World Champion Magnus Carlsen will take on 2018 World Junior
Champion Parham Maghsoodloo today in his first Speed Chess Championship match since
he won the tournament in 2016 and 2017. He defeated Hikaru Nakamura in the
finals of the Chess.com tournament back then, while in Carlsen’s absence Hikaru
beat Wesley So in the final in 2018 and 2019. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the
first player into the quarterfinals after beating Nihal Sarin 16.5:11.5 in
Sunday’s opening match.

The Speed Chess Championship is a 16-player online knockout
tournament that features 3-hour matches consisting of 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz
games, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz games and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet games. The
players play as many games as fit in the allotted time, with a short break
between the sections. A tie at the end is decided by 4 more bullet games
followed, if required, by an Armageddon game.

Half of the 16 players in this year’s event were invited, while
the other half made it through a series of qualifiers. The field is as follows:

The pairings are based on the October blitz ratings, not the November classical ratings above, with
Hikaru Nakamura seeded 1st and predicted to meet 2nd seed Magnus Carlsen in the
final.

As you can see, to win the tournament Magnus is expected to
need to beat Vladislav Artemiev (though Anish Giri might have something to say
about that!), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura, but up first is 2018
World Junior Champion Parham Maghsoodloo. Parham, who has now turned 20, has
been overshadowed by his compatriot Alireza Firouzja in recent years, but he
remains a formidable member of the incredible generation of young Iranian
players.    

You’ll be able to follow all the action with commentary from
Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent live
here on chess24 from 17:50 CET
.

We’re happy to be able to broadcast the games since Chess.com is now doing
what we did all summer with the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour – providing live PGN
files to all chess sites that wish to show the games live. The use of logos was agreed in advance.  

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave reaches the quarterfinals

The tournament kicked off on Sunday with French no. 1 Maxime
Vachier-Lagrave taking on 16-year-old Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin. You can
replay all the games using the selector below – Round 1 is the 5+1 games, Round
2 is 3+1 and Round 3 is 1+1.

Live commentary was provided by Jan Gustafsson and his old
sparring partner Peter Svidler, who just a day earlier had been revealed as Gravedigger,
the winner of our Halloween special!

Jan and Peter were also joined for a while by Nihal’s coach,
Srinath Narayanan. Replay the commentary below:

On paper it looked as though Maxime Vachier-Lagrave should
win easily, but Nihal is already a monster at fast time formats, and the first
game, where Maxime blundered and lost a drawn endgame, was a wake-up call.

Nihal returned the favour in the next game, but four games
in the match was balanced at 2:2. From that point on Maxime took over in the
5-minute games, however, winning the section 6:3.

Maxime would go on to win each section, scoring 5:4 in the
3-minute games and 5.5:4.5 in the 1-minute games, for an overall 16.5:11.5
victory, but that wasn’t the whole story! At two moments in the match Nihal won
two games in a row to cut the gap to just two points, and those games featured some
stunning moves. For instance, in the 4th
3-minute game
.

Is it time for Nihal to resign with his queen attacked and Ra8+
about to leave his king almost defenceless? Not exactly! Here he played the
queen sacrifice 27…Bxc5!! and was winning after 28.Bxd4 (28.Ra8+! Kd7 29.Rd1!
was essential), though both sides made mistakes in what followed before Black
eventually crashed home for victory.

In the 3rd
bullet game
Nihal had many ways to win, but he picked the most beautiful!

47…Rd1+! and if 48.Kxd1 the a-pawn can’t be stopped after 48…a2.
Maxime instead resigned.

Overall, however, Maxime’s time management was better and he
was winning most of the theoretical battles. For instance, in the second blitz
game the players raced to move 25 of a game MVL had won effortlessly against Kirill Alekseenko
in the 2019 Gibraltar Masters. Nihal correctly played the improvement 25…Nc2!
(Kirill played 25…Ra7? and resigned 4 moves later), but after 26.Nxf7! he sank
into a two-minute think over 26…Nxe1! That move was correct, but after 27.Qe6!
he was again thinking on his own.

Our commentators felt there was almost no way of figuring
out such things at the board and suspected White was just winning, but it turns
out 27…Qb8!, stopping any smothered mates, should be a draw.
Instead after 27…Kf8 28.Ne5! Qe8 29.Nd7+! Black had to give up his queen and
went on to lose.

Maxime will play the winner of the match between Ian
Nepomniachtchi and Levon Aronian in the quarterfinal, with that match set to
take place on November 11th. This week’s matches are Firouzja vs. Fedoseev on
Wednesday November 4th and So vs. Abdusattorov on Sunday November 8th, but
first up, of course, is Carlsen vs. Maghsoodloo today.

Follow all the action here on chess24 from 17:50 CEST!

See also:


Chess Mentor

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