGM Katerina Rohonyan, who returned home from Nalchik a week ago, told CLO that she thought Kosteniuk had a 70% chance to win, and Hou had a 30%. Katerina's Olympic teammate Tatev Abrahamyan thinks Hou will win, although she did not give an exact percentage. IM Greg Shahade gave an even more extreme % chance than Rohonyan- but in the other direction, 75% for Hou and 25% for Kosteniuk, citing Hou's young age and 50 point rating edge as clear evidence of her being a favorite.

 Either winner should be good for chess. Alexandra Kosteniuk is a queen of chess promotion. Kosteniuk updates her website regularly with podcasts and game analysis and won three Chess Journalist of America awards. (She spends much of her time in Miami, Florida). On top of all that, Alexandra is a marathon runner and a recent mother.

But if a 14-year-old wins the World Women's Championship, it bodes well for her chances to join GM Judit Polgar in the world elite. Greg Shahade said, "I don't know why she's not being made a bigger deal of. Hou Yifan clearly has chances to be one of the best players in the world. She is actually following pace with guys like Carlsen, Karjakin, Radjabov, etc."

Post your own predictions and catch coverage of the exciting four-game match on chessdom.com , the official website and watch the games live on the ICC.