2023 Speed Chess Championship (Qualifier 1): Vidit, Yu Qualify For 2023 Speed Chess Championship Presented By Coinbase

2023 Speed Chess Championship (Qualifier 1): Vidit, Yu Qualify For 2023 Speed Chess Championship Presented By Coinbase


GMs Yu Yangyi and Vidit Gujrathi have made it into the 2023 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship Presented by Coinbase after claiming two spots in the first Qualifier on Tuesday.

Yu finished second in the Swiss on day one and, on the second day, won two matches in armageddon to top the Winners Bracket. Vidit, who finished eighth in the Swiss, was facing an uphill battle in his final match against GM Bogdan Daniel Deac. He won the last game on demand and then won the armageddon with White to finish first in the Losers Bracket. (No Grand Final match between the two final winners is played in this qualifier event.)

The second qualifier kicks off its Swiss portion on August 23, 2023, starting at 1:00 p.m. ET / 19:00 CEST / 22:30 IST. The final two qualifying spots will then be determined in the Bracket portion on August 24, starting at the same time.


Monday’s 14-round Swiss saw 165 players join. The time control was 3+1, the same as Titled Tuesday. Also, only titled players participated, ranging from national masters to world champions such as GM Vladimir Kramnik, who finished a half-point out of the top-nine finishers.

GM Hikaru Nakamura finished first in the Swiss with a score of 11/14. However, since he is already invited to play in the main event, the next eight top finishers moved on to the match-play portion.

Qualifier 1 Swiss | Top 10

(See full Swiss results here.)

Nakamura made zero draws in 14 games. After going on a five-game rampage, he suffered back-to-back losses in rounds six and seven. However, he struck back by winning every remaining game but one. 

Among his victims were future top-finishing GMs Rauf Mamedov, Deac, and GM Rodrigo Vasquez Schroeder. One of his wins was also against GM Aleksandar Indjic, who would have needed half a point more to make it to the knockout. 

Nakamura’s most shocking win was against Olympic Esports Series winner GM Alexey Sarana. Perhaps confused by the American GM’s quirky Reti Opening, Sarana likely regretted where he placed his queen as he resigned on move 29.

Can you find the winning move for White?

10 points was enough to make it to the top nine. Yu, Mamedov, and Deac didn’t even need to worry about tiebreaks, though, as they finished with 10.5 points—always a relief.

Yu finished undefeated with seven wins and seven draws. His first game featured an extraordinary endgame win from a “textbook draw” position. Some readers will remember GM Sam Shankland mistakenly resigned in this same drawn position in 2019.

Black already achieved this known fortress, but as we learn time and again, it is never too late to blunder. One misstep with the king changed a half point to zero.

Mamedov, who also went undefeated, was the only player in the top nine to beat Nakamura—the others were unable to earn even a half-point against him. 

The game started with 1. e4 a6, a popular opening nowadays among the world’s elite (online, at least). The old masters of a hundred years ago advised to develop pieces and control the center from the game’s beginning—it’s no wonder they never reached a 2800 rating.

The game followed another one Mamedov played in 2017, but the Baku-born grandmaster was the first to deviate with 12.h5!N, the best engine move. He went on to convincingly punish Black for taking castling for granted.


The top four proceeded to play in the Winners Bracket, while the bottom four played in the Losers. They would play six-game matches: two games of 5+1, two games of 3+1, and two games of 1+1. 3.5 points win a match, and a single bidding armageddon game would break any ties.

Yu won two matches to secure his spot in the main event, both of which went all the way to armageddon. He won the first armageddon game, against Vasquez, with White; the second, he won with Black against Deac.

Yu won the first three games of the first match in a row and needed just half a point to close out the match. Yet, he went on to lose all three remaining games in the faster time controls, resulting in a tied match after six games.

The armageddon game was absolute madness in a Sicilian Najdorf. The game has it all: piece sacrifices, a queen sacrifice for counterplay, and a buffet of “equal” positions by the engine that make hardly make sense. Yu navigated the complications better, with inspiring attacking play.

In the second and final match, the Chinese grandmaster won the first game but then lost two in a row. With draws in games four and six, and a win for Yu in game five, they had an even score after the regular games. Another armageddon.

Yu opted for the solid Petroff Defense with Black, just needing a draw. After some interesting scuffles in the opening, the position remained equal for a long time—until a one-move blunder followed by an immediate resignation. Surprisingly, on move 23 White found his own knight trapped on g2 in an unusual way—a cautionary tale for all knight-fianchettoers.

One benefit of finishing in the top four (and therefore starting in the Winners Bracket) is that those players have “two lives.”  If they lost in the Winners Bracket, they get another chance in the Losers. The bottom four did not have the luxury of resurrection.

The other benefit is playing fewer matches. Yu won two matches, while Vidit went through four—all with just one life.

Vidit defeated recent Titled Tuesday winner GM Aram Hakobyan in the first round before going on to extinguish three players’ second lives: Vasquez, Mamedov, and finally Deac.

The scores in his first three matches signaled a more comfortable match victory than his last match, which he looked unlikely to win at one point. After four draws, Deac won the first decisive game and needed just a draw to clinch the match. 

That’s when Vidit won on demand with the white pieces to force armageddon. That final game featured a slow-grind quiet Italian, where the Indian grandmaster outplayed his adversary in a python-squeeze, Carlen-esque endgame. After the positional mistake 18…b5?, Black was unable to hold together the weaknesses on the queenside he created.

Vidit was worse or losing for most of the game in the armageddon, but he had 35 seconds against 10 without increment. In a pawn-up rook endgame, Deac dropped his rook, but he would have likely lost on time anyway. 

Both Yu and Vidit earn $1,000 along with their qualification for the SCC main event. There are just two qualifying spots left and they will be taken on Thursday. Will someone from the first qualifier come back with a vengeance, or will we see a new name step in?

The 2023 Speed Chess Championship Presented by Coinbase takes place in September. It is the strongest online speed chess event in the world. where 16 players vie for a share of the $150,000 prize fund along with one of the most prestigious titles in online chess. Four players will qualify through the two qualifying events, while 12 are invited. $5,000 go to each qualifier. 

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