The second seed, GM Kateryna Lagno, defeated WGM Vantika Agrawal in the third round of 16 match of the FIDE Chess.com 2022 Women’s Speed Chess Championship on Friday. While many of the games were closely fought, Lagno managed to gain a substantial lead in the match by being difficult to defeat in disadvantageous positions and converting convincingly when better.
The next round of 16 match, GM Valentina Gunina vs. IM Elisabeth Paehtz, begins on Tuesday, June 28, at 5 a.m. Pacific / 14:00 Central European.
Blitz 5|1: Lagno 6-3 Agrawal
Game one proved to be telling of the match dynamic between the players. Agrawal obtained great winning chances on the board but was too low on time to capitalize. Can you find the winning idea that she overlooked?
The first decisive game was game three. Agrawal won a piece with clever tactical play, but Lagno had a considerable time edge once again. Lagno created counterplay with her extra queenside pawns and choose to press for a win despite her own time also falling under 10 seconds.
Lagno turned this into a three-game winning streak, but Agrawal struck back in game six, achieving her first win of the match with a strong passed d-pawn and her first time advantage.
In the next game, Agrawal struck again with the unexpected tactical shot 15…Nxc2!
Agrawal went on to convert her material edge to victory with a display of tactical vision despite being so low on time.
This tactical clarity under extreme time pressure showed how Agrawal, the underdog, put up quite the fight at times against the three-time Women’s World Blitz Champion, Lagno.
However, Lagno immediately cut off Agrawal’s two-game winning streak with two victories of her own, including a convincing win in the penultimate game.
Blitz 3|1: Lagno 5.5-3.5 Agrawal
The 3+1 blitz kicked off with four draws in a row, showing how closely-matched the two players can be in any given game. The recurring pattern was Agrawal gaining an advantage over the board, yet Lagno defending resourcefully to maintain her lead.
The first decisive game occurred in game five in an equal king and pawn ending. After one imprecise move, Lagno was able to shut down Agrawal’s ability to create a passed pawn and then create an outside passer of her own.
This triggered a string of decisive games, and Agrawal struck back in game eight with a positional pawn sacrifice for activity, which led to Lagno blundering.
The last game showed how much the players had grown used to battling for small advantages against each other. Lagno blundered her bishop, and Agrawal overlooked it, continuing to focus on the subtler elements of the position.
As Commentator WGM Dina Belenakaya summed up: “Both players missed the blunder. They are so concentrated on how to beat each other in a very calm way.”
Both players missed the blunder. They are so concentrated on how to beat each other in a very calm way.
Despite the many hard-fought games between the players, Lagno’s lead in score steadily increased. This was largely because Lagno was able to win games where she was slightly better and hold games where she was slightly worse. She entered the bullet segment with a five-point lead.
Bullet 1|1: Lagno 6-3 Agrawal
The bullet segment started with a missed opportunity for Lagno in a rook ending.
However, in the next game, Lagno was sure to notice Agrawal’s next blunder, a back-rank checkmate.
The most interesting game of the segment was game six. Agrawal obtained a significant advantage with excellent attacking chances against her opponent’s king. In response, Lagno showed her great resourcefulness, defending actively, creating a passed pawn on the queenside, and keeping the position complex until Agrawal ran out of time.
Halfway through the bullet portion, Lagno’s substantial lead of seven points sealed the match in her favor. While both competitors played impressive games, Lagno’s high-scoring performance reminds us why she’s currently the highest-ranked woman in the world in blitz—with a 50-point margin over her closest rival, GM Humpy Koneru.
Lagno earned $2141.20 in prize money for her victory while Agrawal took home $483.80 for her efforts.
When asked how she felt about the start of the match, Lagno replied: “I felt like I was not in the match because I don’t often play online chess… She also was a bit slow. I think she played pretty well, but she was always low on time. And that’s why I started to score some points. But if you want to check the positions we had, I think it was not in my favor at the beginning of the match.”
All Games – Round of 16
Women’s Speed Chess Championship 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 took place on May 24-27, with the main event starting on June 13 and ending on July 21.