The FIDE Chess.com 2022 Women’s Speed Chess Championship resumed on Tuesday with a clash between two of the tournament’s powerhouses, with GM Valentina Gunina overcoming GM Tan Zhongyi with a resounding score of 19.5-9.5.
After a shaky 0-2 start, Gunina hit her groove and punched her way to a four-point lead after the 5+1 segment. Not content with her lead, the three-time European individual women’s champion lost only a single game in the 3+1 games, at which point she could not be reached despite a surge in the 1+1 games by Tan.
The next quarterfinal match between GM Kateryna Lagno and GM Humpy Koneru, both of whom have previously held world rapid titles, will take place on July 19, at 7.30 a.m. Pacific / 16:30 Central.
Blitz 5|1: Tan 3-7 Gunina
Tan kicked off the match just as she did in her round of 16 match against IM Polina Shuvalova, with a classy win with the black pieces. Tan then held Gunina at bay with a second win after a heartbreaking rook blunder burnt her opponent’s drawing chances. This was no mean feat given that Gunina had not lost two games in a row for the entirety of her 32-game match against IM Elisabeth Paehtz.
Gunina quickly rebounded and avenged herself in yet another drawn rook ending that proved too difficult for Tan to defend with mere seconds on the clock.
Having settled her nerves after a rocky start, Gunina then went on a five-game rampage full of colorful combinations, sacrifices, and technical brilliance that left her commanding a five-point lead. Gunina would later reveal that she and her coach (who went unnamed in the post-match interview), had prepared a line in the Caro-Kann Defense, which she immediately put to use in her game-four victory.
One of the key factors that led to Gunina’s purple patch in the 5+1 games was her ability to be decisive in even the trickiest positions, saving her time that would eventually allow her to outplay Tan in the resulting endings. Game six was the most notable of these and was definitely the wildest of the day.
Gunina’s tactical mastery produced an extensive highlight reveal on Tuesday as she took a commanding match lead.
Tan, who was down and out after a disappointing start, was able to briefly stunt Gunina’s streak with excellent pattern recognition in the eighth game. See if you can spot Tan’s ploy in the puzzle below.
Although Tan’s play was admirable, Gunina could not be curbed in the early games. After 10 games, her foe had taken a commanding 7-3 lead heading into the 3+1 portion.
Blitz 3|1: Tan 1.5-8.5 Gunina
Gunina picked up where she left off and strung together another three wins as the time control quickened. Commentator Kazarian was stunned at the level of play presented by Gunina, and Krush was quick to recall her own experience facing the in-form blitzer, citing her own 24-5 loss in 2019.
In the 14th game, Tan scored a win against Gunina’s pet Caro-Kann Defense. The game was not without drama though and required Tan to unload blow after blow on her opponent who defended well with less than five seconds on the clock. Gunina eventually succumbed and surprisingly flagged, a moral victory for Tan but little consolation on the scoreboard.
Tan’s luck ran out soon after and Gunina again went on a streak, capitalizing on her opponent’s inaccuracies and barely missing a shot. An ingenious temporary queen sacrifice was the cherry on top for Gunina who had truly hit her stride.
With the match slipping away and an eight-point margin having opened up, Tan never gave up. Despite material deficits in several games, she still made it difficult for Gunina to convert in each game. Unfortunately for Tan, her opponent was equally clinical as she was resourceful.
Bullet 1|1: Tan 5-4 Gunina
A 15.5-4.5 score was bleak heading into the bullet games in terms of a potential comeback, although with prize money being split based on win percentage, both players were still incentivized to win. Surprisingly, Tan found the strength to edge out Gunina in this section of the match, courtesy of a speed increase and energetic play.
The Chinese GM was able to put together a three-game winning spell, both in “good style” according to Krush.Tan’s late efforts allowed her to post a respectable score of 9.5, though it did not compare to the remarkable 19.5 points that Gunina accrued en route to victory.
Gunina’s next opponent, in the semifinals, is not yet decided, though she will no doubt be amongst the favorites to continue onwards in the event.
All Games – Final
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 took place on May 24-27, with the main event starting on June 13 and ending on July 21.