The reigning Women’s World Blitz Champion, IM Bibisara Assaubayeva, defeated IM Irene Sukandar in the 2022 IM Not A GM Speed Chess Championship on Monday. Though the players scored evenly in the first blitz segment, as the time controls grew shorter, Assaubayeva’s advantage grew. In the bullet portion, Assaubayeva was stunningly quick and accurate―even when she had under 10 seconds on the clock―leading to a near shut-out, winning all but one game.
The next match in the IMSCC will be between Assaubayeva and IM Danny Rensch, which begins on June 7 at 7 a.m. Pacific / 16:00 Central European.
Blitz 5|1: Assaubayeva-Sukandar 3.5-3.5
Assaubayeva began the match with the first victory in an attacking miniature.
Sukandar countered with two victories in a row, taking over the match lead, including a game where she outplayed Assaubayeva in the time scramble.
In game five, Assaubayeva reclaimed the lead. When Sukandar played 21…Qa2?, getting distracted by the prospect of winning a queenside pawn, Assaubayeva pushed her powerful e- and f-pawns down the board, winning material and soon the game.
The next game, despite just losing two games in a row and the match lead along with them, Sukandar defended a tough position. She also managed her clock well to keep a comfortable time edge and hold a draw.
In the last game of the 5|1 blitz, Assaubayeva had some attacking chances but tried an inaccurate knight sacrifice on f7. Sukandar found safety for her king by running it to the other side of the board. Then, she launched her own attack, checkmating Assaubayeva’s king in the center.
This tied up the match, heading into the 3|1 blitz segment.
Blitz 3|1: Assaubayeva-Sukandar 4.5-1.5
In the second game, Sukandar was a comfortable exchange for a pawn ahead with excellent chances to take the match lead. In the time scramble, Assaubayeva’s knights hopped all over the board, eventually catching Sukandar in a blunder.
The next game, Sukandar showed better technique in time trouble. Although Assaubayeva gained some counterplay, Sukandar found the key move 43.b4!? to solidify her knight on the c5-outpost and go on to outplay her opponent tactically as both clocks ticked under 10 seconds. With this, Sukandar again evened the score!
Assaubayeva replied by winning a comfortable attacking game, regaining her lead.
Game five featured the most chaotic time-scramble finish of the match. Assaubayeva had a significant advantage for much of the game but overlooked a checkmate in one and allowed Sukandar to gain her own attacking chances. In her suddenly winning position, Sukandar let her flag fall.
With luck on her side, Assaubayeva began to pull ahead with the lead, winning a third game in a row with calm, accurate endgame play.
Bullet 1|1: Assaubayeva-Sukandar 8.5-0.5
Assaubayeva was a huge favorite in the bullet segment with a 400+ rating advantage, and it showed. Although Sukandar started off many of the games with good positions and time advantages, Assaubayeva played with more clarity and accuracy in the later stages.
Game five was one of Sukandar’s closest games to a victory. She had a fantastic position with a knight on the f5-outpost and her queen sinking into Assaubayeva’s kingside. She also had an over-30-second time edge.
Despite this, Assaubayeva held on and then countered tactically as soon as she was given the chance. As commentator Hess remarked, “She just gets herself into time trouble and then still finds every tactic.”
She just gets herself into time trouble and then still finds every tactic.
—GM Robert Hess
Again and again, Sukandar would reach better or even winning positions in the early middlegame, but Assaubayeva would fight back with excellent defensive technique and a strong grasp of bullet time management.
In game six, Assaubayeva showed what she’s capable of when she has the early advantage. Sukandar inaccurately sacrificed a piece to open up her opponent’s king. Assaubayeva fought off the attack with precision and converted her material advantage, seamlessly.
Assaubayeva nearly swept the bullet portion, winning eight games out of nine and allowing just one draw.
In the players’ interview, Assaubayeva shared her thoughts on the match: “The match was tough for me, especially in blitz, because lately I haven’t had more practice on the internet. But when I won the 3+1 segment, I think I won the match.”
Sukandar admitted that she’s not as experienced in online speed chess: “I’m definitely very bad at playing with my mouse … I’ve been trying to play a lot of blitz and bullet games lately, but I’m sure it didn’t really make up the lost years without playing them regularly.”
All Games – Quarterfinal
IM Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket
The IM Not A GM Speed Chess Championship (IMSCC) is an online event where some of the strongest IMs and other invited players compete in a series of speed chess matches. Each match consists of a 5+1 blitz segment, a 3+1 blitz segment, and a 1+1 bullet segment, with the player who scores the most points winning the match. If there’s a tie, players play a four-game 1+1 match to decide the winner. If the tie persists, an armageddon game with a bidding system decides the winner.