Shuvalova Knocks Out Pruess: IMSCC 2022 Round of 16
The 2022 IM Not A GM Speed Chess Championship resumed on Wednesday with a thrilling Round of 16 between IM Polina Shuvalova and IM David Pruess, in which Shuvalova won with a convincing score of 16.5-6.5.
The match was a tactical brawl that was decided on the ball after a remarkable eight-game winning streak from Shuvalova. After a tussle in the previous sections of the blitz, Pruess’ inability to break Shuvalova in 1+1 matches proved decisive in favor of the former Junior Women’s World Champion.
The next IMSCC match will be the highly anticipated quarter-final between popular streamers IM Eric Rosen and IM Levy Rozman, which begins on May 26, 10 a.m. Pacific / 7 p.m. Central Europe.
Blitz 5|1: Shuvalova-Pruess 5-3
The match between the top and bottom seeds of the tournament began with a landslide victory for Pruess, the lowest-rated player bringing his A-game with the black pieces in a Closed Sicilian. Pruess played with super-GM level precision after Shuvalova inaccurately moved her knight to the edge in the midgame. The error allowed Pruess to gain a pawn in the center and pile on the pain.
Pruess showed signs of his upset potential early in the game, also managing to win the second game, taking an early 2-0 lead.
After a slow start, Shuvalova turned up the heat, winning four games in a row. In the fourth game, she showed a good understanding of a castling position on the opposite side and, after defending against Pruess’ Richter-Veresov attack, was able to dismantle her castling king with a flurry of tactical shots, including a queen sacrifice on the a3-square.
Spicing up openings seemed to be part of both players’ plans in Wednesday’s game and it was rare to see a repeat of setups early on. Shuvalova showed in game three that she was ready for Pruess’ varied repertoire and had no problem handling her Chigorin variation in the queen’s pawn opening.
Shuvalova’s most convincing win came in Game 6 of the match, where she faced the flamboyant Fantasy Variation against her solid Caro-Kann. The figurine ultimately only lasted 24 shots.
The top player seemed to be settling into the game after her four-game streak and was on course for a seventh draw, but she was stunned, either sliding the mouse or smashing the back row mat in a draw endgame.
The result gave Pruess some recuperation and a Shuvalova win to cap the 5+1 game left the top seed with a slim two-point lead.
The early stages of the 3+1 section saw Pruess come back into the game with his roulette opening strategy starting to pay off. He managed to win a nice game on the white side of the King’s Gambit, then immediately followed up with black, using the Sicilian defence: Canal, Main Line, completely juxtaposing his style of play and leaving Shuvalova guessing.
Getting into a tight spot on the white side of a Sicilian defence: Najdorf variant, Pruess almost found an opportunity to draw and keep the game close but was unsuccessful at the final hurdle. Pruess came up with the right idea but executed it poorly, which commentator Hess demonstrated after the game.
As Shuvalova’s lead began to expand, Pruess was able to pull off a timely win, converting with seconds remaining in the 3+1 game and cutting the deficit to two points. The position was not an easy conversion, however, and Pruess was in danger of falling into a triple rep or goof after Shuvalova lined up her queen and turned like a ram against the American IM king.
A draw to close out the 3+1 games set the score for the match at 8.5-6.5 with Shuvalova carrying a two-point lead into the 1+1 section. Commentator Hess was quick to notice that Pruess doesn’t like ball chess. However, he had so far proven himself to be sharp under the pressure of time. Shuvalova, with a monstrous rating of over 2600 balls, would have felt quietly confident against her opponent’s far lower rating of 2250 on Chess.com.
Pre-match reports indicated that Shuvalova would easily outplay Pruess in today’s game, but despite the advantage, the blitz stages were much closer than expected. One of the key metrics in these predictions was the fact that Pruess was losing 46% of her matches by flag drop, compared to 19% for Shuvalova, a damning statistic that begged the question: Would Pruess be able to match the rhythm of the first seed in the ball game?
The answer to this question was unfortunately a resounding no for Pruess. However, that was largely due to Shuvalova sticking to her Chess.com username (Flawless_Fighter) and putting in an outstanding ball performance on Wednesday. An 8-0 obliteration in the game with dizzying speed, powerful pre-moves and tactical strikes left Shuvaloa ahead by ten points.
Pruess managed to land himself in a number of winning positions, but the top seed was just too resourceful when the push materialized and was able to swing the games in his favor time and time again.
As expected, US IM also lost points due to severe time pressure. In a match after surviving a brutal and nearly consolidated attack, Pruess wasted time heartbreakingly. The score of the match could have been quite different had he collected some of those points.
The position where Pruess lost in time, against Black, in game 17:
After a blistering end to the game, Shuvalova managed to comfortably cross the line with a score of 16.5-6.5. Pruess’ effort in the blitz time checks was commendable and her opponent paid tribute to her in the post-match interview saying that in the early games of the match she was “very nervous”, but as and as the match progressed, she was able to “play more comfortably.”
With this result, Shuvalova’s progression to the quarter-finals, where she will face FM James Canty III, who showed outstanding fighting spirit in his round of 16 against IM Kostya Kavutskiy. In the meantime, we have another highly anticipated game to look forward to on Thursday, when two of chess’ biggest personalities, Rosen and Rozman, face off.
All matches – Round of 16
2022 IM Speed Chess Championship Bracket
The IM Not A GM Speed Chess Championship (IMSCC) is an online event where some of the best IMs and other guest players compete in a series of speed chess matches. Each match consists of a 5+1 blitz segment, a 3+1 blitz segment and a 1+1 bullet segment, with the player who scores the most points winning the match. If there is a tie, the players play a four-game 1+1 match to determine the winner. If the tie persists, an Armageddon game with a bidding system decides the winner.