June 23, 2014 13:54

Hou Yifan Leads Lopota Grand Prix After Round 4

Whereas the “open” Grand Prix Series seems to be in trouble, the 2013-2014 Women's Grand Prix is well underway and has reached its fifth (of a total of six) event. In Lopota, Georgia it is again the reigning World Champion, Hou Yifan of China, who had the best start of all.

The new Grand Prix Series was supposed to start in the spring of 2014, but so far things have been very quiet. Azeri media have mentioned that the first edition is supposed to be held in Baku (the same city where the very first GP tournament was held in 2008) in October of this year, but as we speak the FIDE Calendar has no location for it (and different dates). A second tournament is scheduled for Tashkent, by the way.

For the strongest female players in the world things look much brighter. Another Women's Grand Prix took off a few days go in Lopota, Georgia and many of the world's best players are among the participants. After Geneva, Dilijan and Tashkent in 2013 and Khanty-Mansiysk in 2014, it is the fifth in the series - the final one will be held 24 August-7 September, 2014 in Erdenet, Mongolia.

The tournament is held closeby the beautiful Lopota Lake in the Lopota gorge, located in the far north-eastern part of the Kakheti region in Georgia. It borders to the Russian North Caucasian of Dagestan.


The official website's gallery folder with pictures of the Lopota surroundings is appropriately called “Paradise”

It's hard to believe that the first hit after a Google search for this stunningly beautiful area is a very negative one. It is known as the “Lopota incident”, a Georgian anti-insurgency operation in August 2012. According to Wikipedia Georgian special forces engaged an unidentified paramilitary group of about 17 persons which had allegedly taken several people hostage. During the operation, that began on August 28, 2012, at least 14 people were killed and at least six wounded in a firefight on August 29.

But back to the chess. The tournament is again a round robin with twelve players. The prize fund is 60,000 Euros, from which 10,000 will go to the winner. But it's obviously also about gaining GP points - in the overall standings Anna Muzychuk is leading, while Humpy Koneru is second.

A group photo of the players & officials at the opening ceremony

Each player plays in four of the six tournaments, and her three best results count for the overall standings. The winner of the Women's Grand Prix plays the winner of the World Cup (who by then is considered the world champion!).

Hou Yifan won the previous GP, held in Khanty-Mansiysk shortly after the Candidates’ Tournament, and she is also in clear first place after four rounds in Lopota. In the first round her opponent went for her king, but miscalculated:

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The 20-year-old Chinese student of international relations was the only player to reach 2.0/2 with the following win. In heavy time trouble the winner of the 2013 Geneva Grand Prix fell for a devlish trap:

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In the third round Hou Yifan was held to a draw by Humpy Koneru, but in round 4 she continued winning, against one of the other Chinese participants:

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Another player from China is one of three on 3.0/4: Ju Wenjun. She won an interesting game in round 3 against Khotenashvili:

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Ju Wenjun

Anna Muzychuk, who recently started playing for the Ukrainian Chess Federation again, drew two games, won one and lost one. Against Kosteniuk she showed to have excellent knowledge of a more than a century old line of the Petroff Defense:

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Anna  Muzychuk (at the opening ceremony): a new federation and a new hairdo!

Lopota GP 2014 | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Pts SB
1 Hou,Yifan 2629 2838 phpfCo1l0.png       ½       1   1 1 3.5/4  
2 Ju,Wenjun 2532 2671   phpfCo1l0.png     ½   1       ½ 1 3.0/4 4.00
3 Harika,Dronavalli 2503 2662     phpfCo1l0.png       ½ ½   1 1   3.0/4 3.00
4 Dzagnidze,Nana 2541 2651       phpfCo1l0.png     ½     ½ 1 1 3.0/4 2.25
5 Koneru,Humpy 2613 2635 ½ ½     phpfCo1l0.png 1     ½       2.5/4 6.25
6 Stefanova,Antoaneta 2488 2649         0 phpfCo1l0.png   ½ 1 1     2.5/4 2.50
7 Danielian,Elina 2460 2534   0 ½ ½     phpfCo1l0.png 1         2.0/4 5.00
8 Muzychuk,Anna 2561 2496     ½     ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png   1     2.0/4 3.25
9 Zhao,Xue 2538 2372 0       ½ 0     phpfCo1l0.png     ½ 1.0/4  
10 Kosteniuk,Alexandra 2532 2186     0 ½   0   0   phpfCo1l0.png     0.5/4 1.50
11 Muminova,Nafisa 2332 2214 0 ½ 0 0             phpfCo1l0.png   0.5/4 1.50
12 Khotenashvili,Bela 2518 2222 0 0   0         ½     phpfCo1l0.png 0.5/4 0.50

