The 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG saw a tenacious turnaround today: a nearly-down-and-out GM Arjun Erigaisi flipped a colossal deficit to overcome staunch IM Denis Lazavik.
Erigaisi upped the heat in the 3+1 segment of the match but was most impressive in the bullet portion, where he was able to outpace his opponent and convert a losing score into a dominant one.
The next match will be the quarterfinal between GM Nihal Sarin and IM Christopher Yoo on Wednesday, April 28, at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central European.
The Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG is the second leg of the 2022 Speed Chess Championship 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’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.
Blitz 5|1: Erigaisi-Lazavik 2-6
The match began with a resounding victory for Lazavik on the black side of a rarely seen Trompowsky Attack. The opening, which was famously employed in round one of the 2016 World Chess Championship by GM Magnus Carlsen, certainly inspired chaos.
At one point, Erigaisi missed a chance to win his opponent’s queen via dual checkmate threats and suffered after Lazavik capitalized just a few moves later.
The turnaround was prophetic of future events in the match and the win gave Lazavik an early boost of confidence.
Erigaisi bounced back immediately with some resolute defense and won Lazavik’s queen with seconds on the clock in game two. Erigaisi was able to survive in a worse position for over 40 moves and the Indian GM forced his opponent to make committal decisions throughout. With very little time on the clock, Lazavik was denied the opportunity to play with consistent precision.
The remainder of the 5+1 portion went Lazavik’s way and several demolition jobs from the 16-year-old set the foundation for an impressive highlight reel. For readers questioning chess’ status as a sport, they needn’t look further than the third game of the match where Lazavik devastated Erigaisi’s king with a well-timed cavalry charge that was simply undefendable.
Lazavik put on a tactical exhibition in the longest time control, and although he was the lower seed, he managed to curate several remarkable attacks, one of which left his opponent’s king gasping for air.
The final game of the 5+1 section followed the script with another astute observation from Lazavik allowing him to find a win out of nowhere. “With almost no time on the clock, ice in his veins, and unbelievable defense,” as commentator Naroditsky put it, Lazavik was able to stretch his lead to four points, leaving favorite Erigaisi clinging to the match by a thread.
Blitz 3|1: Erigaisi-Lazavik 6-2
After building a commanding lead in the 5+1 portion, viewers were starting to review their predictions of an Erigaisi landslide. The world’s third highest-rated junior, behind super-GMs Alireza Firouzja and Andrey Esipenko, demonstrated that any match in the Junior Speed Chess Championship is a trilogy and he was simply outstanding in the sequel.
The current Indian national champion was able to win consecutive games that Naroditsky dubbed two of the most unbelievable Junior Speed Chess Championship games he had ever seen. In both, Erigaisi was able to win from positions that seemed barely drawable and tie the match.
Erigaisi’s trademark defensive style encouraged subtle blunders from his opponent, and he forced Lazavik to go the distance in every game. Perhaps the Indian GM had taken some strategic inspiration from Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, whereby holding on long enough meant that Lazavik would either “die a hero or live long enough to see himself become the villain” in his own positions.
Commentators Narodistky and Hess were full of praise for Erigaisi in the pre-match evaluation and he certainly lived up to the hype as the match wore on.
Erigaisi was back to his brilliant best in the 3+1 portion and did not miss a beat while attacking his opponent on the kingside with the black pieces.
In a match of two halves, the 3+1 portion was a complete reversal of the 5+1 stage. With the scores locked at 8-8, Erigaisi again became the favorite heading into the bullet section due to his 3000+ rating on Chess.com.
Bullet 1|1: Erigaisi-Lazavik 7-2
Erigaisi, who is nearing the coveted 2700-mark in classical chess, showed that he has not omitted bullet practice in exchange for classical success and held Lazavik to a draw in the first game of the segment after a shaky start.
It did not take long for Erigaisi to find his winning recipe in the 1+1 portion and he was able to string together four wins full of cunning tactical shots, a feat that allowed him to take a significant four-point lead.
The technical prowess of Erigaisi was on full display with only a minute on the clock and Lazavik was left confounded, having to choose between playing on and resigning with the match clock close to expiration.
The final game of the match ended peacefully when Lazavik was able to hold down the fort in a rook ending with three vs. four pawns on the same side. The tablebase-drawn ending is a deceptive one and is certainly not simple. With seconds on the clock, both players were happy to share the point and end the bloodshed.
In the post-match interview, Erigaisi claimed that the two 3+1 comeback wins that allowed him to tie the match gave him the confidence and momentum he needed to come away triumphant. If Erigaisi remains this tenacious throughout the rest of the event, there is no telling how far he might go. He should certainly be considered among the tournament favorites.
Erigaisi will face off against the winner of the round of 16 match between GM Raunak Sadhwani and IM Mahammad Muradli in what will be a barnstorming spectacle regardless of the challenger.
All Games – Round of 16
Junior Speed Chess Championship 2022 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.