Left to right: Challenger and ex-Women's World Chess Champion GM Hou Yifan (China),
Women's World Chess Champion GM Anna Ushenina (Ukraine), WGM Anastacia Karlovic
Venue: Taizhou, China Schedule: September 10-28 Format: 10 classical games, tie-break if needed Prize fund: €200,000 (60% to the winner if the match is decided in classical chess; 55%-45% if on tie-break) Official website
Anna Ushenina, Women’s World Chess Champion, FIDE 2500, #17 on the women’s rating list
Hou Yifan, Challenger & ex-World Women’s Chess Champion, FIDE 2609, #2 on the women’s rating list
Historical score, Anna Ushenina vs. Hou Yifan: +2 =3 -3. Notably, Hou Yifan had White in 7 games out of 8.
Pogonina.com has conducted a survey among top chess players & experts and has asked them two questions:
- Who is more likely to win?
- How do you think is the match going to proceed?
Here are the answers:
GM Arkadij Naiditsch,
#1 chess player in Germany
In my opinion, Hou Yifan is stronger. Anna will be under a lot of pressure during the match, unless she has seriously improved lately :)
Susan Polgar, USA,
VIII Women's World Chess Champion
I think Yifan has a slight edge. However, I don't count Anna out. She has strong seconds. I think Anna is -1 in 8 games but with 7 black. We have seen Anna beating a world class player like Svidler in Tromso. The question for me is who is more motivated? I think it is a big mistake if team Hou Yifan takes Anna for granted or underestimate her. If both play their best, Yifan will win.
GM Evgeny Tomashevsky, Russia, European Chess Champion (2009)
I will hardly surprise anyone by saying that Hou Yifan has a clear advantage in terms of chess skills. However, lately Anna Ushenina has done an immense amount of work, so the gap between them has decreased. Additionally, in such a match psychology always plays a critical role. This is where Anna Ushenina might have an ace up her sleeve. Well, the Chinese GM is known for being quite stable psychologically, and she is also playing "at home". If Hou Yifan manages to perform evenly, on her standard high level, she will have an edge. But Anna is a real fighter; she knows how to handle stress and bad luck. She is also very stable and doesn't make many mistakes. If Anna succeeds in not allowing the Challenger (I am still unaccustomed to calling Hou Yifan this way) grab an early lead; to lure her into a tough struggle with every move being close to decisive, the chances will be more or less equal. Will Anna be able to implement this scenario against her formidable opponent? This is probably the key question of the match.
GM Anna Muzychuk, Slovenia,
#4 on the women's FIDE rating list
I believe that the match is going to be interesting :) Most of the games (if not all) will be hard-fought, i.e., no short draws are expected. Both players haven't participated in tournaments recently and must have been thoroughly preparing for the match. Hence, I foresee experiments with playing styles and new openings. Talking about chances, it it hard to give a precise evaluation. Hou is significantly higher-rated and is currently stronger as a chess player. Nevertheless, I think that anything can happen in a match.
GM Nigel Short, England,
World Chess Championship Finalist (1993)
I would describe Hou Yifan as the clear favourite (about 4-1 on odds). However her chess has not kicked on after her resounding success in Gibraltar the other year. Anna is tough, though. If she can hold steady, she has an outside chance of upsetting her opponent.
GM Valentina Gunina, Russia, European Women's Chess Champion (2012)
The match will be interesting and fruitful chess-wise! It is hard to predict the outcome, but I will be rooting for Hou Yifan
GM Yuri Drozdovskij, Ukraine,
European Rapid Chess Champion (2006)
Objectively speaking, Hou Yifan appears to be a stronger player: she has a higher and more stable rating & more impressive titles. This makes her a favorite in the match. On the other hand, Ushenina has made a lot of progress lately; her play has become more mature. Anna handles a few types of positions better than the Chinese GM. Also, we shouldn't forget about the serious preparation for the match with Ushenina's mighty team of seconds. Overall, Anna's chances look quite tangible. The course of the match will be decided by whether Anna will succeed in forcing her Hou Yifan into the desired types of positions. We will be cheering for her! Forza Ushenina!
WGM Ruan Lufei, China,
Women's World Chess Championship Finalist (2010)
Sorry, I think it's not appropriate for me to comment. First, I'm a Chinese, so the standpoint is a little bit biased. Second, I have never played against Ushenina before, so I cannot say anything. Hope you guys enjoy the match!
Peter Zhdanov, Russia,
Editor of Pogonina.com
At first glance, Hou Yifan is a clear favorite: she is considerably higher-rated; the match will take place in her native country, China. However, Anna Ushenina has her own trumps: a large experience, nerves of steel, no "must-win" burden (due to being the underdog). As far as I know, her team of seconds will be very impressive and will include top GMs from the Soviet chess school. In my opinion, it will be important for Hou Yifan to grab the lead within the initial 4-5 games. If Anna succeeds in maintaining an even or positive score after 5 games, the psychological pressure might get to Hou Yifan. Summarizing, I would estimate Hou Yifan's chances to succeed as 55% and Anna Ushenina's - as 45%.
An exciting and unpredictable duel is coming up. Earlier I would have instantly picked Hou Yifan, but Anna has reshaped her game in the last year or two. The match should be close, and I am not expecting an easy walk for any of the competitors.
GM Lars Bo Hansen, Denmark
I see Hou Yifan as the favorite mainly because of her additional World Championship experience in this match format, but I expect a close match. Ushenina played well against Svidler at the World Cup and I expect some interesting games between two dynamic players.