The Women Grand Prix takes place 19 June - 1 July in Lopota, Georgia with rest days on 23 & 28 June. Thanks to press officer in Lopota, Alina l'Ami. All photos courtesy of the official website | Games via TWIC phpfCo1l0.png

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


RG13's picture

Looks like it will be another easy tournament victory for Grandmaster Hou.

observer's picture

Don't understand why Hou has to defend her Title every year or play in these sorts of events over and over again.
The setup for the Women's World Championship is even worse than for the Men's.

Anonymous's picture

Whining and complaining of the usual suspect who just can't enjoy anything in life.
I'm happy FIDE managed to have so many women events. They are doing a great job!

Alcoholics anonymous's picture

"The setup for the Women's World Championship is even worse than for the Men's."

There's no Men's World (Chess) Championship.

Thomas Richter's picture

We can discuss the format of the women WCh, but being able to (rather than having to) play the GP Series is privilege rather than burden for women, compared to men with comparable ratings [Hou Yifan isn't even a top100 player]. What are their other major sources of income? There are few private women-only events, few invitations to events where men also participate (traditionally Wijk aan Zee, B and C groups, was the main one?), few Swiss opens with big prize money for women (Gibraltar, what else?).

At the limit, playing a WCh match every year (big payday!) might also rather be a privilege. The women WCh is hardly stronger than many natinal championships, rather weaker than some (Russia, Ukraine, France, ...) that are also held every year.

observer's picture

The Women WCh system is: A 64 player knockout in even years [there is one planned for this October]; and in odd years the winner of the Grand Prix plays the WCh (or if the winner is the WCh, the runner-up plays her).

Given that the chances of Hou losing her Title in the ridiculous random knockout (as happened in 2012) are high; and in any case she does not know whether she will be WCh or not when the Grand Prix winner plays the WCh, then it is effectively very much a case of Hou having to play in the Grand Prix. It is not an option for her - you are wrong.

Hou herself is not happy with the knockout - as she indicated at the end of the last WCh.
30th ranked Ushenina won the knockout in 2012, and then in last year's WCh Hou beat her 5.5 - 1.5. So much for the reliability of the knockout to produce the strongest player - Hou should never have lost her title.
The whole system in very much stacked against the strongest player (Hou).

It might seem that I am complaining about some nice women's tournaments. I am not. I am criticising a very messed up WCh system. Hou is kept so busy having to play in this system, she does not get much chance to play men. There should be other ways of having nice women's tournaments without having to mess up the women's WCh.

Contrary to what s3 ("Anonymous") says, his favourite, Ilyumzhinov, is not doing a "great" job, he's doing a lousy one. The sooner he is got rid of, the better.

Thomas Richter's picture

There are pros and cons to everything, privileges for the 'open' world champion vs. no privileges for the women champion. I can't know for sure, but I suspect that Hou Yifan might play the GP Series even if she had champion privileges (i.e. could only lose her title if someone qualifies for and defeats her in a match) - she doesn't get that many round robin invitations, and there aren't that many strong Swiss events. Hou Yifan could do like Judit Polgar and skip women events altogether, but probably wouldn't manage: while she may now be close to Polgar's current level, she is still far from Polgar's level at her prime.

Without the Lopota GP, she might have played the World Rapid and Blitz championships. She would have been seeded about 70th in the rapid, and 43rd in the blitz. Of course this doesn't rule out surprises: her rapid rating is comparable to Sergei Yudin's (who already played well in the rapid event), her blitz rating is comparable to Georg Meier's. But there's no guarantee for surprises, else they wouldn't be surprises.

observer's picture

It is quite possible that Hou could have played in the GP series anyway if she had champion privileges. But this is not the point; the point is, she is forced to, and may not necessarily want to - we don't know.

