Quadruple Queens and Raining Rooks: Bluebaum and Navara Advance to Final

Quadruple Queens and Raining Rooks: Bluebaum and Navara Advance to Final


GMs Matthias Bluebaum and David Navara advanced to the Qualifier 2 final of the 2022 Fischer Random World Championship on Tuesday. Practically every matchup featured wild games from four queens roaming the board to compelling rook sacrifices to intense armageddon showdowns. 

GMs Alexey Sarana and Daniel Naroditsky made it to the semifinals. IM V Pranav, GMs Alexander Donchenko, Vincent Keymer, and Vladislav Kovalev made it to the quarterfinals.

Qualifier 2 continues with the final on August 21, starting at 5 a.m. PT / 18:00 CEST.

How to watch?

Live broadcast of this weekend’s tournament, hosted by GM Jon Hammer.

This was the starting Fischer Random position for the quarterfinals. In 2020, the supercomputer Sesse evaluated all of the 960 possible starting positions in Fischer Random. This position was evaluated to be +0.15―closer to equal than the standard chess setup, which was evaluated as +0.22. 

Getting to see how each of these eight strong players handle the same fresh starting position gives us some of the nuance between different styles we see in regular chess mixed with the vaster creative possibilities of Fischer Random. 

Bluebaum was the only player to win the position with both white and black. 

Navara gained a commanding opening position with white against Keymer, taking over the center and shutting out Black’s a8-bishop. From there, he discovered an exchange sacrifice to create two connected passed pawns in the center. 

However, Keymer fought back and even gained an advantage in the ending until he overlooked Navara’s unstoppable outside passed pawns. 

Navara drew the second game as black to win the match. 

After an initial draw, Sarana vs. Donchenko culminated in a surreal, all-or-nothing second game with both sides promoting to a second queen.

Pranav and Naroditsky drew twice to bring it all down to an armageddon playoff from the same starting position.

Naroditsky bid 11:30 minutes for black with draw odds. The time deficit can often have more weight in Fischer Random since players have to think more at the beginning of the game due to the lack of opening theory. Still, draw odds is a powerful tool, not just because you have two results in your favor, but because there is psychological pressure on your opponent to play for the win and keep the game alive, no matter what. 

Pranav pressed for much of the game, but the moment he let his advantage slip, Naroditsky leaped at the chance for counterplay, activating his pieces and rolling his connected passed kingside boards down the board. 

The semifinals matches featured this new Chess960 position, which is evaluated to be +0.21 in White’s favor. This is a nearly identical evaluation to a regular chess game, but all opening variations are new roads to explore. 

Navara defeated Naroditsky with white by reacting to his opponent’s attack with a stunning rook sacrifice, ripping open the kingside. 

Naroditsky came close to evening the score and triggering a playoff in the second game. He created the imbalance of queen and two pawns vs. rook, bishop, and knight and pressed for over 135 moves before drawing. 

Surprisingly, Sarana and Bluebaum both won as black. Can you find the clever tactic Bluebaum found for his victory?

Sarana, on the other hand, ground out a win from an equal double rook and knight ending. In the armageddon playoff, Bluebaum bid 11:25 minutes to gain the black pieces. Though Sarana had winning chances for much of the game, he overlooked a three-time repetition, ending the match immediately in Bluebaum’s favor. 

Qualifier 2 Semifinals Knockout 

The Fischer Random World Championship, brought to you by the Government of Iceland and the City of Reykjavik, gathers top players worldwide to compete in a series of classical Fischer Random games for their share of the $400,000 prize fund and the title of FIDE Fischer Random World Champion. Fischer Random (also known as Chess960) is a chess variant where all standard chess rules are the same, except for the starting position of the pieces, which can be in one of 960 semi-random setups. Heavily endorsed by the 11th world champion GM Bobby Fischer, the variant sidesteps opening preparation to highlight players’ true understanding of chess.

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