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Women's World Championship 2010

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An entirely token post about a somewhat token event, but hey, it's still chess. The KO system is alive and well at the women's world championship, this year taking place in Turkey. Official site. Defending champion Kosteniuk is there, with Koneru, Hou Yifan, and the Kosintsevii as the top challengers. For the US, Zatonskih just moved into the third round.

While the overall rating average of the women's list has risen much the way the men's list has (minus 200 points, more or less), we still have yet to see anyone stepping into Judit Polgar's sensible pumps. Paehtz, Lahno, Koneru, and Hou Yifan have all held the heiress apparent title, but only Hou Yifan at 16 is young enough to credibly claim the potential for another big jump and she's the youngest player on the entire women's top 100 list. And the Chinese chess overlords have already shortchanged her three prime developmental years by putting her into these women-only events on a regular basis. They show no sign of changing their ways, so unless she emigrates it's very unlikely she'll ever make much of a dent on the 'open' top 100 list.

As I've pointed out in the past, Hou Yifan has spent those years being rated far higher than her opposition on yearly average, a catastrophe for a developing talent. Since Jan 2009, her opposition has averaged 2484, compared to her 2580. For comparison, in the years they moved over 2600, Nepomniachtchi, Caruana and Giri played opposition of 2550 or higher on average.) Obviously there's no way to know how much stronger she'd be now had she been able to abstain from women-only events, or even if she would be stronger at all. But based on everything we know about improvement, a steady diet of stronger opponents is what it's all about. She switches back and forth between top events like Corus B and Aeroflot and segregated events like the FIDE Women's Grand Prix. It's also important to to point out that saying she should be dominating all these women's events is a false argument. Judit Polgar got incredibly strong while playing only in non-segregated events. Her talent was challenged and she thrived.


Oh boy, Mig. you're going to get some arguments with that post...

Well not from me (except for the fact that while "Kosintsevii" is nice, only one of them is in the tournament). It seems to me pretty clear and uncontroversial that strong opposition helps improvement, and it's not sexist to point out that women-only events have not been able to provide the requisite average strength for Hou.

"strong opposition helps improvement." ?

Well I for one, disagree. I believe it has very little to do with who you play in a tournament setting. Rarely do people play enough games to 'learn' to play significantly better. You get better with private study, whether on your own, or better yet, with a coach.

To do well OTB, you need to be good going in, is my opinion, but go ahead and state your case - and your proof. Polgar doesn't do it. She and her sisters did some pretty amazing background study with Dad before they ever set foot in a tournament.

When are the women GM's coming out with their Calendar?

Well said, Mig. Women playing women leads to mediocrity mitigated by rather meaningless trophies. (Which, of course, is not an evil thing.)

And what is your ELO that you can call the best women's fields "mediocrity"? Show some respect.

I like ELO - more than mediocre.

I think "Kosintsevae" would have been correct (but my high school Latin is about 25 years ago) ,:) . Anyway, Tatiana was eliminated and Nadezhda indeed didn't participate - I wonder why ... : First it seemed that she didn't qualify (and the five available rating spots are based on rather old lists). Then I found out that she DID qualify at the 2010 European Women's Championship but apparently _chose_ not to play.

Judit Polgar's reasons are clear (along the lines of what Mig wrote, for her it makes/made little sense to play women only events). Magnus Carlsen's reasons were hotly debated. Nadezhda Kosintseva's reasons are ... ??

Nadezhda Kosintseva definitely didn't choose not to play! I'm not sure about the "qualification" you mentioned, but she explained in a Russian interview (http://chess-news.ru/node/367) that there were two qualifiers she couldn't play in - once she had university exams and the other time she was ill.

She wrote to ask if she could still be included, but there were only two chances:

1) Based on rating, but as you say they were using out-of-date lists.

& 2) The presidential wild card. But she couldn't get that as Turkey had persuaded FIDE to let them have both of the available wild cards and not just the one they were supposed to have.

Anyway, she was very keen to play!

By the way, Pogonina was interview at the same site yesterday: http://chess-news.ru/node/941 And she said that her main aim wasn't to become Women's World Champion, seeing as it doesn't mean you're the strongest chess player (given all the men). She's more interested in improving her rating (e.g. to 2600) and seeing other women do the same.

Hmm, strange - the qualification I referred to was the European Women's championship in March this year:
Was the typo "Kosinsteva" fatal for Nadezhda (her sister's name is spelled correctly)? ,:) Or does this refer to another world championship, the next one in 2012?

