Underdog Danielian Wins Women's Speed Chess Championship

Underdog Danielian Wins Women's Speed Chess Championship

| 19 | News

She entered the competition as a qualifier, joined the bracket as the lowest seed and ended up winning the whole thing. Elina Danielian beat Valentina Gunina 15-13 in Thursday's final of the inaugural Women's Speed Chess Championship.

Danielian came back from a four-point deficit while her opponent suffered from internet connection issues. With her victory, the Armenian grandmaster won $4,607 and qualified for both the general 2019 Speed Chess Championship and for the FIDE Grand Swiss in October in Isle of Man. Gunina earned $1,393 for the second-place finish.

Gunina Danielian Speed Chess predictions
Danielian once again defied the odds.

It was an exciting and interesting final between two excellent online blitz players, which unfortunately was also affected by an external factor.

Playing from Bali, Indonesia, Gunina started her games after midnight. More important, her internet access was not strong enough and as a result she lost connection in several games. Whether this was a decisive factor is hard to say, but it definitely had its effect on the score and on Gunina's state of mind.

Afterward Danielian said she felt sorry and called it "her luck," but one thing is clear: She cannot be blamed for winning like this. It's part of the championship's regulations that players are responsible for their internet connection. That Gunina had planned a holiday after her candidates' tournament was logical, but also a case of unfortunate timing.

The five-minute segment went all right for Gunina, who won this part with a two-game margin. It was Danielian who took the lead first, though, with a win in game two, and also a win in game five (after Gunina had won game four):

Gunina was in her element in game six, where she castled queenside in a Queen's Gambit Declined, exchange variation and developed a devastating attack:

5|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Valentina Gunina @Vanina1989 2613 2650 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 1 ½ 1 1 5.5/9
2 Elina Danielian @ClassyEl 2572 2535 ½ 1 ½ 0 1 0 ½ 0 0 3.5/9

A few games into the three-minute segment, Gunina had increased her lead to four points, and things started to look grim for Danielian. She was either flagging in normal positions, blundering pieces or failing to profit from blunders while flagging:

Take the following moment, where Danielian still had 32 seconds on the clock vs. 28 for Gunina:

“At some point I realized that I should play faster,“ said Danielian. “I was losing so many games by blundering one move, just because of time trouble.“

That was probably around here, by game 13, when she was down 4.5-8.5. The Armenian player won four straight games to level the score the quickest way possible!

She started with a fine technical effort in an endgame:

Elina Danielian Women's Speed Chess Championship
It should be noted that Danielian got some luck in game 16, the seventh three-minute game of the match. That's where Gunina lost internet for the first time, for a minute or two, after which she didn't have enough time left to cope with her opponent's threats.

However, even without the clock issues, Gunina probably would not have saved this one as her opponent was playing really well:

3|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Elina Danielian @ClassyEl 2554 2668 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 5.0/9
2 Valentina Gunina @Vanina1989 2630 2516 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 4.0/9

Gunina was still leading the match by a point at the start of the bullet portion, but that situation was immediately fixed by Danielian, who started off with a good win:

Both players won two games each, and so after 23 games everything was still equal: 11.5-11.5. Meanwhile, one moment should be mentioned. In this game, one move before getting flagged, Danielian missed a mate-in-one:

What happened in games 24 and 25 was ] tragic for Gunina, and something unfortunate for such a close and exciting match that everyone wanted to see played out on equal ground. This time, the internet connection in her Bali hotel really let her down, and Gunina lost these two bullet games both at move 12 due to disconnecting.

Valentina Gunina Women's Speed Chess

Understandably upset, she dropped a full queen in the next, and the match was more or less over.

Gunina won the next game, but it was a long one and time was running out. During game 28, the match clock ran down to zero, and with Danielian leading by two points that meant the championship was decided.

1|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 Elina Danielian @ClassyEl 2280 2634 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 ½ 6.5/10
2 Valentina Gunina @Vanina1989 2527 2173 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 ½ 3.5/10

“First thought? I am very happy. What else can I be,“ said Danielian. “It was a long way, it was a tough way, and it was very interesting to play. I am very much thankful to to have such an opportunity to try and play in the Women’s Speed Chess Championship. I hope can create more women’s tournaments!”

Dismayed, Gunina said: “I am really so upset. I lost two games by internet [connection] and [it’s] 4 a.m. in the morning.”

About her long journey to win the championship, which started with the qualifier and then victories vs. Kateryna Lagno, Harika Dronavalli and now Gunina, Danielian modestly noted: “Probably, I was just lucky.“

Women's Speed Chess Championship bracket

Gunina earned $1,393 based on win percentage; Danielian won $3,000 for the victory plus $1,607 on percentage, totaling $4,607. 

Here are the total earnings for all players in this competition:

2019 Women's Speed Chess Championship | Prizes

Fed Player Qualifier Round 1 Round 2 Final Total
Irina Krush $172 $172
Anna Zatonskih $286 $286
Marie Sebag $404 $404
Kateryna Lagno $481 $481
Harika Dronavalli $1,596 $696 $2,292
Alexandra Kosteniuk $1,714 $702 $2,416
Valentina Gunina $1,828 $2,298 $1,393 $5,519
Elina Danielian $750 $1,591 $2,304 $4,607 $9,252

GM Robert Hess summed up the match nicely in the chat, shortly after the last game was over.

“Huge fan of both of these players," Hess said. "Valentina, sorry about the disconnections, but you played great and have made many fans here. Elina, match after match you were the underdog and came through. You should be extremely proud of your resiliency and hard work. Both of you are phenomenal.“

The Women's Speed Chess Championship was a knockout tournament among eight of the strongest female chess players in the world. Each match had 90 minutes of 5|1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3|1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1|1 bullet chess. The total prize fund was $20,000. 

You can replay the live broadcast here.

Meanwhile, the Junior Speed Chess Championship is well underway with the quarterfinals about to start. The next scheduled match is Alireza Firouzja vs. Sam Sevian on July 9.

The general 2019 Speed Chess Championship will start soon as well. Danielian is now in it, and commented: “That is not the happiest part of winning this championship! But let them think about it. They have to [beat] me. I will relax; try to enjoy.”

Previous reports:

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