Everyone expected the Russian star Ian Nepomniachtchi to crush Elina Danielian in the 2019 Speed Chess Championship, and he more than lived up to those predictions with a dominating win, 27-2.
Nepomniachtchi played his usual style of putting his opponent under tremendous pressure on the clock, sometimes even at the cost of misplaying his position. His play was rewarded as he won seemingly dead-drawn positions and also some inferior or lost positions.
Kudos to Danielian for putting up a fight while playing interesting chess with a big smile on her face, irrespective of the results and the match score.
Nepomniachtchi, who has been the highest-rated Russian for some time now, will face the Chinese star Ding Liren in the quarterfinals next month.
Nepomniachtchi was seeded fourth in this year’s event, while Danielian gained her place after winning the 2019 Women’s Speed Chess Championship.
This match was expected to be a blowout because of the massive rating difference, and Nepomniachtchi delivered. He won a record 11 games out of the gate in the 5|1 blitz section. This is the best start anyone has ever had in the SCC.
In game one, Nepomniachtchi played extremely fast, keeping the positions complex. The first game was the start of a recurring pattern throughout the match. Danielian would be terribly low on time in the middlegame and would just flag or blunder, even from a position of strength.
Nepomniachtchi brought his A-game to the match and found this spectacular finish after a pretty decent English opening for White.
Chess.com’s commentator team was joined by IM Sopiko Guramishvili, who had also commentated on all of the Women’s Speed Chess Championship matches.
Nepomniachtchi’s rampage just continued. He scored one win after another and kept adding to his score. In her defense, Danielian wasn’t outplayed in many games in spite of the massive rating difference. Her main opponent was the clock.
5|1 section | Scores
In the 3|1 blitz section, Nepomniachtchi continued from where he left off. He scored two more wins before Danielian managed to score a moral win by making a draw with a perpetual. There seemed to be a collective sigh of relief with this draw as Danielian got on the scoreboard.
The time control had changed, but everything else seemed to remain the same. Nepomniachtchi got a slight edge out of the opening. He kept the position complicated. Meanwhile, Danielian trickled into time pressure by move 20 and in the end lost on time in a position where her opponent was only slightly better.
Later, Danielian managed to draw another game with Black and again in a queen endgame. After this draw, Nepomniachtchi was leading the match with a 16-1 score!
Immediately after her second draw, Danielian earned her first and only victory of the match. She won a pawn in the middlegame and then converted with precise play to bring home the point.
Interestingly, the 3|1 blitz was the only section where Danielian managed to score points. She blanked in the other two sections. But she did one-up the world’s top woman, Hou Yifan, as she managed to win a game, unlike Yifan’s SCC match against Hikaru Nakamura
3|1 section | Scores
Danielian was always in good spirits and her 3|1 blitz results would have given her confidence but unfortunately, she was no match for Nepomniachtchi in the 1|1 bullet section. Nepomniachtchi simply showed his class. He blanked Danielian in this section and scored a huge 11-0 score in the bullet.
The same story continued in the bullet portion as Danielian flagged in a slightly worse position again.
Nepomniachtchi had some strange positions after the openings, thanks to his pre-moving skills. He didn’t always have the best position but he always managed to pull things together thanks to his superior time management.
In the following game, Danielian played too quickly and this time “Nepo” trapped White’s queen out of nowhere.
1|1 section | Scores
Danielian earned in excess of $10,000 for winning the Women’s Speed Chess Championship, but she received just $69 for her efforts this time. Nepomniachtchi picks up $1,000 for overall match victory and a big bonus of $931 based on win percentage.
During the post-match interviews, when asked about her overall match experience, Danielian said: “From the beginning my connection was down. I don’t know, maybe because of the wind. There were a few drawn positions but okay, I was really slow but Ian was incredibly fast.”
Nepomniachtchi was quite modest: “Well, I actually I didn’t like the way it was. Because it was a pain to me as Elina was losing on time all the time in decent positions and I was unhappy. I didn’t enjoy it at all.”
He later said that he was completely tired of playing chess at some point during the St. Louis tournament, but he had no option but to continue.
The live broadcast for replay.