Canty Conquers Kavutskiy: 2022 IMSCC, Round Of 16


FM James Canty III and IM Kostya Kavutskiy duked it out over the board on Friday in the third round of 16 match of the IM Not A GM Speed Chess Championship. Pre-match favorite Canty was able to stave off a valiant comeback effort from Kavutskiy in the quicker time controls and the match ended with a 13.5-10.5 score in favor of the eighth seed.

The next match in the IMSCC between IMs Polina Shuvalova and David Pruess begins on Thursday, May 19, at 10 a.m. Pacific / 19:00 Central European.

Blitz 5|1: Canty-Kavutskiy 5-3

Canty squashed predictions that the two would be neck and neck right from the get-go, getting off to a flying start that saw him capture a 5-0 lead in the 5+1 time control.

The popular streamer showed early that he was willing to go into theoretical discussions, displaying an extensive understanding of the Makogonov Variation in the King’s Indian Defence in game two. 

With desperation setting in, Kavutskiy opted for the Trompowsky Attack (famously seen at the 2016 world championship!), perhaps taking inspiration from Wednesday’s Round of 16 winner IM Lawrence Trent who is a practitioner of the opening. After several moves, the position had reached a setup that resembled a Najdorf although, without the benefit of having reached a known position, chaos ensued. 

A pawn sacrifice from Kavutskiy was not enough to gain a significant advantage and after reaching a technically drawn rook and pawn ending, the game swung in favor of Canty once again.

As the fifth game came to a close the commentators were in disbelief that Canty had so far managed a clean sweep, noting that the predictions had indicated that the two are so close in ability on paper.

After several difficult losses, an aggravated Kavutskiy said enough is enough and blitzed out a dynamic version of the Trompowsky Attack again, this time savaging his opponent’s position after an untimely blunder on the 24th move.

The win instilled a renewed sense of confidence in Kavutskiy and he was able to squeeze out back-to-back wins in the seventh and eighth games to reduce the deficit to three points, a far cry from the five-point margin from earlier in the match.

Blitz 3|1: Canty-Kavutskiy 4-4

The 3+1 segment on Friday was a tighter affair and Kavutskiy was the first to strike, capitalizing on two early mistakes from Canty. Despite originating as a Chigorin Opening, the position soon resembled a Gruenfeld gone wrong for Canty. Kavutskiy needed no permission to plant a passed pawn on the d3 square with conspicuous intent and eventually prevailed with two queens and a checkmate on the board.

Kostya Kavutskiy
Kostya Kavutskiy. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The two traded blows over the next few games in a period where both could only manage wins with the black pieces. Game 12 turned into a slugfest after Kavutskiy sacrificed his queen for three pieces. The position soon became a battle between coordination (three pieces) and brute force (the queen), a battle which Canty won off the back of a “brilliant” exchange sacrifice.

Maintaining a slim two-point margin, a miracle save for Canty was a welcome relief in the following game, which Kavutskiy could have won had precise moves been played.

A hilarious moment in the penultimate occurred when Canty almost fell off his chair after spotting a wayward rook in an ending where he very nearly repeated moves.

The excitement never dipped throughout the 3+1 section and the final game was no exception. The evaluation bar was doing cartwheels as the players guessed their way through a frenetic position with mere seconds on the clock, with Kavutskiy eventually benefitting from a frustrating blunder from Canty.

Bullet 1|1: Canty-Kavutskiy 4.5-3.5

Starting with bullet ratings separated only by a single point and a three-point difference in the match and similar features in the SmarterChess prediction graph, the 1+1 segment promised to be a high-voltage, nail-biting resolution to the match. 

The bullet games were split almost evenly which would have left Kavutskiy rueing over his sluggish start to the match. Canty quickly won the initial two games in the segment, leaving Kavutskiy trailing by an almost insurmountable margin with the match clock ticking down.

Building a promising position in the 18th game, Kavutskiy tried to reduce the margin with enterprising play but overstepped his advantage and fell victim to a heartbreaking queen trap.

With the match out of reach, Kavutskiy continued fighting until the match clock expired, saving a draw in a position where he had lost an entire rook!

The two players engaged in an entertaining interview at the end of the match where Canty joked that he felt he needed to win as Kavutskiy was “talking trash” while the match was going, which Kavutskiy cleverly played along with and admitted that his “trash talking was probably a mistake.”

After Canty’s heroics on Friday he will progress to play against the winner of the match between Shuvalova and Pruess in the quarterfinal.

All Games – Round of 16

IM Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket

IM Speed Chess Championship 2022 results

The IM Not A GM Speed Chess Championship (IMSCC) is an online event where some of the strongest IMs and other invited players compete in a series of speed chess matches. Each match consists of a 5+1 blitz segment, a 3+1 blitz segment, and a 1+1 bullet segment, with the player who scores the most points winning the match. If there’s a tie, players play a four-game 1+1 match to decide the winner. If the tie persists, an armageddon game with a bidding system decides the winner.

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