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Rapid Chess Championship Week 6: Matlakov Wins Knockout

Rapid Chess Championship Week 6: Matlakov Wins Knockout

NM_Vanessa
| 4 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Maxim Matlakov won the knockout phase of week six of the 2022 Rapid Chess Championship presented by Coinbase. GM Dmitry Andreikin finished second in both the knockout and the Swiss tournament. GMs Daniil Dubov and Vladimir Fedoseev made it to the semifinals while GMs Igor Kovalenko (winner of the Swiss tournament), Wesley So, Alexey Sarana, and Matthias Bluebaum made it to the quarterfinals.

Participating in the event were 39 elite players on the FIDE top-100 list, top-10 women, and top-10 juniors in the world, alongside 10 wildcards. The event will continue next weekend, March 26-27, starting at 9 a.m. Pacific / 17:00 Central European.

How to watch?
You can watch the 2022 Rapid Chess Championship presented by Coinbase on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive.
Live broadcast of this weekend's tournament, hosted by GM Yasser Seirawan and WGM Jennifer Shahade


The Rapid Chess Championship is a weekly tournament held by Chess.com. It is a nine-round Swiss event with a 10+0 time control held every Saturday, followed by a knockout event on Sunday between the top-eight finishers and a 10+2 time control. If players draw, they play another 3+2 game; if drawn, they play a 1+1 game; and if that is drawn, a single armageddon game is played.


Swiss

Kovalenko, the top finisher, tied with Andreikin with 6.5 points and came out on top by tiebreaks.

Kovalenko's performance was solid and undefeated, staying within the top three for the entire tournament. In round six against GM Ivan Saric, Kovalenko won a key game that pulled him into a tie for the lead, which he held to the finish.

Andreikin’s path to 6.5 points was the complete opposite of Kovalenko’s. He began the tournament with two losses but then followed it up with six(!) straight victories, leapfrogging from the bottom of the scoreboard to the top.

Andreikin capped off his winning streak with a convincing victory against GM Levon Aronian. Andreikin gained a significant advantage in the opening and pressed it through into the middlegame, not allowing even the resourceful Aronian any chances to get back into the game.

Fedoseev was an early leader, starting the tournament with three wins in a row, including an endgame victory over So.

Fedoseev lost the lead after a seventh-round loss to Dubov. However, he finished solidly to stay in the qualification range with the top tiebreaks among the many players who scored six points.

This week’s event was so strong and unpredictable that So was the only player from the world top-10 to qualify for the knockout. One of So’s best victories was his attacking win against GM Kirill Alekseenko early in the tournament.

Previous knockout winners, Aronian and GM Fabiano Caruana, missed out on qualifying in the last round. Aronian drew, ending with tiebreaks of 5.5―just outside of the top eight.

Matlakov came through in a must-win last-round game against Caruana to take the last of the qualification spots.

With none of the previous knockout winners qualifying, this set the stage for a brand new champion the next day. 

Saturday Swiss | Final Standings (Top 20) 

# Fedd Username Name Rating Pts SB
1 igorkovalenko Igor Kovalenko 2533 6.5 36
2 FairChess_on_YouTube Dmitry Andreikin 2768 6.5 27.75
3 Bigfish1995 Vladimir Fedoseev 2647 6 31.25
4 Duhless Daniil Dubov 2748 6 29
5 GMWSO Wesley So 2724 6 28.25
6 Msb2 Matthias Blübaum 2606 6 28
7 mishanick Alexey Sarana 2703 6 27
8 BillieKimbah Maxim Matlakov 2703 6 24.50
9 champ2005 Raunak Sadhwani 2627 6 21.75
10 LevonAronian Levon Aronian 2831 5.5 29.25
11 Jospem Jose Martinez 2619 5.5 23.75
12 GMCheparinov Ivan Cheparinov 2651 5.5 20.25
12 Grandelicious Nils Grandelius 2674 5.5 20.25
12 dalmatinac101 Ivan Saric 2679 5.5 20.25
15 FabianoCaruana Fabiano Caruana 2857 5 23.5
16 Alexander_Donchenko Alexander Donchenko 2602 5 22.75
17 ChessWarrior7197 Nodirbek Abdusattorov 2718 4.5 22.5
18 vladislavkovalev Vladislav Kovalev 2604 4.5 19.75
19 Grischuk Alexander Grischuk 2610 4.5 18.5
20 daro94 Dariusz Swiercz 2605 4 14.75

(Full final standings here.)

