The 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG continued today with the return of the two-time champion, GM Nihal Sarin, as he took on IM Aronyak Ghosh in their round of 16 match. Nihal was in a fighting mood and pushed for a win in every game, even in seemingly drawn positions, and earned a score of 19.5-11.5.
Ghosh was particularly impressive in the bullet phase, where he led against Nihal for a while before settling for a 6.5-6.5 split score, indicating his worth as an opponent for the imperious Nihal.
The next round of 16 match will see GM Hans Niemann take on GM Velimir Ivic on Sunday, April 24, at 7 a.m. Pacific / 23:00 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: Nihal-Ghosh 6.5-3.5
Nihal began his campaign in style, winning from the white side of a Caro-Kann Defense. Ghosh missed the cutting tactical shot 18.Nxf7, at which point Nihal could not be stopped.
After such a dominant display to win his qualifier, the first game would have sent a jolt through Ghosh. Nihal, on the other hand, seemed to use today’s match to broadcast his aspirations of a Junior Speed Chess Championship three-peat.
Two games later, Nihal struck again, this time outdoing his previous heroics with a game-ending checkmate-threat that pushed his lead to two points.
Nihal showed acute positional awareness throughout the initial blitz games and he continued to encourage complex positions, often including material imbalances, to test his opponent.
Ghosh managed to scalp his opponent twice in the 5+1 section and was made to work hard for every half-point he received. The valiant qualifier showed exemplary technique after Nihal overplayed his hand in the fifth game of the match. Viewers were very nearly treated to a knight and bishop against king ending, but alas, Ghosh held on to a pawn leading to Nihal’s immediate resignation.
Blitz 3|1: Nihal-Ghosh 5.5-1.5
The first three games of the 3+1 portion ended peacefully. However, these games did not accurately foreshadow the massacre that was to follow. Nihal was simply impervious to Ghosh’s play and managed to win five games on the trot, starting by trapping Black’s queen in the middle of the board.
No tactic was missed by the Indian GM during this period and the 2021 winner’s punches were not limited to assaults on the king. One of Nihal’s wins was an instructive example of why one should look for all checks and captures. With a temporary queen sacrifice, he liquidated into a winning endgame.
Before the streak, Ghosh still would have felt that he had a shot in the match with only a three-point difference, but the five-game masterclass would prove a tougher pill to swallow. Even in the games where Ghosh created an advantage, Nihal was able to draw from “positions of strength,” as commentator Naroditsky suggested.
Brilliant moves were not even enough to score points against Nihal today and though Ghosh built great initiative in the final 3+1 game after a clever offering of his queen for back rank checkmate, Nihal again managed to exterminate any chance of a comeback.
Bullet 1|1: Nihal-Ghosh 6.5-6.5
Although Nihal had built an insurmountable eight-point lead, Ghosh came out firing in the bullet portion and kicked off the segment with two wins, taking advantage of an opponent who seemed to relax and miss a few tactics for the first time in the match.
Ghosh’s best game was a 22-mover where he accepted the Queen’s Gambit and proceeded to squash Nihal’s center and march toward the king.
After two wins in a row, Nihal managed to refocus and take advantage of a tough blunder by Ghosh, stamping out any sniff of an unlikely comeback.
Had the match finished fifteen minutes early, Ghosh would have won this particular segment, which would have been a major upset in the bullet mini-match. Down 5.5-2.5, Nihal was not happy with the scoreboard or the lost rating points and decided to change gears, winning four of the next five games to bring the score in the bullet portion to 6.5 apiece.
The final match score of 19.5-11.5 more reflected Nihal’s world-class form rather than a lack of effort from Ghosh. The qualifying IM put up immense resistance against the two-time winner and the final scoreline actually resembled the 17.5-10.5 match score from last year’s final, a sign of great things to come for Ghosh.
Nihal will now progress and play IM Christopher Yoo, who overcame prodigious Indian GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa in yesterday’s match.
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.