Raunak, Lazavik Both Win Blowouts, Advance To Semifinals

Raunak, Lazavik Both Win Blowouts, Advance To Semifinals


On the second day of Quarterfinals in the 2023 Junior Speed Chess Championship, GM Raunak Sadhwani dispatched IM Read Samadov and GM Denis Lazavik eliminated GM Daniel Dardha. The victory of the two favorites was never in question during their matches. Raunak and Lazavik will play a semifinal match on Friday. 

The first semifinal match, between GM Gukesh D against GM Pranav V, will be on Thursday, June 15, at 9 a.m. PT / 18:00 CEST. 

Blitz 5|1: Raunak-Samadov 6.5-2.5

There was a clear favorite going into this match—it was Raunak. SmarterChess predicted an 85% win with a final score of 20-8 for the Indian GM, who boasted a 3021 blitz rating against 2902.

After draws in the first two games, Raunak took off with three victories in a row. His first win ended with what the old masters would have called a “petite combinaison.” Can you find the pretty finish?

White to move and win.

Samadov had his chances but was unable to convert advantages in key moments, especially in the first and sixth games.

Naroditsky on the broadcast pointed to the latter as his best chance to win a game in the 5+1 segment. After outplaying his opponent and drumming up an overwhelming attack, Samadov settled for a draw by perpetual. Moments of hesitation like this one gave Raunak a freer hand in the match. 

After two more draws (five total in this segment!), Raunak won the last game and enjoyed a four-point lead going into the faster time controls.

Blitz 3|1: Raunak-Samadov 6-3

Raunak continued to extend his lead in the 3+1 portion. Game two was extremely unfortunate for Samadov as he mouse-slipped and hung his queen in one move.

Then Samadov won his first game in the match, and then he won another. His second win, with the black pieces, was a great demonstration in using an open file to attack. All rooks on earth only dream of reaching such positions.

Raunak strung together two Ws in a row himself, lost one, and then won another two. He could have stalled out the clock to finish the segment in the penultimate game but chose not to. He won the last game when Read, in a cruel twist of fate, declined a perpetual check to play for the win—one that did not exist.

Bullet 1|1: Raunak-Samadov 8-1

Going into the bullet, Raunak was rated 3205 and number five on the Chess.com leaderboard. It was win after win after win for Raunak.

When it rained it poured, and by game three the Azerbaijani IM’s affected morale was visible as, from a winning position, he blundered a piece and checkmate right after.

By the time Raunak reached a five-game streak, Naroditsky started calling the match an “epitome of a blowout,” but his train of thought was quickly interrupted by a full queen blunder by Samadov.

He dropped a loss in game seven but won every other game.

Rauank wins $3,078.70 and Samadov pockets $421.30 by win percentage.

Blitz 5|1: Lazavik-Dardha 6.5-1.5

Lazavik, who has made a name for himself by winning two Titled Tuesdays and representing the Levitov Chess Wizards in the Pro Chess League, was the favorite going into the match. At the age of 17, Dardha is the three-time Belgian chess champion and the number-one player of his country.

SmarterChess predicted a 71% victory for the Belarusian grandmaster, anticipating the biggest edge in the bullet segment and closer matches in the blitz time controls.

Lazavik shot out to a four-point lead, winning every game before the halftime break. One of the most instructive wins was in game two, where he pressed forward with a nice series of moves, …b4-Na4-Nc3, followed by another strong plan of using doubled pawns as a battling ram: …f5-f4. As Kavutskiy said on the broadcast, one benefit of the doubled pawns is that after pushing one of them, another remains to defend the king.

The end of the game could have been cleaner, but it’s blitz! This is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Lazavik’s psychological momentum could have been curbed in round three, and the fact that it wasn’t contributed positively to what would become a blowout. After spoiling a winning advantage in game three, Dardha had an opportunity to bail out with a draw at least, but he went down in flames going for more.

Lazavik won the next game on time, in an equal position.

After a draw, the most exciting game of the segment occurred. It featured a double rook sacrifice by Black before, after a sparkling tactic, it was decided in the knight—and then king and pawn—endgame.

After another win, Lazavik finished the segment with a five-point lead.

Blitz 3|1: Lazavik-Dardha 6-2

Lazavik won the first game after winning a piece. The only reason the following isn’t a puzzle for our readers is that there are several moves that win.

The game was followed by two draws. The second one ended fascinatingly, where White’s three pawns were enough to draw against two rooks.

After losing two games, Dardha was able to win one after playing an opening Twitch chat called the “Belgian Waffle.”

Dardha followed up with 1.e4 e5 2.Qg4 (Klein called it the “Wayward Queen” Opening) in the following game, but that quirky opening didn’t work as well. He lost and Lazavik led by 9 points going into the bullet.

Bullet 1|1: Lazavik-Dardha 6.5-1.5

While overcoming a nine-point deficit was mathematically still possible, it wasn’t likely. Those dreams were pretty quickly laid to rest.

Lazavik won three straight games before allowing a draw. The third game was particularly crushing as the Belarusian’s bishop dominated the opponent’s knight and put Black in virtual paralysis.

Then it was another three wins in a row. With 10 minutes on the clock, Klein reminded viewers that the match was mathematically over. In the penultimate game and his final victory in the match, Lazavik showed that he could checkmate with knight and bishop even in a bullet game.

Dardha won the last game of the match, a small consolation for the final score.

Lazavik earns $3,135.42 and Dardha pockets $364.59 by win percentage.

Junior Speed Chess Championship 2023 Bracket


The 2023 Junior Speed Chess Championship (JSCC) is Chess.com’s top event for young players and features a $50,000 prize fund. The JSCC features the strongest online competition for the next generation of talented players and Chess.com’s signature Speed Chess Championship format. 

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