GM Arjun Erigaisi bested the two-time Junior Speed Chess Champion, GM Nihal Sarin, in the final of the 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship on Monday.
Down two points after the 3|1 blitz, Erigaisi clinched the title with a five-game winning streak in the bullet segment―the time control that Nihal was believed to be most favored.
Blitz 5|1: Nihal-Erigaisi 3.5-4.5
Nihal claimed the first victory by mowing down Erigaisi’s loose pawns in an opposite-color bishop middlegame.
Erigaisi struck back immediately, winning the second game by eliminating Sarin’s compensation for his sacrificed pawn and winning a second pawn in the arising ending.
The match continued to be a back-and-forth duel throughout this segment. As soon as one player took the lead, the other would win and even the score.
In a worse position in game four, Nihal found a tricky tactical move that ran his opponent out of time.
Erigaisi countered with a time scramble checkmating attack.
Erigaisi ended the segment with a one-point lead by grinding out a victory in a knight endgame.
Blitz 3|1: Nihal-Erigaisi 5.5-2.5
Nihal kicked off the 3|1 blitz with an endgame victory of his own, pressing an equal position into a pawn-up rook ending and then penetrating with his king to win.
With yet again an even score, Sarin attempted to take over the lead but blundered in a winning position due to time trouble.
In game five, Sarin neutralized Erigaisi’s lead with a beautiful attacking finish.
Sarin followed this up with two more wins, seizing the first two-point lead of the match, including a positional victory to cap off his three-game streak.
Bullet 1|1: Sarin-Erigaisi 1.5-6.5
With Sarin as the bullet favorite and in the lead by two points, all the pressure was on Erigaisi to make a comeback. The first few games continued in the same back-and-forth manner as the earlier segments with a win for Erigaisi, a draw, and then a win for Sarin. From there, Erigaisi won two in a row, including a checkmating sequence in a double rook endgame.
This once more tied up the score and left the championship title up for anyone’s grabs with just 10 minutes left on the match clock!
The next game, Erigaisi stole the initiative from Sarin with 32.d6!, breaking into the position with his queen.
This loss seemed to tilt Sarin, who blundered a pin tactic the next game. Puzzlingly, Sarin played out the lost position, even though there were only three minutes left on the match clock.
Erigaisi won the last game, completing his five-game winning streak and clinching the Junior Speed Chess Championship title in style.
In his interview, Erigaisi shared his mindset when trailing by two points in the bullet segment, “Since the beginning, I had only one thing in mind. I just told myself that I have to win because I have no other option but to win.”
All Games – Final
Junior Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket
The 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG is an online tournament for top junior players. The qualifiers happen March 31-April 8, while the main event runs April 11-June 6. Players battle for a piece of the $35,000 prize fund and a spot in the 2022 Speed Chess Championship.
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’s 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.