Antoaneta Stefanova corners glory

Most of the leading stars in world chess were in the Georgian city to display their skills in the shorter formats of the mind game, and there were two queens at the end of it all — Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria and Russia's Valentina Gunina. By P. K. Ajith Kumar.

Georgia may no longer be the dominant force it was in women's chess, but it was an excellent host, ensuring smooth conduct of the World Women's Rapid and Blitz Championship in Batumi recently. Most of the leading stars in world chess were in the Georgian city to display their skills in the shorter formats of the mind game, and there were two queens at the end of it all — Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria and Russia's Valentina Gunina.

Stefanova, the 2004 World champion (in classical chess), lifted the rapid title, while the lesser-known Gunina cornered glory in blitz with a career-best performance. India's Koneru Humpy, who was the second seed at Batumi, had to be content with the third place in the rapid event, in which compatriot Dronavalli Harika finished sixth. The two Indians fared much worse in the blitz championship though, with Humpy ending 20th and the ninth-seeded Harika finishing 32nd.

Seventh-seeded Gunina was just too good for her rivals in blitz. The 23-year-old Russian won all her eight games on the opening day — an incredible effort at this level — and scored 13.5 points from 15 unbeaten rounds, beating her nearest rival Natalia Zhukova of Ukraine by 2.5 points. Anna Muzychuk, the top-seed from Slovenia, finished third, with 10.5 points.

Thirty-three-year-old Stefanova's performance in the rapid competition wasn't as domineering. The pretty woman, seeded eighth, scored 8.5 points from 11 rounds, half-a-point ahead of another beauty, Alexandra Kosteniuk. The former world champion from Russia also took the fourth spot in blitz.

Stefanova, too, did rather well in blitz, finishing fifth, whereas Gunina had a disappointing outing in the rapid format. She was placed 20th.

There were 50 players in the twin championship that offered a total prize fund of USD100,000. The rapid champion took home USD12,000, while the blitz winner became richer by USD10,000.

For Georgia, who ruled women's chess for three decades in the last century, the best performer was fourth-seed Nana Dzagnidze, who finished sixth in blitz and seventh in rapid.

FINAL STANDINGS

Rapid (11 rounds): 1. Antoaneta Stefanova (Bul 2518) 8.5; 2. Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus 2457) 8; 3. Koneru Humpy (Ind 2589) 8; 4. Kateryna Lahno (Ukr 2546) 8; 5. Anna Muzychuk (Slo 2598) 7.5; 6. Dronavalli Harika (Ind 2508) 7.5; 7. Nana Dzagnidze (Geo 2547) 7; 8. Pia Cramling (Swe 2478) 6.5; 9. Zhao Xue (Chn 2549) 6.5; 10. Guo Qi (Chn 2360) 6.5; 11. Elisabeth Paehtz (Ger 2491) 6.5; 12. Tan Zhongyi (Chn 2430) 6.5; 13. Lela Javakhishvili (Geo 2449) 6.5; 14. Natalia Zhukova (Ukr 2442) 6.5; 15. Zhu Chen (Qat 2491) 6.5; 16. Tatiana Kosintseva (Rus 2532) 6.5; 17. Hunag Qian (Chn 2417) 6; 18. Nino Khurtsidze (Geo 2456) 6; 19. Wang Jue (Chn 2364) 6; 20. Valentina Gunina (Rus 2530) 6.

Blitz (15 rounds): 1. Valentina Gunina (Rus 2530) 13; 2. Natalia Zhukova (Ukr 2442) 10.5; 3. Anna Muzychuk (Slo 2598) 10.5; 4. Alexandra Kosteniuk (Rus 2457) 10; 5. Antoaneta Stefanova (Bul 2518) 9.5; 6. Nana Dzagnidze (Geo 2457) 9.5; 7. Ding Yixin (Chn 2353) 9.5; 8. Kateryna Lahno (Ukr 2546) 9; 9. Maia Chiburdanidze (Geo 2500) 9; 10. Tan Zhongyi (Chn 2430) 9; 11. Maia Lomineishvili (Geo 2366) 9; 12. Salome Melia (Geo 2410) 9; 13. Anna Ushenina (Ukr 2454) 9; 14. Nino Batsiashvili (Geo 2436) 8.5; 15. Ana Matnadze (Esp 2446) 8.5; 16. Bela Khotenashvili (Geo 2500) 8.5; 17. Mariya Muzychuk (Ukr 2456) 8; 18. Deysi T. Cori (Per 2386) 8; 19. Zhao Xue (Chn 2549) 8; 20. Koneru Humpy (Ind 2589) 8.