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Kosteniuk and Yifan Win Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
September 10, 2008
Hou Yifan in Nalchik, Photo courtesy of chessdom.com, check out the chessdom semi-final report for more.
In the first round of the Women's World Championship (August 29-September 18, Nalchik, Russia) semi-finals, GM-elect Hou Yifan defeated GM Humpy Koneru while GM Alexandra Kosteniuk dispatched GM Pia Cramling. The semis consist of just two-game mini matches, so the pressure is on both Cramling and Koneru. At least they both play tomorrow with the White pieces. Update: Kosteniuk drew her second game against Cramling and moves to final. Meanwhile Humpy Koneru won against Hou Yifan. Yifan and Koneru will face off in the tiebreak round Sept.12, starting at 7 AM EST.

CLO asked some members of the 5-player U.S. Women's Olympic team (Abrahamyan, Goletinai, Krush, Rohonyan, Zatonskih) about their thoughts on the World Women's Championship Semifinals. Editor's Note-Their opinions and predictions do not account for the first round results.

2008  U.S. Women's Champion Anna Zatonskih gave a 50% chance to Humpy Koneru to take the Championship and a 50% chance to the other three contenders. Originally Anna was rooting for Katerina Rohonyan. "She had good games and had a chance to play longer." After she and Katerina were eliminated, Anna was gunning for the Ukrainian women as well as Victoria Cmilyte, Lilit Mkrtchan, Kachiani, Paehtz, Socko and Foisor. The latter two were involved in a scandal, the scale of which is reminiscent of the Krush-Zatonskih Armageddon. The two played down to a knight vs. knight endgame, and when Foisor lost on time, the game was at first declared a draw. Later that was overturned because technically a knight can create a checkmate against another king, using the opponent's knight to block the escape square. Anna said, "My heart is with Foisor but rules are rules." Read more about the Knight vs. Knight incident on chessbase.com.

WGM Katerina Rohonyan in Nalchik, Photo courtesy of chessdom.com

 In the semi-finals, Anna hoped to see GM Pia Cramling advance all the way to the crown. "She has played chess on very high level for decades. She was my 'ChessMom' favorite from the beginning. I wish her to win because it demonstrate that you can become a Women's Champion in your 40s. That means I have many more years!" Now that Anna's two favorites have lost, she admits she'll have to revise her predictions.

Anna raved about the hospitality in Nalchik and a trip to Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. "I plan to climb it one day," Anna told CLO. Anna was happy with her chess openings in Nalchik, but said she played badly against Kosintseva in game two of their mini-match. "I should have played Qb1 and I blundered Rxg2." After a short break from chess between the World Champs and the Olympiad, Anna will start preparing for Dresden, where she will play second board behind IM Irina Krush. "With some luck, we can be in the top three."

IM Anna Zatonskih in Nalchik, Photo courtesy of chessdom.com

Tatev Abrahamyan, who will be playing in her first Olympiad, told CLO that she predicted the winner of Hou Yifan-Humpy Koneru would win the World Championship. She said, "It would be very exciting to have a 14-year-old World champion, so I will definitely root for Yifan if she wins the upcoming match." Tatev plans to play 2-3 tournaments before Dresden and will focus her work on endgames, as she feels this was a weak area for her in the recent World Junior Championships in Turkey.

2005 U.S. Women's Champion Rusudan Goletiani is busy working, taking care of her baby Sophie and preparing for Dresden, Germany. She told CLO that "It's hard to predict who will win the Women's World Championship, I think everyone has a chance, Hou is obviously very talented but not as experienced as other players. Koneru I think has very strong nerves, Pia is the most experienced and Alexandra is very well prepared, so I would say they all have a chance."

Be sure to check out the games from Nalchik tomorrow, to see if Cramling and Koneru can stage comebacks. The four-game final match begins on September 14, after a day for possible tiebreaks (12th) and one day of rest (13th). Read more on chessdom.com and the official Women's World Championship website. Watch the games live on the Internet Chess Club.