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Queen Sacs Galore: 8 Players Qualify For Olympic Esports Series Preliminaries

Queen Sacs Galore: 8 Players Qualify For Olympic Esports Series Preliminaries

AnthonyLevin
| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

Trials 1 through 8 of the Olympic Esports Series 2023 saw eight winners: GMs Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen, Frederik Svane, Hikaru Nakamura, Yu Yangyi, Jaime Santos Latasa, Alexey Sarana, and IMs M Pranesh and Emin Ohanyan

While many of the "usual suspects"—that is, players whose names we see at the top of Titled Tuesday leaderboards—qualified for the next phase of the OES, some lesser-known players triumphed as well. Two international masters move on to the Preliminaries, and this recap also features a match victory by CM Zachary Tanenbaum over super-GM Sam Shankland. A theme spanning most games in this recap is the queen sacrifice.

The remaining tournaments in this phase, Trials 9 through 14, take place April 20-22, each day at 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. PT/14:00 and 19:00 CET.

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There are three phases leading up to the OES Finals, which are set for late June in Singapore. The first phase, featuring 21 Open Qualifiers, offered non-FIDE-titled players an opportunity to enter the second phase, the Trials. The top-three players of each Open Qualifier made it to these Trials, the first eight of which are covered in this recap.

14 Trials in total invite FIDE-titled players (from GM to WCM) to compete for their spots in the next phase, the Preliminaries. Each Trial consists of an 11-round Swiss followed by a single-elimination knockout between the top-four finishers. Just one winner from each Trial moves on to the Preliminaries.

The move of the week, at least for the OES, has to be 13...Qxa3!! in the following game. The temporary queen sacrifice (winning back the queen in four moves) was enough to take down a big favorite, Nakamura, in the first Trial.

Many readers will remember a similar tactic employed by GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the 2019 Speed Chess Championship.

The Vietnamese grandmaster ultimately won the Trial in the knockout phase, and Nakamura returned in the third Trial to make it to the Preliminaries as well.

By the way, Nakamura had a "queen sacrifice" of his own in the final of that third Trial, although it did not lead to an advantage and he only won later after a long squeeze.

The biggest upset has to be Tanenbaum's over Shankland. After finishing third in the Swiss, the candidate master made it all the way to the final of the eighth Trial. All three games of his match with the world number-29 were decisive—and in Black's favor. 

Tanenbaum reached a knight and bishop vs. king endgame in the first one; it's winning, but the technique can be difficult to prove with little time, sometimes even for titled players. Having a minute to Tanenbaum's 25 seconds, Shankland resigned without making his opponent prove he could perform the checkmate.

Shankland converted a rook endgame in the second game but succumbed in the third. The main highlight must be Tanenbaum's flashy (albeit temporary) queen sacrifice.

Tanenbaum went on to lose to Ohanyan 0-2 in the final, but there are still five remaining Trials for him to strike again.

Despite the other upsets, there was no other result more heartbreaking than in the game of GM Amin Tabatabaei vs. Pranesh. In the final of the fifth Trial, they traded one victory each with the white pieces in the first two games.

In the third game, which was an armageddon tiebreaker, the Iranian GM was up two queens against a lone king, but he lost on time in a position where he had a checkmate in one move.

The last chance for players to qualify for the Preliminaries is this week, in Trials 9 through 14. The Preliminaries will then determine eight players who will compete in the Finals.


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