The 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship by SIG returned today with a high-octane quarterfinal between GMs Brandon Jacobson and GM Awonder Liang where viewers were graced with yet another stellar comeback in the championship.
Liang was the beneficiary of a collapse in the bullet section of the tournament and managed to overcome a four-point deficit and tie up the match despite his opponents’ lofty rating. Momentum was upheld in the tiebreak and Liang went on to book his spot in the semifinal against the two-time champion GM Nihal Sarin, ending a commendable run for Jacobson.
The next match scheduled will be the round of 16 match between recently minted top 100 player GM Hans Niemann and GM Velimir Ivic on Tuesday, May 10, at 10 a.m. Pacific/19:00 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: Jacobson-Liang 6.5-3.5
Jacobson put on a glittering display of blitz chess in the opening moments of the match, winning four out of the first five games.
The New Jersey native was able to take an early two-point lead after decimating his opponents’ Nimzo-Indian Defence in just 11 moves.
One of the key moments of the segment came at 2.5-0.5 when Jacobson was able to win a drawn rook and bishop against rook endgame which is notoriously difficult to defend even in longer time controls.
Although Jacobson garnered a promising four-point advantage early on, things did not all go his way. Liang was able to win the sixth and seventh games, including an instructive game demonstrating key ideas in the King’s Indian Defence.
Jacobson hit back after Liang’s two victories and found a razor-sharp tactic that allowed him to liquidate and convert the full point.
Liang had the last laugh in the 5+1 segment though, finding the move of the day, a sizzling queen sacrifice followed by a series of surprisingly calm moves that left Jacobson with no choice but to resign.
Blitz 3|1: Jacobson-Liang 5-4
Heading into the 3+1 portion, Liang had some ground to make up for and likely smelt a win in the second game of the section after Jacobson moved his queen nine times in the first 20 moves!
As the queen paraded around the board, coaches far and wide would have been licking their lips anticipating that the game would become a model for why the queen should not leave her home so early in the game.
In a cruel twist of fate, it was Liang’s queen that got trapped in the middle of the board just six moves later.
Liang was more consistent in the 3+1 section though, and while he was not the leader during the blitz stages of the match, he certainly did not fall short in the “beautiful moves” department, resisting the temptation to win the exchange in game 14 by immediately sacrificing back to avoid a vicious attack by the tenacious Jacobson.
Regardless of Liang’s efforts, it was Jacobson who appeared by all counts to be storming home to a resounding victory, carrying a lead of four points into the bullet section, paralleling the lead that GM Raunak Sadhwani had just days ago, only to be stunned by a surging IM Mahammad Muradli.
Bullet 1|1: Jacobson-Liang 3-7
Liang, understanding the assignment, needed no invitation to go for the throat and opted for the sharpest lines he could in the early stages of the bullet portion. Jacobson was shattered after a mouse slip in a completely winning position in the second game which immediately brought a “Liang comeback” into the realm of possibility.
Jacobson recovered well after the mouse slip and showed his defensive prowess as Liang brought a barrage of hack attacks to the table.
Soon after, the bullet specialist scored two wins and seemed to be running away with the match. However, there was one twist left to this tale. Three back-to-back wins from a down-and-out Liang allowed him to erode Jacobson lead to a single point.
As in so many of the matches in the Junior Speed Chess Championships, this match also came down to the final game. After a barnstorming run in the bullet portion, Liang clutched up with a rook sacrifice that sliced open White’s position and took the second match straight to overtime.
Tiebreak 1|1: Jacobson-Liang 0-3
The first game of the tiebreak saw Jacobson recall an opening that had brought him success earlier in the match and again viewers were treated to a hyperactive queen. This time though, Liang was ready and forced a queen trade, leaving him up several tempi that Black had wasted cartwheeling around the board.
The position where Liang coordinated a queen exchange.
Jacobson, plagued by the recent memory of being scorched in the bullet portion, was slightly off-color in the tiebreak and eventually succumbed to Liang in just three games. With the final score sitting at 17.5-14.5 in Liang’s favor, he could not have asked for better preparation ahead of his semifinal showdown with Nihal.
Liang, after blowing a considerable lead against GM Andrew Hong and only just progressing to the quarterfinal, humorously stated in the post-match interview that he had “too big of a lead” in his last match and joked that he decided to “fix that” by taking on a four-point deficit in this encounter.
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.