However, a much worse problem is that she is also forced to play in a random-like knockout. This is fully as bad as the old FIDE Championships from 1997-2004 when Khalifman et al won. Because of this, Hou is likely to lose her Title in October. Given that she is certainly the strongest player, this is ridiculous - she should be able to defend her Title in a reasonably designed event/process whether she is given champion privilege or not.
But not a word from you against this absurdity. Your defence [by omission in this case, but you would defend it if you did say something, as you have in the past] of the knockout system is nearly as incomprehensible as your hatred of Carlsen.

Thomas Richter's picture

What would be an ideal format for the Women WCh? You might come up with a master plan and then say "this is it!", to my knowledge Kasparov hasn't come up with any propositions.

Some other questions: Why is Hou Yifan considered "the only one"? Among women, she seems as hyped as Carlsen among men, but her rating gap with Koneru is much smaller. Why should the system be tailored to her wishes and needs (not even knowing her real wishes and needs)? There are several reasons why the Women GP, unlike the Men's GP, is happening: cheaper to organize, nobody complains about 'obscure' locations, and all of the strongest players participate. Changing the system might benefit Hou Yifan (I doubt it) but would hurt many other players.

At face value, the field of the Women GP is Elo-wise comparable to the top seeds of the Limburg Open. That event had one player rated 2600-2650 (l'Ami), six 2500ish players (Fier, Ernst, van den Doel, Berg, Hausrath, Hovhannisyan) and three more rated 2450-2500 (Dambacher, Ducarmon, Janssen). How much international media attention did the event get? It probably wouldn't have been more if some of the Dutch players had been replaced by comparable ones from other countries, Russian GM Frolyanov to give just one name.

AngeloPardi's picture

The problem is not in the Grand Prix Serie, which is rather good. The problem is the knock-out.
A knock-out with 2 games match is not a system for a world championship as it is too much random.

observer's picture

I don't see any reason why the ideal format for the Women WCh should be any different than what I have previously suggested for the overall WCh: Matches of at least 10 games [perhaps 8 for the women], WCh must play at quarterfinal stage, winner of Final match is WCh.
That Kasparov has not come up with any propositions is certainly a disappointing aspect of his campaign (among several). Despite this, he is still infinitely preferable to Ilyumzhinov.

Did I mention anything about Hou being "the only one" or "tailoring the system to her wishes or needs"? I was simply saying that the women's WCh (whoever she is) should have the right to defend her title in a reasonable format. Even the Grand Prix alone (AngeloPardi mentions it as fairly good) would not be completely unreasonable as a qualifier.

But (as usua), you refuse to address the elephant in the room, the knockout, despite my making it very clear in my previous post that this was the main problem.
Again you avoid answering the main point, instead giving a fluff-piece reply designed to soften something you know needs addressing but that you don't wish to address; and give the impression that what's currently in place is "basically alright really".
This sort of thing happens so often in your replies that it is clearly a deliberate ploy. Dishonest arguing, Thomas!

Anonymous's picture

Observer never sees "any reason" why things should be different to his own ideas. Because he is a bloated and pedantic moron wasting all his time on thomas and s3. A true loser.

observer's picture

Get a life, s3. Seriously.
You are a true hater and wrecker. The world would be a better place without you. How does it feel to be someone like that?

RG13's picture

I propose that for a woman to stay on the womens rating list then she should have to play at least ONE women's-only event per year. GM Polgar refuses to play in any women's-only events and so just list her on the general list. GM Hou has already one a short match against someone rated higher than GM Polgar is now. While Polgar would still be a slight favorite in a matchup with Hou there is no reason to think that she would outclass her or be able to bet her life savings on the outcome.

Seamus O Shitey's picture

Judit would win very comfortably. She is still far stronger.

