Who will become the new champion?

 

The Chinese player Hou Yifan has surrendered her world title and left Khanty Mansysk in tears...For at least 6 months, she will be without the title, and now, under FIDE rules, as winner of the Grand Prix, she will try to regain the title in a match against the new champion in the third quarter of 2013. 

 

The knockout system is harsh and hardly entirely fair. To win the Grand Prix, Hou had to win three round-robin tournaments, with the best players in the world, and come ahead after tough battles with Koneru and Muzychuk. To be kicked out of the world championship and lose her title, all she had to do was lose one classical game and one rapid game against Socko: all it needs is to be a bit below par or catch a cold!  

But...in a way, she has a measure of "insurance", as so many other top players are also out - Humpy Koneru, Anna Muzychuk, Ekaterina Lahno, Viktorija Cmylijte, and Pia Cramling. Including Judit Polgar, who is not playing in Khanty Mansysk, that is six of the world's top ten ladies out of the event, after only two rounds. That was impossible to foresee, even in the wildest fantasies. It also means that the chess world will get a new champion, unless Stefanova wins, as she is the only ex-champion left in. 

Despite the departure of most of the main favourites, the line-up for 1/8 finals is intriguing: 

Marta Socko - Antoanetta Stefanova

Jun Wengjun - Natalya Zhukova

Anna Ushenina - Natalya Pogonina

Maria Muzychuk - Zhao Xue

Leila Dzhavakashvili - Harika Dronovalli

Tatiana Kosintseva - Nadezhda Kosintseva

Huang Tsan - Irina Krush

Alisa Galliamova - Marie Sebag.

Here we have two, arguably three China-Ukraine match-ups (since Irina Krush is originally from Odessa), plus a battle between youth and experience (Sebag - Galliamova);  - a clash of the "eternal runners-up" Ushenina and Pogonina, and a chance for Dronovalli, who is permanently in Koneru's shadow; and a new challenge for Socko, who faces yet another ex-world champion. But nothing compares with the clash between the Kosintseva sisters, who, like the Klitschko brothers, have never yet boxed one another; now either Tatiana or Nadezhda will have to lose. 

The road is open! And we will know the name of the new champion on 1 December... 

 

(Text by Evgeny Atarov)

 

Source: http://chess2012.ugrasport.com