Alireza Firouzja defeated Sam Sevian by a score of 17-10 Tuesday, including a dominant 7.5-2.5 performance in the 1|1 portion to advance to the semifinals of the Junior Speed Chess Championship.
Firouzja will face Wei Yi in the Junior Speed Chess final four after the Chinese GM defeated GM Jorden van Foreest today in their quarterfinals match.
As the second-rated blitz and bullet player on Chess.com, behind only Hikaru Nakamura, Firouzja was the favorite in his match, and proved it. The Iranian GM, who turned 16 three weeks ago, won the five- and three-minute segments with small margins before dominating the bullet.
The match took off with a highly spectacular game that lasted longer than 100 moves. It was Sevian who won in the end as he ended up with a queen versus two minor pieces, but Firouzja had missed wins earlier in the game including a mate in one. What a way to start things off!
Firouzja then won games two and three to take a small lead and would keep it till the end of the five-minute portion and beyond. It was only in game 14 that Sevian could finally level the score.
Game three was highly theoretical as it followed a game from last week(!) between Luke McShane and Leinier Dominguez.
“Of course I saw that game and suddenly it came to my mind,” said Firouzja. “I was not going to play this line in this match. Suddenly I played this and I think it was a very good choice.”
Sevian was familiar with that game as well: “It is very hard to remember in a five-minute game,” he said. “I couldn’t remember all the details.”
5|1 section | Scores
The three-minute segment started with four wins for Black, although it must be said that the first two were decided by the clock. Game 10 ended with a phase where the moves were influenced by time trouble. Black completely spoiled his advantage but won on time.
It was even worse in the next encounter, where White seemed to be the only one who could win as he tried to convert a double rook ending with a dangerous passed pawn. Flagging wasn’t the best idea:
After that, Sevian dropped a simple pawn in a Berlin endgame, but he recovered well to win an exciting 13th game and then another one. The score was 7-7.
Firouzja finished the three-minute portion winning both his white games and drawing his black game. He was leading the match by two points and wouldn’t give up that lead anymore.
3|1 section | Scores
The bullet started with two draws and so there was still a chance for Sevian to make a comeback. But Firouzja then took complete control as he scored five straight victories.
Sevian’s attempt to play a Velimirovic Attack in game 20 wasn’t successful:
Suddenly the score was 15.5-8.5, and with just 7.5 minutes left on the match clock it was basically decided. Especially that fifth bullet loss was tough for Sevian, who spotted a nice tactic—but in bullet, having a winning position is often not enough.
1|1 section | Scores
“Of course I am very satisfied with the bullet,” said Firouzja. “This first one, it very tilted me when I was a piece up and I just blundered everything. I think the worst format for me was 5|1 today. But in general I think I played good chess.”
Sevian: “I had some missed opportunities in 5|1 and 3|1. This Berlin, I just gave a pawn in the opening. And I had a slip near the end of the 3|1 and even the first game of the bullet I was completely winning. That game kind of shifted things.”
The American GM said he enjoyed the experience, even though they were long and tough battles: “It was really fun; both of the matches were very intense for me. The thing is, in both matches in the third hour I got really tired and I started blundering.”
Sevian earned $222 based on win percentage; Firouzja won $600 for the victory plus $378 on percentage, totaling $978. He moves on to the semis, where he will Wei Yi.
Firouzja made clear that he expected Wei Yi to be his next opponent: “Of course it is clear who I want to play but I don’t think that’s going to happen!”
Firouzja is looking forward to meeting Wei in the semifinal: “I think it will be a close match,” Firouzja said, “but I don’t know how I can evaluate it. I have been much better in bullet, but I don’t know, it will be a very interesting match.”
The Junior Speed Chess Championship is sponsored by ChessKid, the world’s number-one site for kids to learn and play chess. Sixteen GMs age 21 or younger 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.
You can replay the live broadcast here.