Junior Speed Chess: Gledura Beats Liang In Overtime

Junior Speed Chess: Gledura Beats Liang In Overtime

| 11 | News

GM Benjamin Gledura eliminated GM Awonder Liang on Tuesday in what was a thriller of a Junior Speed Chess Championship match. Gledura had lost the bullet segment, but then won three straight bullet games in overtime.

This sentence from our preview article was spot on: "As the stats suggest, this could be one of the closest matches of all the matches in this round of 16."  

Gledura vs. Liang turned out to be a very even matchup. Neither player took a lead of more than two points throughout the match, which ended in 15-15 after more than three hours of play.

Only a four-game playoff could bring a decision.

Gledura-Liang SmarterChess predictions
SmarterChess will have to go back to the drawing board and look where this came from.

Liang won the first game, but after a draw Gledura leveled the score in game three. This scenario repeated itself in games 5-7. 

It was the American player who took the lead again in game five, after Gledura blew up his own king position while trying to do the same to his opponent's monarch:

The Hungarian GM finished the five-minute portion with three victories. It would be the longest streak of the match, and the biggest margin.

In game eight, Gledura got a free pawn in the opening, built up an overwhelming advantage and then found the cutest of all winning moves:

5|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Benjamin Gledura @promen1999 2641 2746 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 5.5/9
2 Awonder Liang @rednova1729 2668 2563 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 0 3.5/9

The three-minute segment was an especially combative phase of the match. There was only one draw here, and it started with three wins for White, followed by three wins for Black.

In game 11, Gledura's Advance Caro-Kann went much better as he got a killer bishop on d6. If only he could get a knight to b6... Well, with both knights looking at c4, that was entirely possible.

Benjamin Gledura Junior Speed Chess Championship

Game 12 was wild. A final phase of the game like this makes watching these speed chess matches online so exciting. Commentators David Pruess and Robert Hess lifted this moment to epic proportions: 

Liang also won the next game to level the score again: 6.5-6.5. He was about to draw game 14, that had been lost for him, when he slipped like this:

The boys were nice enough to share the blunders pretty evenly as well. Right after this disaster from Liang, it was Gledura who came up with the following howler:

3|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 Awonder Liang @rednova1729 2645 2693 1 0 1 1 0 1 ½ 0 1 0 5.5/10
2 Benjamin Gledura @promen1999 2659 2611 0 1 0 0 1 0 ½ 1 0 1 4.5/10

Going into the bullet portion, Liang was 10-9 behind, but that negative score was washed away immediately as he started with a (lucky) win:

Liang also won game two of the bullet, but then disconnected in the third.

“I think many times I was getting close to getting the initiative and then I just lost in the worst ways,” he said afterward. 

Awonder Liang Junior Speed Chess Championship

The black pieces won four games in a row, followed by three straight draws. After more than three hours of play and with only a few minutes left, it was still anyone's game.

It was Liang who took the lead again, after Gledura had missed several chances to play the powerful pawn push e4-e3. Instead, he played his f-pawn but that wasn't working as well:

With a bit more than three minutes of match time left, the score was 14.5-13.5 for Liang. Gledura came back straight away when a piece sacrifice by Liang didn't work out (although you shouldn't miss the amazing computer defense that was possible). 

The American player decided to resign early to make sure he'd get one more white game, but that one ended in a draw. The 15-15 was on the scoreboard, the time was up. Overtime!

1|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Score
1 Awonder Liang @rednova1729 2545 2191 1 1 0 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 6.0/11
2 Benjamin Gledura @promen1999 2159 2513 0 0 1 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 5.0/11

The regulations stated that a four-game 1|1 mini match would be played, and afterwards an Armageddon game if the score were still equal. That wasn't needed as Gledura won three straight games, even though he had just lost the bullet segment.

This all had to do with a dramatic first playoff game, where Liang had opened up Gledura's kingside and was going to win in the attack when he suddenly allowed a queen trade. Immediately White was out of woods.

The endgame should have ended in a draw though, but Liang got his king stuck in a mating net. By this point the viewers and people joining the chat on Twitch included GMs Alireza Firouzja, Nihal Sarin, Hikaru Nakamura and Ray Robson.

Firouzja, who is still in the competition himself, teased by calling 26...Qf5 "move of the year."

Game two, a Sveshnikov, seemed to be going Liang's way when he won Black's pawn on d6. However, Black had typical compensation and in fact it was roughly equal when White suddenly blundered a double attack:

That was the hammer blow for Liang, who had to win game three, but lost that one quickly. A nerve-wracking affair had come to an end.

1|1 playoff | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 Score
1 Benjamin Gledura @promen1999 2384 3192 1 1 1 3.0/3
2 Awonder Liang @rednova1729 2392 1584 0 0 0 0.0/3

Liang showed great sportsmanship as he started the post-match interview: “Congrats to Benjamin, he played really well overall.”

He felt disconnecting game three of the bullet was a key moment: “This kind of allowed him to start taking over. If I win this third game which I think I was completely winning, then it’s very hard for him to come back," he said. 

Gledura said he was nervous for the bullet games.

”I was nervous because I haven’t really played this 1|1," said Gledura. "I only played a few games last week so yeah, I was really afraid of this bullet. I felt I was under pressure all the time, so I’m very happy that I survived.”

Liang said he wasn't fully relaxed either: “I think I was a bit nervous because in a lot of games I didn’t show that much defensiveness that I feel like I normally show.”

But he enjoyed it: “It was really fun," he said. "I feel like I’ve gotten to know Benjamin really well!”

Junior Speed Chess Championship bracket

Liang earned $182 based on win percentage; Gledura won $400 for the victory plus $218 on percentage, totaling $618. He moves on to the next round, where he will play Jeffery Xiong.

“I am really looking forward to the match because I've wanted to play Xiong for a long time,” said Gledura. ”We are the same age, so I think it will be fun. And he’s a nice guy.”

The next match in the championship will be the first quarterfinal between Jorden van Foreest and Wei Yi on July 2.

The Junior Speed Chess Championship is sponsored by ChessKid, the world's number-one site for kids to learn and play chess. Sixteen GMs age 21 or younger play in a knockout format with 90 minutes of 5|1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3|1 blitz and 30 minutes of 1|1 bullet chess.

You can replay the live broadcast here.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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