Development of the Women's World Chess Championship

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While the World Chess Championship title, contested officially since 1886 and unofficially long before that, is in theory open to all players, it was for many years contested solely by men. In 1927, FIDE therefore established a Women's World Chess Championship exclusively for female players. Like the "open" title, the format for the women's championship has undergone several changes since then, the most important of which are described here.

The Championship before World War II (1927-39)[edit]

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded in 1924 and quickly came up with the idea of taking control of the World Championship, although this didn't happen until 1948. The Women's World Championship, however, was a new creation by FIDE and thus held under their auspices from the beginning.

All official Women's Championships except one before World War II were held as round-robin tournaments concurrently with one of the Chess Olympiads, also controlled by FIDE - and all of them were won by the same player: Vera Menchik, by far the dominating figure in this early era of organized women's chess. Menchik, who usually preferred to compete in regular open tournaments against men (and beat several of them), first won the title at the first official Olympiad in London in 1927 and since defended it successfully no less than eight times, six times at subsequent Olympiads (in 1930, 31, 33, 35, 37, and 39, respectively) and twice in matches against Sonja Graf, arguably the second-strongest female player of that era. These matches were arranged largely by the players themselves, much like the open title at the time. The first match (in 1934) was unofficial, while the second one (in 1937) was recognized by FIDE as official.

Introduction of the Championship cycle (1949-99)[edit]

Both reigning champions died during or shortly after World War II, Menchik during a bombing raid on her home in England in 1944 and Alexander Alekhine under somewhat suspicious circumstances in early 1946. FIDE promptly seized the opportunity to take control of the open title and produce standardized rules for both titles. This meant a cycle of Zonal, Interzonal, and Candidates Tournaments to produce a challenger who would then face the defending champion in a match for the title.

Naturally, since women only made up a small part of the total number of players, this system was only introduced gradually for the women's title. The first Candidates Tournament was held in 1952 and the first Interzonal in 1971. In the same cycle (1971–72), the format for the Candidates Tournament was changed from a round-robin to a knock-out series of matches. In 1976, the number of Interzonals was increased to two, due to the growing number of zones and chess-playing nations worldwide.

In 1986, the Candidates Tournament went back to the round-robin format and from 1991 there was again only played one Interzonal, but with a higher number of participants and using the Swiss system. The last championship cycle using this format (from 1995–99) was surrounded by much controversy and followed by some major changes to the system.

Knock-out Championships[edit]

Beginning in 2001, the women's championship, like the open one, was contested as single elimination tournaments with 64 players playing mini-matches for six rounds until only one remained. In the case of the open title this format was widely criticized, since several of the tournaments played during this period (1998–2004) were won by players with relatively low ratings.[citation needed] This was taken by some as a devaluation of the title. In the case of the women's championship, however, all of the knock-out tournaments were actually won by players who have before or since proven that they do belong to the absolute world elite.[citation needed]

Alternating formats[edit]

Since 2010, the women's championship has been held every year but in two alternating formats. In even years, the championship is still decided in a 64-player knock-out tournament. In odd years, however, the reigning champion from the year before will then defend her title in a match against a challenger. The challenger is determined through a Grand Prix series of six tournaments. There are various ways to qualify for the Grand Prix, but the field consists of 18 players, most of which are among the very strongest in the world.

Results[edit]

The tables below show the qualifiers and results for all Interzonal, Candidates and World Championship tournaments and matches. Players shown bracketed in italics (e.g. (Kushnir) in 1973-75) qualified for or were seeded in a specific stage of the championship cycle, but did not play. Players listed after players in italics (like Stefanova in 2011) only qualified due to the non-participation of the bracketed players.

The "Seeded into Final" column usually refers to the incumbent champion, but this has a different meaning for the 1949-50 tournament which was held to produce a new champion after the death of Menchik, and for the knock-out tournaments since 2001, where the defending champion gets no special privileges.

