Women's World Chess Championship

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Current Women's World Chess Champion Ju Wenjun from China

The Women's World Chess Championship (WWCC) is played to determine the women's world champion in chess. Like the World Chess Championship, it is administered by FIDE.

Unlike with most sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee, where competition is either "mixed" (containing everyone) or split into men and women,[1] in chess women are both allowed to compete in the "open" division (including the World Chess Championship) yet also have a separate Women's Championship (only open to females).[2]


Era of Menchik[edit]

The Women's World Championship was established by FIDE in 1927 as a single tournament held alongside the Chess Olympiad. The winner of that tournament, Vera Menchik, did not have any special rights as the men's champion did—instead she had to defend her title by playing as many games as all the challengers. She did this successfully in every other championship in her lifetime (1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937 and 1939).

Dominance of the Soviet Union players (1950–1991)[edit]

1981 Women's World Championship, Maia Chiburdanidze vs. Nana Alexandria

Menchik died, still champion, in 1944 in a German air raid on Kent. The next championship was another round-robin tournament in 1949–50 and was won by Lyudmila Rudenko. Thereafter a system similar to that of the men's championship was established, with a cycle of Candidates events (and later Interzonals) to pick a challenger to face the reigning champion.

The first such Candidates tournament was held in Moscow, 1952. Elisaveta Bykova won and proceeded to defeat Rudenko with seven wins, five losses, and two draws to become the third champion. The next Candidates tournament was won by Olga Rubtsova. Instead of directly playing Bykova, however, FIDE decided that the championship should be held between the three top players in the world. Rubtsova won at Moscow in 1956, one-half point ahead of Bykova, who finished five points ahead of Rudenko. Bykova regained the title in 1958 and defended it against Kira Zvorykina, winner of a Candidates tournament, in 1959.

The fourth Candidates tournament was held in 1961 in Vrnjacka Banja, and was utterly dominated by Nona Gaprindashvili of Georgia, who won with ten wins, zero losses, and six draws. She then decisively defeated Bykova with seven wins, no losses, and four draws in Moscow, 1962 to become champion. Gaprindashvili defended her title against Alla Kushnir of Russia at Riga 1965 and Tbilisi/Moscow 1969. In 1972, FIDE introduced the same system for the women's championship as with the men's: a series of Interzonal tournaments, followed by the Candidates matches. Kushnir won again, only to be defeated by Gaprindashvili at Riga 1972. Gaprindashvili defended the title one last time against Nana Alexandria of Georgia at Pitsunda/Tbilisi 1975.

In 1976–1978 Candidates cycle, 17-year-old Maya Chiburdanidze of Georgia ended up the surprise star, defeating Nana Alexandria, Elena Akhmilovskaya, and Alla Kushnir to face Gaprindashvili in the 1978 finals at Tbilisi. Chiburdanidze proceeded to soundly defeat Gaprindashvili, marking the end of one Georgian's domination and the beginning of another's. Chiburdanidze defended her title against Alexandria at Borjomi/Tbilisi 1981 and Irina Levitina at Volgograd 1984. Following this, FIDE reintroduced the Candidates tournament system. Akhmilovskaya, who had earlier lost to Chiburdanidze in the Candidates matches, won the tournament was but was still defeated by Chiburdanidze at Sofia 1986. Chiburdanidze's final title defense came against Nana Ioseliani at Telavi 1988.

Post-Soviet era (1991–2010)[edit]

Chiburdanidze's domination ended in Manila 1991, where the young Chinese star Xie Jun defeated her, after finishing second to the still-active Gaprindashvili in an Interzonal, tying with Alisa Marić in the Candidates tournament, and then beating Maric in a tie-breaker match.

It was during this time that the three Polgar sisters Susan (also known as Zsuzsa), Sofia (Zsófia), and Judit emerged as dominant players. However they tended to compete in men's tournaments, avoiding the women's championship.

