WGM Vantika Agrawal won the first qualifier of the FIDE Chess.com 2022 Women’s Speed Chess Championship. She defeated WGM Annamaria Marjanovic in a thrilling final bullet tiebreaker. IM Gulnar Mammadova won the Swiss tournament on the previous day.
79 players competed in the event, which is open to all women with FIDE titles. The second WSCC qualifier begins on Thursday, May 26, at 8 a.m. Pacific / 13:00 Central European and the knockout portion on Friday, May 27, at 8 a.m. Pacific / 13:00 Central European.
Mammadova finished in clear first with 11.5 points, only losing one 105-move marathon of a game out of 14 rounds to Marjanovic. In round 9, Mammadova found a stunning tactical blow to defeat second-place finisher WIM Divya Deshmukh.
Agrawal prevailed convincingly in the knockout, despite valiant efforts on the part of her opponents. In the quarterfinals, Mammadova won the penultimate game to tie up the score at 6.5, leading to an exciting double match-point last game with everything on the line. Agrawal successfully navigated a tricky rook vs. knight ending in the time scramble to advance.
Agrawal won her semifinal match vs. IM Alina Bivol with a compelling 8-2 score.
In the final, Agrawal gained a four-point lead in the bullet portion and soon reached seven points, just one draw away from clinching first. Facing three straight must-win games in order to reach a tiebreaker, Marjanovic beat the odds and came through to tie up the score. The last of her three-game winning streak looked to be drawn with a rook pawn with the wrong-color bishop, but she discovered the one winning chance, creating a zugzwang that allowed her h-pawn to become a g-pawn.
Losing such a comfortable lead would’ve tilted most players, yet Agrawal stepped into a new gear in the playoff games, replying in kind with three straight wins to end the match. My favorite was her attacking victory at the beginning of her streak.
In her winner’s interview, Agrawal shared the mindset that helped her overcome her opponent’s amazing winning streak: “I thought that, from the start, I won some games and got that lead. So, again I can get the same lead. With that mindset, I just played without any attention [to the score].”
One fun element of this event is the commentators themselves are also eligible to compete in the qualifiers. In fact, commentator Kazarian confirmed that she will be stepping into the player’s seat to compete in Qualifier 2 on Thursday.
All Games – Qualifier 1 Knockout
Women’s Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket
The FIDE Chess.com 2022 Women’s Speed Chess Championship is an online event where titled women players will play a series of blitz and bullet matches for a share of the $70,000 prize fund. The qualifiers for the event happen May 24-27, with the main event starting on June 13 and ending on July 21.