Women's Speed Chess Semifinal Kosteniuk-Gunina Preview

Women's Speed Chess Semifinal Kosteniuk-Gunina Preview

| 24 | News

The second semifinal of the Women's Speed Chess Championship will be played today between GM Alexandra Kosteniuk and GM Valentina Gunina, both from Russia.

The winner of the Women's Speed Chess Championship will qualify for the general 2019 Speed Chess Championship and also for the FIDE Grand Swiss in October in Isle of Man.

Today we'll find out the opponent for Elina Danielian in the big final of this first Women's Speed Chess Championship to be played on June 27.

You can watch Alexandra Kosteniuk vs. Valentina Gunina today, Sunday, June 23 at 9 a.m. Pacific (18:00 CEST, 19:00 Moscow) with live commentary by IM Sopiko Guramishvili and IM Anna Rudolf on and

Women's Speed Chess Championship bracket
Like her opponent, 35-year-old Kosteniuk (@ChessQueen) just returned to Moscow from Kazan, about 715 kilometers (444 miles) east of the Russian capital, where she participated in the FIDE Women's Candidates' Tournament that was dominated by a splendid Aleksandra Goryachkina.

Kosteniuk, a former world champion herself, won't be too happy with her minus-two score and a seventh place on the leaderboard. Returning to speed chess might be a nice way of moving on!

The "Chess Queen," as she has been calling herself (e.g., on Twitter) got into the semifinal thanks to a crushing 20-8 victory over IM Anna Zatonskih. This was a nice game from the five-minute portion:

Afterward Kosteniuk said she had enjoyed the match: "I haven't really played such a long match because usually if you play online, against one opponent, I get bored after four games. I just quit. Here we needed to play for 3.5 hours. It was not boring, I must say. The time flew very fast!"

As it turns out, Kosteniuk won't be very far away from her opponent during the match: "I will be playing from a place next to Moscow where my daughter will be having a tennis camp, actually located very close to Valentina."

Alexandra Kosteniuk Women Speed Chess

The 30-year-old Gunina (@Vanina1989), from Murmansk but living in the Moscow region, actually finished in last place at the FIDE Candidates'. Before that she had won her speed chess quarterfinal match against Irina Krush, another Russia vs. U.S. clash, with a even bigger margin: 24-5. That match equaled or broke several records:

  • the most decisive games to start a match (18);
  • the fewest draws in a match (just two);
  • the most decisive games in a match (27);
  • the highest percentage of decisive games in a match (93 percent).

When it comes to tactics with the enemy king involved, Gunina is at her best. Here's an example from her match with Krush:

"I think I was playing so badly, but Irina started to [blunder] at the beginning.... I couldn’t think at all!" said Gunina after the match. "It’s more than three hours, starting at your computer, it’s really difficult. But it was fun! Enormous!"

Valentina Gunina Women Speed Chess

Unsurprisingly, these two members of the Russian Olympic team have played each other numerous times. The database gives no fewer than 47 games!

In classical chess, the score is 11-8 for Kosteniuk, but in rapid/blitz it's Gunina who leads with 15-14. This was their last game, at the Candidates' Tournament (annotated by IM Jovanka Houska):

Kosteniuk: "We are both very tired after Kazan, so the player who will manage to recover better in this coming week will have more chances. Mathematically speaking, I would say that chances are about 50-50."

Gunina: "I don't think about it. After the Candidates' I don't think about anything!"

Kosteniuk said she might prepare a bit, but not with playing more chess: "Rest as much as possible. Well, solving some Puzzle Rushes once in a while won’t hurt as well. "

Gunina also made the point that both players are tired after returning from Kazan, and so her prep is simple: "Take rest."

Prizes Women's Speed Chess Championship

We also asked each player what they think is the biggest strength of their opponent.

Kosteniuk: "Valentina’s talent is well-known. She is a very bright tactical player that is able to create an absolute chaos out of nowhere.

Gunina: "She is fighting!"

The prize fund for the semifinals is $3,000 each. The winner earns $1,500 and advances to the final, while the other $1,500 is split by win percentage.

The Women's Speed Chess Championship takes place May 22-June 27 on the live server. All matches are broadcast live with commentary by IMs Anna Rudolf and Sopiko Guramishvili on and

Here's the full schedule:

  • Lagno vs. Elina Danielian (Round 2, Match 1): 13.0-14.0 (News post.)
  • Kosteniuk vs. Zatonskih (Round 2, Match 2): 20-8 (News post.)
  • Gunina vs. Krush (Round 2, Match 3): 24-5 (News post.)
  • Dronavalli vs. Sebag (Round 2, Match 4): 15.5-10.5 (News post.)
  • Semifinal 1: Harika vs. Danielian: 13.0-15.0 (News post.)
  • Semifinal 2: Kosteniuk-Gunina: June 23, 2019 9 a.m. Pacific (18:00 CEST)
  • WSCC Championship: June 27, 2019 at 9 a.m. Pacific (18:00 CEST)
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