Susan Polgar eventually changed her policy. She won the 1992 Candidates tournament in Shanghai. The Candidates final—an eight-game match between the top two finishers in the tournament—was a drawn match between Polgar and Ioseliani, even after two tiebreaks. The match was decided by a lottery, which Ioseliani won. She was then promptly crushed by Xie Jun (8​12–2​12) in the championship at Monaco 1993.

The next cycle was dominated by Polgar. She tied with Chiburdanidze in the Candidates tournament, defeated her easily in the match (5​12–1​12), and then decisively defeated Xie Jun (8​12–4​12) in Jaén 1996 for the championship.

In 1997, Russian Alisa Galliamova and Chinese Xie Jun finished first and second, but Galliamova refused to play the final match entirely in China. FIDE eventually awarded the match to Xie Jun by default.

However, by the time all these delays were sorted out, Polgar had given birth to her first child. She requested that the match be postponed. FIDE refused, and eventually set up the championship to be between Galliamova and Xie Jun. The championship was held in Kazan, Tatarstan and Shenyang, China, and Xie Jun won with five wins, three losses, and seven draws.

In 2000 a knock-out event, similar to the FIDE men's title and held alongside it, was the new format of the women's world championship. It was won by Xie Jun. In 2001 a similar event determined the champion, Zhu Chen. Another knock-out, this one held separately from the men's event, in Elista, the capital of the Russian republic of Kalmykia (of which FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is president), from May 21 to June 8, 2004, produced Bulgarian Antoaneta Stefanova as champion. As with Polgar five years prior, Zhu Chen did not participate due to pregnancy.

In 2006 the title returned to China. The new champion Xu Yuhua was pregnant during the championship.

In 2008, the title went to Russian grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk, who, in the final, beat Chinese prodigy Hou Yifan 2​12–1​12, then aged 14 (see Women's World Chess Championship 2008).

In 2010 the title returned to China once again. Hou Yifan, the runner-up in the previous championship, became the youngest ever women's world champion at the age of 16. She beat her compatriot WGM Ruan Lufei 2–2 (classic) 3–1 (rapid playoffs).

Yearly tournaments (2010–present)[edit]

Women's World Chess Championship, Tirana 2011

Beginning from 2010, the Women's World Chess Championship would be held annually in alternating formats. In even years a 64-player knockout system would be used, in the odd years a classical match featuring only two players would be held.[3] The 2011 edition was between the 2010 champion Hou Yifan and the winner of the FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2009–2011. Since Hou Yifan won the Grand Prix, her challenger was the runner-up, Koneru Humpy.[4]

In 2011 Hou Yifan successfully defended her women's world champion title in the Women's World Chess Championship 2011 in Tirana, Albania against Koneru Humpy. Hou won three games and drew five in the ten-game match, winning the title with two games to spare.

Hou Yifan was knocked-out in the second round in Women's World Chess Championship 2012, which was played in Khanty Mansiysk. Anna Ushenina, seeded 30th in the tournament, won the final against Antoaneta Stefanova 3​12–2​12.

The Women's World Chess Championship 2013 was a match over 10 games between defending champion Anna Ushenina and Hou Yifan who had won the FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2011–2012. After seven of ten games Hou Yifan won the match 5.5 to 1.5 to retake the title.

After Hou declined to defend her title at the Women's World Chess Championship 2015, the title was won by Mariya Muzychuk, who defeated Natalia Pogonina in the final.

Hou defeated Muzychuk 6-3 to reclaim the Women's World Chess Championship 2016 title for her 4th championship in March 2016.

The following year Tan Zhongyi defeated Muzychuk for the title at the Women's World Chess Championship 2017.

Tan lost the title defending it against Ju Wenjun (with Hou not participating at this event) at the Women's World Chess Championship Match 2018.