1949-99: Interzonals and Candidates Tournaments[edit]

Years Interzonal Format Interzonal Qualifiers Seeded into Candidates Candidates Format Candidates Winner(s) Seeded in Final Championship Final
1949-50 None.
After the death of Vera Menchik in 1944 FIDE decided to stage a tournament to determine the new champion.
16 players Moscow 1949-50
Single round robin
1. Rudenko 11½ / 15
2. Rubtsova 10½
3.-4. Bykova, Belova 10
1952-53 None 16 players Moscow 1952
Single round robin
1. Bykova 11½ / 15
2.-3. Heemskerk, Ignatieva 10½
Bykova Rudenko (1950 champion) Moscow 1953
14 game match
Bykova won 8 - 6
1955-56 None 20 players Moscow 1955
Single round robin
1. Rubtsova 15 / 19
2. Volpert 14½
3. Keller-Herrmann 14
Rubtsova Bykova (1953 champion),
Rudenko (1950 champion)
Moscow 1956
3 players,
Octuple round-robin
1. Rubtsova 10 / 16
2. Bykova 9½
3. Rudenko 4½
1958 Rematch Rubtsova,
Bykova
Moscow 1958
14 game match
Bykova won 8½ - 5½
1959 None 15 players Plovdiv 1959
Single round robin
1. Zvorykina 11½ / 14
2. Nedeljković 10½
3. Volpert 9½
Zvorykina Bykova (1958 champion) Moscow 1959
13 game match
Bykova won 8½ - 4½
1961-62 None 17 players Vrnjačka Banja 1961
Single round robin
1. Gaprindashvili 13 / 16
2. Borisenko 11
3. Zvorykina 10
Gaprindashvili Bykova (1959 champion) Moscow 1962
11 game match
Gaprindashvili won 9 - 2
1964-65 None 18 players Sukhumi 1964
Single round robin
1.-3. Lazarević, Kushnir, Zatulovskaya 12½ / 17
4.-5. Zvorykina, Jovanović 11
Kushnir (won playoff) Gaprindashvili (1962 champion) Riga 1965
13 game match
Gaprindashvili won 8½ - 4½
1967-69 None 18 players Subotica 1967
Single round robin
1. Kushnir 13½ / 17
2.-3. Kozlovskaya, Zatulovskaya 12½
Kushnir Gaprindashvili (1965 champion) Tbilisi and Moscow 1969
14 game match
Gaprindashvili won 9½ - 4½
1971-72 Ohrid 1971
18 players
Single round robin
3 qualified
1. Alexandria
2.-3. Lazarević, Zatulovskaya
Kushnir[1] 1971
4 players, matches
Semi-finals:
Kushnir beat Zatulovskaya,
Alexandria beat Lazarević
Kushnir (beat Alexandria in the final) Gaprindashvili (1969 champion) Riga 1972
16 game match
Gaprindashvili won 8½ - 7½
1973-75 Menorca 1973
20 players
Single round robin
4 qualified
1. Kozlovskaya
2.-5. Shul, Levitina, Alexandria[2]
(Kushnir)[3] 1974-75
4 players, matches
Semi-finals:
Alexandria beat Shul,
Levitina beat Kozlovskaya
Alexandria (beat Levitina in the final) Gaprindashvili (1972 champion) Pitsunda and Tbilisi 1975
12 game match
Gaprindashvili won 8½ - 3½
1976-78 Two 11-14 player, single round robin Interzonals
3 qualified from each
Roosendaal 1976
1.-2. Akhmilovskaya, Kushnir
3.-4. Lematschko[4]
Alexandria,
Levitina[5]
1977-78
8 players, matches
Semi-finals:
Chiburdanidze beat Akhmilovskaya,
Kushnir beat Fatalibekova
Chiburdanidze (beat Kushnir in the final) Gaprindashvili (1975 champion) Tbilisi 1978
15 game match
Chiburdanidze won 8½ - 6½
Tbilisi 1976
1. Fatalibekova
2.-3. Chiburdanidze, Kozlovskaya
1979-81 Two 17-18 player, single round robin Interzonals
3-4 qualified from each
Rio de Janeiro 1979
1. Ioseliani
2. Veroci-Petronic
3. Alexandria
Gaprindashvili,[6]
(Kushnir)[7]
1980-81
8 players, matches
Semi-finals:
Alexandria beat Litinskaya,
Ioseliani beat Gaprindashvili
Alexandria (beat Ioseliani in the final) Chiburdanidze (1978 champion) Borjomi and Tbilisi 1981
16 game match
Drawn 8 - 8
Chiburdanidze retained title
Alicante 1979
1.-2. Lematschko, Akhmilovskaya
3. Gurieli
4. Litinskaya
1982-84 Two 15-16 player, single round robin Interzonals
3 qualified from each
Bad Kissingen 1982
1. Gaprindashvili
2. Semenova
3. Lematschko
Alexandria,
Ioseliani[8]
1983-84
8 players, matches
Semi-finals:
Levitina beat Alexandria,
Semenova beat Ioseliani
Levitina (beat Semenova in the final) Chiburdanidze (1981 champion) Volgograd 1984
14 game match
Chiburdanidze won 8½ - 5½
Tbilisi 1982
1. Mureşan
2. Levitina
3. Liu Shilan
1985-86 Two 14-16 player, single round robin Interzonals
3 qualified from each
Havana 1985
1. Alexandria
2. Akhmilovskaya
3.-5. Cramling[9]
Levitina,
Semenova[10]
Malmö 1986
8 players
Double round-robin
1. Akhmilovskaya 9½ / 14
2. Alexandria 8
3. Litinskaya 8
Akhmilovskaya Chiburdanidze (1984 champion) Sofia 1986
14 game match
Chiburdanidze won 8½ - 5½
Zeleznovodsk 1985
1. Litinskaya
2. Wu Mingqian
3.-4. Brustman[11]
1987-88 Two 16-18 player, single round robin Interzonals
3 qualified from each
Smederevska Palanka 1987
1. Litinskaya-Shul
2.-3. Levitina, Gaprindashvili[12]
Akhmilovskaya,
Alexandria[13]
Tsqaltubo 1988
8 players
Double round-robin
1.-2. Ioseliani, Akhmilovksya 10 / 14
3.-4. Levitina, Letinskaya-Shul 8
Ioseliani (won playoff against Akhmilovksya) Chiburdanidze (1986 champion) Telavi 1988
16 game match
Chiburdanidze won 8½ - 7½
Tuzla 1987
1. Ioseliani
2. Arakhamia
3.-4. Brustman[14]
1990-91 Two 18 player, single round robin Interzonals
3 qualified from each
Azov 1990
1.-2. Kachiani, Galliamova
3. Klimova-Richtrova
Ioseliani,
Akhmilovskaya[15]
Borzomi 1991
8 players
Single round-robin
1.-2. Xie Jun, Marić 4½ / 7
3.-4. Galliamova, Ioseliani 4
Xie Jun (won playoff against Marić) Chiburdanidze (1988 champion) Manila 1991
15 game match
Xie Jun won 8½ - 6½
Genting Highlands 1990
1. Gaprindashvili
2. Xie Jun
3.-4. Marić[16]
1991-93 Subotica 1991
35 players Swiss
6 qualified
1.-2. Gaprindashvili, Peng Zhaoqin
3.-4. Ioseliani, Levitina
5.-7. Wang Pin, Qin Kanying[17]
Chiburdanidze,[18]
Marić[19]

