Any KO is inherently more prone to upsets than a round-robin. The Fide format of two-game mini-matches followed by tiebreaks at accelerated controls is even more liable to upsets. If two players have a rating difference of 100 Elo, the expected score is 55:45. In a 2-game match that is 1.1 versus 0.9, implying a likely tiebreaker. In high-level KOs, rating differentials are much less than 100 points.
The ongoing Women’s World Cup was an amazing illustration of the upset potential of the format. World Champion Hou Yifan, no:2 Koneru Humpy, no:3 Anna Muzychuk and the Kosintseva sisters all fell by the wayside.
The semifinals qualifiers include Anna Ushenina who beat Nadezdha Kosintseva. Antoaneta Stepanova won tiebreakers against Marie Sebag. Harika saved a dead-lost position against Xue Zhao and then won the tiebreakers. Ju Wenjun and Huang Qian are playing out tiebreakers.
Whatever happens, Hou’s next opponent will be a bit of a surprise. Former world champion Stepanova is the only player with a serious track record and “Etti’s” been in indifferent form for several years.
The world age-group championships saw Dariusz Scwiercz win the U-18 open and Alexandra Goryachkina won the U-18 girls. Girish Koushik and Arvind Chithambaram came second in the U-16 and U-14, respectively. The girls did India proud with Mahalakshmi, Vaishali and Priyanka winning the U-14, U-12 and U-10 girls respectively. In the first round of the Tashkent Grand Prix, Morozevich beat Kamsky in a wild scramble while Karjakin grafted a win Dominguez Perez.
THE DIAGRAM, WHITE TO PLAY (Morozevich Vs Kamsky, Tashkent GP 2012) saw both players in time-trouble. White played 22.b3 g5!? It may have been more prudent to stop for 22. -d6. After 23.h3 h5 24.d6 g4 25.Qd5+ Rf7 white hit back with 26.Ne1!? gxh3. Moro isn't temperamentally capable of backing down or else 26. hxg4 hxg4 27. Nd2 is safer. 27.Rd3 hxg2.
Black wins after 28. Rg3 gxf1+29. Kxf1 Qxg3 30. fxg3 and Re8, h4, etc. So, 28.Nxg2 h4 29.Kh1 Qg5! The queen exchange would win for black — weak pawns on d6, f2, an exposed white king and a dominant bishop.
However white played on with 30.Qe4 Rg7. The alternative 30. – Bd4 looks very strong. If 31. Ne3 Rf4 or 31. Nxh4 Rf4 or 31. Rh3 Rdf8. After this natural move white has a counter-attack with 31.Ne3 h3 32.Rdd1 Qe5 33.Qf3 Rf8 34.Nf5 Rg6 ??
Black is better after 34.--Rg5. It's a perpetual after 34. -Rg2 35. Nh6+ Kg7 (or else 35.--Kh8 36. Qxh3) 36. Nf5+ or even 35. Qxh3. Now 35.Rde1! Qc3 36.Qd5+ (1-0). Magically, white is winning after 36.-- Rf7 37. Re8+, or 36. – Kh7 37. Re3.
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player