Erigaisi Knocks Out Niemann: 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship SF

Erigaisi Knocks Out Niemann: 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship SF

| 16 | Chess Event Coverage

The second semifinal of the 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship took place on Tuesday and featured powerhouses GMs Hans Niemann and Arjun Erigaisi, with Erigaisi claiming a 14.5-11.5 victory in just over four hours of electrifying gameplay.

Niemann set the bar high after winning four of the first five blitz games, but the deficit was overcome in the 3+1 and 1+1 sections by a galvanized Erigaisi who cooly flipped the match on its head. 

For the second year straight, an all-Indian final will take place, this time between the reigning champion GM Nihal Sarin and Erigaisi, on June 6 at 8 a.m. PT / 17:00 Central European.

How to watch?
You can watch the 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG on You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on

Live broadcast of the match, hosted by GMs Daniel Naroditsky and FM Anna-Maja Kazarian.

Blitz 5|1: Niemann-Erigaisi 5.5-4.5

A shaky start in the Exchange French from Niemann saw him drop the first point of the match, but a resilient four-game streak in the 5+1 portion was one of the true highlights of Tuesday's match. Niemann constructed several promising positions where he did not allow Erigaisi to castle and managed to convert all of these games into a combined total of fewer than 150 moves! 

Niemann's second win was his most impressive of the bunch, where he was able to crack the center open like an egg, exposing Erigaisi's helpless king and taking the lead in the match in just 27 moves.

The fifth game was also an impressive display of controlled aggression from Niemann, where he quickly punched out theoretical moves on the white side of the Steinitz, Boleslavsky Variation of the French Defence, and quickly gained the upper hand. Niemann was able to navigate through the central tension and proved once more why you should castle early in chess, punishing his opponent for ignoring this principle.

A much-needed break for the Indian GM allowed him to reset and he was able to work his way back into the match, winning two out of three of the following games. 

Niemann rode a full spectrum of emotions inside a 30-second period in game eight. Confidently pressing in a better position, he laughed in shock when he missed the fact that he had missed a rook that was left en prise. Seconds later, after Erigaisi's enterprising 37.e4!, Niemann was left shaking his head when he realized that his position was falling apart. The Indian GM's follow-up move 38.Rxc3!! left the American little choice but to allow his king to be checkmated.

In the dying minutes of the 5+1 segment, Erigaisi was able to clutch up in his last two games and reduce the gap to just one game, undoing much of Niemann's earlier hard work to take a commanding lead. Erigaisi was at his brilliant best by game ten, pulverizing his opponent with dual pieces sacrifices, both of which won pawns and secured the result.

Blitz 3|1: Niemann-Erigaisi 3-5

Niemann's lead evaporated quickly in the first 3+1 game after the players reached a theoretically drawn rook ending with rook and three pawns (Erigaisi) against rook and two pawns (Niemann). Although this would generally end in a draw in classical chess, the same ending is notoriously difficult to hold in the blitz and bullet time controls. Erigaisi was able to press until Niemann had fewer than ten seconds on the clock and eventually pounced on an error.

In a match that was decided by small moments, Erigaisi was slightly more consistent when it came to crunch time. An amazing checkmate in the middle of the board, using a rook and bishop, spotlighted his resourcefulness. This was one of the key reasons he was able to rise to a one-point lead heading into the bullet games.

During Monday's match, Naroditsky mentioned that the Niemann-Erigaisi matchup would be one of swinging momentum and tilting moments. This sentiment certainly echoed throughout the 3+1 portion, particularly when Erigaisi made a huge blunder that humanized the match, which had otherwise consistently featured world-class moves.

It would be unfair to solely highlight Niemann's mistake without capturing some of the extraordinary intuitive play he also exhibited during the 3+1 section. In the 14th game, playing against Erigaisi's solid Catalan Opening, Niemann lulled Erigaisi into a false sense of security after allowing him to win his passed d-pawn, only to ambush his opponent with a scorching assault straight after.

Erigaisi was unfazed by Niemann's valiance and, if anything, tried to beat the American GM at his own game. A fine example of this was in game 17 where Erigaisi embraced the chaos and scored a resounding win that allowed him to take a lead into the final stage of the match.

His weapon of choice was the Stolz Variation of the Semi-Slav Defence, which often has the reputation of being solid and unambitious. However, Erigaisi showed that by transferring his queenside rook to the kingside he could start a game-ending offensive on Niemann's king.

Bullet 1|1: Niemann-Erigaisi 3-5

The ebb and flow of the match reached its fever pitch as the players moved into the bullet portion. A one-point margin was the only thing standing between each player and a final showdown with the two-time winner and reining Junior Speed Chess Champion Nihal.

Niemann was knife-sharp in the early encounters, never missing an opportunity to use tactical motifs as a vessel carrying him to positionally winning endgames. Erigaisi, though, failed to submit and managed to turn several games around with dynamic counterplay.

Erigaisi demonstrated that he was a complete package as a player, excelling in both attack and defense in Tuesday's match. After the Rapid Chess Championship week 14, where he made the semifinals, Erigaisi also showed his ability to swindle opponents, stealing a point from Niemann to take his largest lead of the match.

With around five minutes left on the match clock, a game that would likely become the most important in the match commenced. With a single point separating the players, Erigaisi, with the white pieces, piled the pressure on Niemann, who in turn defended resolutely. An untimely blunder from Niemann meant that Erigaisi could take advantage of a pin and a discovered check tactic, leaving the American GM with no choice but to resign and try to claw his way back with only three minutes left to come back. 

Erigaisi showed that he is a worthy contender for the seemingly unflappable Nihal and the final clash between the two Indian chess titans should be a match for the ages.

All Games - Semifinal

Junior Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket

The 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG 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.

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.

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