Start is Everything
The 11-round distance of the World Championship can be divided into several parts. The starting part, which gives a general idea about the favorites’ condition and discovers dark horses. The tournament middlegame, which includes most of the key clashes and often determines the future champions. And, finally, the tournament endgame – a mere formality for some, and a heated race until the very last move for others.
Three starting rounds have passed, and it is a good time to draw some conclusions and play with the numbers. And there is nothing more emotional than dry statistical data…
Open 18. The only group without players with the perfect score. 12 players collected 2.5/3, and eight of them are ranked 10th or higher in the starting list. It is nice to see Maksim Vavulin returning to the first board, but his play is far from optimal, which can be seen from the total number of his moves – 194, the biggest number in the leading group.
In the next couple of rounds the main contenders will begin to clash with each other, and the results of these games will certainly clarify the situation. Will the championship become Vavulin’s revenge, or another triumph of Manuel Petrosian, or someone else will rise on top, like the promising German Dmitrij Kollars, for example.
Open 16. Before the start, it almost looked as if the first two medals are guaranteed to the Iranians. Amin Tabatabaei is indeed doing well, just as Haik Martirosyan, Viktor Gazik, and the surprising Konstantin Urban. However, Parham Maghsoodloo got stuck in dull and uneventful draws. If he does not manage to shake the starting inertia off, the experts will have to reconsider their predictions.
Open 14. Initially it looked like a Russian category – the clear favorite Andrey Esipenko from Rostov was strongly assisted by the Muscovite Semyon Lomasov. Both are living up to expectations with the perfect score, winning confidently and in crushing style. Only two more players managed to win all three games – Ilja Semjonovs and Bhavik Bharambe, but I don’t think they will keep the pace for long.
Girls 18. Three leaders have 3/3 – Stavroula Tsolakidou, Alexandra Obolentseva, and Josefine Heinemann. The rating favorite Nino Khomeriki is half a point behind. The first two are showing very powerful chess, and a lot will depend on the result of their individual game. The 12-year-old Bibisara Assaubayeva and Laura Unuk had a rather poor start, but can still return to contention thanks to large disparity in strength between them and other players in the pack.
Girls 16. The situation in this event is totally unclear. The nominal favorites – Polina Shuvalova, Svetlana Tishova, and Amina Battsooj are generously giving points away. Three players have the perfect score – Yao Lan, Anna-Maja Kazarian, and Danitza Vazquez Maccarini, but will they be able to hold? Nervousness and condition will eventually be leveled…
Girls 14. A large rating gap between the two Russian favorites and the rest of the filed has been confirmed on the board. Elizaveta Solozhenkina and Aleksandra Maltsevskaya are winning effortlessly and quickly rush to their individual game, which may determine the main favorite. Zhu Jiner from China and Javoera Gomez from Chile are clearly playing the supporting role, while the 3rd and 4th ranked girls, Gabriela Antova and Olga Badelka, are already a full point behind despite not having faced many tough opponents. We are looking forward to the key matches.
Although this is an individual championship, one cannot avoid comparing the “team” results. The Indians were the strongest team in the recent years, despite always being outnumbered by the Russians. In Khanty-Mansiysk, there are 61 Russian players (11 from Ugra region), and only 18 Indians. However, this time numbers seem to work in the hosts’ favor. So far the Russians are claiming six virtual medals, including two gold medals, and no other team seems to come close. Talking of other nations that brought numerous players to Khanty-Mansiysk, there are 14 players from Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka, 13 players from USA, 12 players from Chinese Taipei (and just 8 players from China), and 11 players from Iran…
Of course, all these statistical predictions are solely based on the starting rounds. Let us see how the plot develops.