Eight players have qualified for the 2023 Olympics Esports Series Finals after claiming three victories in the qualifiers on Thursday and Friday: GMs Shant Sargsyan, Samvel Ter-Sahakyan, Oleksandr Bortnyk, Alexey Sarana, Bassem Amin, Maksim Chigaev, Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen and Alexander Rakhmonov.
The biggest comeback of any round was the comeback of Ter-Sahakyan, who won three straight on-call matches to edge Sarana in their first-round match. Only two players, Armenian Ter-Sahakyan and Sargsyan, have won three rounds in a row without losing a match.
17-year-old IM Emin Ohanyan was one match one win away from moving forward, but succumbed to Chigev in the final round. Thus, all eight qualifier winners were great masters.
The OES Finals will be held in Singapore starting at June 23 (to be announced later).
See what happened
Tens of thousands of players have been narrowed down to 16 players in the penultimate stage of the Olympic esports series. The 14 Trials qualifiers joined two invited players (Emin and GM Jose Martinez) to fight in the heats for eight spots in the Finals.
This stage featured the “Elimination Swiss” tournament, the same format used in the 2023 Pro Chess League. Each encounter is a four-game match, with the higher seed white playing first and colors alternating between games. Players who lose three matches are eliminated.
The first two rounds took place on the first day, while the final three rounds concluded on the second day.
Bortnyk was the first to win the match, and he did so in style. Natural moves follow in the checkmate sequence starting at 34. Ng5+, but the king’s quiet final move (albeit a piece down) is as elegant as it is simple.
The Ukrainian leader will go on to win the first two matches and finish the first day with a perfect score. Then he won again on the second day to comfortably qualify for the finals.
Also in the first round, the most exciting and miraculous comeback was Ter-Sahakyan’s comeback against Sarana. After losing the first two games of the match, he needed to win two on call only to force Armageddon to break even.
He manages to do so. With the black pieces, he started with a win after moving to a king and pawn endgame – only one beat was the difference between a win and a draw.
He won the next match with the whites and then managed to win Armageddon with the whites to secure the match. Three wins on demand – In this format, there could be no greater comeback.
In the end, the players ended up convincingly qualifying for the finals. Ter-Sahakyan won 3 matches without losing, while Sarana would not lose another match after this one.
Sarana’s road to glory was successful, but it didn’t come without hiccups. The biggest blunder of the tournament occurred in his match against Chigayev on the second day. After Chigaev caught his rook in one move, Sarana followed by flopping his queen in the next—even in a blitz, misses of this magnitude are very rare among the greats.
In a match between two masters, one player misses the rook, and his opponent misses the queen for the next move! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/fhpqw75MMW
– ChesscomLive (@tweet) May 5, 2023
But he fixed the ship. Sarana managed to win the next match and secure the match despite a creative (but not improper) queen sacrifice by Chigev.
With this win, Sarana advances to the finals. Despite losing this match, Chiguev went on to qualify for the finals by defeating M. Jahly Sokolovsky.
Arguably the most exciting final game of the tournament occurred in Sokolowski against Sargsyan in the second round. Often, one cannot draw a great milestone after flopping a queen.
The Israeli IM succeeded in holding the fort Barkha against Malaka, although objectively it should not have acted. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi showed us how to win the 2020-21 FIDE Candidates Championship against General Manager Anish Giri. They had the same end game (analysed here by GM Dejan Bojkov) but moved one file to the left.
I’ve also included a second way to win using triangulation and zugzwang.
Despite the missed win here, Sargsyan went on to post a perfect 3-0 on both days, a feat only accomplished by fellow Armenian Ter-Sahakyan.
The only match that went to a tiebreaker at Armageddon was Rachmanov against Santos. Four decisive matches (each won by White) resulted in an even score, and Rakhmonov had another point with White winning the match at Armageddon.
However, his cleanest win came in the second game, as the methodical buildup of powers quickly escalated into a deadly tactical strike. General Manager Rafael Letão breaks down our helpful game of the day below.
GM Alexander Shimanov was arguably the saddest event. He scored 2-0 on the first day and needed one win on the second day to move on. It wasn’t meant to be, and he lost all three matches. barely It is never enough in chess.
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