Shuvalova Wins 2023 IMSCC After Cinematic Pawn Race

Shuvalova Wins 2023 IMSCC After Cinematic Pawn Race

| 26 | Chess Event Coverage

IM Polina Shuvalova won the 2023 I'M Not A GM Speed Chess Championship after defeating IM Levy Rozman (aka GothamChess) 10.5-9.5 in the Final. She was the highest-rated player in this year's tournament, by FIDE classical rating, and also the first woman to win since its inception. 

After building a three-point lead in the first two portions, the top seed fell victim to a vicious comeback by Rozman in the bullet. With a tied score in the final game, however, Shuvalova won a pawn race where she queened first. 

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The live broadcast was hosted by GM Robert Hess and Kassa Korley.

Rozman 9.5-10.5 Shuvalova | Final

This was Rozman's fourth IMSCC appearance and second time in the Final. Shuvalova, on the other hand, made her debut last year, when she reached only the Quarterfinals. This time, she made it all the way through.

Coincidentally, Rozman lost in 2021 to Brazilian IM Roberto Molina. Molina then, Polina now. Fortunately, there might not be another IM whose name rhymes—or is there?

5+1: Rozman 2-5 Shuvalova 

The quality of moves by both players was more or less equal, but Shuvalova's time management was superior. Shuvalova had more time in nearly every game, an advantage that proved more significant than the objective evaluation. 

The first game of the match is perhaps the most striking example. From an equal position, with 13 seconds for Rozman against 22, Shuvalova capitalized on a single opportunity to weave a mating net:

 Rozman recovered just after, instructively sacrificing a pawn to awaken the dormant bishop sitting on h7. It became a monster:

The Russian IM started on a roll after that, though, winning three of the next four games in the segment, aided in each of them by a small but relevant time advantage. Curiously, six of the seven games in total ended in wins for Black: 

3+1: Rozman 3.5-3.5 Shuvalova

After winning in the Semifinals, Shuvalova said that she was unfamiliar with the 5+1 time control. However, 3+1, the same time control as Titled Tuesday, felt more like home, it seemed—at least in the beginning.

Shuvalova was unparalleled at the start of this segment. She won the first two games. 

The first is our Game of the Day, where, in the words of Hess on the commentary: "She sacrificed the roooook!"

She sacrificed the roooook!

—Robert Hess 

GM Rafael Leitao explains this tremendous game in the annotations below. 

Rozman, down five points in the match by this point now, cut that lead to three by the end of the segment. 

In the last five games, Rozman won three, drew one, and lost one. The first game of these is fascinating as Shuvalova found a brilliant move, 18.Ba6!!, but after Rozman's cunning rejoinder 19...Bb7!?, was unable to follow it up by finding the necessary and outstanding line-closer 20.d5!!. After that miss, Rozman took over with the extra material and initiative.

After that, Rozman won an insanely complicated knight endgame. He dropped a draw, then a loss, but finished the segment strong by winning the final game where he was under the gun in the opening but resilient and creative.

1+1: Rozman 4-2 Shuvalova 

As it often happens, the bullet portion decided the match and also had the most intriguing games—maybe not in terms of quality but certainly in drama and suspense. 

The first two games to start, funnily, were the only other draws in the match. The second was jaw-dropping as Rozman, with just one rook and two extra pawns against a queen, nearly won the game. But, with just about no time, he missed the transition into a winning king and pawn endgame:

He won three times—two rook endgames and then a knight endgame—in a row after that. Ladies and gentlemen, the score was 9.5-9.5.

The final game started with just under four minutes on the match clock. It was a wild imbalance, with Shuvalova playing with one rook against two knights. In the time scramble, she found a transition into a winning pawn endgame.

Had GothamChess realized he was lost just a second or two earlier and resigned immediately, he would have been able to start another game. Tragically, he shared:

When I finally realized I was losing this crazy last game, I looked at the [match clock] and there were two seconds, and I was not fast enough to resign and start the new game!

Here is that epic clip:

Shuvalova joined the interview at about midnight in her time zone, and the first thing she said was that she was "exhausted." About the final game, she smiled and said: "For sure, we made like a million blunders in this game."

And did she feel any pressure, knowing that over 30,000 people were watching across YouTube and Twitch? "No, I was just concentrating on my games!"

Just seconds after that rollercoaster game.

Shuvalova also commented on the high quality of openings in their games. For example, she pointed out that Rozman followed the opening moves of this brilliancy by GM David Paravyan against GM Gukesh Dommaraju, played just the day before in the Qatar Masters. Rozman, in his interview, confirmed he was aware of the game.

Shuvalova takes home $5,450 for winning this year's IMSCC. As the tournament winners are not invited to future editions and she might earn her last two GM norms soon anyway, we will see her only in other events in the future!


Final Bracket 

The I'M Not A GM Speed Chess Championship is a spin-off of's beloved Speed Chess Championship. Starting on October 12, players of IM (international master) strength competed in a series of fast chess matches. The event featured a $15,000 prize fund.

Previous coverage

NM Anthony Levin

NM Anthony Levin caught the chess bug at the "late" age of 18 and never turned back. He earned his national master title in 2021, actually the night before his first day of work at

Anthony, who also earned his Master's in teaching English in 2018, taught English and chess in New York schools for five years and strives to make chess content accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages. At, he writes news articles and manages social media for chess24.





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