4 December 2016

Fitting it into Six Days

The midpoint of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk in the review of Eteri Kublashvili.

Although a whole string of events happened from November 23 through 28, most of them were of grievous nature. Fidel Castro died November 25. The chess segment of Twitter and Facebook started shining in all the colors of the rainbow with pictures showing the Cuban revolution charismatic leader' love and respect of our sport. November 27 the world was shattered with the news of the young and gifted Urii Eliseev's fatality. November 28 brought us sad news of a chess legend Mark Taimanov passing away... 

Round eight of the FIDE women's Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk on November 27 turned out to be emotionally unnerving due to force majeure. Almira Skripchenko failed to show up for the round owing to not feeling well. According to the grandmaster the impact of the tournament tension on her health was such that she has had to call an ambulance on several occasions lately. 

The harsh November climate of Khanty-Mansiysk has an unfortunate effect of  unbalancing participants' health as well so that in one way or another they have to adjust themselves to the local climatic conditions. I can add from myself that it wold be a sheer piece of luck if I fall asleep before three in the morning. I am lucky every other time only. It is absolutely unclear why it happens so because the city air is very clean and the hotel rooms and meal are up to the standards... This is perhaps another case of nervous tension and drain of energy, aggravated by the cold climate. Although it falls short of being a scientific type of explanation, it's the best I can offer. 

The good news is that organizers are doing their best to have the highest level of working and accommodation conditions, resolving all issues as quickly as possible. 

Ju Wenjun, who was to play Almira Skripchenko in round 8, was awarded a victory by default. When learning about her friend's condition, Natalia Zhukova got in touch with the arbiters for a by way of exception permission to shift her game with Sarasadat Khademalsharieh to a later time as she was keeping Almira's company until the arrival of doctors and was unwilling to leave without making sure that everything was going to be OK. Once hearing the bad news the excitement carried over to the Iranian chess player and she agreed to shift the game start to any later time. The game began about 20 minutes after the official start and ended in a rather quick draw, upon which Natalia returned to the hotel to be with Elmira. This is something for those claiming there is no such thing as female friendship, is it not? 

Now Almira feels much better and I join all my colleagues in wishing her speedy recovery and more success in her chess career. 

Meanwhile, the New York events are so closely followed by all players and press-center people that you might think they were the ones playing there themselves. A game played the previous day is always discussed at lunch and the upcoming game forecasts are made at dinner. 

Once the general producer of "Match TV" Tina Kandelaki announced a flashmob in support of Sergey Karjakin, four Russians were posing for cameras before the start of the next round holding the hashtag # КарякинВперед (KarjakinGoGo), while other participants reacted by supporting the current Champion with the unofficial slogan  #Magnus GoGo. 

The second rest day of November 28 was of course heavily marked by anticipation of game 12 of the match. 

Within the past four rounds the players have had a change of driver's seat already. Following the first weekend, during which some players enjoyed travelling the city and taking in its sights, while Nino Batsiashvili and Bela Khotenashvili attended a hockey match "Ugra" - "Admiral", the Georgian chess school advanced into the limelight once again. Nino Batsiashvili outplayed Almira Skripchenko to take a sole lead and retain it up to round seven, when she was defeated by Lela Javakhishvili. At this moment Nino was caught up by Sarasadat Khademalsharieh who defeated Natalija Pogonina. 

However, after round eight the number of leaders grew up to four as Alexandra Kosteniuk defeated Bela Khotenashvili to catch up on points with Ju Wenjun, Nino Batsiashvili and Sarasadat Khademalsharieh. 

Thus, the situation is rather complex with one round to go yet. Our English speaking commentator Evgeny Miroshnichenko characterized the situation "as quite unexpected for a women's tournament." He said he could not recall anything of the kind with eight rounds behind already. 

The tournament standings after round 8 are as follows: 

1-4. Ju Wenjun, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh Nino Batsiashvili - 5; 5-6. Natalia Zhukova, Valentina Gunina - 4.5; 7-8. Olga Girya, Harika Dronavalli - 4; 9-11. Bela Khotenashvili, Natalija Pogonina, Lela Javakhishvili – 3; 12. Almira Skripchenko – 2. 

This said, let us recall the overall Grand Prix standings. The top place is so far with Ju Wenjun with 375,8 points. Lagging slightly behind her is missing from this event Humpy Koneru with 335 points, while the third place is occupied by Alexandra Kosteniuk with 317.5. 

November 28 is a second rest day at the tournament. Keeping in mind that the only winners after the first rest day were Batsiashvili and Khotenashvili who went to the hockey, there were not a few willing to attend the "Ugra" - "Kunlun" match. 

Well, the night will keep everyone busy watching game 12 of the match. Adding a qualifier "with interest" would be beyond measure, however. 

We do not forget that running in the Chess Academy in parallel with the GP stage was the Russian  Rapid Grand Prix - the Ugra Cup in rapid chess, which brought together a truly stellar lineup. The event was won by Aleksei Pridorozhni. The second to finish was Vladimir Fedoseev, the third - Boris Savchenko. 

Pictures by E.Kublashvili, E.Atarov, I.Brusenskaya and E.Listyuk ( taken from the hockey arena "Ugra")