World No 2 and second seed Koneru Humpy of India will open her Women’s World Chess Championship campaign against Denise Frick of South Africa in the first round at Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, on Friday. The event will consist of two mini-matches till the semifinal and four-game finals to decide the world champion.
After losing the world chess title match to Hou Yifan in Tirana last year, Humpy will be looking to win her maiden world title, which is the only missing link in her CV. In the build-up to the world championship, Humpy has been in top form, winning the Women’s GP in Istanbul and finished second in the GP Series. Recent performances has helped Humpy regain her No 2 spot in the FIDE rankings.
With more than 700 points seperating Humpy and her first-round opponent, the first hurdle should not be a problem. The Indian will have tougher opposition in the later rounds with Viktoria Cmylijte, Kosintseva sisters, Alexandra Kosteniuk and Pia Cramling in the same half of the draw.
Other than Humpy, two more Indians are in the fray but unfortunately Dronavalli Harika will face Soumya Swaminathan in an all-Indian first-round battle.
Three-time world champion Hou Yifan will start favourite. After becoming the youngest world champion at 17, the Chinese has retained the title twice and looks to be in good touch coming into this tournament. Humpy and vastly improved Anna Muzychuk of Slovenia will be the other strong contenders for the crown.
Important Pairings (1st round): Hou Yifan (Chn) vs SD Ranasinghe (SL); Koneru Humpy (Ind)I vs Denise Frick (RSA); Anna Muzychuk (Slo) vs Amina Mezioud (Alg); Zhao, Xue (Chn) vs Natalia Khoudgarian (Can); Kateryna Lahno (Ukr) vs Khaled Mona (Egy); N Kosintseva (Rus) Vs Melissa Castrillon (Col), V Cmilyte (Ltu) vs F Aliaga (Per); A Ushenina (Ukr) vs Cori T Deysi (Per); N Zhukova (Ukr) vs Qi Guo (Chn); M Socko (Pol) vs A Skripchenko (Fra); M Sebag (Fra) vs I Berezina (Aus); V Gunina (Rus) vs G Xiaobing (Chn); P Cramling (Swe) vs Shayesteh Ghader (IRI); T Kosintseva, (Rus); M Davletbayeva (Kaz); D Harika (Ind) vs Soumya Swaminathan (Ind); A Kosteniuk (Rus) vs T Abrahamyan (USA); Ju Wenjun (Chn) vs A Pourkashiyan (IRI); A Stefanova (Bul) vs M Romanko (Rus); Zhu Chen (Qat) vs N Ziaziulkina (Blr).