Gukesh Spreads Wings After Shocking Start, Advances To Final

Gukesh Spreads Wings After Shocking Start, Advances To Final


GM Gukesh D secured his spot in the 2023 Junior Speed Chess Championship Final by winning his semifinal match against GM Pranav V 16.5-10.5.

After an unexpectedly strong start by Pranav, where he started the 5+1 portion with a 3-point lead, Gukesh suddenly turned the tables. The number-one seed in the event won three games in a row to even the score and then went on to take over the match in the faster time controls.

The second semifinal match, featuring GM Raunak Sadhwani vs. GM Denis Lazavik, will be on Friday, June 16, at 12 p.m. ET / 18:00 CEST.

Let’s face it: no matter whom he plays in the JSCC, Gukesh will be the favorite. Despite having a lower online rating than his opponent, he is in the world’s top-15 in classical chess. Gukesh, having earned his GM title three years ago now, exudes the power of a seasoned professional, whereas his opponent became India’s 75th grandmaster last year.

Despite being juniors, the two Indian grandmasters go way back. Here is a blast to the past from five years ago:

Blitz 5|1: Gukesh-Pranav 4.5-4.5

The first segment could not have been more dramatic as Pranav took a significant early lead in the match.

The contours of the upset were outlined in the very first game. After brazenly declining a threefold repetition earlier in the middlegame, Pranav overcame his opponent in an endgame time scramble. Bravery was rewarded.

After a high-quality game two ended in a draw, Pranav went on to win two more in a row.

The bishop trap in game three will surely remind readers of the unforgettable game one in the Spassky-Fischer world championship match.

The third was particularly painful for India’s number-two as he saved a lost position with perpetual check—only to blunder with a mouse slip and lose.

After two draws, where admittedly Pranav was on the stronger side in each, Gukesh won his first game of the match. It was the beginning of the comeback.

Hess called it a “very complete game” by Gukesh, while Hambleton summarized: “Both guys are going toe to toe. It is as impressive to see the attacking moves as it is the defensive moves here.” 

This great fight is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Gukesh won another with a brilliant rook sacrifice. Ask yourself: in a game with a longer time control, would you find it?

Black to move and win.

Winning his third game with the classic minority attack in a Carlsbad structure, Gukesh won the last game of the segment and evened the score.

Blitz 3|1: Gukesh-Pranav 6-3

This segment featured seven black wins in a row as the players traded blow for blow, losing with White after each win. Gukesh finally won the last three games to take an impressive lead.

In the third game, Gukesh declined a draw and went on to win a “positional masterclass,” according to Hess. The knight maneuver at the end, …Nh7-f8-g6-f4, was as artistic as it was strong.

But in the next game, Pranav won even after blundering a full rook.

Black won, Black won, Black won—until he didn’t. Gukesh broke the symmetry and won three consecutive games. In the first and only win with the white pieces in the entire segment, the Indian number-two took literally less than a second to play the winning move here. 

Can you find it? White to move and win. 

Bullet 1|1: Gukesh-Pranav 6-3

Gukesh, although he’s not known to play bullet online, dominated the fastest segment of the match.

Each player won one of the first two games, but Gukesh broke away after that and won three in a row.

His win in game four was particularly nice as, after pausing for about 10 seconds to calculate the final combination, he rattled off every move for the rest of the game.

Even when Pranav had good (or winning) positions, not all of them led to the full point. In the following game, he was simply up two pawns but still lost the game.

In the last 10 minutes, a Pranav comeback was unlikely and already close to mathematically impossible. Although Gukesh lost the penultimate game, he won the last in just 28 moves.

Gukesh earns $6,444.44 while Pranav takes away $1,555.56 by win percentage.

After the match, Gukesh stayed for an interview. Asked about how the comeback, he said: “I was quite confident even after the start, but it was quite scary… after the break, I managed to freshen up and play some good chess.”

He added that he “almost never” plays online casual chess. And then, pressed about how he practiced for the bullet segment, he revealed: “Actually, after Norway [Chess]… on the final day, me and Hikaru were playing some bullet. I mean, I got trashed like anything, but maybe that helped.”

Gukesh will play the winner of Raunak vs. Lazavik and he predicted his countryman to be a “slight favorite.”

Junior Speed Chess Championship 2023 Bracket


The 2023 Junior Speed Chess Championship (JSCC) is’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’s signature Speed Chess Championship format. 

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