Women's World Chess Champions[edit]

Name Years Country
Vera Menchik 1927–1944  Russia (in exile) /  Czechoslovakia /  England
none 1944–1950 World War II
Lyudmila Rudenko 1950–1953  Soviet Union (Ukrainian SSR)
Elisaveta Bykova 1953–1956  Soviet Union (Russian SFSR)
Olga Rubtsova 1956–1958  Soviet Union (Russian SFSR)
Elisaveta Bykova 1958–1962  Soviet Union (Russian SFSR)
Nona Gaprindashvili 1962–1978  Soviet Union (Georgian SSR)
Maia Chiburdanidze 1978–1991  Soviet Union (Georgian SSR)
Xie Jun 1991–1996  China
Susan Polgar 1996–1999  Hungary
Xie Jun 1999–2001  China
Zhu Chen 2001–2004  China
Antoaneta Stefanova 2004–2006  Bulgaria
Xu Yuhua 2006–2008  China
Alexandra Kosteniuk 2008–2010  Russia
Hou Yifan 2010–2012  China
Anna Ushenina 2012–2013  Ukraine
Hou Yifan 2013–2015  China
Mariya Muzychuk 2015–2016  Ukraine
Hou Yifan 2016–2017  China
Tan Zhongyi 2017–2018  China
Ju Wenjun 2018–  China

List of Women's World Chess Championships[edit]

