Aronian, Artemiev Advance In Thrilling Speed Chess Championship Doubleheader
Two of the most anticipated matches of the 2019 Speed Chess Championship were played on Thursday.

Aronian, Artemiev Advance In Thrilling Speed Chess Championship Doubleheader

pete
pete
|
34 | Chess.com News

Chess.com's @IsaacSteincamp contributed to this report.

Was it the most action-packed day in Speed Chess Championship history? With two dynamic battles between established chess legends and young, talented prodigies, Thursday was a day for the Speed Chess record books.

In the first match, the well-respected veteran Levon Aronian squeaked by the surging chess prodigy Alireza Firouza who came one game short of completing a furious comeback in the bullet section. Aronian defeated Firouza 13.5-12.5, just getting by the dangerous young grandmaster described as possibly the next world chess champion by GM Simon Williams.

Levon Aronian.
Levon Aronian.

Aronian held what looked like an insurmountable seven-game lead before Firouza rattled off five straight wins in the 1|1 segment. The comeback nearly erased a seven-game win streak by Aronian in the blitz sections. The Armenian grandmaster was able to save a heroic draw in the second-to-last game of the match to secure overall victory. 

Alireza Firouzja.
Alireza Firouzja.

Another possible future world chess champion played another established superstar in the second match. Vladislav Artemiev defeated Alexander Grischuk in a high-level battle between the two Russian super-GMs. The score was level for much of the match, with neither grandmaster having held more than a one-game lead heading into the bullet portion.

Vladislav Artemiev.
Vladislav Artemiev.

Artemiev, though, turned on the jets in the bullet, dominating all facets of the game vs Grischuk and pulling away for a big win. The younger Russian GM soundly beat his elder compatriot, notching a 16-9 match victory.

Alexander Grischuk
Alexander Grischuk.

The two matches formed a blockbuster day of chess coverage, with Chess.com hosts IM Daniel Rensch and GM Robert Hess logging a marathon live stream for nearly nine hours. After the two Speed Chess matches, the two commentators broadcast the drawing of lots for the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship quarterfinals.  

You can watch the full video replay of the entire day's coverage below:

With the conclusion of Speed Chess doubleheader, the tournament quarterfinals are set, with the final eight players paired up in the event's signature knockout match format.

2019 Speed Chess Championship bracket.
2019 Speed Chess Championship bracket. Click on the image for a larger version.

In the opening match, Aronian vastly out-prepared Firouzja, building a massive lead on the scoreboard early. In many of his games, Aronian used the English Opening as White to gain advantages early. Firouzja had flashes of brilliance in the 5|1 but they were too far apart to gain traction. When the 3|1 portion began, it became apparent that Firouzja's goal was to stop Aronian from increasing the lead so he could have a shot to win in the bullet.

This proved to be an effective strategy for the Iranian grandmaster, whose bullet chess advantage was nearly enough to pull off the upset. After dropping the first two bullet games, Firouzja won five straight games to put pressure on Aronian as the match timer wound down.

In the key moment, Aronian was able to hold on to a draw in the penultimate game, saving the match as the Iranian GM ran out of time to complete his comeback.
Firouzja significantly outperformed the SmarterChess statistical model match prediction, and will likely be a Speed Chess favorite in future years.
SmarterChess pre-match prediction.
SmarterChess pre-match prediction.

Aronian said in the post-match interview with hosts Rensch and Hess that he was "pretty nervous" as Firouzja was mounting his comeback, as the Armenian GM did not know if his opponent would have enough time to level the match score.

Firouzja said after the match that he did not have enough experience playing with increment, as Rensch hinted that Firouzja had big things coming in future Chess.com events.

Aronian, when asked for whom he would root in the next match to determine his opponent, said he would normally root for Grischuk in a show of generational solidarity, but that Artemiev would be interesting as well. He will face Artemiev in the next round.

Aronian won $1,000 for the match win plus $519.23 on win percentage, for a total of $1,519.23. Firouzja took home $480.77 for his 12.5 points in the match.

In the second match of the doubleheader, it was the opposite narrative. Instead of a large lead early with a thrilling comeback, the Artemiev-Grischuk match was extremely close until the younger player pulled away bigly in the bullet. 

Artemiev opened the match with a beautifully played game, winning with an overwhelming, crushing pressure that Grischuk could not resist.

The two Russian heavyweights traded wins and draws for the entirety of the two blitz portions, entering the bullet segment deadlocked at 7.5 points apiece. 

This nice game in the 3|1 segment was the last time Grischuk would win in the match:

Artemiev completely outplayed Grischuk in the bullet segment, taking 7.5 of the final nine points. Artemiev played faster and better chess, showing his strength when the clocks were low. The younger Russian grandmaster put on a show in game two of the bullet, playing with an astonishing 98.9 percent accuracy according to the Chess.com computer analysis. 

With that kind of accuracy in 1|1 chess, it's no wonder Artemiev pulled away so decisively for the match win. 

Artemiev was the second young grandmaster of the day to outperform the SmarterChess statistical model prediction, winning the match by seven points instead of a predicted two-point loss.

SmarterChess pre-match prediction.
SmarterChess pre-match prediction.

Artemiev said after the match that the bullet portion was "a crazy scenario," referencing his big win streak. His thoughts echoed the awe and disbelief of much of the audience who had not witnessed Grischuk, a former world blitz champion, so thoroughly outplayed in any form of speed chess.

Grischuk, gracious in defeat, confirmed his opinion that Artemiev is the "Chuck Norris of Russian chess," adding that the young GM is "cool and strong."

Artemiev said his upcoming match with Aronian would be interesting, and Grischuk chimed in to say that Artemiev would be the favorite in the match with Aronian.

Artemiev won $1,000 for the match victory plus $640 on win percentage, for a total of $1,640. Grischuk earned $360.

You can watch coverage of all the Speed Chess games in official video replay at Twitch.tv/Chess.

For more information on the Speed Chess Championship, including the full bracket and upcoming match announcements, visit the official site.

More from pete
Stockfish Wins Computer Chess Championship As Neural Networks Play Catch-Up

Stockfish Wins Computer Chess Championship As Neural Networks Play Catch-Up

Stockfish Strikes Back, Tops Lc0 In Computer Chess Championship

Stockfish Strikes Back, Tops Lc0 In Computer Chess Championship