Indian Juniors Rock JSCC; Raunak Advances To Final Vs. Gukesh

Indian Juniors Rock JSCC; Raunak Advances To Final Vs. Gukesh


GM Raunak Sadhwani convincingly defeated GM Denis Lazavik to attain the second spot in the 2023 Junior Speed Chess Championship Final. The match was a one-sided affair in the first two segments, and despite an early scare in the bullet, Raunak regained control to win the match.

Raunak will play India’s number-two and world number-13 GM Gukesh D in the Final on Monday, June 19, at 12 p.m. ET / 18:00 CEST.

SmarterChess indicated a small preference for Raunak, predicting a slight edge in the faster time controls. Still, it was close to 50-50, and a match victory by either player would not be a surprise.

Blitz 5|1: Raunak-Lazavik 6.5-2.5

The early segment of the match had the same narrative in just about every game: Lazavik was playing sound (and at times better) chess but collapsing in the time scrambles. With tactical awareness and resilience, even in worse positions, Raunak capitalized on most chances he managed to provoke.

Playing Black, Lazavik was pressing with an extra pawn in game one, but with little time, he allowed a perpetual check. Draw.

After another draw in game two (despite Raunak sacrificing a piece in the opening!), Lazavik played what Hess called “super pristine, precise chess” and seemed to be coasting to victory—when he found his own rook trapped.

Raunak won the next game, too. After shuffling for a long time in an endgame, Lazavik, who was up a pawn, blundered his rook to a one-move fork.

A draw was followed by two more wins for Raunak. The second was especially painful as the Belarusian GM missed a one-move pin-and-win and even went on to lose.

After two more draws (Raunak had a winning rook endgame in the second), the Indian grandmaster finished the segment with a four-point lead.

Blitz 3|1: Raunak-Lazavik 5-3

Although he had 2.5 points after the first segment due to draws, Lazavik had not yet won a game in the match.

Raunak won the first two. The second was a nice demonstration in an endgame with four knights where he had an extra pawn. In blitz, the equine piece can often be a “knightmare,” but the Indian grandmaster converted the endgame with a steady hand.

This level-headed advantage conversion is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below.

But, after a draw, Lazavik was able to pull in his first full point. In a sharp endgame, he sacrificed one pawn to generate a passer—the idea quickly won the game.

Still, Raunak slipped out of too many difficult positions. Lazavik could have won the next game too, but with little time on his clock, he was unable to find the decisive 53.g4!, leading to either checkmate or the capture of a queen.

After a draw, Lazavik won another game after finding a brilliant knight faux-sacrifice. Earlier in the match, a double-win bump would have been more meaningful, but he was still four points down.

He could have won the next game, but after spoiling it, an equal position transpired. Looking at the position, the experienced player might think: “I could never lose this!”—that is, unless you’re playing Raunak.

And then Raunak won another game to enter the bullet segment with a six-point lead.

Bullet 1|1: Rauank-Lazavik 4-5

Despite winning this segment, Lazavik’s performance in the first two made coming back in the match too tall an order.

In a twist of irony, Lazavik won the first game in a rook and bishop vs. rook endgame—the exact same endgame he avoided in the previous game.

Lazavik won the second game too, but Raunak stopped the bleeding in the third—after nearly losing again.

Despite a hefty lead, the start of the bullet segment was alarming. Raunak quelled the momentum once he found the following tactic in game three. 

Black to move and win.

Lazavik was able to bring the match to within three points, but with three minutes left on the match clock, he blundered his queen. With this game, the commentators exclaimed, “That’s it!” 

Raunak finished the segment with another win, followed by a draw.

In the interview, Raunak remarked: “I think that was the turning point, where I started to defend. Eventually I got the games [i.e. victories]. Yeah, I was trying to make moves and not lose immediately.”

He said he didn’t prepare any openings for the match but did add that GM Hikaru Nakamura inspired him: “I think I learned a lot by watching Hikaru’s games actually because whenever he is worse or much worse, he keeps playing good moves and somehow, even against the top players, he holds many games.”

Raunak receives $6,384.62, while Lazavik makes $1,615.38 by win percentage.

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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