Women's Speed Chess Championship: Hou Qualifies For Saturday Final With Harika

Women's Speed Chess Championship: Hou Qualifies For Saturday Final With Harika

| 17 | Chess Event Coverage

The final of the FIDE Women's Speed Chess Championship will be played between GM Hou Yifan and GM Harika Dronavalli. In the second semifinal on Friday, Hou defeated her compatriot GM Lei Tingjie 11.5-9.5.

The final will take place tomorrow, Saturday, July 3, tentatively scheduled for 4:00 a.m. Pacific / 13:00 Central Europe.

The live broadcast of the match.

The second semifinal was a match between the world number-one female player, 27 years old, and the number-four Chinese female player, 24 years old. Usually, Hou would be the heavy favorite, but the circumstances are now a bit different. Because her work as a professor at the Shenzhen University takes most of her time, she could not really prepare for this tournament, whereas Lei is basically a professional chess player—although she couldn't play much either lately due to the pandemic. But in online chess, with bullet involved, anything can happen.

Hou did take an early lead in the 5|1 segment, winning the first two games and holding on to that lead for the remainder. Here's the first game of the match that ended up as an absolute model game for White in the Berlin Endgame. However, Lei's missed chances are very instructive as well:

Lei also lost the first two games of the 3|1 segment, but then she finally got in better shape. She scored 4/5 in the remaining games of this time control, which meant that Hou was leading by just one point going into the bullet.

The following game is especially a powerful display by Lei, who played the Alekhine-Chatard Attack and massacred Hou's French—just look at those two pieces on a8 and a7 in the final position.

The bullet phase was anyone's game, with the players trading wins continually. At one point, Hou won two in a row and that decided the match. With a score of 11.5-8.5, only a minute and 43 seconds were left on the match clock—not enough for Lei to win three games. 

Afterward, Hou called the fifth bullet game the decisive one. Lei won a healthy pawn but ended up losing:

"This match was very tough because, you know, my opponent is very strong!" Lei started her interview with a smile. "I didn't do well in the 5|1. OK, 5|1 is always my problem. In the 3|1 I caught up a little bit. In the bullet, I think I made a lot of mistakes, so, yeah, congratulations to my opponent."

"I guess it was a tough match for both of the players as most of the time the score was a tie or close to a tie," said Hou. "In general, I felt like the quality of this bullet match somehow was better than my previous match. But the score was very close."

All games

Women's Speed Chess Championship 2021 bracket
The FIDE 2021 Women's Speed Chess Championship is an online competition for titled female players. The qualifiers for the event were held May 28-June 6, while the main event runs June 10-July 3. Players battle for their shares of a total prize fund of $66,000.

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