Maghsoodloo Overpowers Sarana, Joins Junior Speed Chess Semis
The Iranian grandmaster Parham Maghsoodloo beat Alexey Sarana on Thursday 15-11, and will face the winner of Xiong-Gledura in the semifinals.

Maghsoodloo Overpowers Sarana, Joins Junior Speed Chess Semis

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

Parham Maghsoodloo outfoxed Alexey Sarana in Thursday's Junior Speed Chess Championship quarterfinal match, with strong finishes in both the 5|1 and 3|1 segments. The Iranian grandmaster won 15-11 and will now face the winner of Jeffery Xiong and Benjamin Gledura in the semifinal.

Maghsoodloo was hoping to become the second Iranian player to reach the Junior Speed Chess Championship final four (Alireza Firouzja earned his spot earlier this week). Maghsoodloo entered the match a slight favorite against Sarana, due to his experience in blitz on 

Scoring consistently in all three segments, Maghsoodloo maintained control and nearly followed the SmarterChess predictions.

The fairly accurate SmarterChess predictions for Maghsoodloo vs. Sarana.

The match was level for a majority of the 5|1 segment, with Black winning in each of the first six games. Maghsoodloo won his first game playing the Queen's Gambit Declined, quickly grabbing space on both sides of the board:

Sarana was clearly prepared for the match. He opened the 5|1 segment scoring a perfect 3/3 with Black against Maghsoodloo's English and Reti setups. In game seven, the Iranian switched to 1. e4, and won in a sharp Najdorf to take his first lead of the match:

The opening switch pushed Maghsoodloo to a four-game winning streak to end the 5|1 segment. After winning his sixth game, fans could see how motivated the Iranian was to play, as Maghsoodloo was visibly quite confident on stream: 

5|1 section | Scores

# FED Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 Parham Maghsoodloo @Parhamov 3036 3017 0 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 6.0/9
2 Alexey Sarana @mishanick 2985 2901 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 3.0/9

Sarana started the 3|1 portion with a much-needed win, ending the four-game losing streak he suffered in the 5|1 segment. The game seemed headed towards a draw, but the Russian teenager found a way to exploit Black's weak king:

After trading wins with Sarana in the next few games, Maghsoodloo increased his lead to four, when he found a tactical resource to protect his king and deliver mate simultaneously:

The Iranian grandmaster then converted the famous "rook and four-vs-rook and three" endgame by establishing his rook on the seventh rank. Maghsoodloo's endgame technique pushed his lead to five to end the 3|1 segment, his biggest lead of the day thus far.

3|1 section | Scores

# FED Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score
1 Parham Maghsoodloo @Parhamov 3036 3075 0 1 1 0 ½ ½ 1 1 5.0/8
2 Alexey Sarana @mishanick 2985 2946 1 0 0 1 ½ ½ 0 0 3.0/8

In the 1|1 portion, Maghsoodloo briefly extended his lead to six, but Sarana finished strong, winning both of the last two games for a final score of 15-11. While Sarana's last win was not enough to overturn the match, he was able to thwart the Dutch Defense, which had caused him difficulty early in the 3|1 portion.

1|1 section | Scores

# FED Name Handle Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score
1 Parham Maghsoodloo @Parhamov 2837 2845 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 0 0 4.0/8
2 Alexey Sarana @mishanick 2845 2837 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 1 4.0/8

Sarana mentioned that he had indeed prepared for Parham's English and King's Indian Attack setups, but was not prepared for Maghsoodloo to switch openings mid-match.

I thought I had a really good positional line in the Dutch," said Sarana, "but Parham just played better than me. For his Queen's Gambit, I was prepared, but Parham knows these lines too."

When asked about his performance in the match, Sarana lamented his four-game skid in the 5|1 segment.

"I thought I had a few good positions early in the match," said Sarana, "but I lost those four consecutive games. In these moments it's always important to focus on the next game. Towards the end of the match, I knew I wasn't going to make a comeback, but I wanted to finish with a better score."

Maghsoodloo joins Wei Yi and Firouzja in the Junior Speed Chess Championship semifinals.

Sarana earned $254 based on win percentage; Maghsoodloo won $600 for the victory plus $346 on percentage, totaling $946. He moves on to the semis, where he will face the winner of Xiong and Gledura.

When asked about his desired next opponent, Parham said: "Between Jeffrey and Benjamin, the two are very close. Jeffrey has an edge in openings, but Benjamin is a very solid player. For me it matters less who I play; I just hope to play my best."

The winner of Xiong-Gledura will face Maghsoodloo in the semifinals of the first-ever Junior Speed Chess Championship.

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.

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