Ushenina Wins Women's Speed Chess Championship

Ushenina Wins Women's Speed Chess Championship

| 27 | Chess Event Coverage

On Monday GM Anna Ushenina won the FIDE Women's Speed Chess Championship. The Ukrainian grandmaster defeated GM Alexandra Kosteniuk 14.5-13.5 in the Super Final, purposely held on International Chess Day.

The final was the apotheosis of this all-female event co-organized by FIDE and, which ran between June 18 and July 20. Six titled Swiss tournaments combined with playoffs were followed by four Grand Prix tournaments, and Kosteniuk and Ushenina emerged at the top of the leaderboard.

Their three-hour clash on Monday was a worthy ending to their long journey. It had a longer format than the earlier matchups in the Grand Prix and followed the regular Speed Chess matches: 90 minutes of 5+1 games, 60 minutes of 3+1 games, and 30 minutes of 1+1 games.

The live broadcast of the final.

The players, both former women's world champions, had faced each other 25 times in over-the-board play before this online match. Kosteniuk had a slightly better head-to-head score: +3 -2 =9 in standard chess and +5 -2 =4 in rapid and blitz.

Ushenina had won the first Grand Prix leg and was second in the second leg before finishing in 5th-8th place in her third tournament. Kosteniuk came in third in two legs and won her last. 

After everything was over, the winner told her pre-match strategy: "I wanted to play more solid because Alexandra is a very good player and I know she likes to attack. She likes positions where you need to calculate and with attacking chances, so I tried to avoid that."

Kosteniuk Ushenina Superfinal Women Speed Chess

After the players started with a draw, Kosteniuk took an early lead in the match with two straight victories. With each player scoring two wins plus two more draws, the Russian player could hold on to that lead until the end of the 5+1 portion.

Here's Kosteniuk's first win, which came after Ushenina had better chances earlier in the endgame, but with both players going under 10 seconds on the clock, she stumbled.

Game five saw an exciting finish as both players got a second queen on the board. Although it was irrelevant for the outcome (by then, White had a forced checkmating sequence), it's always something special:

Score 5+1 games

Fed Name Username Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
Alexandra Kosteniuk @ChessQueen 2687 2759 ½ 1 1 0 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 5.5/9
Anna Ushenina @Enki007 2681 2609 ½ 0 0 1 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 3.5/9

Ushenina turned a two-point deficit straight into a one-point lead by winning the first three 3+1 games. We had a match!

In the rest of the hour, Kosteniuk won three games and Ushenina two, so the score was all even again going into the bullet: 9.5-9.5. The last three-minute game saw a crazy finish where both players got completely confused:

Score 3+1 games

Fed Name Username Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
Anna Ushenina @Enki007 2679 2759 1 1 1 ½ 0 0 1 1 ½ 0 6.0/10
Alexandra Kosteniuk @ChessQueen 2689 2609 0 0 0 ½ 1 1 0 0 ½ 1 4.0/10

The faster the time control, the better Ushenina was doing. She won the first and third bullet games, and with four draws she held on to her two-point lead until fewer than five minutes to go.

Kosteniuk really needed to start winning games again, and she did. With two victories in a row in games 26 and 27, she leveled the score with a minute and 12 seconds left on the clock. The next game could be decisive.

The end of the match indeed came in the next bullet game. It saw a wild final phase, when the commentators, GM Anna Muzychuk and GM Robert Hess, started discussing a playoff as the players seemed to be repeating moves.

In the heat of the moment, Ushenina decided to play on as she would not lose and was only running the "risk" of not winning this game. Kosteniuk then made a "visualization error," which looked like a mouse slip but wasn't—as Kosteniuk later revealed in a tweet. The result was the same: she blundered a rook, and Ushenina became the champion.

Computer analysis shows that it didn't matter so much as Kosteniuk would have been lost after any other move as well, but it was tougher to swallow that she had been completely winning shortly before all this happened.

Score 1+1 games

Fed Name Username Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
Anna Ushenina @Enki007 2551 2546 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 1 5.0/9
Alexandra Kosteniuk @ChessQueen 2507 2512 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 0 4.0/9

Ushenina said she hadn't been sure at all about whether she would make it to the match: "I was happy that I qualified because after my last leg, I didn't think I had chances to qualify. I was just happy that I would play in the final."

Her general strategy was simple but effective: "I just tried not to lose pieces in one move, you know. Because after some time I got tired, so I just told myself: Try not to lose a piece in one move, that will be the best."

Ushenina won $6,500 for winning this final. She had earlier earned $3,000 for winning the first Grand Prix leg, $2,000 in the second leg, and $500 in the third leg to make a total of $12,000. Kosteniuk received $3,500 as the runner-up. She earned $1,000 in both the first and third legs and $3,000 in the fourth to win a total of $8,500.

More information about the FIDE Women's Speed Chess Championship can be found here.

Kosteniuk-Ushenina | All games

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.

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