After struggling to get through her first three matches, in each case needing to win a game just to stay alive, Hou Yifan won the final match, against Sergey Fedorchuk, 2-0 to win the Corsican Circuit. In a second, distinct irony, the move that won game two was an outright blunder. Granted, it only brought the game from trivially won to winning with a little work, and even a draw would have been enough to win the match. Still, it was a blunder, and the interesting thing about it is that it displays a typical kind of chess illusion - have a look here for the details.
Entries in Corsica (4)
Well, sports fans, Monday was a bad day for those of us who are hoping that Viswanathan Anand will win or at least be competitive against Magnus Carlsen in their coming world championship match. It would be wrong to draw too sweeping a conclusion from his ouster in the Corsica semi-finals at the hands of Sergey Fedorchuk, but it certainly doesn't lend itself to any optimistic scenarios either. Fedorchuk won the first rapid game with Black, and then drew from a position of strength with the white pieces - and he could easily have played for a win in that game too.
In the previous round Anand had blanked Pavel Tregubov 2-0 while Fedorchuk had struggled to overcome Csaba Balogh. They drew their rapid games, and the first blitz game was also drawn. Fedorchuk had White in the second blitz game but no advantage, but when Balogh went crazy with 17...Qh5? and 19...e5 he was quickly crushed.
In the other half of the draw, Hou Yifan made things as difficult for herself as possible before qualifying for the finals. As she did yesterday, she began her quarterfinal match with Martyn Kravtsiv by losing with the white pieces. As yesterday, she won the rematch and then won the blitz playoff 2-0. In the semi-final round she unexpectedly played Robert Ruck, who had defeated second seed Ivan Saric 1.5-.5, winning the second game with the pieces.
In the Hou-Ruck match Hou broke the pattern by winning the first game with White, but the overall pattern of needing to suffer continued intact. She lost the second game, and then lost the first blitz game to boot - both losses were with Black. She won the second blitz game, and then it was time for an Armageddon game. She had White and five minutes against Ruck's four minutes and draw odds, and she came through with a good win.
Tuesday will see the battle of the 2673s, and the silver lining for Anand is that he gets an additional day of preparation for the Carlsen match.
In Corsica a rapid (15' + 3") knockout event is underway. Viswanathan Anand and Hou Yifan were invited, while the other 14 players earned their spots by their performance in a qualifying tournament immediately preceding the k.o. Anand is the top seed by a considerable margin, Ivan Saric (2678) is second, and then Hou Yifan and Sergey Fedorchuk are the third and fourth seeds, respectively, both sporting ratings of 2673. (Of course, they should use their rapid ratings rather than their classical ones, but if the players don't mind there's no reason why I should.)
In these events the pairings always begin with the top seed playing the bottom one, #2 playing the second from the bottom seed, and so on. At the start the top players are generally huge favorites, but although Anand easily dispatched his 2376-rated IM opponent 2-0 and Saric also won 2-0, both Hou and Fedorchuk opened their matches by losing with White against mid-2400 rated opposition! Not to fear: both won the rematch and then blanked their opponents 2-0 in the added blitz games.
The top four won't play each other tomorrow, but if they all win in the quarter-finals Anand will play Fedorchuk and Saric will play Hou on Tuesday.
There's a reason Viswanathan Anand is the world champion! He showed off his skills today in all phases of the game. In the first game, with White, he ground Shakhriyar Mamedyarov down in an ending; in game two, it was his defensive and counter-attacking skills that were on display. Nicely done, and it's good to see that even past 40 the speedy Anand can still dominate in rapid/speed chess.