The finals series of the 2022 Rapid Chess Championship presented by Coinbase commenced on Thursday with matchups that featured the 12 top point-scorers across the inaugural season and four invited players—GMs Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and Parham Maghsoodloo. The familiar faces of super GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Vladimir Fedoseev, and Nepomniachtchi prevailed in the Winners Bracket after winning their round of 16 and quarterfinal matches.
GMs Fabiano Caruana, Dmitry Andreikin, and Alexander Grischuk were among the top flight casualties in the round of 16 stage of the event, but they will have a chance to bounce back in the Losers Bracket. A sportsmanlike exchange between GMs Jeffery Xiong and Ding was one of the highlights of the day after Ding suffered from connection issues in a winning position and Xiong, in turn, resigned the next game to even the score.
The Winners Bracket semifinals and rounds one and two of the Losers Bracket will take place on August 19, starting at 9 a.m. PT/18:00 CEST.
How to watch?
Round of 16
Nakamura kicked off his title ambitions with a clinical curtain raiser against Iranian GM Parham Maghsoodloo, dealing a crushing blow in the form of a smothered checkmate in the center of the board.
Maghsoodloo, reeling from a difficult start, recovered and chose to play a Catalan in the second game but was met by a rock-solid Nakamura, who shut down any attempt at a comeback and agreed to a draw after 36 moves to win the match.
Two recent Chess.com Global Championship qualifiers, GMs Fedoseev and David Paravyan also faced off in a round of 16 in a match that was decided in the second game. Coming out of a London System, Fedoseev found a liquidating tactic that left his opponent down a clean pawn. Paravyan’s attempts to muddy the waters were fruitless, and a pawn to the good, Fedoseev was able to secure the match.
Recently minted 2700 and Uzbek Olympiad hero Abdusattorov continued his purple patch with a convincing 1.5-0.5 match win over Andreikin, suffering only a momentary disadvantage in the second game which his opponent was unable to capitalize on.
The boom of online chess has also seen a new wave of sportsmanship on display with unique issues such as internet connection problems and mouse slips, the catalysts for many of these moments. In Xiong’s match against Ding, the Chinese GM was completely winning in the first game when his internet issues caused him to run out of time. Xiong, in an honorable gesture, resigned the second game in fairness, taking the match to a deciding armageddon game, which he won.
Jeffery Xiong gets an A+ for sportsmanship. 👏 pic.twitter.com/zSzaOyOff1
— Chess.com (@chesscom) August 18, 2022
After finishing third on the season leaderboard, Caruana was one of the favorites to make a deep run in the finals. However, he was stopped at the first hurdle by Nepomniachtchi. Caruana out-prepared his opponent on the white side of the Catalan but was the thorn in his own side when he threw away the game with 33. e5??, a move that lost his passed pawn and the game. Unable to recover, the American superstar was relegated to the Losers Bracket.
GM Alexey Sarana needed an armageddon game against countryman and fan-favorite Grischuk in a match that went all the way. A tame Queen’s Gambit Declined led to a Carlsbad pawn structure, though the structure was not deterministic of the result. Sarana was able to acquire Grischuk’s g-pawn which he never let go of, thereby booking his spot against Nakamura in the quarterfinals.
GMs So and Daniil Dubov were both able to cruise past their round of 16 opponents in impeccable fashion, the latter gambiting two pawns in the second game to tear apart GM Maxim Matlakov‘s uncastled king.
In an all-American quarterfinal clash, the matchup between So and Xiong promised to be an exciting one. Off the back of defeating another super GM, Xiong had every reason to feel confident and looked to be traveling well until So spotted an irrefutable queen sacrifice on move 35.
The sacrifice led to a game and eventual match victory that left viewers reminded of what could have been if So’s potential queen sacrifice had been accepted against Armenia’s GM Hrant Melkumyan at the Olympiad just two weeks ago.
GM Wesley So’s incredible Rxe4!! which could continue with a queen sac on f7 and a forced mate! 🤯
Move of the #ChessOlympiad so far? pic.twitter.com/pqqRZMHOqE
— Chess.com (@chesscom) August 5, 2022
Compatriots Nepomniachtchi and Dubov duked it out in the second quarterfinal, and the Candidates winner waited until he held the white pieces to strike at the scoreboard. Employing the Catalan Opening, Nepomniachtchi squeezed the life out of the position and steered Dubov toward a rook and pawn ending. Commentator Naroditsky highlighted that the “position plays itself,” an ode to the relative simplicity of Nepomniachtchi’s winning plans. Eventually, Dubov was trounced by connected passed pawns and lost the match.
Nakamura continued with his match strategy of attempting to win with White and consolidating with Black, and this again proved successful against a dangerous Sarana. Missing a game-winning tactic in the first, Sarana was also unable to win on demand in the second but was praised by commentator Hansen for selecting a “good opening for a must-win game” and challenging Nakamura, who eventually took the match 1.5-0.5.
The final matchup of the day between Fedoseev and Abdusattorov came down to the wire, with armageddon required to split the pair after two draws. The first game finished with fireworks after Abdusattorov found a brilliant stalemate trick to save half a point.
The tiebreak game was the real showstopper of the match, and a wild line in the Berlin Defense left both players scrambling to clarify the unusual pawn structure. It was Fedoseev who came out on top, sending yet another star to the Losers Bracket.
The semifinals take place tomorrow as the players continue to make their bid for a share of the $150,000 prize fund. Tune in for what will no doubt be a tactical slugfest brought to you by some of the world’s best rapid chess players.
Day 1 Standings
All Games | Round of 16
The Rapid Chess Championship Finals is Chess.com’s biggest and most elite rapid tournament. It is a 16-player knockout event with a 10+2 time control. If players draw, a single armageddon game with a bidding system determines the winner. The total prize fund of the RCC is $650,000, with a $150,000 prize for the finals alone.
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