Gunina Scores Tremendous 9/10 To Win London Rapid

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

Valentina Gunina came, saw and conquered. The Russian player was in fantastic shape at the London Super Rapidplay tournament, won with 9/10(!), and left a field of 42 grandmasters behind her.

The Super Rapidplay tournament took place on December 17 and 18, the final weekend of the London Chess Classic, in the same venue as the super tournament. It was the biggest and strongest edition of this rapid event ever, with over 400 participants. 43 of them were grandmasters.

The top seeds were Hrant Melkumyan (Armenia), Nigel Short (England), last year's winner Luke McShane (England), Etienne Bacrot and Laurent Fressinet (both France), David Howell (England), Ilya Smirin (Israel), and Eltaj Safarli (Azerbaijan).

Etienne Bacrot and Laurent Fressinet in their game. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

None of these big names won. Instead, it was a big name in women's chess that dominated a male field! 

GM Valentina Gunina, who had flown to London specifically to participate in this tournament, won with the tremendous score of 9/10. 

She drew with French GMs Etienne Bacrot and Laurent Fressinet (the latter, being her boyfriend, agreed to a draw on move seven), but she defeated GMs John Nunn, Ilya Smirin, Eduardo Iturrizaga, David Howell and Luke McShane!

A bit of luck is always a welcome necessity to win tournaments. Here's how poor John Nunn, the winner of Wijk aan Zee in 1990 and 1991, blundered away a drawn endgame after an interesting fight in his beloved King's Indian:

John Nunn, wearing a great chess outfit. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

However, there was nothing wrong with the following black win over Howell:

David Howell, one of several GMs who stumbled versus Gunina. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

The last round saw an absolute thriller between Gunina and McShane, the reining champ who started last year's tournament with 9/9. After the opening, the Russian lady didn't play the most accurate moves, and slowly but surely, McShane reached a winning position. Was this the end of the Cinderella story?

Well, no. McShane blundered a full rook. The position was still a bit complicated, but Gunina had no mercy.

Gunina congratulated by a good friend, Gibraltar tournament
director GM Stuart Conquest. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Gunina's 9/10 score was good for a 2831 rating performance and the £5,000 first prize (€5968/$6245). Safarli took sole second place with 8.5/10 while 11 players followed on 8/10.

2016 Super Rapidplay | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts.
1 33 GM Gunina, Valentina 2491 9
2 9 GM Safarli, Eltaj 2653 8.5
3 3 GM Bacrot, Etienne 2700 8
4 4 GM Fressinet, Laurent 2676 8
5 5 GM Howell, David 2671 8
6 7 GM Istratescu, Andrei 2657 8
7 11 GM Jones, Gawain 2631 8
8 13 GM Cornette, Matthieu 2597 8
9 19 GM Moussard, Jules 2571 8
10 21 GM Shabalov, Alexander 2542 8
12 22 GM Svane, Rasmus 2532 8
13 28 GM Blomqvist, Erik 2509 8
14 35 GM Fodor, Tamas Jr 2476 8
15 2 GM Mcshane, Luke J 2709 7.5
16 6 GM Iturrizaga, Eduardo 2666 7.5
17 8 GM Smirin, Ilya 2657 7.5
18 12 GM Lenderman, Alex 2603 7.5
19 16 GM Hawkins, Jonathan 2579 7.5
20 18 GM Nunn, John 2573 7.5

(Full final standings here.)

The Super Rapidplay tournament was held in memory of Michael Uriely, a talented young chess player who passed away in August 2015 at the age of nine after a severe asthma attack in the middle of the Mindsports Olympiad.

Earlier this year, his parents Roy and Ayelet supported a tournament in celebration of his life at his school, Westminster Under School. Funds were raised in support of the family’s chosen charity, Asthma UK. You can donate here.

Gunina's stellar performance is reminiscent of Sofia Polgar's victory in Rome in 1989. At 14, the middle sister of the Polgar family won the strong open tournament with 8.5/9, beating GMs such as Alexander Chernin, Mihai Suba and Yuri Razuvaev along the way.

That must have been Valentina Gunina's finest weekend ever. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

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