The 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship by SIG continued today with a hard-fought round of 16 match between popular Twitch streamer GM Hans Niemann and GM Velimir Ivic. Niemann won in style with a 16.5-12.5 match score.
The two could barely be separated early in the match as they traded blows in the 5+1 portion. Many of the games were decided by enterprising tactical shots and both players tended to prefer open positions. Niemann outclassed Ivic as the time control quickened, though, and confirmed the victory.
The next two matches will both be held on one day, with the quarterfinal between GMs Kiril Shevchenko vs. Niemann on Thursday, May 12, at 4 a.m. Pacific / 13:00 Central European, followed immediately by the blockbuster semifinal between GMs Nihal Sarin and Awonder Liang 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: Niemann-Ivic 5-4
The match started with a win apiece and Ivic’s second game victory was particularly impressive. The Serbian GM demonstrated excellent technique to force checkmate on the board after leaving his rook en prise.
Even the sole draw of the 5+1 games was not without drama, with a nine-point evaluation swing humbling both players as Ivic left a rook under attack that Niemann subsequently overlooked.
After 36. Nxe5 can you spot the move that both players missed?
Ivic was knife-sharp in the fifth match of the game where he sacrificed an exchange to tear open White’s kingside. Ivic forewent the opportunity to castle and swiftly swung each of his pieces into aggressive positions where Niemann’s king was unable to escape.
The sixth game was pivotal with the players locked at 2.5-all and Ivic looked to have the game in the bag but fell agonizingly short of taking the lead after blundering his bishop in nailbiting scenes.
Ilic once again proved the power of the bishop pair and played out an instructive line where his bishops dominated Niemann’s rooks. Evening up the match yet again, Ivic’s proclivity for gaining the bishop pair certainly became something that Niemann had to keep in mind throughout the match.
Niemann was able to get his neck in front in the final game of the 5+1 segment, flagging Ivic in a knight and pawn endgame that allowed him to take an important one-point lead into the break. The period capped off a series of games that Hess described as some of the most intense chess seen so far in the Junior Speed Chess Championship.
Blitz 3|1: Niemann-Ivic 6.5-3.5
The initial stages of the 3+1 segment saw much of the same from the opening games of the match. Open positions, swashbuckling attacks, and a potpourri of opening were aplenty as the two added points to their tallies. Ivic impressively saved half a point by pretending to blunder his rook, only to surprise Niemann with a perpetual to secure the half point.
Following a few close encounters, Niemann began to pull ahead and ramped up to blistering speeds that his opponent could not match. A brilliant move from Ivic was not enough to stop Niemann’s rampage and he returned serve with a brilliant move of his own several moves later.
Niemann, hitting his stride and showing viewers the same form that allowed him to rise into the top 100 players in the world, continued to find stunning moves and followed up with an exchange sacrifice that, if accepted, would have led to a study-worthy liquidation tactic.
Very happy to win @tepesigeman with 5/7, a full point ahead of the rest of the competition. This is my 2nd consecutive tournament victory. My rating has risen to 2674, making me #68 in the world. Thank you to @chess24com and @chessable for their invaluable support to my career. pic.twitter.com/RhLGtyDm35
— Hans Niemann (@HansMokeNiemann) May 9, 2022
Ivic bounced back with an exchange sacrifice of his own with similar consequences but unfortunately, the deficit was already beginning to become insurmountable heading into the bullet portion.
The back and forth between the two powerhouses left Niemann with a four-point lead heading into the 1+1 portion, where he was also considered the favorite by rating and speed shown in the match thus far.
Bullet 1|1: Niemann-Ivic 5-5
For anyone looking for unorthodox opening lines that hold up at the 2600 level, look no further than Niemann’s bullet games today! Feeling confident that he had the match secured, Niemann began the segment by launching his h-pawn up the board on move two of the English Opening.
Later, Niemann took things even further, opting for the rare Grob Opening, cited as a “dubious flank opening” that is “rarely used by masters” on Chess.com and was able to draw.
Though Niemann had pulled ahead in the match and adopted an experimental style throughout the bullet segment, Ivic did play several fine games, even stringing together a three-match streak at the halfway point.
It seemed that whenever Ivic made inroads on the scoreboard, Niemann would bite back immediately, often finding magnificent tactics in mere seconds, his most memorable being a wild rook sacrifice that left his opponents king hanging out to dry.
With Ivic likely tilted by the adventurousness and success of his opponent, the final game was a commanding win for Niemann and he surged to a 16.5-12.5 result. Taking into account his recent classical results, Niemann must be considered one of the favorites to win this year’s championship and would be an enticing final matchup for Nihal if the two are to make it that far.
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.