Knockout

In the first quarterfinals match, Kovalenko had trouble out of the opening against Matlakov and ended up with his light-squared bishop stuck on b2 and blocked in by his d4-pawn, while Matlakov's h4-knight wreaked havoc on Kovalenko's kingside pawn structure. 

Just like that, the top scorer from the Swiss was knocked out of the event. Co-commentator GM Daniel Naroditsky said: "Such a performance yesterday... That’s the thing with the RCC. You can do amazingly on Saturday, and things could go off the rails on Sunday."

That’s the thing with the RCC. You can do amazingly on Saturday, and things could go off the rails on Sunday.
—GM Daniel Naroditsky

Dubov vs. So was a close game throughout. Dubov continuously searched for a way to edge out a victory and repeatedly declined three-time repetition offers by So. With just two minutes left and 30 seconds behind on the clock, Dubov sacrificed a pawn to gain a powerful dark-squared bishop on f6 and took away breathing room from the black king. In the time scramble endgame, the dark-squared bishop proved victorious.

Andreikin vs. Sarana finished with a fascinating endgame battle. Pushing his pawn to h6, Andreikin created an imbalance that influenced the strategies for both sides. Andreikin's play aimed to prove that the advanced h-pawn is a strength and a potentially dangerous passed pawn if he could find a way through Black's h7-pawn, while Sarana aimed to prove that the h6-pawn is a hard-to-defend weakness. 

The blitz playoff was another close one for most of the game. The players traded into an endgame where both pressed on the other’s weak pawns, aiming to create a passed pawn for themselves. However, Andreikin kept a 30-second time edge and as Sarana’s clock ticked under three seconds, Sarana blundered.

In Fedoseev vs. Bluebaum, the latter played a fascinating pawn sacrifice but when he followed it up inaccurately, Fedoseev took control of the position. Fedoseev kept Bluebaum under immense pressure by pushing his strong passed d-pawn down the board, activating his pieces, and pressing on weak points on the kingside until he was able to breakthrough.

In the semifinals, Dubov vs. Matlakov was an excellent example of a two-bishop vs. two-knight duel. After 18...Bd7, Matlakov's bishops looked hopelessly bad, but he gradually worked to improve them and take over the game. It's amazing how these top GMs can create play seemingly out of nowhere. Compare Matlakov's bishop pair on move 18 to how they look on move 31.

In Andreikin vs. Fedoseev, unfortunately, Fedoseev fell into an opening trap, lost a pawn, and ended in a difficult position.

The final rapid game between Andreikin and Matlakov was my favorite game of the event, loaded with creative attacking ideas by Andreikin and resourceful defensive play by Matlakov. For those who missed the live broadcast, can you find the overlooked winning finish for Andreikin?

The whole game from Andreikin's exchange sacrifice with 19. Re3 to Matlakov's saving defense of 26...f5 was an incredible duel of minds to watch. 

In the blitz playoff, Matlakov gained a comfortable advantage in the opening, trading the dark-squared bishops to take over the c5-outpost and leaving Black with weaknesses all over his queenside. In his difficult position, Andreikin made an inaccuracy, allowing Matlakov to win material. Though Andreikin fought on, Matlakov converted his advantage in the rook-and-knight ending.

Matlakov's performance has been a display of resourcefulness. His path to victory included barely inching into the knockout with a must-win victory over Caruana to place eighth in the Swiss tournament, playing black the first game of all three of his knockout matches, and making comebacks from very difficult positions in both his semifinals and final rapid games.

What's the secret to coping with all the tension of these games? Matlakov shares in his interview.

Standings, Results, Prizes

The winner of the Swiss tournament is Kovalenko, and the winner of the knockout tournament is Matlakov. Below are the full standings and prizes of the knockout:

Sunday Knockout | Final Standings

# Fed Player Place Prize
1 Maxim Matlakov Winner $7,500
2 Dmitry Andreikin Finalist $3,500
3-4 Daniil Dubov Semifinalist $2,500
3-4 Vladimir Fedoseev Semifinalist $2,500
5-8 Igor Kovalenko Quarterfinalist $1,000
5-8 Wesley So Quarterfinalist $1,000
5-8 Alexey Sarana Quarterfinalist $1,000
5-8 Matthias Bluebaum Quarterfinalist $1,000


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