"she said that her main aim wasn't to become Women's World Champion, seeing as it doesn't mean you're the strongest chess player (given all the men). She's more interested in improving her rating"

Reminds of what Carlsen said :)

Except she would want to be "men's" World Champion! :)

Thomas - yep, I guess that would be for the next "cycle"!? Though with FIDE who knows...

The two-game match knockout format is garbage and will always be garbage. You need a real woman's World Champion decided by matchplay.

And Hou Yifan is great, but let's not get carried way with speculations about her being Polgar-like only if X or Y was done.

It is not garbage...its simply a different version of a match. The conditions are what they are, and the cream will rise to the top. I'm sick of people whining about various formats -- they are the same conditions for all players, just play and let the best player win.

Actually, it is garbage and you can statistically prove it. The same conditions for all players do not ensure that the best will rise to the top. The shorter the match, greater the "noise" in the system, and less likely it is that that best player will win.

If you shorten a tennis match from 5 sets to one set, the likelihood of an average player beating Federer is more, not less. If you shorten it further to just one game, the randomness increases further, moving towards 50/50. If you shorten a golf tournament form 4 rounds to 1 round, weaker players have a better chance of winning. If you shorten it to 9 holes, almost anyone in the field can win by getting hot over a short period. On just one hole "match", a weekend hacker has a good chance to beat or tie Tiger. It is much more difficult to do that over a longer period, and hence the cream rises to the top in longer formats.

In chess, the randomness introduced by short matches is obvious in crowing of players like Khalifman, Kasim, and Pono as "world champions". The best player can still win it, of course. The point is that the format reduces the chances of that happening.

I'm glad Mig has, perhaps for the 1st time, done a separate post on a womens event. They're much more interesting than any grab-bag 2500 tournament, fer sure.

Khalifman WAS the best player in 1999 -- remember that Kramnik, Shirov, Ivanchuk and Svidler among others were there and weren't even good enough to advance far. Anand winning in 2000 (which you "conveniently" left out) -- lets just say that he's demonstrated that not only that year but since he's been worthy of being called the best. Ponomariov in 02 won ahead of Ivanchuk and Anand. Kas in 04 won ahead of Topalov, Ivanchuk and Grischuk. So do your homework before belittling these champions.

This may be a surprise to you, but your opinions aren't "proof" of anything. If all of the top players weren't playing, then thats a different story. But with the exception of Kasparov (who wanted special privileges he didn't deserve) and Kramnik (who was scared to death of playing any WC caliber match b/c 2000-2006 other than the Leko match), the top players were at the main events.

This argument is just like the garbage that was being spewed in 2007 about how Anand wasn't the "real" WC b/c the title wasn't won in a match. Obviously he demonstrated how wrong that thinking was, but if you were like me, you wouldn't have needed to see him demolish Kramnik in their 2008 match to know that he was already worthy of being undisputed WC by his Mexico win in 2007.

Different conditions force different adjustments -- changing the surface of a tennis court is every bit as big a change as playing best of one set instead of best of five. That's why Sampras never won the French, and why Federer has won the French only once compared with 6 Wimbledons. Changing the conditions forces different adjustments -- the player who adjusts better deserves to win. Period. There is nothing random about it.

In addition to your pioneer's comments, the knockout had a four-game match after the preceding series two-game matches. Not sure why people are saying this is not a fair format. Lots of strong players competed.

Anand is a worthy champion. I remember how people kept saying he needed to show he could win a match because he is primarily a tournament player. NOW they are saying... he needs to show he could win a tournament because he is primarily a match player. See how cynical people are?

The knockout is a fair format in the way that it's equal for all participants, just like one game bullet knockouts. That it's an idiotic format is another thing, and that's why players like Khalifman and Kasimjanov could win it. So dee4 is of course right.

My opinion isn't proof, but there is a statistical proof that fewer samples = less accuracy = more randomness. Every player performs at their true strength on average over many matches. Sometimes they play a litter better, sometimes a little worse, so there is a normal distribution with a standard deviation. Like a golfer who shoots 70 on average does not shoot 70 every round, he shoots between 65 and 75 most of the time. Just looking at one round score would be a bad idea (it could be a 65 or 75, but both are not true estimates of his skill). But if you look at the avg of 20 rounds, that would be close to 70. To get the true mean (true strength), more samples (games) the better. That is why a 2 game match is bad. 4 games are better (less chance of weaker player winning), 8 better than that, and 16 better than that.

