IM Vaishali R overcame GM Harika Dronavalli in their quarterfinal match in the FIDE Chess.com 2022 Women’s Speed Chess Championship on Thursday. Vaishali dueled fiercely against her compatriot, the highest-rated active woman player in India. After many stunning battles between the two exceptional fighters, Vaishali clinched victory in a thrilling all-or-nothing final game.
The next quarterfinals match, GM Hou Yifan vs. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, begins on Thursday, July 28, at 3:30 a.m. Pacific / 12:30 Central European.
Blitz 5|1: Dronavalli 3.5-4.5 Vaishali
Vaishali claimed the first victory, trapping Dronavalli’s knight on the edge of the board to gain two potent bishops and an extra pawn.
This matchup featured several hard-fought draws as commentator Shahade described: “Both players, when on the back foot, are very good at defending. That’s a theme we’ve seen in this match.”
One game looked to be winding down to another peaceful result after an evenly-played duel when Dronavalli blundered, allowing a mating net to surround her king.
This gave Vaishali, who played reliably strong and solid chess through this segment, a two-point lead. In the last game, Dronavalli won for the first time by striking with 14…g5 to bring her kingside knight to effective central squares and then countering well against Vaishali’s resulting piece sacrifice.
The players entered the 3+1 portion within one point of each other.
Blitz 3|1: Dronavalli 5-4 Vaishali
Dronavalli kicked off the first game with a dazzling attacking victory, equalizing the match.
Vaishali struck back the very next game. As Dronavalli attempted to press Vaishali, who was down to just seconds on the clock, Vaishali created decisive pressure against her opponent’s king.
Even the draws were fascinating duels between these two fighting players. Game seven was one fantastic example. With her clock hovering around one second, Vaishali rejected a three-time repetition to play for the win, creating amazing chances despite no time to think. Dronavalli countered by weaving her bishop around the board, finding creative ways to support her passer’s promotion.
In the last game in a winning position, Vaishali shockingly hung a rook.
The players entered the bullet portion of this intense matchup with a tied score.
Bullet 1|1: Dronavalli 3-5 Vaishali
Though the blitz games featured many draws, the bullet games were practically one decisive game after another! The players traded victories, keeping the score tied until the last 10 minutes of the match when Vaishali began to pull ahead. She prepared the clever 32.Bh3 to force Dronavalli to play the weakening 32…f5, creating holes in her pawn structure for the rest of the game.
The entire match culminated in the last game, a must-win one for Dronavalli, who trailed by a point. With Dronavalli on the verge of winning, Vaishali set up a sneaky mating net and clinched the match.
While both players showed great play and incredible fighting spirit, what set Vaishali apart was her ability to stay especially focused during time scrambles.
In her post-match interview, Vaishali shared about being on the same team as Dronavalli at the Olympiad, starting next week: “She’s one of my biggest inspirations actually. To play alongside will be very interesting. She has a great personality. We were on the same team at the World Team Championship last year. We won the silver medal. She helped me a lot both on the board and off the board. She’s a good sister for me you can say.”
She’s one of my biggest inspirations actually.
Vaishali earned $3,080 in prize money for her victory while Dronavalli took home $920 for her efforts.
All Games – Quarterfinals
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.