GM Hou Yifan won the FIDE Chess.com Women’s Speed Chess Championship after beating GM Harika Dronavalli 15-13 in the final on Saturday. Hou clinched the $20,000 first prize in a tight match where she won the final two bullet games. Harika won $12,000 for second place.
The live broadcast of the match.
The already very accomplished Hou, a four-time women’s world champion and the winner of the 2017 Biel tournament, added another prestigious title to her resume. In the final moments of the match, she beat Harika, the surprise of the tournament who had entered the Main Event as a qualifier and made it all the way to the final.
The score was still equal two games before the end, and Hou was the first to admit that it could have gone either way. “At any point, it could have gone in another direction, and I feel I was just lucky to win this match,” was her gracious summary of what had happened.
The closeness of this match became clear right away when the first four games ended in draws. After that, it was Harika who grabbed the initiative with two wins in a row. In the second win, Hou blundered her g7-pawn and was without a chance in the remainder:
An important moment in the match was the next game. Harika suffered some internet problems after the fifth move, and by the time she had reconnected and checked if everything was working (including her connection to Zoom), she was down to a minute and 21 seconds for the rest of the game, which she ended up losing.
Afterward, Harika didn’t want to use this moment as an excuse, but Hou pointed out herself that this probably had a psychological effect on her opponent.
Initially, that effect wasn’t significant because, after a draw, Harika won the last 5|1 game and also the first 3|1 game, which gave her a lead of 6.5-3.5.
Only then things turned around score-wise because Hou managed to win four games in a row. In the fourth of that streak, she won despite blundering an exchange, so it’s possible this game affected Harika’s play a little as well:
Hou went into the 1|1 segment with a 10-8 lead, but after eight bullet games, the score was even: 13-13.
We’re more than half way through the WSCC finals and it could not be closer: GM Hou Yifan and GM Harika Dronavalli are TIED after 13 games
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— Chess.com (@chesscom) July 3, 2021
The Chinese GM won game 27 and then avoided a tiebreak as she won the next as well, but not before giving her opponent a chance in the opening:
”My opponent played much stronger,” said Harika. “I tried to fight and fight until the end. Overall, I am not upset about my performance. I could have done better but it’s fine.”
Hou: “First of all, I thought Harika had a very good performance, especially in the 5|1 segment. At some point, I was behind two or three points. Also in the bullet, I thought somehow Harika was playing very well. I mean, she just played very fast and at some point, I was looking and I was 20 or even 30 seconds down.”
The FIDE Chess.com 2021 Women’s Speed Chess Championship was an online competition for titled female players. The qualifiers for the event were held May 28-June 6, while the main event was held June 10-July 3. Players battled for their shares of a total prize fund of $66,000.
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