If you cannot understand this most basic fact that shorter format = more randomness, I cannot tell you anything more.

defending champ Kosteniuk knocked out...4 Chinese in the last 8 - none facing each other...so potentially an all Chinese semis and finals are a possibility...will be interesting to see if the 2 Indians - humpy and harika - can go further..

Semi-final between Hou and Koneru is kind of the final since those are the two top players of the WWCC. Hopefully the winner of this will not stumble in the technical final later on.

Nice post.Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! http://www.tyssj.com

Well congrats to Hou Yifan for winning the women's chess championship.

It shold be noted that Hou Yifan has been competing against the men. Besides the other tournaments around the world like Corus (2009), she competed in the Chinese Open chess championships …


Hou Yifan finished 11 (out of 12) with a PR of 2495, … 94 points below her rating of 2589.

And then there is the 1st Danzhou Tournament


" … In a further example of the vitality of western chess in China, a top-flight grandmaster event, the 1st Danzhou Hainan Tournament was held in the city of Danzhou, in the Chinese province, Hainan. The tournament took place from June 11 - 20, 2010, and brought together a collection of top talent ranging from experienced top pros such as Wang Hao (2722), Bu Xiangzhi (2681), and Ni Hua (2667), as well as budding stars such as 18-year-old Ding Liren (2547) and 16-year-old female phenom Hou Yifan (2589).

Hou Yifan finished with a PR of 2548 (-41).

Not exactly tearing up the competition against the men I'd say. If Yifan was going to be the next great young player competing against the men and the likes of Carlsen, Karjakin, or even juniors like Fabiano (2709), Anish Giri (2682), or Weley So (2669) she should be there by now or close to it. She has had the full support of her country, chess federation, coaches to pursue chess, access to high level chess events, and so on, …yet …

FIDE rating list … Hou Yifan …

Oct 2008 … 2578
Sep 2010 … 2578

In over 2 years Yifan has basically stagnated while the men her age and of similar rating have continued to march on and upwards. Men continue to develop intellectually well past ~ 14 years of age whereas women continue to stagnate -- that's the nature and difference of the sexes. I think it is time to face the facts -- the women's world chess championship is basically an amateur event compared to the men's tournament and level of play. Women as a group are never going to close the gap to the level of the top men players. Equality between sexes on the intellectual front is simply feminist/socialist koolaid. Yifan has already pretty well reached about the top level we can expect of top flight women chess players. World women's chess champion and yet she was outclassed in both those Chinese events against the men.

ha ha ha Larry K if women are 'intellectually incapable', and 'women continue to stagnate', you explain me how Polgar reached her level and I'll buy you a koolaid. You big ol' troll!

But still , the posibility of Polgar being the exception and not the rule is hard to refute sometimes , i believe the answer is that there are both male and female intelligences and chess just happens to relate better with the male kind.

Seconded. A female CAN be #1. All top-10 FIDE-ranked players might conceivably be female.

But it's statistically much, much, much less likely with the male/female brain differences.
Approximately an 'unlikely to happen in the lifetime of the universe' quantum probabilities.

It's statistically less likely due to differences in total or initial number of players: At my amateur level (roughly 1900-2000) there are less than 10% women - in the countries where I lived, but I guess they are underrepresented everywhere. If, and only if initial numbers were roughly equal one could argue that "brain differences" prevent women from reaching higher levels - or would anyone argue that female brains are less prone to even learning the rules of the game??

The next issue are women-only events. In the male chess world, players from lesser countries such as Bulgaria and Norway still became world #1, for sure they wouldn't have managed if they never played abroad. On the other hand, Karjakin could enter the top10 this year playing mostly in Russia where he had plenty of adequate opportunities.

Judit Polgar is exceptional also because she did play in strong male events. If one woman could enter the top10 that way, what might happen if five, ten or twenty really tried?

Finally, not everything is lost for Hou Yifan at her age of 16: Aronian's Elo was just 2522 in Jan 2001 when he was already 18. Nakamura sort of stagnated around 2560 in 2003 at the age of 16.

thank you for information

Chess is always a mind sharper and needs more concentration as well as tricks. Why don't you try to share some professional tricks and tips for the chess lovers, as it will be good addition for them via this platform. Hope that you will soon come up with such stuff as well.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 8, 2010 5:06 PM.

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