Junior Speed Chess: Sevian Beats Nihal To Face Firouzja Next

Junior Speed Chess: Sevian Beats Nihal To Face Firouzja Next

| 15 | News

Showing unforeseen bullet chess prowess, Sam Sevian defeated Nihal Sarin 17-8 on Monday. The next opponent for the American grandmaster in the Junior Speed Chess Championship is Alireza Firouzja of Iran.

This match was expected to be one of the closer ones, as it was hard to pinpoint the favorite. Even the SmarterChess predictions were hard to go by, as Sevian hasn't played enough official FIDE rated blitz tournaments yet to obtain a blitz rating.

Sevian vs. Nihal Junior Speed Chess predictions
SmarterChess gave Nihal a slight edge over Sevian.

Sevian started with a long endgame grind where eventually the bishop pair was too strong for Nihal's knight pair. The Vishy Anand school of chess might appreciate those knights, but sometimes classical rules of chess still apply!

Shortly interrupted by a necessary Live Server reboot, Nihal right away leveled the score in the second game, from the white side of a Semi-Tarrasch. His pawn sac 21.d5 and 22.e5 was thematic for this opening and the remainder was also well played.

Somehow, Black was not OK at the start of this match. The first seven games were all won by White, even when things didn't go according to plan. For instance, in an epic game five, Sevian fought back from a completely lost position:

Sam Sevian Junior Speed Chess Championship

The most beautiful move of the match, and arguably of the whole Junior Speed Chess Championship so far, was Sevian's last one in game eight, the first not won by White. Nihal complimented his opponent on it after the match.

5|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score
1 Sam Sevian @Konavets 2899 3058 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 5.0/8
2 Nihal Sarin @nihalsarin 2970 2811 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 3.0/8

Nihal went into the three-minute segment with a two-point deficit, but held his own in the three-minute games. In fact, that section ended in a tie with six of the first seven games here again ending in wins for White!

Game 12 saw a theoretical queen sacrifice in the Gruenfeld, where Nihal eventually emerged on top in a time scramble:

Two games later, something odd happened to Sevian: He completely forgot to play a move in a theoretical line. Afterward, he noted that this is something he needs to avoid in his next match in the championship.

"I kind of made some mistakes because of fatigue in this match," said Sevian. "For example, I played 6…h6 in the Botvinnik line, I just forgot to play 6…b5, things like that."

It gave Nihal the opportunity to play an attractive game full of sacrifices:

3|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score
1 Nihal Sarin @nihalsarin 2945 2925 0 1 0 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 4.0/8
2 Sam Sevian @Konavets 2925 2945 1 0 1 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 4.0/8

Nihal started the bullet with a win, and suddenly he was only a point behind Sevian. For a moment, the result was anyone's guess.

Nihal Sarin Junior Speed Chess Championship

But then, the crucial point in the match came in the second bullet game. Nihal won an exchange early on, and was objectively winning at several moments, but ended up getting checkmated. A tough one—so tough that he would lose all the remaining bullet games.

Game 23, a self-mate, could not have helped Nihal's state of mind.

1|1 section | Scores

# Fed Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Sam Sevian @Konavets 2854 3367 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8.0/9
2 Nihal Sarin @nihalsarin 3006 2493 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.0/9

The commentator Danny Rensch asked if Nihal went on tilt after losing that second bullet game.

“I was quite upset to lose that and then maybe I went on tilt, I am not sure!” Nihal said with a smile. “I just started losing every single game, just like that. Maybe I tried to play too fast, not sure.”

Sevian: “I just wanted to hold. When I was up two, I just wanted to hold as long as possible. I got very nervous when I lost the first game because I just blundered in that one. And then the second one wasn’t going well, so that was a big moment."

Junior Chess Championship bracket

Nihal earned $128 based on win percentage; Sevian won $400 for the victory plus $272 on percentage, totaling $672. The American GM moves on to the next round, where he will play Firouzja on July 9.

The next match on the calendar is Alexey Sarana vs. Andrey Esipenko on June 11

The Junior Speed Chess Championship is sponsored by ChessKid, the world's number-one site for kids to learn and play chess. Sixteen grandmasters 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.

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