GM Kateryna Lagno defeated defending champion, GM Hou Yifan, in the final of the FIDE Chess.com 2022 Women’s Speed Chess Championship on Friday. The determination and attacking styles of these two grandmasters made this match a riveting duel of minds with the result undecided until the very last game.
Blitz 5|1: Hou 4.5-4.5 Lagno
After a draw in the first round, Lagno won three games in a row, capping it off with a 20-move tactical victory against Hou’s Scheveningen Sicilian.
In game four, Hou played a beautiful positional game, breaking through on the queenside and creating two potent connected passers in the center. Lagno fought back valiantly, sacrificing a knight to create dangerous threats around her opponent’s king. In the last seconds of this tense battle, Lagno mouse-slipped her rook to an undefended square.
🖱️ GM Lagno’s mouse slip moment! 👇 #speedchess pic.twitter.com/ozmu9NKFec
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) September 2, 2022
Lagno played a positional masterpiece in game seven, sacrificing an exchange to take over the dark squares and sink her knights into the powerful d4 and c5 outposts.
In the middle of this segment, Lagno was disconnected for a few minutes mid-game. In a show of sportsmanship, Hou agreed to give her opponent back two minutes in the game in progress, but disconnection in the middle of this crucial match was still jarring on Lagno. In the next couple of games, she faltered. And, in the last game, Hou tied the score with an attacking miniature.
Blitz 3|1: Hou 5.5-4.5 Lagno
Throughout the match, the players grappled for the initiative with fierce attacking ideas and vigilant tactical play. Hou took the lead for the first time in game three when Lagno sacrificed a knight for a vicious kingside attack but overlooked the finish. Can you find it?
Lagno struck back the very next game, creating great pressure on the kingside by targeting the f2-pawn and then storming her g-pawn up the board.
This segment was a neck-and-neck battle with the score hovering close to even the whole time.
Bullet 1|1: Hou 3-6 Lagno
SmarterChess predicted the players as equally matched in bullet, and the commentators agreed that “anything is possible.” Lagno immediately evened the match score with an opening preparation victory, improving on a variation in an earlier game.
In the post-match interview, Lagno shared the background on this victory and how her husband, GM Alexander Grischuk, helped with her prep.
Soon, Lagno pulled into a commanding lead with a three-game winning streak. This put Hou in a must-win position for three games in a row. Would the reigning champion be able to tie the match in time to trigger a playoff?
Hou pulled out victories from the first two hard-fought, pressure-laden games, including the first when she won a tricky rook ending in an intense time scramble.
As the last seconds of the match clock ticked away, the players began the last all-or-nothing game. Hou needed a victory to push the match into an armageddon tiebreaker while Lagno would clinch the championship with a win or a draw.
Lagno sacrificed a pawn for pressure against her opponent’s king, but Hou held on, and the players traded into a complicated endgame. In focusing on trying to press for a win at all costs, Hou let her time get too low. As commentator Kosteniuk perceptively exclaimed, “This endgame is crazy just don’t run out of time!”
This endgame is crazy just don’t run out of time!
Lagno’s victory was well-earned. She fought through explosive attacking positions, wild time scrambles, mouse slips, and connectivity trouble to edge out the highest-ranked woman in the world.
In her post-game interview, Lagno shared her feelings on the match, especially her struggle to reorient herself after the connectivity issue: “Everything was quite good from the start, but then I got disconnected, and somehow I just couldn’t put myself together after that. I understand that happens to Chinese players quite often, but I was like: ‘Not today! Not now!’ And then… it was always a very close match.”
Lagno earned $9,214.29 in prize money for this victory and a total of $20,860.11 in the overall event. Hou won $2,785.71 from this match, totaling $14,399.85.
All Games – Finals
Women’s Speed Chess Championship Bracket
The FIDE Chess.com 2022 Women’s Speed Chess Championship is an online event where titled women players 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, and the main event started on June 13.