Sponsored by ChessKid, the Chess.com Junior Speed Chess Championship continues on Tuesday with its fifth match, this time between the two Russian talents Alexey Sarana and Andrey Esipenko.
Now that the left half of the bracket has delivered four quarter-finalists, the right half will be picking up today with its first match in the round of 16.
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.
Sarana’s breakthrough tournament was the 2018 Higher League of the Russian Championship. He scored 6.5/9 and edged out GM Grigoriy Oparin on tiebreak.
Sarana scored a nice win vs. Boris Gelfand at the 2018 Nutcracker tournament.
This season he played in the PRO Chess League for the Australia Kangaroos, and scored 26.5 out of 38.
“PCL was a very fun thing to play,” he said. “It was cool that the games started at about 5 a.m. in my time zone, no inconvenience at all. On the contrary, I played better.”
He also plays in Titled Tuesdays regularly, but that is tougher somehow: “They start in the evenings and I played in all TTs very poorly. Maybe I play better in the morning when I wake up. My best match [vs. the San Francisco Mechanics] was the only one when I got 4/4.”
The 17-year-old Esipenko (@Andreikka) also started playing when he was five years old. “I learned chess in Novocherkassk, in the Rostovskaya oblast, which is a region with great chess traditions,” he told Chess.com.
Our Russian translator Yury Solomatin pointed out that Igor Bondarevsky grew up in Rostov as well, while Vladimir Dvorkovich (the father of the current FIDE president) was from Taganrog (60 km from Rostov) and annual memorials tournaments are held in their names. Dmitry Kryakvin also lives in Rostov.
Esipenko named his win against Sergey Karjakin at the 2017 World Rapid Championship, a month after he had become a GM, as his best so far.
In 2016, he won the European Championship U14 and took silver the World Juniors U14. In 2017 he won the World Juniors U16.
Earlier this year, Esipenko played in the challengers group of the prestigious Tata Steel Chess tournament, where he tied for second place behind the winner, Belarusian GM Vladislav Kovalev.
“Wijk was really cool,” Esipenko said “I hope to get another invitation to the Netherlands and make my first appearance in the main tournament.”
When interviewed before the match, the players didn’t want to point out a favorite.
Sarana: “Everything will depend on the playing shape and it is hard to foretell. I think that we have even chances.”
Esipenko: “Alexey and me, we have a long history of encounters, so I’d like to do everything to win.”
Sarana will be playing from his home, in the Znamya Oktyabrya community in Moscow, about 40 km from the center of Moscow and 6 km from the center of Podolsk, the nearest town.
Esipenko, however, will be making his moves from his hotel in Poikovsky, where he is currently playing in the strong Karpov Tournament. At the time of writing, he is playing the aforementioned Kovalev again.
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.)
Where do they think they will strike?
Sarana: “I do not know, but I can’t move pieces too fast, thus I’ll try to take more points in the five-minute games.”
Esipenko: “I’ll try to get the maximum of points in all games of the match. I like both the usual blitz and hazardous bullet games.”
The prize fund for the first-round matches is $800 each. The winner earns $400 and advances to round two, while the other $400 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 of the round of 16:
- Van Foreest vs. Tari: May 16 (14.5-13.5, news report)
- Firouzja vs. Martinez Alcantara: May 21 at 9 a.m. Pacific (18.0-7.0, news report)
- Wei Yi vs. Praggnanandhaa: May 31 at 9 a.m. Pacific (14.5-11.5, news report)
- Sevian vs. Sarin: June 3 at 9 a.m. Pacific (17-8, news report)
- Sarana vs. Esipenko: June 11 at 10 a.m. Pacific (19:00 CEST)
- Xiong vs. Smirnov: June 14 at 5 p.m. Pacific (June 15, 02:00 a.m. CEST)
- Maghsoodloo vs. Moroni: June 17 at 9 a.m. Pacific (18:00 CEST)
- Gledura vs. Liang: June 18 at 10 a.m. Pacific (19:00 CEST)