Danielian Beats Harika To Reach Women's Speed Chess Final

Danielian Beats Harika To Reach Women's Speed Chess Final

| 33 | News

Elina Danielian defeated Harika Dronavalli 15-13 on Thursday in the first Women's Speed Chess Championship semifinal. On Sunday, the other semifinal will be played between Alexandra Kosteniuk and Valentina Gunina

She did it before, and she did it again. After eliminating the top seed Kateryna Lagno, Danielian knocked the fourth-seeded Harika out of the Women's Speed Chess Championship, to reach the final that is played on June 27. Danielian, the lowest seed in the tournament bracket, will next play for the championship. 

The Armenian GM defied the odds once again, although this time the matchup was much more even.

Harika-Danielian Women Speed Chess predictions
The Harika-Danielian SmarterChess predictions.

The match started with three draws, which had only happened once before in Speed Chess history: the match between Hikaru Nakamura and Sergey Grigoriants in 2017.

Harika seemed on her way to win the first game after showing excellent, thematic play but then allowed counterplay:

Danielian drew first blood in game four, where she played the "Neo-Veresov," which Baadur Jobava and Nakamura have played from time to time. Harika's early 3...a6 was answered by 4.e4 and suddenly we were in French territory.

White was making more progress on the kingside than Black on the queenside, but Harika still had some counterplay until she decided to burn all bridges on the kingside. Danielian missed a few quicker wins but only because she only had a few seconds on the clock.

Harika bounced back straight away with the white pieces. She had no trouble dealing with Danielian's offbeat set-up against the English, but then allowed a lot of counterplay. The rook endgame was a draw until Danielian was the last to err.

Harika Dronavalli Women Speed Chess Championship
In the third straight win for White, Danielian once again took the lead. In a Queen's Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation, she was preparing the typical minority attack, but then switched to a kingside attack instead. This was rather atypical for this Carlsbad structure, but well executed by the Armenian player:

After two draws, Danielian also won the last game in the five-minute portion to increase her lead to two points. It was the first win for the black pieces in the match.

5|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Elina Danielian @ClassyEl 2616 2636 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 1 ½ ½ 1 5.5/9
2 Harika Dronavalli @Elegance_Riks 2558 2538 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 0 ½ ½ 0 3.5/9

Just when commentators IM Anna Rudolf and IM Sopiko Guramishvili were mentioning that the match hadn't seen any big blunders yet, the first one appeared on the board. Danielian was again very low on time in a position with good drawing chances, but with one second on the clock she dropped a full rook:

After two more draws, Harika got a great chance to level the score. She won a pawn with an easy tactic, but wasn't aggressive enough in her follow-up, then missed a move and made another mistake:

Danielian also won the next game to become the first player to win two games in a row. She made it three in a row due to a big blunder by Harika in game 15, but then the Indian GM played a more aggressive game and won on time in a drawn position:

Elina Danielian Women Speed Chess Championship
After a quick loss, Harika was back to being four points down. She then briefly experienced connection problems, so according to the Speed Chess rules, three minutes were added to the match clock. The last two games ended in draws, and so Danielian went into the bullet segment with a four-point lead. The score was 11.5-7.5.

3|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 Elina Danielian @ClassyEl 2613 2633 0 ½ ½ 1 1 1 0 1 ½ ½ 6.0/10
2 Harika Dronavalli @Elegance_Riks 2563 2543 1 ½ ½ 0 0 0 1 0 ½ ½ 4.0/10

Things were still not going Harika's way at the start of the bullet, as Danielian won a game she had no business winning. What a remarkable checkmate it was!

Harika was definitely getting her chances, but often she missed the final touch—even when it was a mate in two, spotted by her opponent during the game:

The penultimate bullet game was the wildest of the whole match, with Harika getting a winning attack (mate in four) but Danielian eventually gave a perpetual with an extra queen:

1|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Harika Dronavalli @Elegance_Riks 2265 2356 0 1 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 5.5/9
2 Elina Danielian @ClassyEl 2278 2187 1 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 3.5/9

The win actually came as a surprise to Danielian, who said: “I don’t know what to say. I am still shocked because I thought I lost in the bullet, and then I lost the match. Once again, I couldn’t follow the score. Of course I am happy, but it’s just a little bit emotional now.”

Harika: “I feel I played a couple of bad games in the five minutes and three minutes, where I just lost unnecessarily. I was playing pretty fast in the beginning, but at the end in the bullet I lost many chances where I was winning. I think my best chance was in bullet.”

Danielian: “Yes, because I am very bad at bullet! When I don’t have time to think, I think I am just a very bad player.”

The winner mentioned that she made “less one-move blunders“ than in her match with Lagno, and revealed the secret of her preparation: “I made a lot of one-move or two move tactics to get my brain in a fast working condition," said Danielian. 

Women's Speed Chess Championship bracket

Harika earned $696 based on win percentage; Danielian won $1,500 for the victory plus $804 on percentage, totaling $2,304. The Armenian GM moves on to the final, where she will play the winner of Alexandra Kosteniuk vs Valentina Gunina, whose match is on Sunday, June 23.

“They are both very strong,“ said Danielian, “but I think I will have a little advantage because they are very tired because they both came from Kazan, they had a very tough [candidates'] tournament. Maybe because of that I can be a bit lucky.“

Women Speed Chess Championship Schedule

The Women's 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.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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