Harika, Ju Lead After Tumultuous Day
Harika leads with Ju on 6.5 points from nine rounds at the end of the first day of blitz. Photo: Tata Steel Chess India.

Harika, Ju Lead After Tumultuous Day

| 3 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Harika Dronavalli and GM Ju Wenjun are in the joint lead with 6.5 points from nine games at the end of the first day of the Tata Steel Chess India Women's Blitz. No player could escape defeat on an exciting day of blitz with high-quality games, typically full of seesaw battles and heartbreaks.

GM Humpy Koneru began the day cautiously, gathered steam in the middle, suffered two defeats towards the end, and redeemed herself with a win over rapid section winner WGM Divya Deshmukh in the last game of the day, to trail the leaders with five points. Divya, meanwhile, started the day with two defeats, staged a comeback scoring five points in the next six rounds, before losing against Humpy, also collecting five points.

The Women's Blitz continues on September 4 at 4:30 a.m. ET / 10:30 CEST / 14:00 IST.

How to watch the Tata Steel India Chess Women's Rapid & Blitz

You can watch the event live on Twitch, as well as our YouTube channels for and Chess24. Keep up with all the details of the tournament on our live events platform, and follow the live games by clicking here.

The broadcast was hosted by GM Robert Hess and IM Soumya Swaminathan.

Harika admitted to being tired due to her hectic schedule and decided to concentrate on her fitness and staying fresh, after a difficult first day of the rapid tournament. "Right now I am thinking only of staying fresh and giving my best chess... I am trying to cope with fitness and sleep—that's all... If someone is interested they should try this routine—after such a madness, that is helping me to an extent!"

Help it did, as Harika shot into the joint lead with Ju with a score of 3.5 from the initial four games. She defeated the rapid winner Divya in a 137-move energy-sapping marathon and showed the proclaimed freshness with a resourceful pawn sacrifice in a difficult endgame in the second round against GM Nino Batsiashvili.

Humpy started with three cautious draws followed by a win against blitz specialist IM Polina Shuvalova in the fourth round. Her fifth-round clash against Harika turned out to be a memorable one.

Humpy and Harika are two of the strongest female players in the world, and the only two women players who hold the grandmaster title in India. They both are from the south of India, hailing from the state of Andhra Pradesh, and speak the same mother tongue, Telugu. Their styles too are similar, with logical, dynamic play, but they can elevate their tactical prowesses when required. Over the board, their mutual encounters are always full of spirited fights, and their fifth-round encounter turned out to be one too.

Harika was seen pacing the tournament stage with concentration before the game, as she avoids interaction with other players between the rounds and prefers to keep to herself. It was obvious that she was getting ready for this important game. And it turned out to be an entertaining tactical skirmish.

Humpy defeated Harika in a clash of heavyweights. Photo: Vivek Sohani/Tata Steel Chess India.

Undeterred, Harika went on to score three points in the next four rounds, including a one-sided win against Ju in the very next round and an admirable positional squeeze against Shuvalova in the final game of the day.

The lessened time frame of blitz was no deterrent for Ju to show her endgame prowess, and her outfoxing Savitha in an equal endgame was the best example.

Ju showed her endgame prowess in blitz too. Photo: Vivek Sohani/Tata Steel Chess India.

Ju was even unlucky to lose on time in a slightly better position against Shuvalova.

As she was about to complete 46.Ke2, Ju suffered the familiar heartbreak of blitz games—losing on time. She lost against Harika in the very next game, but Ju showed remarkable resilience to score three wins in the three remaining games of the day, which included a heartbreaking collapse of her opponent GM Anna Ushenina in the final seconds of the ninth round.

Humpy's win in the ninth round against Divya featured remarkable quadruple blunders.

The day was full of such dramatic spectacles, common to blitz drama with such a group of strong players.

Among such dynamic games was IM Vantika Agrawal's attacking victory over Batsiashvili, which is our Game Of The Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao.

Vantika showed her attacking prowess against Batsiashvili. Photo: Vivek Sohani/Tata Steel Chess India.

Monday will be the last day of the blitz event with another nine games, where all the players will face each other again with reversed colors.

Round 10 Pairings: Women's Blitz

All Games: Day 4

Women's Blitz Standings

The 2023 Tata Steel Chess India Men's and Women's Rapid and Blitz are two of India's most prestigious rapid chess events. The Women's event takes place before the Men's. Players compete in a 10-player round-robin in three days of rapid games with a 25+10 time control, followed by two days of blitz games played at a 3+2 time control. 

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