The 2022 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship commenced on Thursday with a cutthroat qualifier where GM David Paravyan emerged victorious after defeating GM Tuan Minh Le in a dazzling armageddon tiebreaker.
Amidst a field of 142 titled players, Minh Le impressively won the Swiss event with an imperious 11/14 score and was only overcome by an inspired Paravyan, who booked his spot in the Speed Chess Championship round of 16.
The second qualifier will take place on Saturday, November 12, starting at 9 a.m. PT/19:00 CEST.
Thursday’s Swiss tournament was marked by an astonishing run by recently-minted GM Le who flew off to an 8/8 start and held his lead to win the event by a full point. Making this all the more impressive, Le’s streak included two wins with the black pieces against super GMs Jan Krzysztof-Duda and Daniil Dubov!
Handing the leader his only loss of the day in round nine, GM Alexey Sarana had a fine run on Thursday and finished in second place on 10/14. Sarana chose a slightly different qualification route from his colleagues, drawing only two games in fourteen rounds in a flash of fighting chess.
Familiar faces fleshed out the top eight qualifying spots, namely GMs Jose Martinez, Dubov, Rauf Mamedov, Paravyan, and another deserving new GM on the block, Denis Lazavik.
GM Maksim Chigaev was the eighth player to scrape through ahead of Duda and was the sole player with a Chess.com blitz rating under 3000 to qualify for the knockout. The strength of this qualifier was on full display as Chigaev’s 2972 rating places him 56th on Chess.com’s blitz leaderboards and many 3000+ players missed out on a top-eight finish.
|1||GM||wonderfultime||Tuan Minh Le||3036||11||83.5|
|9||GM||Polish_fighter3000||Jan Krzysztof Duda||3039||9.5||75|
|15||GM||Salem-AR||Salem AR Saleh||3049||9||57.5|
The knockout phase of the Speed Chess Championship qualifier was played at three-time controls and followed a unique format: two games of 5+1, four games of 3+1, and eight games of 1+1. The player who first reached a score of 7.5 was declared the winner in each match.
Le picked off right where he started on Thursday and viciously swept aside each of his opponents en route to a spot in the final. Having secured his GM requirements in American events in July and August, Le played confidently and had no trouble knocking over Chigaev in an 8-4 demolition.
After sweeping aside Dubov with a 7.5-3.5 score in their own quarterfinal, Mamedov promised to be a tougher opponent for Le but was also mowed down by the rampaging Vietnamese GM in an 8-5 victory.
On the other side of the draw, Paravyan and Sarana progressed after defeating Martinez and Lazavik respectively in close encounters.
Four players make it to the semifinals!
Tuan Minh Le ⚔️ @muisback88
Alexey Sarana ⚔️ David Paravyan#speedchess pic.twitter.com/35F5pxyCgV
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) November 11, 2022
In their semifinal showdown against each other, Paravyan pushed out to a 3-0 lead as Sarana struggled, “living off his increment,” in the words of commentator Canty. A resurgence in the bullet portion was always on the cards for Sarana. but the deficit was too much and Paravyan prevailed with a 7.5-3.5 score after a few wild moments transpired as the match closed out.
Despite the disappointing semifinal score, Sarana can take solace in some of the tactical brilliancies he executed throughout the event, including a vicious queen sacrifice against Paravyan.
Sarana tops off an attack on the black side of the Najdorf with a nice queen sacrifice!#speedchess pic.twitter.com/1hH2uU1e7J
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) November 11, 2022
The final between Le and Paravyan was always destined to go down to the wire, but it couldn’t have gone closer. After six games the two were tied 3-3, and Le looked as though he would strike in the first bullet game following a horrific queen blunder from Paravyan. Miraculously, Paravyan recovered and swindled the game, swinging momentum back in his favor.
Nervous mannerisms became a hot topic amongst the viewers and commentators as both Le and Paravyan spent much of the match twirling their hair, sometimes in synchrony. It is unclear if the so-called “double twirl” has any positive effect on chess ability, but based on the fact that two hair twirlers made Friday’s final it might be worth a try for aspiring GMs.
Nerves aside, the players could not be split after 14 games and at 7-7 had to be split by an armageddon tiebreaker. Any result seemed possible during the middlegame; however, Paravyan eventually overcame Minh and brought the qualifier to an emotional end.
GM Rafael Leitao has unpacked our exciting game of the day below.
The Game of the Day will be added soon.
Paravyan takes $1,000 and a spot in the main event, while Le earns $1,000 for his efforts.
The 2022 Speed Chess Championships Main Event will begin on the 21st of November and conclude on the 16th of December. Top speed-chess players will compete at three different time controls in a 16-player knockout as they vie for a share of the $100,000 prize fund along with the most prestigious title in online chess.
The likes of GMs Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and many more will battle it out to determine the 2022 speed chess champion.