Year Host country Host city World champion Runner-up(s) Won (+) Lost (−) Draw (=) Format
Women's World Chess Championship (1927–1944)
1927  United Kingdom London Russia Vera Menchik 11 players 10 0 1 12-player round-robin tournament
1930  Germany Hamburg Czechoslovakia Vera Menchik 4 players 6 1 1 5-player double round-robin tournament
1931  Czechoslovakia Prague Czechoslovakia Vera Menchik 4 players 8 0 0 5-player double round-robin tournament
1933  United Kingdom Folkestone Czechoslovakia Vera Menchik 7 players 14 0 0 8-player double round-robin tournament
1934  Netherlands Rotterdam Czechoslovakia Vera Menchik Germany Sonja Graf 3 1 0 4-game match
1935  Poland Warsaw Czechoslovakia Vera Menchik 9 players 9 0 0 10-player round-robin tournament
1937  Sweden Stockholm Czechoslovakia Vera Menchik 25 players 14 0 0 26-player Swiss-system tournament
1937  Austria Semmering Czechoslovakia Vera Menchik Germany Sonja Graf 9 2 5 16-game match
1939  Argentina Buenos Aires United Kingdom Vera Menchik 19 players 17 0 2 20-player round-robin tournament
Vera Menchik died in 1944 as reigning world champion.
Women's World Chess Championship (1944–1950)
Women's World Chess Championship (1950–1999)
1950  Soviet Union Moscow Soviet Union Lyudmila Rudenko 15 players 11½ points out of 15 16-player round-robin tournament
1953  Soviet Union Moscow Soviet Union Elisaveta Bykova Soviet Union Lyudmila Rudenko 7 5 2 14-game match
1956  Soviet Union Moscow Soviet Union Olga Rubtsova Soviet Union Elisaveta Bykova 10 points out of 16 3-player (Rubtsova, Bykova, Rudenko) octuple round-robin
1958  Soviet Union Moscow Soviet Union Elisaveta Bykova Soviet Union Olga Rubtsova 7 4 3 14-game match
1959  Soviet Union Moscow Soviet Union Elisaveta Bykova Soviet Union Kira Zvorykina 6 2 5 13-game match
1962  Soviet Union Moscow Soviet Union Nona Gaprindashvili Soviet Union Elisaveta Bykova 7 0 4 11-game match
1965  Soviet Union Riga Soviet Union Nona Gaprindashvili Soviet Union Alla Kushnir 7 3 3 13-game match
1969  Soviet Union Tbilisi
Soviet Union Nona Gaprindashvili Soviet Union Alla Kushnir 6 2 5 14-game match
1972  Soviet Union Riga Soviet Union Nona Gaprindashvili Soviet Union Alla Kushnir 5 4 7 16-game match
1975  Soviet Union Pitsunda
Soviet Union Nona Gaprindashvili Soviet Union Nana Alexandria 8 3 1 12-game match
1978  Soviet Union Tbilisi Soviet Union Maia Chiburdanidze Soviet Union Nona Gaprindashvili 4 2 9 15-game match
1981  Soviet Union Borjomi
Soviet Union Maia Chiburdanidze Soviet Union Nana Alexandria 4 4 8 16-game match (draw)
1984  Soviet Union Volgograd Soviet Union Maia Chiburdanidze Soviet Union Irina Levitina 5 2 7 14-game match
1986  Bulgaria Sofia Soviet Union Maia Chiburdanidze Soviet Union Elena Akhmilovskaya 4 1 9 14-game match
1988  Soviet Union Telavi Soviet Union Maia Chiburdanidze Soviet Union Nana Ioseliani 3 2 11 16-game match
1991  Philippines Manila China Xie Jun Soviet Union Maia Chiburdanidze 4 2 9 15-game match
1993  Monaco Monaco China Xie Jun Georgia (country) Nana Ioseliani 7 1 3 11-game match
1996  Spain Jaén Hungary Susan Polgar China Xie Jun 6 2 5 13-game match
1999  Russia
China Xie Jun Russia Alisa Galliamova 5 3 7 15-game match
Women's World Chess Championship (2000–present) (addition of the knockout format)
2000  India New Delhi China Xie Jun China Qin Kanying 1 0 3 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match)
2001  Russia Moscow China Zhu Chen Russia Alexandra Kosteniuk 2+3 2+1 0 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match, plus tie-breaks)
2004  Russia Elista Bulgaria Antoaneta Stefanova Russia Ekaterina Kovalevskaya 2 0 1 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match, won early)
2006  Russia Yekaterinburg China Xu Yuhua Russia Alisa Galliamova 2 0 1 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match, won early)
2008  Russia Nalchik Russia Alexandra Kosteniuk China Hou Yifan 1 0 3 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match)
2010  Turkey Hatay China Hou Yifan China Ruan Lufei 1+2 1 2+2 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match, plus tie-breaks)
2011  Albania Tirana China Hou Yifan India Humpy Koneru 3 0 5 10-game match, won early
2012  Russia Khanty-Mansiysk Ukraine Anna Ushenina Bulgaria Antoaneta Stefanova 1+1 1 2+1 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match, plus tie-breaks)
2013  China Taizhou China Hou Yifan Ukraine Anna Ushenina 4 0 3 10-game match, won early
2015  Russia Sochi Ukraine Mariya Muzychuk Russia Natalia Pogonina 1 0 3 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match)
2016  Ukraine Lviv China Hou Yifan Ukraine Mariya Muzychuk 3 0 6 10-game match, won early
2017  Iran Tehran China Tan Zhongyi Ukraine Anna Muzychuk 1+1 1 2+1 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match, plus tie-breaks)
May 2018  China Shanghai
China Ju Wenjun China Tan Zhongyi 3 2 5 10-game match
Nov 2018  Russia Khanty-Mansiysk 64-player knock-out tournament (4-game championship match, plus tie-breaks)
  • Due to various hosting and timing issues, the championships had varied from their intended annual calendar in recent years.[5] FIDE's plan is to get back on schedule by holding a second 2018 world championship, with the full 64 player knock-out starting in November, culminating with the final two players competing for the championship title in December 2018.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See for instance the discussion in the Dutee Chand decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport regarding the International Association of Athletics Federations: [1]
  2. ^ FIDE Statute 1.4
  3. ^ FIDE.com; Women's World Chess Championship Regulations
  4. ^ Fide.com; Regulations and Bidding Procedure for the Women's Grand-Prix 2009-2010 ; 30 July 2008; retrieved 24 December 2010
  5. ^ FIDE General Assembly Agenda (5.20.8)
  6. ^ http://www.fide.com/index.php?option=com_fidecalendar&view=fidecalendar&ny=2018

External links[edit]