Chess.com’s very own IM Danny Rensch was the winner by the slightest of margins in the 2022 IM Not A GM Speed Chess Championship on Monday, needing tiebreaks and an armageddon game to claim a 13.5-12.5 victory over IM Justus Williams in their round of 16 match.
Unsplittable in the 5+1 section, a Rensch revival was needed to recover from a three-point deficit in the 3+1 games which he made up for in the bullet portion. The two traded blows in the four-game tiebreak sending the match into double overtime. Williams took the white pieces in the armageddon game but Rensch brought down the hammer and delivered judgment day, trapping Williams’ bishop early in the game.
The next round of 16 match in the IMSCC between popular IMs Eric Rosen and Tania Sachdev begins on May 24, at 9 p.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central European.
Live broadcast of the match, hosted by GM Robert Hess and Chessbrah GM Aman Hambleton.
Blitz 5|1: Williams-Rensch 4-4
Today’s match was expected to be as close as they come, with the SmarterChess prediction showing that the players who shared the closest FIDE ratings of any matchup thus far would go down to the wire.
The usual pre-match banter from Chess.com’s Chief Chess Officer was swapped out for a Twitter post about his self-admitted lackluster preparation, claiming “This may or may not be the entire extent of my preparation”.
3-minute #puzzlerush to get ready for today’s #imscc #speedchess match!
This may or may not be the entire extent of my preparation 😝😬🤷🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/9UCpBxf3kP
— Daniel Rensch (@DanielRensch) May 23, 2022
Despite the warmup, Williams was the player to strike first in the match, squeezing Rensch in an endgame after sacrificing a rook for a knight. The exchange allowed him to support a valuable passed d-pawn with his remaining bishop, the piece which eventually allowed him to push for promotion before Rensch resigned.
Alternating wins with the white pieces until the scores were locked at 2-2, it was Rensch that bucked the trend, winning three games on the fly. The sixth game should have seen Williams convert the full point but Rensch was able to drum up significant counterplay with his active rooks and overwhelm his opponent.
Williams was noticeably quicker throughout the entirety of the match, often up by two minutes or more in the 5+1 portion. The strategy that is typical of the American IM meant that Rensch was consistently put under significant time pressure. The results evened out though as the downside was that Williams also lost games due to missed moves including in the sixth.
Not allowing Rensch to have all the fun, Williams struck back with two wins to close out the segment and tie up the match. A brilliant rook tactic was again the main feature in his round eight onslaught, the culmination of a scintillating kingside attack in the Sicilian Kan Variation that resembled the famous fishing pole trap.
Blitz 3|1: Williams-Rensch 5-2
The two grappled through the early 3+1 games and both identified that scoring results with the black pieces seemed to be the key to breaking away on the scoreboard. Rensch very nearly liquidated into a drawn ending by offering a seemingly poisonous piece in the first game of the section though Williams spotted a refutation and left his opponent wishing he had done just a little more puzzle rush prior to the match.
This section saw a dramatic increase in the tactical complexity of positions. The 12th game almost steered out of control after a queen was forced off the board for three pieces. It wasn’t clear until the dust settled that Williams had a clear advantage courtesy of three protected passed pawns but he made no mistakes in his conversion of the position.
Williams was also able to win the final game of the 3+1 section from a worse middlegame, spotting zugzwang in a king and pawn-ending to extend his lead to three points.
Justus opens up a 3 point lead over @DanielRensch heading into the 1+1!
Danny turns his lights off to prep himself for the bullet ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/hJ9gDb9XED
— Chess.com (@chesscom) May 23, 2022
Bullet 1|1: Williams-Rensch 2.5-5.5
Williams’ three-point lead turned quickly turned into a four-point one at the beginning of the 1+1 games, with Rensch blundering a back-rank checkmate while still shaking off the rust.
Can you spot the tricky move that Williams played to coax Rensch into a nasty back rank?
Williams waved Rensch away who laughed it off and had to quickly compose himself before the next game.
Following this, Rensch’s luck turned and he managed to string together 5.5/7 in the next games which were nothing short of miraculous as far as comebacks are concerned, given how quickly Williams was moving.
His best game in this period came in the 22nd game and, needing to win on demand, Rensch found two brilliant and obscure moves that pulverized Williams and set the match up for a grandstand finish. Impressively, he was able to find a checkmate and still have 20 seconds on the clock to begin a final game.
Down one point and with the evaluation bar flailing, Rensch went for broke to ensure that he clutched up in the final game in regulation time. Williams missed a chance to consolidate and Rensch pounced, winning his opponent’s queen with a knight fork.
Tiebreak/Armageddon: Williams-Rensch 2-3
Rensch harnessed the momentum gained from his bullet tirade and controlled the first game of the tiebreaks but Williams clapped back with a 23-move win where he checkmated Rensch on the d6-square in the middlegame!
Still recovering from the back rank nightmare from early in the match, Rensch disproved the saying “once bitten, twice shy” and blundered away the third of four games from a completely winning position.
Many viewers had begun to scratch Rensch of the IM Not A GM Championship bracket but a composed performance from Rensch in the fourth game took the match into armageddon.
No match in this year’s championship has threatened to go to armageddon so this was new territory. The bidding process to decide colors saw a funny incident occur when both players blindly bid for the same amount of time to take the white pieces. It was soon decided that Williams would take White and after a solid start, Rensch managed to trap his opponent’s bishop. Williams resisted for some time but the result became inevitable and Rensch, after an enormous comeback clinched the match.
The players were friendly in the post-match interview and cited blunders as the key reason for the swings. Williams, sporting reflective glasses like a professional poker player was asked about the look. Rensch, feeling left out, put on glasses of his own to assist Williams with his answer.
Rensch will go on to face the winner of IMs Bibisara Assaubayeva and Irine Sukandar in the quarterfinal.
All Games – Round of 16
IM Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket
The IM Not A GM Speed Chess Championship (IMSCC) is an online event where some of the strongest IMs and other invited 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.