S. Polgar[20]
Shanghai 1992
9 players
Double round-robin
2 advanced to final
1. S. Polgar 12½ / 16
2.-3. Ioseliani, Chiburdanidze 9½[21]
Monaco 1993
Final ended 6 - 6
Ioseliani won lottery
Xie Jun (1991 champion) Monaco 1993
11 game match
Xie Jun won 8½ - 2½
1993-96 Jakarta 1993
39 players Swiss
7 qualified
1. Arakhamia
2. Galliamova
3.-5. Chiburdanidze, Marić, Peng Zhaoqin
6.-8. Cramling, Foisor[22]
Ioseliani,
S. Polgar[23]
Tilburg 1994
9 players
Double round-robin
2 advanced to final
1.-2. S. Polgar,
Chiburdanidze 10½ / 16
3. Cramling 8½
Saint Petersburg 1995
S. Polgar won final
5½ - 1½
Xie Jun (1993 champion) Jaén 1996
13 game match
S. Polgar won 8½ - 4½
1995-99 Chişinău 1995
52 players Swiss
7 qualified
1. Arakhamia
2. Kachiani-Gersinska
3.-6. Ioseliani, Galliamova, Peng Zhaoqin, Marić
7.-9. Gurieli[24]
Xie Jun,[25]
Chiburdanidze,
Cramling[26]
Groningen 1997
10 players
Double round-robin
2 advanced to final
1. Galliamova 13½ / 18
2. Xie Jun 12½
3.-4. Ioseliani, Chiburdanidze 11
Xie Jun,
Galliamova[27]
(S. Polgar) (1996 champion)[28] Kazan and Shenyang 1997
15 game match
Xie Jun won 8½ - 6½[29]

