Hong Wins Tense Tiebreaker: 2022 Junior Speed ​​Chess Championship Qualifier 2


The 2022 Junior Speed ​​Chess Championship presented by SIG continued today with the second qualifier in which GM Andrew Hong ousted GM Brandon Jacobson in a thrilling final match that went all the way to the final game of the bullet tiebreakers. The match will go down as one of the more memorable finals in Chess.com tournament history.

GM Praveen Balakrishna and IM Anthony He had strong showings, making it to the semifinals, while the field was rounded out by strong juniors including IM David Brodsky and FMs Tanitoluwa Adewumi, Lucas Cardoso and Ryo Chen.

The third qualifier takes place Friday, April 8, at 8 am Pacific / 5 pm Central European.

How to watch?

The Junior Speed ​​Chess Championship presented by SIG is the second leg of the 2022 Speed ​​Chess Champion where top junior 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, players play a four-game 1+1 match to decide the winner. If the tie persists, an armageddon game with a bidding system decides the winner.


Quarterfinals

The quarterfinals were a great opportunity for some of the younger players in the field to gain invaluable experience playing against some of the GMs in the event. Several one-sided match scores did not reflect the skill shown by the lower seeds, all of whom battled against their opponents and managed to win at least a few games.

12-year-old Chen immediately showed his strength, taking two games of the first four off the experienced top seed, Jacobson. The latter, who recently won a match against the world number four, GM Fabiano Caruana, in the 2022 Bullet Chess Championship, had to up the ante after the first few games in order to stabilize the match score.

Jacobson was particularly successful when utilizing an aggressive approach against the King’s Indian Defence, launching his h-pawn up the board and ripping open Black’s kingside in multiple games. This opening setup was a catalyst in making his final score of 8-4, which earned him progression to the semifinals.

Hong was able to demonstrate solid defensive technique throughout his match against Adewumi and was able to win six out of the first seven blitz games. Hong showed impressive liquidation skills in several games to tether off Adewumi’s energetic play and trade into winning endgames.

Adewumi, a celebrity on ChessKid and host of “Tani Time” is a stickler for tactical hostilities and mounted a resurgence in the bullet portion of his match against Hong. A two-win streak by the charismatic junior was a great result against his 2900-rated opponent.

Hong eventually quelled Adewumi’s comeback attempt, taking the match to a 7.5-3.5 score, finding a picturesque rook sacrifice that led to a perpetual and bringing the match to an abrupt end. If Adewumi’s FIDE-rating chart, which resembles an exponential curve, is anything to go by, a matchup between these two players will certainly prove closer in the future.

Balakrishnan was near-unbeatable in his match against Cardoso, although the match began with a number of high-class draws. The prevalence of opposite-colored bishop endings was notable in the players’ blitz games, and Balakrishnan was only able to procure two wins in the blitz portion, the first of which came after wild complications left both players scrambling for ideas.

In the bullet portion, almost everything went the way of the higher-rated GM who was simply too quick and accurate for Cardoso. A Giouco Piano Main Line, the Giouco Pianissimo Variation, which by definition means “softly,” was anything but when Balakrishnan used it to conquer his opponent in just 23 moves!

Balakrishnan overcame his opponent by a margin of 8-3.

The two IMs, He and Brodsky, met in the quarterfinals and the match was touted to be the closest of the initial encounters. Brodsky, who is close to the FIDE classical rating of 2500 (currently at 2477), kicked off with a methodical conversion of a rook endgame up two pawns. Although these endgames are notorious for being tricky, Brodsky highlighted a king-cutting pattern that allowed him to make progress and convert the point.

After He hit back in the second game, it was clear that the two were playing at a similar level in the blitz time control. At the end of the blitz portion, He carried a two-point lead over his compatriot, but the bullet stage of the match was where things truly got out of hand for Brodsky. Four straight wins from a rolling He allowed him to stretch the match score out to 8-2, a larger-than-expected margin.

Semi-finals

The lone IM among a field of GMs may have been feeling inspired by IMs Aronyak Ghosh and V Pranav who both managed to secure final spots in Qualifier 1 last week.

The swashbuckling He started with a bang against Jacobson, winning a tidy game on the black side of the Grunfeld Defense in the first blitz game. After five games, the scores were locked at 2.5-2.5 and another victory in the sixth game gave He the lead heading into the bullet games.

Jacobson has shown time and time again that he is one of the world’s pre-eminent bullet players, and in this match, there were no exceptions. Jacobson masterfully created passed pawns, utilized intermezzos, and maintained peak intensity to put He under the pump.

Jacobson is truly a masterful bullet chess player. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

He did manage one win in the penultimate game of the match and very nearly won the following, but Jacobson was a class above in the quicker time control and eventually took the match with 8-5.

Hong put on a special performance against the highly regarded Balakrishnan and was accurate in the moments that mattered in the first few blitz games. A disparate score of 4.5-1.5 on paper does not highlight the level of play that Balakrishnan brought to the table but rather is indicative of Hong’s ability to squeeze in tight positions.

Balakrishnan could take solace from the fact that he matched Hong in the bullet portion. Although draws were plentiful, he managed to win a game after some stiff defense and then a counterattack in the L’Hermet Variation of the Berlin Opening Variation.

Hong secured his spot in the final with a win of his own where, at one point, both players had two queens each on the board! The final score of the match was 7.5-4.5.

Final

Like Qualifier 1, the final today included the most exciting games of the event. The jousting finalists took us on a rollercoaster of a match where the momentum swung, the evaluation bar screamed, and constant tactical flurries kept viewers on the edge of their seats.

The players began with a win each in the 5+1 segment in what would be the two tamest games of the match. Commentators Naroditsky and Klein were quick to highlight that Jacobson was the favorite should the players reach the bullet phase with equal scores.

Hong put his best foot forward today, though, and was neck and neck with Jacobson all the way, winning on demand several times to tie up the scores. Hong delivered an amazing queen sacrifice to checkmate Black’s king in the 12th game which Klein said simply “had to make it into the news report.”

Four games of overtime were required to split the two speedsters today. Jacobson again struck first in the bullet tiebreakers and looked to be set to win the match when he won the first game of the tiebreak and drew the second.

Needing only one point in the last two games to win the match, Jacobson looked sure to bring home the bacon, but Hong again won on demand, this time with the black pieces after selecting the King’s Indian Defense as his weapon of choice.

In the final game of the tiebreakers, with everything to play for, Hong was the player who was able to navigate the complications and conjure an unstoppable attack on Jacobson’s kingside to claim victory with a score of 9.5-8.5.

Hong was buoyant in the post-match interview and claimed that he came in with “few expectations” due to a period of inactivity, adding: “Part of my advantage was taking it easy.”

After winning today, Hong takes the second qualifier spot for the main event of the Junior Chess Championship.

All Games – Qualifier 2

Qualifier Bracket

The 2022 Junior Speed ​​Chess Championship is an online tournament for top junior players. The qualifiers happen March 31-April 8, while the main event runs April 11-May 13. Players battle for a piece of the $35,000 prize fund and a spot in the 2022 Speed ​​Chess Championship.


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