The FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament

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Right now in Kazan, eight women are competing to become the challenger to the current Women’s World Chess Champion, Ju Wenjun. After he was elected in October of 2018 as FIDE (World Chess Federation) President, Arkady Dvorkovich announced that improving the process to become Women’s World Champion was one of his priorities. Thus, the 2019 Women’s World Championship cycle has a similar format to the absolute World Championship; that is, a Candidates tournament followed by a match between the winner of the Candidates tournament and the World Champion.

The Ministry of Sports of Tatarstan and the Russian Chess Federation have organized a double round-robin competition that spans May 29-June 19, with a substantial increase in prizes from the knockout format used previously to determine the women’s challenger. The 2019 FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament has a prize fund of 200,000 €.

Within this article, I link to the tournament’s website, which is excellent. You can find photos, games, news, etc., in either Russian or English. There is also live commentary. На русском комментируют МГ Сергей Шипов и МГ Илья Смирин, which means the Russian language broadcast commentary is by Grandmasters Sergey Shipov and Ilya Smirin. The English language broadcast commentators are GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko and IM Elisabeth Paehtz.

Aleksandra Goryachkina vs. Valentina Gunina
Aleksandra Goryachkina vs. Valentina Gunina
photo by Eteri Kublashvili, courtesy of FIDE

In Round One, all games were drawn. In Round Two, two players won. One of the winners played a beautiful move, featured in both the official FIDE press release and by Grandmaster Judit Polgar on her Facebook page.

Can you find the winning move for White, Aleksandra Goryachkina?
Can you find the winning move for White, Aleksandra Goryachkina?

The answer is 72. Nh4! Because if 72….Rxh4 2. Ra4+ forcing a trade of rooks and then White promotes her h-pawn. So Black (Valentina Gunina) tried 72…Kg3 73. h8 (Q) and White won on move 92.

Interestingly enough, Goryachkina only got into the Candidates Tournament because the top-rated woman in the world, Hou Yifan, declined her invitation. Hou Yifan was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, a fully funded postgraduate award to study at the University of Oxford. So she is too busy with her studies to play in the Fide Women’s Candidates Tournament.

Anna Muzychuk vs. Nana Dzagnidze
Anna Muzychuk vs. Nana Dzagnidze
photo by Eteri Kublashvili, courtesy of FIDE

The other winner in Round 2 was Nana Dzagnidze, who was Black against Anna Muzychuk.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on Amazon.com.

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