Junior Speed Chess Match Xiong vs. Smirnov Preview

Junior Speed Chess Match Xiong vs. Smirnov Preview

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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24 | Chess Event Coverage

Sponsored by ChessKid, the Chess.com Junior Speed Chess Championship continues on Friday with its sixth match, this time between America's top junior GM Jeffery Xiong and Australia's top junior GM Anton Smirnov.

After Alexey Sarana became the first quarterfinalist of the tournament bracket's western hemisphere, we'll have our next match in the round of 16 today.

You can watch Jeffery Xiong vs. Anton Smirnov on Friday, June 14 at 5 p.m. Pacific (that's June 15, 02:00 CEST and 10 a.m. in Sydney!) with GM Robert Hess and FM Mike Klein on Chess.com/TV and Twitch.tv/chess.

Junior Speed Chess Championship bracket

Born in Plano, Texas, the 18-year-old Xiong (@jefferyx) started playing chess at the age of five. He is the third-youngest grandmaster in the U.S. after Junior Speed Chess contestants Awonder Liang and Sam Sevian.

Two months after securing the grandmaster title as the winner of the Chicago Open in 2015 (when he was just 14), he also won the seventh St. Louis GM Invitational (while still an IM).

Xiong sent us this game, which didn't make it to the databases, as his best so far.

2016 was a good year as well, in which he won the second group of the Capablanca Memorial, the U.S. Junior Championship and then the World Junior Chess Championship, the latter with a round to spare. In both 2018 and 2019 he won the St. Louis Spring Classic.

With a rating of 2684, Xiong is the second-highest-rated junior player in the world, behind Wei Yi of China (2741). Playing for the Dallas Destiny, he scored 26/37 this season in the PRO Chess League. His Puzzle Rush score is not too shabby either: 63.

Jeffery Xiong Junior Speed Chess Championship

Born in Canberra, Australia, the also 18-year-old Smirnov (@AntonSmirnov) learned chess when he was four-and-a-half years old from his father, who is an international master. 

"Even though Australia is quite isolated, there are still many tournaments for beginners, which I played in, and that helped me to improve," Smirnov said about his earliest years as a chess player. At 13, Anton won the Australian junior championship in 2014.

Smirnov played for Australia in the last three Olympiads: Tromso 2014, Baku 2016 and Batumi 2018. In Baku he achieved a 20-game grandmaster norm, and a year later he completed his grandmaster title requirements, scoring 7/9 at the Capablanca Memorial in Crete, Greece.

"I became a GM at 16, achieving the title at least five years earlier than any other Australian," Smirnov pointed out.

Smirnov's highest-rated opponent win. 

Last year at the Batumi Olympiad he occupied first board, where he scored 5/9. He also won the 2018 Australasian Masters tournament in Melbourne with 7.5/9, good for a 2709 performance rating.

Smirnov scored 22/38 for the Australia Kangaroos in the PRO Chess League this year.

Anton Smirnov Junior Speed Chess Championship

The players only met once in an over-the-board tournament. At the 2017 Millennials Match in St. Louis they drew a long game:

On Chess.com, however, the two have played 15 games so far, only in the time control 3|0. Xiong has a big lead, with 11 wins, two draws and two losses. That, combined with a FIDE standard rating of more than 100 points higher than his opponent, definitely makes the American grandmaster the favorite in this match.

According to Xiong, it's less clear than the figures suggest: “I've played blitz with Anton before with pretty good results, although I'm not sure that will be a huge factor (as I think he was playing at 4 a.m. Australia at the time). He is an incredibly strong blitz and bullet player and definitely not a 14th-seed in my mind.”

Smirnov: “I think that Jeffery on paper is the favorite, but, I will definitely try to give him a fight.”

One of the two games Smirnov won against Xiong so far in three-minute chess.

Both players are taking the preparation for the match seriously.

Xiong: “Of all participants I believe that I am the most experienced in online chess (I started playing on ICC [in] 2007). I don't think it will make a huge difference as Anton also plays regularly on Chess.com. I will mainly try to get as many games in as possible before the match, [to] decide what openings I'll play.”

Junior Speed Chess Chesskid
Smirnov: “I play quite frequently on Chess.com, and I believe that it is very important to get accustomed to the platform. I am planning to prepare a few new opening lines and ideas and I will also practice playing different time controls on Chess.com.”

Both will be playing the match from home. That means Coppell, Texas for Xiong and Sydney, Australia for Smirnov. That must be the longest ever distance between two players in any speed chess match ever on Chess.com: 13,809 kilometers (8,581 miles).

The match will start with 90 minutes of 5|1 blitz, continue with 60 minutes of 3|1 blitz, and end with 30 minutes of 1|1 bullet. (Find all regulations here.)

Where do they think they will strike?

Xiong: “5|1; the bullet worries me as I tend to be very slow at times.”

Smirnov: “I quite enjoy playing bullet, and I think that this section will be the deciding factor of the outcome of the match. As it is a very fast-paced time control, anything can happen, and it is quite easy to lose a few games in a row and lose control.”

Junior Speed Chess Championship prizes

The prize fund for the first-round matches is $800 each. The winner earns $400 and advances to round two, while the other $400 is split by win percentage.

The Junior Speed Chess Championship is sponsored by ChessKid, the world's number-one site for kids to learn and play chess. All JSCC matches are broadcast live with chess-master commentary on Chess.com/TV and Twitch.tv/chess.

Here's the full schedule of the round of 16:

  • Van Foreest vs. Tari: May 16 (14.5-13.5, news report)
  • Firouzja vs. Martinez Alcantara: May 21 at 9 a.m. Pacific (18.0-7.0, news report)
  • Wei Yi vs. Praggnanandhaa: May 31 at 9 a.m. Pacific (14.5-11.5, news report)
  • Sevian vs. Sarin: June 3 at 9 a.m. Pacific (17-8, news report)
  • Sarana vs. Esipenko: June 11 at 10 a.m. Pacific (15-12, news report)
  • Xiong vs. Smirnov: June 14 at 5 p.m. Pacific (June 15, 02:00 a.m. CEST)
  • Maghsoodloo vs. Moroni: June 17 at 9 a.m. Pacific (18:00 CEST)
  • Gledura vs. Liang: June 18 at 10 a.m. Pacific (19:00 CEST)

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