Wei Yi Defeats Xiong In Armageddon To Win Junior Speed Chess Championship

On Saturday, Wei Yi defeated Jeffery Xiong in an armageddon tiebreak to be crowned champion of the 2019 Junior Speed Chess Championship. The match ended 16-16 but Wei Yi was able to secure a draw in the decisive game to hand him the win. Despite clear chances to win in the last two games of the bullet portion, Xiong let the pressure mount and eventually conceded to Wei Yi, forcing a four-game overtime mini-match of 1+1 bullet. In the last game of overtime, Wei Yi beautifully calculated a winning king-and-pawn endgame which won by a single tempo to force a 5/3 armageddon tiebreak.

As the higher-rated blitz player on Chess.com, Xiong had his choice of white with time advantage or black with draw odds and quickly decided on white.

Special guest commentator Hikaru Nakamura commented on Xiong’s performance in armageddon, “Oh man, we’re headed in a direction where I think we’re headed towards a draw.” Sure enough, after an ill-advised Re2, Wei Yi was able to hold a comfortable draw once he had clawed back the time advantage Xiong had started the tiebreak with.

Wei Yi managed to close a two-game gap over the span of four minutes during the bullet portion

With the win, Wei Yi claims the first place prize for the Junior Speed Chess Championship in addition to qualifying for the main Speed Chess Championship.

A comprehensive recap will be published Sunday. Here is a preview of Saturday’s championship match:

Hikaru Nakamura will be guest commentator during the final of the Chess.com Junior Speed Chess Championship, sponsored by ChessKid. Top juniors Wei Yi and Jeffery Xiong will play for the championship.

The winner of the Junior Speed Chess Championship will be directly seeded into the 2019 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship, which will start later this month.

You can watch Wei Yi vs. Jeffery Xiong on Saturday, August 10, at 6 p.m. Pacific (03:00 a.m. CEST) with commentary by GM Hikaru Nakamura and IM Danny Rensch on Chess.com/TV and Twitch.tv/chess.

Born in Yancheng, Jiangsu, China, the 20-year-old Wei Yi (@LOVEVAE) is the top junior in the world and the top seed in our championship. Nobody crossed the 2700 Elo mark at a younger age than he did: 15 years, eight months and three days—only two years after becoming a GM.

Now a household name, Wei was part of the Olympic team that won the 2014 Tromso Olympiad. He won the Chinese championships of 2016 and 2017, and in the same year he clinched the first prize at the Danzhou Super-GM tournament.

Wei just finished the Belt & Road tournament in Changsha, Hunan, China in a tie for fourth place with 6/9.

Wei Yi’s immortal game from 2015.

The Chinese GM reached the final of the Junior Speed Chess Championship by eliminating Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, Jorden van Foreest and Alireza Firouzja. (The latter nonetheless managed to qualify for the main Speed Chess Championship last Wednesday.)

Having traveled a lot in recent months, playing his matches in different hotels, Wei will be able to play the final from his home in Beijing. To prepare for the match, he said he plans to “sleep well and keep a good mood.”

Wei Yi Junior speed chess championship

Born in Plano, Texas, the 18-year-old Xiong (@jefferyx) also became a grandmaster at a very young age. He was 14 when he won the 2015 Chicago Open to claim the GM title.

In 2016 he won the U.S. Junior Championship and then also the World Junior Chess Championship, with a round to spare. In both 2018 and 2019 he won the St. Louis Spring Classic.

Perhaps Xiong’s best game so far.

Xiong reached the final by eliminating Anton Smirnov, Benjamin Gledura and Parham Maghsoodloo.

He will be playing his match from Las Vegas and plans to prepare a bit: “My match preparation will be similar to the previous rounds. Get some training games in, and decide what openings I’ll use.”

Jeffery Xiong Junior Speed Chess Championship

Wei couldn’t make a clear prediction for the final: “We [haven’t seen] each other very often, and we never played with each other before. So I can’t guess the result accurately.”

Asked what he knows about his opponent, the Chinese GM replied: “I feel he plays chess very [actively]. He loves to play sharp openings, for example [the] Najdorf. His attack is always powerful—for example, his game with Shankland at the 2019 U.S. championship.”

Xiong knows Wei well: “I think the first time I heard about him was after the 2013 Reykjavik Open. He had turned in an incredible performance, with the highlight being his win over MVL. I was completely impressed by the accuracy of his play, especially in sharp positions.

“However what jumped out at me the most was his demeanor. He was only 14 at the time, but it was already clear that he had the maturity of an adult. Since this moment, in terms of keeping my emotions, I always try to follow his example.”

The American GM sees himself as the slight underdog: “In the match against Firouzja, I noticed how quickly Wei was able to find resources, especially in defense. If he is as sharp on Saturday, I consider him the favorite. However, I will be looking forward to the challenge.”

Hikaru Nakamura 2019 Speed Chess Championship
Hikaru Nakamura will be a guest commentator.

The match will start with 90 minutes of 5|1 blitz, continue with 60 minutes of 3|1 blitz, and end with 30 minutes of 1|1 bullet. (Find all regulations here.)

The prize fund for the final match is $4,000. The winner earns $2,000 and qualifies for the main Speed Chess Championship, while the remaining $2,000 is split by win percentages.

The Junior Speed Chess Championship is sponsored by ChessKid, the world’s number-one site for kids to learn and play chess. All JSCC matches are broadcast live with chess-master commentary on Chess.com/TV and Twitch.tv/chess.

You can watch Wei Yi vs. Jeffery Xiong on Saturday, August 10, at 6 p.m. Pacific (03:00 a.m. CEST) with commentary by GM Hikaru Nakamura and IM Danny Rensch on Chess.com/TV and Twitch.tv/chess.

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