2000-10: Knock-out tournaments[edit]

Years Tournament
Format
Quarter-finals Semi-finals Championship
Final
2000 New Delhi
November - December 2000
61 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Xie Jun beat Zhukova
Kovalevskaya beat Peng Zhaoqin
Qin Kanying beat Peptan
Marić beat Skripchenko
Xie Jun beat Kovalevskaya
Qin Kanying beat Marić
Xie Jun beat Qin Kanying
2½ - 1½
2001 Moscow
November - December 2001
64 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Kosteniuk beat Skripchenko,
Foisor beat Xu Yuhua,
Chiburdanidze beat Peng Zhaoqin,
Zhu Chen beat Khurtsidze
Kosteniuk beat Xu Yuhua,
Zhu Chen beat Chiburdanidze
Zhu Chen beat Kosteniuk
5 - 3
2004 Elista
May - June 2004
64 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Koneru Humpy beat Xu Yuhua,
Kachiani-Gersinska beat Kovalevskaya,
Stefanova beat Dzagnidze,
Chiburdanidze beat Čmilytė
Kovalevskaya beat Koneru Humpy,
Stefanova beat Chiburdanidze
Stefanova beat Kovalevskaya
2½ - ½
2006 Ekaterinburg
March 2006
64 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Čmilytė beat Chiburdanidze,
Galliamova beat Khurtsidze,
Matveeva beat Sebag,
Xu Yuhua beat Kovalevskaya
Xu Yuhua beat Matveeva,
Galliamova beat Čmilytė
Xu Yuhua beat Galliamova
2½ - ½
2008 Nalchik
August - September 2008
64 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Kosteniuk beat Ushenina,
Cramling beat Stefanova,
Hou Yifan beat Mkrtchian,
Koneru Humpy beat Shen Yang
Kosteniuk beat Cramling,
Hou Yifan beat Koneru Humpy
Kosteniuk beat Hou Yifan
2½ - 1½
2010 Hatay
December 2010
64 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Ruan Lufei beat Dronavalli Harika,
Zhao Xue beat Skripchenko,
Hou Yifan beat Lahno,
Koneru Humpy beat Ju Wenjun
Ruan Lufei beat Zhao Xue
Hou Yifan beat Koneru Humpy
Hou Yifan beat Ruan Lufei
5 - 3

2011-present: alternating formats[edit]

