Women's Speed Chess: Gunina Beats Kosteniuk In Biggest Comeback Ever

Women's Speed Chess: Gunina Beats Kosteniuk In Biggest Comeback Ever

| 16 | News

Coming back from a four-point deficit hadn't been seen in the history of speed chess matches on until Valentina Gunina defeated Alexandra Kosteniuk 16.5-14.5 in Sunday's Women's Speed Chess Championship semifinal.

Gunina will now face Elina Danielian in the final on June 27.

A former world champion in classical chess, Kosteniuk is also known as a strong blitz player. She was perhaps the slight favorite in this match and was leading by a margin of four points after 10 games—and also after 15 games. 

But it wasn't enough.

In what was also the speed chess match with the highest number of decisive games (28), Gunina made the biggest comeback so far and ended by winning the final bullet game with which Kosteniuk could have leveled the score. 

Kosteniuk - Gunina predictions by SmarterChess
SmarterChess rightly predicted a close match between Kosteniuk and Gunina.

The quality of the match shows that the two players were still not fully recovered from their grueling 14-round Candidates' Tournament that had finished five days before. Mutual fatigue led to numerous blunders by both. 

The first half of the match was all for Kosteniuk. First, in the five-minute part, she won four games in a row after losing the opening game. Gunina struck back as her opponent blundered a standard tactic:

After two draws, Gunina in game nine made the blunder of blunders: allowing a mate in one where many other moves would have kept her winning advantage. Admittedly, it was rather sneaky for Kosteniuk to offer a full rook with a knight maneuver toward the kingside that looked rather slow.


Gunina was four points down but reduced the spread to three with an excellent win that closed the five-minute segment. 25...Bh4+ is a truly magnificent move. In the opening Black loses the right to castle, but her rook on the h-file plays a major role.

Alexandra Kosteniuk Speed Chess Championship

5|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Score
1 Alexandra Kosteniuk @ChessQueen 2639 2667 0 1 1 1 1 0 ½ ½ 1 1 0 7.0/11
2 Valentina Gunina @Vanina1989 2570 2542 1 0 0 0 0 1 ½ ½ 0 0 1 4.0/11

Gunina also started the three-minute segment with a win. However, after a draw she lost the next two games and was back to the earlier four-game deficit.

First, it was Kosteniuk's turn to blunder a mate in one, although in her case she was already in trouble:

Another checkmate was in game 15, the one where Kosteniuk got her big lead again. The score was 9.5-5.5 after this one, the shortest of the match:

In the second half of the match, everything changed. As Kosteniuk started to lose the momentum, her energy and her sharpness, Gunina was finally warmed up. She won three games in a row, and after a loss she won three more!

The results mean she won the three-minute segment with a 7.5-3.5 score and was now the one leading before the bullet by 11.5-10.5.

Gunina finished the following by winning with a firm hand:

Valentina Gunina Speed Chess Championship

3|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Score
1 Valentina Gunina @Vanina1989 2562 2768 1 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 7.5/11
2 Alexandra Kosteniuk @ChessQueen 2636 2430 0 ½ 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3.5/11

The match saw a nail-biting finish. It came down to the final bullet game, even though everything seemed more or less decided halfway through the bullet phase.

Gunina scored 4-1 in the first five 1|1 games, and then the overall score was 15.5-11.5. Kosteniuk's collapse seemed complete.

However, she suddenly won three in a row. This one was particularly exciting:

Kosteniuk was just one game away from leveling the score again, which happened to be the last game because the match clock was about to run down to zero. As it went, Gunina won convincingly to clinch the match:

“I wasn’t successful in the middlegame. I didn’t have a single chance in that particular game,” Kosteniuk said about this last one.

1|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Valentina Gunina @Vanina1989 2569 2608 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 5.0/9
2 Alexandra Kosteniuk @ChessQueen 2570 2531 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 4.0/9

“I am so happy that it’s over. I am so tired, and Alexandra should be also tired,” said Gunina, who could hardly speak in full sentences because she was so fatigued.

Kosteniuk acknowledged tiredness indeed: “I collapsed somewhere, I ran out of power. The match just slipped away and I couldn’t really find it back. I’ve had such a terrible headache for several days. The days were passing by without really noticing. I am very happy that today I was feeling fine at least and that I was able to play decently in some of the games.”

Women's Speed Chess bracket

How did Gunina make the comeback?

“At some point I couldn’t realize that I started to blunder with every move. I was so shocked,“ she said. “When I started to lose many points, I decided OK, I need to enjoy this match anyway.…”

As it went, Gunina might have been the one who recovered better from the tournament in Kazan. Asked how she spent the past week, she said she had walked her dog every day for up to two hours. “For me, it’s totally relaxing.”

Kosteniuk earns $702 based on win percentage; Gunina wins $1,500 for the victory plus $798 on percentage, totaling $2,298. The latter moves on to the final, where she will play Elina Danielian on June 27.

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.

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

You can replay the live broadcast here.

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