Russia has never had a shortage of strong players, and GM Valentina Gunina has been one of the top women representing the chess powerhouse for many years. Born in Murmansk, Russia (USSR) in 1989, she broke out by winning the 2000 European Girl’s U12 Championship. She continued her winning ways at the 2003 World Girl’s U14, 2004 European Girl’s U16, and 2007 World Girl’s U18 Championships. Gunina’s winning ways followed her after the junior years. She won the Women’s European Individual Championships three times, including the most recent one in 2018, and is also a three time Russian Women’s Champion. Valentina has also had success at faster time controls, winning the Women’s World Blitz in 2012 and Russian Women’s Rapid Championship in 2014.
Gunina has been an important part of the Russian Women’s squad for many years. They won gold at the Olympiad in 2010, 2012, and 2014. The team also captured the gold at the European Team Championships four times. Valentina’s most jaw-dropping victory, however, came at the 2016 London Chess Classic Super-Rapidplay. She took clear first ahead of 44 other GMs, and did it with an incredible 9/10. Her run included wins over top-tier GMs Smirin, Iturrizaga, Howell, and McShane. It will be a treat to watch such an exciting player in St. Louis.