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Liang Edges Out Hong In 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship Round Of 16

Liang Edges Out Hong In 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship Round Of 16

NathanielGreen
| 8 | Chess Event Coverage

Another dramatic match ensued at the 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG on Thursday, with GM Awonder Liang edging out GM Andrew Hong by a mere point after winning the final game of the match.

It was a tough bout, with none of the 31 games ending in a draw as Liang built up leads of 9-4 and 12-7 before barely hanging on in the bullet portion by winning that last game. Both players showed admirable resilience in a very back-and-forth match.

The next match in the round of 16 sees GM Kirill Shevchenko face GM Shamsiddin Vokhidov on Friday, April 15, at 7:30 a.m. Pacific / 16:30 Central European.

How to watch?
You can watch the 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive.
Live broadcast of this Thursday's tournament, hosted by GMs Jeffery XiongRobert Hess, and Daniel Naroditsky.


The Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG features top junior players competing in a series of blitz and bullet 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: Liang 6, Hong 3

The first 90 minutes of the match eventually settled into a predictable rhythm, with Hong winning a game and then Liang recovering with two wins. By the end of the segment, that produced a three-point lead for Liang.

Hong looked like he was about to begin with a 2-0 lead, but Liang reversed his fortunes out of a terrible position in the second game when Hong blundered a rook, keeping things even through two games.

The next two games were also split, resulting in a 2-2 match entering the first break. When play resumed, Liang claimed two games in a row to go up 4-2.

Hong looked like he was about to drop another one, but fought back to score his third point of the 5+1 round, in a reversal of the second game.

Liang was once again resilient, however, and won the final two games of the 5+1 section to open up a 6-3 advantage. The openings throughout the initial segment were fairly varied, and the final game saw White winning with the King's Gambit.

Blitz 3|1: Liang 6, Hong 4

The three-minute portion also produced a noticeable pattern in the results: after Hong won the first game, Liang won three in a row, then Hong won three straight, and then Liang ripped off another three-game winning streak as the segment closed with a five-point advantage for the #5 seed—lots of threes and fives going on.

The middle part of the match began with a couple of pace changes: Naroditsky moved in for Hess on commentary (as Xiong stayed on), and Liang began with 1...h6. That latter decision did not pay off, producing one of the shortest games of the match at 29 moves.

Liang took his openings a little more seriously immediately after that and set on his first streak of the 3+1. The third game of the run ended in a major time scramble, but the players got a bit of a breather with a break just following.

It was now time for Hong to push again, beginning with a back-and-forth game in which Liang began with an early ...a6 and ...b5.

Once the match got to 9-7, Liang bunkered down again for the rest of the three-minute proceedings. The first game was again representative.

Hong had a real chance in the next game but the commentators thought he might get in trouble—and then he did. Hong lost on time with 13 seconds left on the match clock, just barely resulting in one more game. Liang won that game as well, securing a result Naroditsky considered "tremendously painful" for Hong, for the 12-7 edge.

Bullet 1|1: Hong 8, Liang 4

Hong entered with a significantly higher bullet rating than Liang, and so it was not a surprise that, whereas Monday's match was a close affair the whole way through, Thursday saw a big lead evaporate. It didn't happen all at once, however, as Liang was still ahead 14-11 with 15 minutes remaining.

In fact, it looked like another set of patterns was emerging, with bullet games 1-3 and 4-6 both seeing Hong winning twice before a Liang victory.

Hong then won the seventh and eighth games to get to within 14-13, the latter of which had been all but declared over by the commentators. It was time, however, for the pattern to prove non-predictive: Hong won yet again, and the match was tied. 

Less than six minutes now remained, and "Awonder has to put everything behind him" was Naroditsky's call. He did so by obtaining a winning position in the next game with just one second elapsed from his clock.

But Hong would not go away, and once he made the score 15-15, there were just 63 seconds on the match clock. Unless someone blundered into checkmate out of the opening, it would be the last game. And indeed the opposite happened: Game 31 was the longest of the match at 106 moves.

The commentators summed it up nicely: an "absolutely epic" match (Naroditsky) with a "thrilling finish" (Xiong). A humble Liang stated in the postgame interview, "I think at the end I just got very lucky." Hong didn't necessarily agree: "Congrats to Awonder for pulling through. I think you probably deserved it more than me."

Liang won $750 for taking the match and another $258.06 on win percentage for a total of $1,008.06, while Hong won $241.94 on win percentage.

Liang already knows who he will be facing in the semifinals when the time comes: the fourth seed, GM Brandon Jacobson, who won Monday.

All Games - Round of 16

Junior Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket

2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship Bracket

The 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship is an online tournament for top junior players. The qualifiers ran March 31-April 8, while the main event began April 11 and will conclude May 13. Players are vying for their share of the $35,000 prize fund and a spot in the 2022 Speed Chess Championship.


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NathanielGreen
Nathaniel Green

Nathaniel Green is a staff writer for Chess.com who writes articles, player biographies, Titled Tuesday reports, video scripts, and more. He has been playing chess for about 30 years and resides near Washington, DC, USA.

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