RG13's picture

Polgar's rating is higher but if we went by that then there was no reason for Kramnik to have played a match with Kasparov. Also I reiterate that Hou has already played a match with someone rated higher than Polgar is now. Polgar's rating has been slipping but lucky she has fans like you who are sure how she would fare against someone she refuses to play; 'on principle' of course. ref: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1655416

Ana's picture

Magnus Carlsen will marry both of them. :) They will breed human Houdini. :)

Rebecca's picture

No, he seems made for Anastasia :-). as your nickname says it

Nonono's picture

Anna Muzychuk has nice hips.

King's picture

Carlsen will have them all. :)

Lee's picture

Hou Yifan needs to play less against the women. Can't help thinking she's not being pushed.

Seamus O Shitey's picture

I said nothing about rating. I said Judit was far stronger, and yes she would win any match comfortably. She is one of the best players in the world and has all the experience, knowledge that would dwarf anything by Hou Yifan. I am not a "fan" of either. Just like, respect and appreciate both of them as great chess players and nice people. One day Hou Yifan may become as strong as Judit or even stronger, but I doubt that very much, but would be pleased for her if that came to pass. Judit is not a great woman player, she is just a great player period. Hou Yifan is a great player who may or may not become a truly great player [as compared with the best of the best in the world]. My guess is that already she has realized that to play with and against the big boys is a whole other world and so far only Judith has been able to do this at the very highest levels. Probably Hou will carry on a for a few more years and then disappear from chess and start a family etc etc. I give her 5 more years as an active player on the world stage, then she will have moved on to other things. And I agree that "Anna Muzychuk has nice hips", nice everything actually!

RG13's picture

Everything you say about Polgar vs. Hou Yifan could have been said about Kasparov vs. Kramnik before they played their match. We can even argue that Kasparov remained clearly stronger as his rating and tournament results continued to show even after he lost his title. However a match is a kind of beast that may not care who has more knowledge or who is "stronger". Ask Shirov about that. No one can deny that Judit was a great player but what she did in the past is no guarantee of what she CAN do now. As of now Hou has a plus score against Polgar in classical chess and there is no indication that Polgar wants to test your assumption that she is NOW far stronger than Hou. To assume that Judit is STILL "far stronger" than any other woman is not fair to the women who actually put their reputations on the line and COMPETE.

Seamus O Shitey's picture

Hou Yifan is a great player who may or may not become a truly great player [as compared with the best of the best in the world].

Should have been:

Hou Yifan is a great Woman player who may or may not become a truly great player [as compared with the best of the best in the world].

Anonymous's picture

Carlsen is courting Hou ?

Rebecca's picture

Rather like = Magnus and Ana.

Seamus O Shitey's picture

Sorry but comparing Kasparov V Kramnik with Judith and Hou is just illogical. Judith continues to play and compete against some of the best players in the world, while Hou is playing the best female players in the world, very different standard. As for the one game in which they have played. Judith was black, much higher rated and the dynamic saw Judith try to win, somewhat recklessly. In a match Judith would adapt and her vast experience and strength would tell in the end. Just compare how Hou has done in male events like the Chinese championships. If Hou get's stronger then good for her.

RG13's picture

The logic is that tournament results don't predict matches and the outcome of a match cannot be predicted with your level of certainty. The modest rating gap between those two should predict Polgar as a slight favorite and not the clear favorite that you are making her out to be. Lucky for you however that you have a crystal ball that makes you sure about the outcome. Lucky for her that she will remain too chicken to see if she could win such a match.

RG13's picture

Polgar is a former top 10 player and yes she plays more men than women however there is no emperical evidence to suggest that Polgar is NOW stronger than Navara who is a man that Hou has already surived in a match. Navara is also rated higher now than Polgar is NOW. That seems reasonable to take into account before assuming tha Polgar would just win a match with Hou easily.

James Maskell's picture

I thought FIDE had been very clear about the Grand Prix series, that if the venues weren't agreed and ready to go by a certain deadline (May sometime?) the two Candidates places would go elsewhere and the Grand Prix series wouldn't take place in this cycle.

RG13's picture

FIDE has never acted as if they were bound by their own proclamations, at least not under the current or former presidents.

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