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Chess women’s world championships marred by boycotts

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The quarter-finals of the Women's World Chess Championship started in Tehran on Monday without nine of the 64 players who qualified to take part. Four of them have publicly stated that they are boycotting the championship in protest of Iran’s restrictive laws against women. But not all are angry about clothing restrictions: some are critical of the organising body, FIDE.


Eight players are now left to compete for the women's chess crown: two former world champions, Russia's Alexandra Kosteniuk and Bulgaria's Antoaneta Stefanova, three Chinese players, the current world number 2 Ju Wenjun, Tan Zhongyi and Ni Shiqun; Harika Dronavalli from India, Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk and Nana Dzagnidze from Georgia.

The format: they play short two-game matches with the classic time control with a tie-break with faster time controls if the match is tied 1-1.

There were two decisive games at the first day of round four. Anna Muzychuk beat Antoaneta Stefanova and Harika Dronavalli defeated Nana Dzagnidze.

Rating favorites of the matches Alexandra Kosteniuk and Ju Wenjun held their opponents for a draw and will obviously try to press with white pieces on Wednesday.

And, in an all-Chinese meeting, Tan Zhongyi, playing with white, transferred the game into the ending which turned to be better for white. There were few moments in the game were Tan Zhongyi was about to win but Ju Wenjun found the right defence. 

But it is not a full playing field.

Current world champion, Hou Yifan, who was only 14 when she got the title of grand master, is not taking part, so she will lose her title.

She said she is boycotting the tournament because she doesn’t agree with the knock-out format.

And some of the world’s top chess players have decided to boycott the event because they refuse to wear headscarves as required by tIran’s Islamic government.

They include Argentina’s champion Carolina Lujan, former world champion Marya Muzy-chuk and US women’s champ Nazi Paikidze.

Paikidze, 23, organized a petition on change.org calling on the World Chess Federation to change the tournament’s location but proved unsuccessful in doing so.