Muradli Sweeps Final 8-0: 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship Qualifier 3

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The final qualifier of the 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG was won by IM Mahammad Muradli in a dominating display of chess. Muradli swept his final matchup 8-0 in a resounding victory over IM Platon Galperin and also won his semifinals match against GM Aydin Suleymanli, who could only muster two points against today’s high-flying winner.

The qualifier also featured GM P Iniyan, who made the semifinals, as well as GMs Gupta Sankalp and IMs Ahmad Ahmadzada, Abdulla Gadimbayli, and Bibisara Assaubayeva.

The first round of 16 match, GM Brandon Jacobson vs. GM Arseniy Nesterov, begins on Monday, April 11, at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central European.

How to watch?

The Junior Speed Chess Championship presented by SIG is the second leg of the 2022 Speed Chess Champion where top junior 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.


Quarterfinals

The match between Azeri IMs Muradli and Gadimbayli was the closest encounter of the day, and it required 15 games to separate the pair. The blitz stage showcased a potpourri of openings including Sicilians, Slav setups, and the Chigorin, where Black surprisingly won the first five games!

At 3-2, it was Gadimbayli who would break the curse of the white pieces, winning the sixth game with a crushing kingside attack. 

Gadimbayli extended his lead two games later after an untimely blunder from Muradli that led to checkmate in two moves in an otherwise completely drawn rook endgame. Muradli had clearly saved some energy for the bullet portion of the match, though, and was able to win three games on the trot. 

Gadimbayli, poised on 6.5 points and on the brink of progressing, believed he found his ticket in the 13th game when he planted a passed pawn on the e2-square and bolstered it with his pieces. Nerves got to him at the critical moment and the position fell apart after a blunder that visibly frustrated the IM.

The two-point swing galvanized Muradli, who was then able to salvage a draw to take the match into overtime.

In the tiebreaker, Muradli gained a small advantage on the white side of the Albin Countergambit and simply never let go, taking the match 8-7. It has to be said that Gadimbayli had an unlucky first-round pairing today, as the match was the closest that anyone came to beating Muradli.

Despite losing the first game of his match with Sankalp, Suleymanli was imposing in his quarterfinals match. The 3+1 portion was where the Azeri shone and showed his mastery of several queen’s-pawn openings. Twice, Suleymanli was able to demonstrate that the London System is not an infallible opening choice and won from the black side.

The bullet phase of the match was a more balanced affair with the players’ alternating wins. For Sankalp, the damage was already done in the 3+1 section and Suleymanli’s earlier rampage terminated any hope of the Indian IM progressing. The final match score was 7.5-4.5 to Suleymanli.

In their match, Galperin stayed one step ahead of the youngest-ever women’s world blitz chess champion, Assaubayeva, announcing himself as a contender looking to snatch the qualifying spot in today’s event.

Assaubayeva at the World Blitz Championship, which she won. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Assaubayeva was able to inflict some blows on her opponent throughout the match, but it was Galperin’s consistency that got him over the line. In the second game, Galperin missed an opportunity to unleash a crushing intermezzo tactic and Assaubayeva was able to capitalize and force her opponent to resign two moves later.

The experienced Iniyan, who has previously won on the world stage at major events, including his joint-first-place finish in the Dubai Open in 2019 and winning gold in the U18 Commonwealth Championship the same year, put on a monstrous performance against Ahmadzada, winning this match 8-2.

Iniyan was able to gain significant time advantages in his first five blitz games and use the clock as a weapon to punish his opponent during critical moments. Ahmadzada’s lack of time on the clock in each game began to look ominous with the bullet phase looming, and tactics were beginning to be missed by both players.

While the Azeri was able to draw the sixth and seventh games and win the ninth, the momentum Iniyan had built made a comeback an impossible task.

Semifinals

Muradli’s arduous first-round matchup proved anything but cumbersome and the inspired IM put his foot down on the accelerator in the semifinals. Countryman Suleymanli would have been expecting a tight encounter, since the two have faced off many times in over-the-board play, and by all counts, proceedings seemed to be headed that way.

The two 5+1 games were split one apiece but could have easily both gone Suleymanli’s way if not for resolute defense from his opponent in the first game. The second game was a premium showcase of a unique line in the Sicilian Defence where Suleymanli, with the white pieces, launched an early pawn storm and punched a hole in Black’s kingside. 

This win would be Suleymanli’s first and only in the match though, and Muradli began his dominance which would last the remainder of the tournament. Proving an astute tactician, Muradli seized every opportunity to punish his opponent for small inaccuracies and won the praise of Twitch viewers, some of whom began comparing him to recent Bullet Chess Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura.

Naroditsky said of the Azerbaijani grandmaster: “Muradli, after that close match with Gadimbayli gained tremendous confidence. I think he was determined to make the most out of his run.”

The second semifinal was truly a match of two halves. In the first four games, Galperin humbled Iniyan by winning each off the back of clinical middlegame play, racing to a 4-0 lead in the process. The first game was particularly instructive and highlighted the power of passed pawns. Two “brilliant” (!!) moves by Galperin were picked up by Chess.com’s Game Review tool, a feat that mere-mortal chess amateurs might deem inconceivable. 

Iniyan did bounce back and reduced the match score to a two-point deficit in the 3+1 portion. The sixth game was a candidate for swindle of the year due to Iniyan defending against his opponent’s queen with a rook and bishop, despite a one-pawn disadvantage, until Galperin ran out of time.

Galperin managed his emotions well after the two losses and composed himself to score 2.5/3 in the first of the bullet games. These games were enough to get the job done and the Ukrainian IM booked his spot in the final with a score of 7.5-3.5.

Final

The final of today’s qualifier saw an unprecedented 8-0 clean sweep by the Azeri Muradli which undoubtedly announced him as a serious contender for the main event this year. Muradli’s performance in the final made his semifinals blowout seem like a cakewalk.

Muradli’s initial wins were hard-fought and came down to the wire, but stability was rewarded in the early games as Muradli held his nerves in the key moments.

His downtrodden opponent, who had performed exceptionally to reach the big stage, struggled to get into the match, and while Galperin’s fighting spirit never dipped, Muradli’s stunning tactical shots only piled on the misery, such as in game three when Muradli found an incredible discovered-check pattern, rubbing salt in the wounds.

With such an impressive final score, Muradli was the deserving qualifier today. In the post-match interview, he humbly noted that he didn’t expect to qualify after tiring himself out by playing at the European Championship over the last week and a half. 

All Games – Qualifier 3

Qualifier 3 Bracket

The 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship is an online tournament for top junior players. The qualifiers happen March 31-April 8, while the main event runs April 11-May 13. Players battle for a piece of the $35,000 prize fund and a spot in the 2022 Speed Chess Championship.


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