Gukesh, Jobava & co. fight to join Adhiban, Duda & Le in Banter Blitz Cup final

Gukesh, fresh from his Gelfand Challenge triumph, takes on Johan Sebastian Christiansen today as the San Fermin Banter Blitz Cup qualifiers continue. The D Qualifier also sees the likes of Baadur Jobava and 14-year-old Grandmaster Marc’Andria Maurizzi in action. They’re fighting to join the already qualified Adhiban, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Liem Quang Le in an 8-player final that will decide a player in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and also next month’s San Fermin festival in Pamplona, where World Champion Magnus Carlsen plays.

The month-long Banter Blitz Cup qualifying features eight 8-player knockouts, and with the D Qualifier starting today we reach the midway point. As you can see, it’s quite a line-up, with today’s quarterfinals including some real prodigies: 15-year-old Gukesh holds the record as the 2nd youngest grandmaster of all time, 14-year-old Maurizzi recently became the youngest ever French Grandmaster and 20-year-old Polina Shuvalova was the 2019 World Girls Junior Champion.

The likes of dancing chess genius Baadur Jobava and Argentinian no. 1 and Meltwater Champions Chess Tour player Alan Pichot require no introduction.

The schedule for today, Wednesday June 16th, is as follows (all times CEST).

  • 15:00: Christiansen vs. Gukesh
  • 17:00: Cheparinov vs. Shuvalova
  • 19:00: Jobava vs. Santos
  • 21:00: Pichot vs. Maurizzi

It’s best of eight 3+2 blitz games, and you can follow all the action with live computer analysis and commentary by the players here on chess24. Select the player you want to listen to by clicking on the flags under the video.

Three qualifiers have already finished, so let’s take a brief look at how they went.

Qualifier A winner: Jan-Krzysztof Duda

23-year-old Polish no. 1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda is one of the world’s best rapid and blitz players, so it was no real surprise when he blew away Sabino Brunelli (4.5:0.5) and Raunak Sadhwani (5:0) to reach the final.

His opponent there was 17-year-old US rising star Hans Niemann, who this year has gained over 80 classical rating points and earned the grandmaster title. Hans beat David Anton (4.5:3.5) and Vahap Sanal (5:2) in very entertaining matches on the way to the final, before commenting, “This is my chance to shock the chess world – I’m not going to waste it!”

Although in the end he fell short, he was the first player to inflict some damage on Duda.

You can replay all the games here: Banter Blitz Cup A Qualifier

And here’s Duda’s commentary on the final (you can also find Hans here, though this link will later stop working):

Qualifier B winner: Liem Quang Le

2013 World Blitz Champion Liem Quang Le recently got a new accolade to put on his CV when he turned out to be no. 2 among the Top 50 players on GM David Smerdon’s new Fighting Chess Index.

In fact, the Vietnamese no. 1 is the most fighting active chess player in the world, since the no.1 on the index, Vladimir Kramnik, retired from classical chess in 2019 – though we’ll see the 14th World Chess Champion in action early next week when he plays the blitz section of the Paris Rapid & Blitz.

Liem eased through his first match 5:1 against Kamil Plichta, but the most memorable moment was the kind of inexplicable slip-up that happens to us all!

He then fought back from losing the first two games to defeat Spain’s Jaime Santos 4.5:3.5.

The final was an all-Saint Louis and even all-Webster University clash with 26-year-old US GM Ray Robson, who beat Alexandr Fier (4.5:2.5) and Alexander Donchenko (4.5:2.5). The final looked set to be a walkover when Liem raced to a 4:0 lead and needed just half a point to clinch victory. 

Picking up one game wasn’t yet enough for Ray to believe…

But then he won the next two as well, before Liem Quang Le squeezed through with the draw he needed in the final game.

You can replay all the games here: Banter Blitz Cup B Qualifier

And here’s Liem’s commentary on the final:

Qualifier C winner: Adhiban

This was perhaps the most enjoyable bracket yet. In his first match Indian maverick Adhiban betrayed everything he stood for by opening 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4 and 1.e4 on the way to scraping past Argentina’s Diego Flores 4.5:3.5. Finally he switched to 1.b3 to defeat Russia’s Grigoriy Oparin 4.5:2.5 and reach the final.

Peter Svidler’s path to the final began with two losses before a 5-game winning streak against Brazilian GM Paulo Supi. In the semi-final he had to come back from 3.5:1.5 down to defeat Polish-born, US-based GM Dariusz Swiercz by winning the two overtime games.

The final was a thriller and was the first match to go all the way to Armageddon!

It was packed with some unbelievable moments, with the main craziness beginning at what seemed set to be the final game of the match. Peter Svidler had to win with the black pieces, and even though Adhiban blundered in a winning position, Peter correctly understood that good moves gave him nothing more than perpetual check. He played 37…Nf6, which was objectively losing.


p class=”p1″>Peter also managed to give a long farewell speech to the match, only for Adhiban to play 38.Bd4?? (38.Be5+! with check is sufficient) and walk into 38…Qc1#

That meant the scores were tied 2:2 and we had two extra blitz games. Peter won the first, and although he was shaken by some nice tactics from Adhiban in the second, he was in fact better on the penultimate move in a game where he only needed a draw.

27…Qe5! and Black is doing well, but Peter unwittingly made up for Adhiban’s blunder a couple of games earlier by playing 27…Qe6??, which was no mouse slip. 28.Qxg7# was an end to the game so abrupt that Peter took a while to realise that it wasn’t either a server error or that he’d somehow clicked resign by mistake.

For a while the 8-time Russian Champion couldn’t stop laughing, but he had to pull himself together for Armageddon. Peter had White and 5 minutes to Adhiban’s 4, but he had to win on demand. He was looking well on course for that, but things had started to go awry before he played the disastrous 26.Qa7??

White is threatening to snack on a6, but suddenly 26…Ra8 simply ended the game and match – there’s no way back for the white queen!

That meant Adhiban had clinched victory after playing 1.b3 in all five of his white games in the final.

You can replay Adhiban’s commentary below (and Peter is here):

It was definitely one of the events of the week!

Tune into the D Qualifier matches from 15:00 CEST right here on chess24!

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