Years Qualification
Format
Qualifiers Seeded
into Final
Championship
Final
2011 FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2009–2011
6 tournament series, winner qualified
1. Hou Yifan 410
2. Humpy Koneru 398⅓
Humpy Koneru[30] Hou Yifan
(2010 champion)
Tirana
November 2011
10 game match
Hou Yifan won 5½ - 2½
2012 Khanty Mansiysk November - December 2012
64 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Quarter-finals:
Antoaneta Stefanova beat Marie Sebag,
Zhao Xue beat Harika Dronavalli,
Anna Ushenina beat Nadezhda Kosintseva,
Huang Qian beat Ju Wenjun
Semi-finals:
Stefanova beat Dronavalli
Ushenina beat Wenjun
Ushenina beat Stefanova
3½ - 2½
2013 FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2011-2012
6 tournament series, winner qualified
1. Hou Yifan 480
2. Humpy Koneru 415
Hou Yifan Anna Ushenina
(2012 champion)
Taizhou, Jiangsu
September 2013
10 game match
Hou Yifan won 5½ - 1½
2015 Sochi March - April 2015
64 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Quarter-finals:
Mariya Muzychuk beat Humpy Koneru,
Harika Dronavalli beat Meri Arabidze,
Natalia Pogonina beat Zhao Xue,
Pia Cramling beat Anna Muzychuk
Semi-finals:
M. Muzychuk beat Dronavalli
Pogonina beat Cramling
Mariya Muzychuk beat Pogonina
2½ - 1½
2016 FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2013–14
6 tournament series, winner qualified
1. Hou Yifan 465
2. Humpy Koneru 380
Hou Yifan Mariya Muzychuk
(2015 champion)
Lviv
March 2016
10 game match

Hou Yifan won 6-3.

2017 Tehran February - March 2017
64 players
6 round, mini-match, knockout tournament
Quarter-finals:
Tan Zhongyi beat Ju Wenjun,
Harika Dronavalli beat Nana Dzagnidze,
Anna Muzychuk beat Antoaneta Stefanova,
Alexandra Kosteniuk beat Ni Shiqun
Semi-finals:
Tan beat Dronavalli
A. Muzychuk beat Kosteniuk
Tan Zhongyi beat A. Muzychuk
3½ - 2½
2018 FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2015–16
5 tournament series, winner qualified
1. Ju Wenjun 413⅓
2. Humpy Koneru 335
Ju Wenjun Tan Zhongyi
(2017 champion)
Ju Wenjun

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Loser of the previous championship match.
  2. ^ Konopleva eliminated after playoff.
  3. ^ Loser of the previous championship match. Having recently eloped from the Soviet Union, she was unable to participate in the tournament.
  4. ^ Van der Mije eliminated after playoff.
  5. ^ Finalists of the previous Candidates tournament.
  6. ^ Loser of the previous championship match.
  7. ^ Finalist of the previous Candidates tournament. She did not participate.
  8. ^ Finalists of the previous Candidates tournament.
  9. ^ Ioseliani and Terescenco-Nutu eliminated after playoff.
  10. ^ Finalists of the previous Candidates tournament.
  11. ^ Zaitseva eliminated after playoff.
  12. ^ Klimova-Richtrova eliminated after playoff.
  13. ^ The top 2 of the previous Candidates tournament.
  14. ^ Semenova eliminated after playoff.
  15. ^ The top 2 of the previous Candidates tournament.
  16. ^ Gurieli eliminated after playoff.
  17. ^ Arakhamia eliminated on tie-break score.
  18. ^ Loser of the last championship match.
  19. ^ Runner-up from the previous Candidates tournament.
  20. ^ Received a wild card due to her rating (2500+) and having achieved the full Grandmaster title through regular tournament play as the first woman.
  21. ^ Ioseliani advanced to the final on a better tie-break score.
  22. ^ Sofieva eliminated after playoff.
  23. ^ Finalists from the previous Candidates tournament.
  24. ^ Mišanović and Matveeva eliminated on tie-break scores.
  25. ^ Loser of the last championship match.
  26. ^ Runners-up of the previous Candidates tournament.
  27. ^ The match was supposed to be played in Shenyang, but Galliamova refused to play only in China, so Xie Jun was declared the winner on forfeit.
  28. ^ S. Polgar requested that the championship match be postponed due to her pregnancy. Furthermore, she didn't want to play only in China. Consequently, FIDE stripped her of the title and instead arranged a new match between the two Candidates finalists.
  29. ^ After S. Polgar was stripped of her title, a new title match was arranged between the two Candidates finalists.
  30. ^ Hou Yifan was already qualified as defending champion, so the second placed Koneru became her challenger.

See also[edit]

References[edit]