2023 Speed Chess Championship Presented By Coinbase (Qualifier 2): Andreikin Mounts Spectacular Comeback, Qualifies With Sarana

2023 Speed Chess Championship Presented By Coinbase (Qualifier 2): Andreikin Mounts Spectacular Comeback, Qualifies With Sarana


GMs Alexey Sarana and Dmitry Andreikin claimed the last spots in the 2023 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship Presented by Coinbase by winning their respective brackets in the SCC Qualifier 2 on Thursday.

Sarana had the best event of anybody, placing first in the Swiss on day one and then finishing atop the Winners Bracket in two matches on day two. He beat Andreikin in the Winners Final.

Andreikin didn’t let one setback ruin his day; following the match loss in the Winners, he won the Losers Bracket. He scored an impressive 3.5-0.5 against GM Eduardo Iturrizaga in the Losers Final, winning with two games to spare, the best match score this week.

This completes the qualifier phase of this year’s main event as all 16 players are set to fight for the crown in September.


One hundred ninety-five players joined the 14-round Swiss on Wednesday. GM Alexey Sarana finished in clear first with 11 points, the same score GM Hikaru Nakamura achieved to win Qualifier 1 Swiss. Once again, having 10 points was enough to move on to the bracket portion, although two players on that score were left out due to lower tiebreaks: GMs Denis Lazavik and Jeffery Xiong.

(See full results here.)

There were some sharks swimming in the water in this qualifier, just as in the last. GMs Magnus Carlsen and Nakamura have already been invited to the main event, but they were allowed to play in the Swiss portion only. This is why GM Aram Hakobyan made it into the bracket stage for finishing in the top-nine.

Carlsen, fresh off his quick draw with GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu in the FIDE World Cup, decided to prepare for his over-the-board tiebreaks (to be played the next day) by cleaning up online. He played eight rounds, calling it a day after a draw with Nakamura (in a game that started 1. a3 h6). 

It seemed to work out for Carlsen in the end, for he won the World Cup for the first time ever the next day.

Besides a loss in round four to GM Kirill Shevchenko, the tournament winner Sarana accumulated nine wins and four draws. His standout result was a win with the black pieces over former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik in round seven.

In that game, Kramnik opted for the time-tested and strong Ne2-f3-e4 plan in the Carlsbad structure, a favorite of at least two other world champions, his former teacher Mikhail Botvinnik and also GM Garry Kasparov.

In response, Sarana showed defensive prowess when facing a strong center, and Kramnik’s piece sacrifice 30.Nxg6, sound at first, did not pan out well for White after an inaccurate follow-up.

A game against Nakamura can often be a death sentence for his opponents, but it wasn’t for GMs Alexandr Shimanov, Shevchenko, and Andreikin. All three players beat the five-time SCC champion, and all three players also made it through to the bracket.

Andreikin’s win was the most technically impressive, where he converted an extra pawn in a long endgame. But Shimanov’s game was more striking, as he achieved a strategically winning position by move 18.

It started with 1. e4 a6, an opening that is becoming kind of a main line in online chess these days.

After making it into the top-nine spots, the players returned the following day to play in the bracket portion. Just two players would make it into the main event.

All Games | Qualifier 2 Swiss


Thursday was full of fresh faces; not one of the eight players below reached this same stage in the previous qualifier. 

Let’s start with the Winners Bracket. Sarana was the first to book his ticket to the main event. The first match was much closer, while the second was quite one-sided as he won three games and drew two.

In his semifinal match against Sarana, Iturrizaga started off with the first win, but after a draw in game two, the Russian-born Serbian GM struck with back-to-back victories. 

The bullet portion decided the match—really, just one bullet game. Itturizaga won the first one (game five overall), but with a victory in the last game, Sarana accrued the 3.5 points needed to advance, barely skirting the armageddon tiebreaks.

It’s not very often that White resigns on move 19 in the main line of the Catalan Opening, but that’s what happened here. Facing a dangerous initiative and already objectively much worse, Iturrizaga blundered a full rook and resigned.

The very first game of Sarana’s final match vs. Andreikin was reminiscent of the last one. This time, the position was equal until Andreikin found the freeway to Forktown.

Sarana won every odd game in the match: games one, three, and five—the match was over before game six. The last one, which was also the first bullet game, featured an artistic mating net in the endgame. There is a fine line, it seems, between an active king and a mated king.

Curiously, both players who lost to Sarana in the Winners Bracket made it through to the final match in the Losers. It was Andreikin who emerged triumphant in the battle of second lives, with the most dominant final match score achieved in either qualifier, 3.5-0.5. Three wins followed by a draw in the last game. 

His first game was the best, featuring an exchange sacrifice for a terrific attack on the light squares:

The second game was not so clean, but terribly exciting. Two times, White (Iturrizaga) went from a winning position to a losing position in a matter of one move. The first time, the winning move was not difficult to find; the second time, it was. Black bounced back and finished the game with a beautiful geometric pattern.

In the third game, Andreikin won the exchange after a long tactical sequence and won yet again.

By this point, commentator Kavutskiy said: “Iturrizaga, simply put, is gonna have to win every single game from here to tie the match.” Despite the Spanish grandmaster reaching a winning advantage at one point, he was unable to gain more than a half-point. The match was over in four games.

Thus, the 16 spots are decided for September. The big question going into the main event is if Nakamura or Carlsen will add another title to their illustrious records, or if a new champion will rise for the first time since the event’s birth in 2016.

All Games | Qualifier 2 Bracket

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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