Women’s World Chess Championship: Indian hopes rest on Harika
Archiman Bhaduri | TNN | Feb 10, 2017, 11.04 PM IST
The event had been drawing a few headlines during the last two months over the controversial ‘Hijab’ policy which requires women to wear a headscarf in public in Iran. This even led to a number of players, like women’s world No. 6 Ukrainian GM Mariya Muzychuk, withdrawing in protest.
Neither Indian has an issue wearing the headscarf.
The tournament will also miss World No. 1 and reigning World champion China’s Hou Yifan. Of course, her reason for staying away from the mega event was different – she was unhappy with the current two-game knockout format.
Despite the absentees, however, the 64-player February 11 to March 5 knockout event will be one of the toughest, with China’s Ju Wenjun being the top seed.
With India No. 1 Koneru Humpy pulling out last month without giving any reason, the onus will be on Harika to keep the Tricolour flying high.
Fourth-seeded Harika, with a rating of 2539, will be one of the title contenders and has got an easy opening. The 26-year-old Andhra girl will surely fancy her chances against Bangladesh No. 1 Shamima Akhtar Liza (2077) in the opening round.
Harika, who shone last year and beat Yifan too, will hope to start the new season on a high.
Rout, who qualified as one of the 12 players from the Asia/Oceania zone, is expected to face a tough challenge from Armenian No. 1 Elina Danielian in the opening round. On her maiden appearance at the Worlds, Rout is seeded 40th, while her opponent is No. 25.
Even if Rout manages to overcome the first hurdle, she may have to tackle eighth-seeded Chinese GM Zhao Xue in the second round.
Each player will play two games against her opponent. If the contest is tied 1-1, the match will then go to rapids (25 minutes plus 10 sec increment), before being finally decided in the blitz format.