Dominguez Qualifies For Speed Chess Championship
Dominguez knocked out two grandmasters to qualify for the Speed Chess Championship.

Dominguez Qualifies For Speed Chess Championship

| 34 | Chess Event Coverage

Leinier Dominguez won an invitational knockout tournament on Tuesday to qualify for the 2018 Speed Chess Championship. The Cuban grandmaster first eliminated Georg Meier in the semifinal of yesterday's qualifier, and then Jon Ludvig Hammer in the final.

speed chess championship knockout qualifier

This year's Speed Chess Championship is a 16-player knockout, and the main bracket begins next month. The following 14 players accepted invitations: 

  • Fabiano Caruana
  • Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
  • Hikaru Nakamura
  • Wesley So
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi
  • Levon Aronian
  • Wei Yi
  • Anish Giri
  • Alexander Grischuk
  • Sergey Karjakin
  • Hou Yifan
  • Jan-Krzysztof Duda
  • Vidit Santosh Gujrathi

2018 Speed Chess Championship participants

The other two names are coming from two qualifier events on On Tuesday, July 10 there will be an open Swiss tournament that will provide the last name. The other name became known yesterday, when Leinier Dominguez won the four-player qualifier knockout event.

The event consisted of three matches, which all saw five games of five minutes plus 1 second per move, five games of 3+1 and 10 games of 1+1. The first player to lead with more than 10 points won the match.

This format was a marathon for commentators GM Robert Hess and IM Danny Rensch, who hosted for no fewer than seven hours and 15 minutes and explained three very close and exciting matches to thousands of online chess fans.

Some of those fans were generous enough to donate some extra money to the prize pool; a total of $613.99 was donated ($153.50 for each player) which led to a total pool of $2,113.99.

The whole show, available for replay.

The first to play were Eric Hansen and Jon Ludvig Hammer, in a match as thrilling and close as it gets. "That could have been the greatest Speed Chess Championship match we ever had," Rensch said after Hammer had come down from a 8-10 deficit and clinched it with 11-10.

At a 4-4 score, Hansen took the lead by winning an exchange in nice way. His knight move, that cut the d-file in two, was winning because it also threatened to win the queen. Both players missed that Black could have won the material right back, adding to the drama!

However, Hammer won the next game and so the players went into the bullet segment with a level score—and after 16 games, the score was still level!

Then Hansen won two games in a row to reach a 10-8 score, and the match seemed decided. Crazy things happened in the first of those two wins.

Eric Hansen

Chessbrah Eric Hansen seemed on his way to win the match. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Hammer refused to give up, and did just what he had to do to win the match: win three games in a row! First, he outplayed his opponent in an endgame, and then he had luck on his side as his opponent blundered everything in a drawn position:

The moment when Hansen blundered both his rook and bishop.

The decisive game was well played by Hammer, who was winning for most of the time. Hansen again played the Giuoco Pianissimo; afterward he lamented that he hadn't varied more with his white openings. 

"I just choked. I didn't have the nerves today," said Hansen. Hammer: "I didn't want to lose this match in bullet. I thought Eric is probably a stronger blitz player than I am. I was fortunate to win three in a row at the end."

Hammer-Hansen | Results

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Score
1 Hammer 2644 2902 0 1 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 0 1 1 ½ 0 1 0 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 11
2 Hansen 2886 2628 1 0 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 0 1 0 0 ½ 1 0 1 ½ 1 1 0 0 0 10

Leinier Dominguez vs Georg Meier was played right afterwards, and it was another very close battle. Just one game before the end, Dominguez had a one-game lead.

An important part of this match was Dominguez's treatment of Meier's favorite Rubinstein French. The offbeat 7.Ne5 was a powerful weapon in the Cuban's hands.

Meier: "Basically after the first black game I had to play the rest of the match without an opening, because I had forgotten that Leinier used to play this in bullet against me and I never really looked at it. And of course it's very dangerous when you're not prepared for this at all."

Meier would choose other variations, such as the Classical and the Fort Knox, but those were his plan B and C. One more attempt at the Rubinstein went even worse, although Black was actually winning at two different moments. (Keep in mind that this was bullet!)

Georg Meier

Georg Meier couldn't "fix his French" to his own satisfaction during this match. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Meier got back to just one point behind, with the following black win. Not all his French games were a disaster!

The next game was drawn, and so with a score of 10-9, Dominguez needed only a draw. Having another French in a must-win situation didn't go well for Meier:

Dominguez said he didn't prepare specifically. "As soon as I knew I had to play Georg, then I immediately started thinking about the possibilities in the opening," he said. 

Thinking about possibilities is sometimes enough for a theoretician like Dominguez.

Dominguez-Meier | Results

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Score
1 Dominguez 2858 2920 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 ½ 1 11
2 Meier 2886 2824 1 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 ½ 0 9

The qualifier final was set between Leinier Dominguez and Jon Ludvig Hammer. The Norwegian grabbed the lead in game three, and held on to it for three more games, which were all drawn.

A fist-pumping Hammer after winning this game.

Dominguez took over the lead by winning his next two white games, the second one due to a big blunder by Hammer in an equal position:

With a score of 9-6 for Dominguez, Hammer got a big chance to score the full point in what was one of the best games of the final:

Jon Ludvig Hammer

Jon Ludvig Hammer definitely had his chances in the final.

Hammer did manage to win the next game, but his opponent cruised to a draw with White in the next, setting the final score at 10.5-7.5.

Some argued that, as a former world blitz champion, Dominguez should have been invited directly to the championship. He definitely showed that he'll be a dangerous opponent to any of the other 2700 guys.

Leinier Domininguez

Leinier Domininguez, the winner of the qualifier.

"The lower the time control, the more the randomness," said Hammer. "I thought that with the 1+1 anything could happen. But as it turned out he was just so strong, playing so quickly, the same opening, time and time again. Honestly, I ran out of ideas how to encounter his opening." [Hammer meant the Colle-Zukertort System –PD.]

Dominguez: "I'm definitely happy to be a part of the main event. I'll just play. I didn't have any special plans for today. Of course I did some practice. I thought that consistency should be one of the main things, try to play more or less fast and reasonable, try not to blunder too much, if possible. If you can manage that, I think you can always have good chances so that's what I will try. "

Dominguez-Hammer | Results

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Score
1 Dominguez 2871 2753 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 0 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 11
2 Hammer 2694 2812 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 1 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 9

The four players took home the following prizes:

1. Leinier Dominguez: Qualify for SCC main bracket + $653.50
2. Jon Ludvig Hammer: $653.50 (including the $100 best-game prize)
3-4. Georg Meier and Eric Hansen: $403.50 each

This nifty checkmate by Hammer was selected by editorial staff as the best game prize:

The next event is the open qualifier on Tuesday, July 10 and then the main bracket begins a week later. You can find the schedule easily on our new calendar page or on the dedicated page of the championship.

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