India's R Vaishali on Sunday won the women's Speed chess online championship qualifier 2, beating Polina Shuvalova of Russia in the final.
The 20-year-old from Chennai, a woman Grandmaster, became the second Indian to qualify for the main event of the 2021 women's Speed Chess Championship. "I am very happy with my performance as it has come in a very strong field. I played some very good games," Vaishali, sister of Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa, told PTI.
The tournament was a nine-round Swiss tournament with the top eight finishers advancing to the knockout playoff stage. In the semifinals, Vaishali defeated Bibisara Assaubayeva 2-0 and then edged out Shuvalova in the final. She lost the first game on time despite outplaying her opponent. However, she bounced back and check-mated the Russian in the second to level the score. The third and final game was a roller-coaster. The Indian obtained a promising position from the opening but a hasty queen sacrifice appeared to set her back.
However, a blunder by Shuvalova cost her dear and allowed Vaishali to secure victory. Indian WGM D Harika had won the first qualifier to book a spot in the main event. A total of eight qualifiers will be played and the winners will be joined by eight invited players -- GM Koneru Humpy (India), GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia), GM Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria), GM Anna Muzychuk (Ukraine), GM Irina Krush (USA), GM Kateryna Lagno (Russia) and GM Lei Tingjie (China) -- in the main event to be played from June 10 to July 3.
Vaishali said she had played with her brother which helped her to prepare for the event. Vaishali, who has qualified for the FIDE World Cup to be held in Sochi, Russia from July 10, said she was looking forward to playing the event (an over-the-board one) in which the best players will be taking part. Apart from Vaishali, Koneru Humpy, Harika, Padmini Rout and Bhakti Kulkarni will be taking part in the World Cup. "It (the World Cup) is a big event, a super strong event in which the best players will be taking part.
I want to give my best and am preparing as well as I can," Vaishali said. She is practising by playing over the board games with her brother and also training with coach R B Ramesh. "I am playing with Praggu and look to learn from him. I hope this will be a great help when I get back to the over the board event." Vaishali is also aware that not having played an across the board event since February 2020, she needs to make the changes for the format. "I played my last over the board event in February 2020 (at the Aeroflot Open). The switch from playing blitz and rapid games to classical will be slightly difficult but I am prepared for it. Practising with Praggu also will help," she added.