On Thursday, Parham Maghsoodloo of Iran defeated Alexey Sarana of Russia in the third match of the quarterfinals of the Chess.com Junior Speed Chess Championship by a score of 15-11 in what was a closer match than the scoreline would indicate.
Sarana got off to a quick lead, going up 2-1 in the 5+1 portion of what was a wild match where the player with the black pieces emerged victorious from the first six straight games. Maghsoodloo stormed back as the match wore on, finding a string of results during the shorter time controls, eventually cruising to victory thanks to his bullet prowess.
Maghsoodloo will face the winner of the last quarterfinal between Jeffery Xiong and Benjamin Gledura, which is scheduled for July 16 at 11 a.m. PDT (19:00 CEST). An extended recap of this exciting quarterfinal will be available tomorrow. A preview of today’s match is available after the bracket graphic.
Maghsoodloo won the Iranian Championship in 2017. A year later he scored his first international successes, winning the Mumbai Open and then also the Sharjah Masters.
Maghsoodloo will hope to replicate the success of his Iranian counterpart Alireza Firouzja, who defeated American Sam Sevian 17-10 in yesterday’s first quarterfinal. If he hopes to do so, he’ll need to find inspiration as exhibited in the following game:
In the 2018 Sharjah Masters, Maghsoodloo played a brilliant delayed exchange sac vs. Vladislav Artemiev to secure a nice win.
Coming off the largest margin of victory from the Round of 16, defeating the Italian prodigy Luca Moroni 20-7, Parham should be feeling confident about his chances.
When asked about preparing slow lines for his match vs. Moroni, Parham replied, “I played some of these lines my whole life and I think most of these games I had a position to fight for a win and I knew I had a positional advantage throughout.”
“This is the first time I’ve played 5+1 and also 3+1,” he said, “and I think Luca wasn’t in his best shape […] I was thinking that it would be more difficult but it was a good experience.”
He may have had a good experience vs. Moroni, but he’s preparing for a battle against Sarana: “I think I’ll have a very difficult match coming up against Sarana,” he said.
Born in Moscow, the 19-year-old Sarana (@mishanick) started playing chess when he was five years old. He became an international master in 2016 and a grandmaster a year later.
Reflecting on the unique experience from his round-of-16 match vs. countryman Andrey Esipenko where he emerged the winner by a score of 15-12, Sarana was insightful: “I saw by the first match that unlike in regular online blitz, there is a strong supplementary agitation, which can have a strong impact on the quality of chess.”
He continued: “The dumbest blunders are common, but you should keep playing as if nothing wrong has happened. I should learn that.”
Sarana sees each game as a compartmentalized event: “An individual game can go either way, but its outcome should not affect my next games,” he said.
Despite his observation regarding an increase in blunders, Sarana will be hoping to replicate this blunder-free, dominant endgame from his JSCC match vs. Esipenko.
Sarana recognizes the threat posed by the reigning World Junior Champion: “Parham is one of the most talented junior chess players,” he said. “We played in the same tournaments quite often, but met over the board only once in a classic game and once in a rapid game. He won.”
“If only judging by online blitz, he is the favorite,” said Sarana. “However, I will prepare in the same way as for the first match, there will not be anything special. Probably, I’ll watch the first match of my opponent and try to find his weak spots.”
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.)
“Despite the results of the first match, I still think that I’m more comfortable with 5+1 time control,” said Sarana. “This is especially true vs Parham, who plays even stronger when there is less time for the game.”
Currently rated as the fourth-highest rated blitz player on Chess.com, Parham isn’t letting his recent ascent render him complacent: “Me and Sarana are the same age and have played many games on Chess.com. And okay, we know each other well. I think it will be a very interesting match,” he said.
Asked about his focus on prize money, Maghsoodloo simply replied: “We’re very young and the money isn’t important. Playing to enjoy the chess and improve is much more important at this age.”
The prize fund for the quarterfinal matches is $1,200 each. The winner earns $600 and advances to the first semifinal, while the other $600 is split by win percentage.
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.
Here’s the full schedule for the quarterfinals:
- Firouzja vs. Sevian: July 9 at 9 a.m. PDT
- Wei Yi vs. Van Foreest: July 10 at 8 a.m. PDT
- Maghsoodloo vs. Sarana: July 11 at 9 a.m. PDT
- Xiong vs. Gledura: July 16 at 11 a.m. PDT