In a heart-pounding climax to the inaugural Global Chess League, the title was decided in a thrilling sudden-death blitz tiebreaktiebreak in which Triveni Continental Kings triumphed over upGrad Mumba Masters.
Dubai, July 2, 2023: The inaugural edition of the Global Chess League reached its climax in the grand final, which took place at the Le Meridien Hotel in Dubai. In a never-before-seen nail-biting ending to a chess event, the winner was decided through three stages of tiebreakstiebreaks.
After two rounds of rapid ending in a draw, and then another two rounds of blitz in which the opponents split the points again, the champions were decided in a series of sudden-death blitz games where the decisive outcome came in the fourth game.
In a spectacular finish, Danish 19-year-old Grandmaster Jonas Bjerre brought victory for Triveni Continental Kings after defeating Uzbek 17-year-old prodigy Javokhir Sindarov in a suspenseful game.
Bjerre, who was one of the most inexperienced players in the tournament and lost most of his games, delivered the crucial victory to his team when it mattered. After suffering four losses to Sindarov, in a drawn-even endgame which the Uzbek player decided to force, Bjerre got the upper hand and won.
“The last game was incredibly tense. It was really exciting. I’m still shivering”, said Bjerre, whose journey in this tournament can be described as - from zero to hero.
“Levon (team captain) told me - just fight; if you win this game, you will win the event”, Bjerre added.
With this crucial victory, Bjerre not only clinched the title for his team but also won the $500,000 prize. The overall prize fund for the tournament was a stunning one million.
The rapid matches
The Champion was decided between the Triveni Continental Kings (led by one of the strongest world GMs, Levon Aronian) and upGrad Mumba Masters (headed by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the 2021 World Blitz Champion) in rapid, blitz and sudden-death matches.
The finals consisted of two rapid matches and the winners had to take both of them. In case of a draw (each team winning one match), the winner would have been decided in a blitz match. As per regulations, the choice of colours was determined by a coin flip. Luck would have it that Triveni Continental Kings will play as White.
In the first match, Triveni Continental Kings emerged victorious after turning around games on two boards, winning by 9:7. The key game of the match was played between Levon Aronian, who defeated Maxime Vacheir-Lagrave in a sharp and complicated battle.
In the second match, upGrad staged a confident comeback. Dominating from the outset, they defeated Triveni by a score of 12:3.
With both sides tied, the grand finale was heading for the 2-round blitz tiebreak where players had three minutes each, with a two-second increment per move.
In a blitz game, the pressure is on, and even the best can make costly errors in a flash. Still, among the 12 players in the finals, four were former world blitz champions - Mumba’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alexander Grischuk and Triveni’s Levon Aronian and Kateryna Lagno.
Triveni Continental Kings played as White in the first blitz round. In a spectacular performance, upGrad Mumba Masters dominated across the boards. With confident victories on boards three, five and six, Mumba Masters got the first blitz round in the bag early on. The other games ended with two draws (MVL and Lagno drew), while Yu Yangyi defeated Alexander Grischuk, helping Triveni avoid being completely crushed. The final result was 14:5 for Mumba.
The tables had turned, and it was now on Triveni to equalize. With Mumba playing with white pieces, it wasn’t going to be easy for either side.
Tension was huge, not just on the boards - the sister of Mumba’s Vidit Gujrathi was seen in the audience shaking from excitement, while most of the spectators were on the edge of their seats.
In a thrilling blitz showdown, Triveni mounted a fierce comeback, seizing the victory from Mumba by 13:7 and turning the tide in their favour. With Mumba and Triveni each claiming a win, the ultimate champion was decided in a heart-pounding sudden-death match.
The sudden death match was to be played on one board, not six. The board was selected by the drawing of the lots. As fate would have it, the first board selected was number five: it was a duel between Sara Khadem, who came in as a replacement for Triveni, and India’s Harika Dronavalli. Just before the game started, players of both teams entered the playing arena in a show of camaraderie and anticipation.
The game between Khadem and Dronavalli was tough. White got an extra pawn, but it was not enough for a winning advantage. As the game progressed, both sides pushed but objectively, it should have ended in a draw. But Harika was pressing, but Khadem held her ground and forced a draw.
The sudden death match continued. In the second drawing of the lots, board five was not included. The draw saw board two selected, where former world blitz Champion Alexander Grischuk went up against one of the world’s strongest players, Yu Yangyi.
In a fiercely contested battle, Yu Yangyi managed to create a 2:1 pawn advantage in a gripping endgame. With victory in sight, Yu Yangyi pursued the win, but Grischuk was defying the odds and holding. Amidst the ticking clock and mounting pressure, Yu Yangyi had to settle for a draw just moments away from losing on time.
In the next - third(!) - drawing of lots, with numbers five and two removed, board four came up announcing a duel between 3-time world blitz champion Kateryna Lagno and India’s strongest woman player and the first woman to become Grandmaster, Koneru Humpy. In yet another suspenseful game, Koneru Humpy got the upper hand against Lagno and achieved a winning position. In a desperate scramble, Lagno managed somehow to fight back and escape with a draw, to Koneru’s disbelief.
Now, the fourth sudden death pair was to be determined, and in the drawing of lots, board number six was selected - it was up to the chess prodigies to take destiny into their own hands. This pairing strongly favoured upGrad Mumba Masters as Javokhir Sindarov won all four games against Triveni’s board six Jonas Bjerre.
The game was sharp and saw Sindarov take the upper hand as in previous matches. However, Bjerre managed to hang on. In an even endgame, Sindarov decided to decline a draw and push. In the crucial moment, however, he blundered checkmate in one, which Bjerre immediately delivered. As Sindarov looked in disbelief, the arena erupted with applause.
Triveni Continental Kings - who hit bottom at the start of the League and had setbacks with the team - in the end, clinched the title.
A spectacular finish to the first edition of the Global Chess League.
Match 1: Triveni Continental Kings Vs. upGrad Mumba Masters – 9:7
Match 2: upGrad Mumba Masters Vs. Triveni Continental Kings – 12:3
Players of the match
King of the match: Jonas Bjerre
Queen of the match: Kateryna Lagno
King of the series:
GM Praggnanandhaa R. from SG Alpine Warriors
Queen of the series:
GM Tan Zhongyi from Balan Alaskan Knights
Text: Milan Dinic
Photos: Global Chess League
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About Tech Mahindra Global Chess League:
The Global Chess League is the world's first and largest official franchise league of its kind, with chess players from all over the world competing in a unique joint team format. It is a joint venture between Tech Mahindra, a part of the Mahindra Group, and FIDE. The league will feature male and female chess champions competing in the same team. Playing on the popular Rapid format, the league's joint male-female teams will have the rare distinction of being a unique multiplayer team in the world of professional sports. In addition, the League will be the first ever Live televised chess event of its kind that will help offer fans a unique viewing experience. Tech Mahindra and FIDE will explore innovative ways to promote the game through interactive technology-enabled platforms by leveraging next-generation technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality, among others.
For more information on Tech Mahindra Global Chess League, please visit: globalchessleague.com/
Abhilasha Gupta, Global Corporate Communications and Public Affairs