GM Kateryna Lagno overcame GM Humpy Koneru in their quarterfinal match in the FIDE Chess.com 2022 Women’s Speed Chess Championship on Tuesday. Koneru led the match with convincing play through the 5+1 segment. Entering the 3+1 portion, Lagno greatly improved her opening play and soon took over the lead. The match culminated in the last game when Koneru made an amazing run at a comeback of her own, but Lagno ultimately came through.
The next quarterfinals match, GM Harika Dronavalli vs. IM Vaishali R, begins on Thursday, July 21, at 6:30 a.m. Pacific / 15:30 Central European.
Blitz 5|1: Lagno 3-5 Koneru
Koneru scored the first victory, exchanging into a winning rook endgame despite a significant time deficit.
Koneru won the second game as well to gain a two-point lead. Lagno’s first victory occurred when Koneru unfortunately mouse slipped in a completely drawn position, rook and king vs. rook and king.
In the 5+1 section, the opening stage favored Koneru for much of the time, as commentator Krush pointed out: “Humpy’s openings are definitely better. She has managed to catch her opponent from both sides, with White and with Black. With Black in the sense that she’s chosen something soild that she’s comfortable with. And Kateryna is struggling to not just win games with White but to get chances to win—to set yourself up to play a game where you can show some of your strengths.”
Humpy’s openings are definitely better.
-GM Irina Krush
Although there were several draws between these two incredible players, many were fascinating duels where their strong ideas were equal to each other. Game six was one such example. Koneru sacrificed her queen to promote her advanced passed pawn. Lagno countered with her own pawn promotion, resulting in a bishop ending with all the pawns on one side.
In the last game, Lagno missed a critical opportunity to win. Can you find it?
The quality of chess and competitive spirit between these two heavyweights was quite high, as Krush described: “There is an intensity in this match. I feel like the players are keeping each other close.”
Blitz 3|1: Lagno 5.5-2.5 Koneru
Lagno entered the 3+1 blitz with a vengeance, especially amping up her opening play. She won the first game convincingly, gaining two extra pawns and a superior position from the opening.
Lagno was winning the second game as well when Koneru found a sneaky checkmate―while down a rook!
In game seven, Lagno tied up the match for the first time with a beautiful rook-ending victory.
In the last game, Lagno took over the lead with a tactical sequence to free her trapped rook and emerge ahead a piece.
Bullet 1|1: Lagno 5.5-3.5 Koneru
It all came down to the bullet portion in this very close match. Lagno increased her lead by cleanly converting an extra pawn in a rook and queen ending.
Koneru struggled to score points in this portion as the time control didn’t quite seem aligned with her key strengths, as Krush observed: “In the bullet, it’s hard for Humpy to show her positional skills.”
In the critical last game, Koneru trailed by two points with three minutes left on the match clock. This meant that she had to both win and do it quickly to leave enough time for one more game. Koneru played very fast, gaining a 25-second lead on Lagno, as well as a winning position. However, Lagno stretched the game long enough to run out the match clock. In the midst of this, Koneru blundered checkmate.
It’s amazing how Lagno was able to turn the tides in the 3+1 segment and take over the lead. Koneru’s attempted comeback was commendable, but Lagno held on in the critical moments and even discovered checkmate―with just seconds left on her clock―to secure the match victory.
In the post-match interview, Lagno shared some of the turning points of the match:
“In the 5+1, I couldn’t get anything with White and I was struggling with Black, and I was minus two. But then she blundered the rook in this ending when I was two pawns down … I got very lucky. Somehow I could breathe a little bit … During the break, I checked some lines, just to know a few moves, not to lose immediately with Black. Then I had the feeling that she mixed up the moves in Petroff. I checked it, and then I won my first game without any fight.”
Lagno earned $3120 in prize money for her victory while Koneru took home $880 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.