GM Nihal Sarin defeated GM Haik Martirosyan 17-9 to become the first player to reach the final of the Junior Speed Chess Championship sponsored by ChessKid. Nihal’s opponent will be known after today’s semifinal between GM Aleksey Sarana and GM Jeffery Xiong.
Based on their Chess.com ratings before the tournament, Martirosyan was in fact the slight favorite for this match, with a 54% win probability according to SmarterChess. It went very differently; not only did Sarin win the match, but he did so in all three time-controls.
Nihal (@nihalsarin) started with two wins and won the five-minute segment 4.5-3.5. Starting with two wins again in the three-minute games, he won that part 5-3 and then dominated the bullet: 7.5-2.5. A remarkably convincing victory for the 16-year-old grandmaster. Martirosyan was not in his best shape while Nihal played excellent chess.
These matches always include lots of interesting games but two back-to-back wins for Black in the three-minute segment were especially nice. First, Nihal’s endgame win in a Vienna Queen’s Gambit:
Martirosyan (@Micki-taryan) was dead lost in the next game, but as the time was ticking away Nihal allowed counterplay and then missed a defensive knight move:
Nihal was leading 9..5-6.5 before the bullet when he started those 1+1 games with six straight wins. It didn’t help that Martirosyan lost one of those games due to a wrong premove.
Martirosyan earned $519.23 based on win percentage; Nihal won $1,500 for the victory plus $980.77 on percentage, totaling $2,480.77. He moves on to the final, where he will play either GM Aleksey Sarana or Jeffery Xiong.
Nihal said he was doing better than in his match with GM Anton Smirnov. “The five-minute portion was a bit sloppy but then I managed to play better.”
Asked about the secret behind the improvement he made in the last couple of years, Nihal said: “I think I just improved my openings and I got to play a lot of strong players on Chess.com.”
The live broadcast of the match with GM Robert Hess and GM Simon Williams.
- Jeffery Xiong vs. Alexey Sarana October 5, 2020, at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 CEST
- Final October 8, 2020
The 2020 Chess.com Junior Speed Chess Championships is sponsored by ChessKid, the world’s number-one site for kids to learn and play chess. Sixteen GMs younger than 21 years old 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. In this second edition, there’s a total prize fund of $25,000 on the line. Find all information here.