Harika Beats Sebag To Reach Semis Women's Speed Chess Championship

Harika Beats Sebag To Reach Semis Women's Speed Chess Championship

| 9 | News

Coming to the match well prepared, GM Harika Dronavalli defeated GM Marie Sebag 15.5-10.5 on Thursday and will now face Elina Danielian in the Women's Speed Chess Championship semifinals.

The match started a bit later than planned because of technical problems on Harika's side. Afterward, she explained that because of internet issues at her home (in Hyderabad, where the match started at 9:30 p.m. and finished after midnight!) she had decided to play from her mom's place, had to travel there, and only logged in five minutes beforehand.

It seems she was able to turn the situation to her advantage. "I was really nervous but maybe it was good for me," she said. "After a point, the result didn’t matter, just be there and play games mattered."

The players had only played each other five times before. Harika had beaten Sebag once, and in two other classical games and two rapid games, the result was a draw. This, and their pretty close blitz ratings suggested a close match.

Harika Sebag SmarterChess predictions Women's Speed Chess
Based on their FIDE blitz ratings, SmarterChess gave Sebag a small edge.

After two solid draws, with careful play from both sides, Harika opened the score in the third game—but not without surviving a lost position. After she had won an exchange, Sebag's play became a bit shaky:

Two more draws followed, and then it was again Harika who scored the full point, this time with the black pieces. She outplayed her opponent in a Pirc, and finished it off nicely with some tactics:

The players were closely matched, and both didn't make any big mistakes. As a result, the next three games also ended in draws, putting the draw percentage in the first segment as high as 70 percent—something that rarely happens.

In yet another Pirc, Harika finished off this segment with another win. Also here, Sebag clearly had her chances as she won a healthy pawn but soon after she blundered an exchange.

5|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 Harika Dronavalli Elegance_Riks 2475 2589 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 6.5/10
2 Marie Sebag Etoilegeniale 2482 2368 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 3.5/10

Harika won the next segment as well, this time with a two-point margin. After trying her luck with long castles but failing again in the Pirc, Sebag went back to her original line and this time finally managed to beat her opponent with a beautiful, dominating king's bishop.

Harika then switched to the Alekhine Defense, and was immediately successful with it, once again surviving a lost position though:

3|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Score
1 Harika Dronavalli Elegance_Riks 2543 2568 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 4.5/7
2 Marie Sebag Etoilegeniale 2466 2441 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 2.5/7

The following was an even more unfortunate moment for the French grandmaster, but at least this time it happened in a position that was already lost.

This was the second game in the bullet portion, the only part that Sebag managed to tie. By that point, the French fans had been screaming for her to return to "long castle!" in the Pirc, and she won this game with it, even checkmating her opponent.

1|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Marie Sebag Etoilegeniale 2066 2066 ½ 0 1 1 ½ 1 0 0 ½ 4.5/9
2 Harika Dronavalli Elegance_Riks 2342 2342 0 1 0 0 ½ 0 1 1 ½ 4.5/9

"When I got the invitation to the match I was in Russia and I didn’t even check it properly. Now, when I had the time before the tournament and I realized how important it is and that I actually have to do something about it, that I should not play really bad here," said Harika.

"So then I started working on playing a lot of games, especially bullet because I am not used to playing one-minute games at all. So every day I used to play like five to six hours of bullet games."

That was some serious preparation! Sebag did it a bit more calmly. "I play sometimes on but not very often."

Kevin Bordi, who was commenting for the French Twitch show, said that the match had been "frustrating" for the French fans. "She played well and we felt until the bullet portion that she could make a comeback."

"I was very nervous and very angry sometimes. I wanted to win!" said Sebag, but with a smile.

Harika noted that she was in fact the winner of first (and so far only) FIDE online blitz tournament. "I just played a lot and practiced a lot, so it wasn’t so difficult for me. I just try to concentrate from the beginning to the end. I realize I am blundering many things and I was hoping Marie didn’t see that!"

Women's Speed Chess Championship bracket

Sebag earned $404 based on win percentage; Harika won $1,000 for the victory plus $596 on percentage, totaling $1,596. The Indian GM moves on to the semifinals, where she will play Elina Danielian on June 20.

Harika, who is a good friend of Danielian, said about this matchup: "I just want to enjoy it and play good chess. I watched the match between Gunina and Krush and I noticed that mouse slips are very common so I just wanted to avoid that. I will just play it game by game."Women Speed Chess Championship Schedule

The Women Speed Chess Championship is a knockout tournament among eight of the strongest female chess players in the world. Each match has 90 minutes of 5|1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3|1 blitz and 30 minutes of 1|1 bullet chess. The total prize fund is $20,000. 

You can replay the live broadcast here.

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