Fedoseev Wins, Favorites Fall In Penultimate Fischer Random World Chess Championship Qualifier
Vladimir Fedoseev rewrote the knockout script by leaving the top seed and the feared Fischer Random sharks behind him.

Fedoseev Wins, Favorites Fall In Penultimate Fischer Random World Chess Championship Qualifier

| 5 | Chess Event Coverage

The discipline might be called Fischer Random, but the scenario that unfolded in the first four quarterfinal Knockout Qualifiers has been anything but. So far in the event, despite a regular helping of upsets and inspired underdog performances, each final match has been contested by the top seed from each side of the knockout tree. Qualifier Five was very different indeed. 

Two slightly different ingredients were in the mix this time: The second invitee was Norway's reigning Nordic Champion, GM Frode Urkedal, who despite also having qualified for the upcoming World Cup, was nearly 200 Elo points lower than other number-two seeds in the event.

Of course, this is a Fischer Random event, so the street value of a standard rating is up for debate. Taking a look at the specialist scale, a strong argument could be made for placing wagers on acknowledged speed demon and FR beast, GM Daniel Naroditsky, whose live Fischer Random rating was bobbing over 2900.

Daniel Naroditsky has a very special set of skills.

The early action didn't hint at anything terribly unusual; 14-year-old untitled Singaporean Ethan Poh had no surprises for top seed Leinier Dominguez-Perez, and the only upset to mention was the exit of GM Pavel Ponkratov, but he was fatally handicapped by forfeiting his first-round game by appearing roughly 40 minutes too late. Indonesian IM Yoseph Taher kept Ponkratov at arm's length in the second game and advanced to face third-seed Vladimir Fedoseev.

Things started to happen in the second round. Favorite Dominguez-Perez made an oversight and, apparently rattled, walked into a long flurry of recurring tactical tricks from GM Elshan Moradiabadi

Leinier really worked his opponent over in the second game, but Moradiabadi soaked up an immense amount of pressure and scored a shutout when the clock finally became a decisive extra weight on the scales. 

It's not easy being number-one—Leinier Dominguez-Perez went out in round two.

Second-seed Urkedal found that Naroditsky was worth his hefty FR rating and could not recover from a first-game loss with the white pieces, the American GM closing out the match by forcing the Norwegian to settle for a perpetual in game two.

Fedoseev was taken to overtime by Taher in a bizarre second game where the Russian GM played most of it with just a few seconds on his clock. Once again time was on Taher's side, as Fedoseev suffered a massive connection problem, which derailed his promotion and delayed the start of their tiebreak games. Vlad shook off this irritating obstacle and advanced when his opponent completely collapsed with white in game four, after drawing a very tense game three. 

Grigoriy Oparin produced a lot of good, not so random, chess.

In the semis, Dominguez-killer Moradiabadi faced GM Grigoriy Oparin, the fourth seed, while a rested Naroditsky took on Fedoseev. I haven't said much about Oparin so far because of a psychological block—whenever I looked at his games, they looked just like regular chess. To be fair, this tends to be the case sooner or later in FR, but Oparin seemed to be an extreme case.

In fact, this qualifier was quite chessy. Naroditsky suffered through and survived a well-known theoretical ending of B vs. R+P in the first bracket against GM Eldar Gasanov, and Oparin would continue to wield classical knowledge. 

But there was some brawling to do first. Elshan was the closest thing qualifier five had to a Cinderella story, and the duel with Oparin was full of riveting moments. 

Elshan Moradiabadi was the entertaining underdog of the day. Photo: John Hartmann.

Oparin didn't shy away from complications in game two and was eventually taken into overtime as Moradiabadi came out on top in a hugely entertaining slugfest: 

Sadly, for the entertainment-hungry neutral spectator, the tiebreak section was not as exciting. In game three Moradiabadi blundered a piece in the opening. Needing to win with black again to prolong the match, Elshan got a depressingly "normal" position out of the hat, and Oparin played a majestic game that looked very much like "regular chess."

The other semifinal was a bit of an anti-climax; the first game was very sensible and ended in a solid draw. Game two was one of those nightmares where one player finds a deadly nuance very early. Fedoseev spotted it, and Naroditsky just could not thrash his way back into the game.

While the top two seeds could not make it to the final, things were still not exactly crazy with numbers three and four facing off for the coveted quarterfinal berth. The first two games were tense and finely balanced. With white in game one, Oparin pursued what looked like a very dangerous lead in development—but the edge was very much optical. At the crucial moment Fedoseev finally castled to safety and coordination, and the game fizzled out. 

In game two, Oparin was the one who had a full-time job neutralizing and displayed technical skill and nerve with a neatly calculated transition to a pawn ending that was even neater considering how quickly it had to be done. 

In the 10-minute games that make up the first tiebreak-pair, Fedoseev simply produced some sparkling chess—active, dynamic and cruelly efficient. Both games were won in fine style and are worth examining. The final one is probably more attractive because it was a swashbuckling way not to protect his lead.

Wesley So.
Wesley So is a confirmed participant in the Fischer Random knockout phase on Sept. 1.

Fedoseev books his spot in the quarterfinals, joining qualifiers Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alireza Firouzja, Vidit Gujrathi and Peter Svidler.

A weekend full of Fischer Random action climaxes with the final Knockout Qualifier this Sunday, Sept. 1 at 8 a.m. PDT.

Fischer Random Chess Championship Knockout
The remaining schedule for the Knockout Qualifiers.

Saturday's broadcast with commentary from NM James Canty:

You can catch all the Knockout Qualifier action live at and with the last qualifier on Sept. 1. The official website can be found here:

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