Two-time Women's World Champion Hou Yifan (the 13th Women's World Champion, since 2010), qualified as challenger by winning the FIDE Women's Grand Prix series of 2013-2014 that ended with FIDE Women's Grand Prix Sharjah (2014)). She played this match against the 15th Women's World Champion, Mariya Muzychuk. Chief arbiter: Carol Jarecki. Deputy chief arbiter: Anastasia Sorokina.
The duration of the event was officially from Tuesday 1 March to Friday 18 March 2016. The first round commenced on 2 March 2016, and the last round on 14 March. Scheduled rest days were after every two rounds up to Game 8, with rest days after Game 9 and Game 10.
The match was held in the Palace of Counts Potockis in Lviv in Ukraine.
A best of ten-games match. The first player to reach 5.5 or 6 points would win the match. If the match ended in a 5-5 tie, tiebreakers would be played.
The time control for each game was 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one.
1. Four rapid games starting with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
2. If four rapid games were tied, then a 2-game blitz match would be played with a time control of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds increment after each move.
3. If the score was still level, then another 2-game blitz match would be played.
4. If there was no winner after 5 such matches (total 10 games), one Armageddon game would be played to determine the winner. White would receive 5 minutes, Black would receive 4 minutes. If the game reached 60 moves, both players received a 3 second increment per move from move 61 - if the game was drawn, Black would win the game and the match.
The prize fund of the match would be 200,000 euros (over $217,000), net of any applicable local taxes. As the match was being played in Muzychuk's home country, Hou Yifan was entitled to 10,000 euros. The remaining 190,000 euros would be divided 60%/40% in favor of the winner if the championship ended within the 10 regular games. If the tie-break was needed, the winner would receive 55% and the loser 45%.
The games were webcast live at https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-t....
Muzychuk had White in Game 1 and steered the opening into the Giuoco Piano (C50, C53 or C54). White diverged with 9.a4, but after multiple exchanges leading to a drawn Q+P ending with symmetrical pawns, the game was agreed drawn by move 31.
Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Yifan Hou 2667 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 6
Muzychuk 2563 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 3
Yifan Hou had the White pieces in Game 2 which featured a Ruy Lopez (Open). With Hou's <14. Bf4>, Muzychuk emerged from the opening with at least equality but after some tentative moves by her, Hou gained a couple of tempi with a queen retreat and advance, both attacking loose points in Black's queenside and center, to launch a powerful attack against Black's king that forced Black's resignation after 32 moves.
Muzychuk with White in Game 3 opened with a Closed Catalan and managed to gain a small advantage with her two bishops. However this didn't trouble Hou and the game was agreed drawn after 36 moves when exchanges reduced it to opposite colored bishops with a symmetrical three pawns each formation on the king side.
Muzychuk with Black in Game 4 was undeterred by her second round loss and again played the Ruy Lopez Open (C83), with the game following Caruana vs Wei Yi, 2016 until Muzychuk diverged from Wei Yi's <13...Qd7> (Caruana crushed Wei Yi in this game) by exchanging knights with <13...Nxd4>. Both players seemed to have home prepped this variation which lead to a short tactical melee with the game ending in a forced draw on move 21.
Yifan had White again in Game 5, and opened with an English. Muzychuk defended with a solid Caro-Kann system (A11) that yielded no chances for either player. After multiple exchanges, a draw was agreed on move 33 in a symmetrical rook ending.
In Game 6, both players used an aggressive variation of the Giuoco Piano (C50), with Muzychuk temporarily gaining the upper hand. However she failed to press for a strong advantage with <19. f6>, exchanged into a disadvantageous endgame with <27. Qe3>, and then lost the game with <33. Bc2?>.
Game 7 brought Yifan half a point closer to her goal. Yifan's Knight opening was met with Muzychuk's favored Ruy Lopez Open Variation. A long game ensued but with both playing careful and accurate chess there were no real chances for either player, with the game agreed drawn after 81 moves.
Yifan needed one win or two draws to win back the crown while Muzychuk needed to win two of her next three games just to force the match to tiebreak, although she could still win the match if she won the final three Classical games. But Yifan Hou was too strong.
About two months after the match, Yifan Hou declared that she would abandon the Women's Championship cycle. She called for a reform of the system, with qualification tournaments, a Candidates tournament, and the winner to play the reigning World Champion.
Official site: https://web.archive.org/web/2016031...
ChessBase 1: https://en.chessbase.com/post/why-h...
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Wikipedia article: Women's World Chess Championship 2016
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