The Trials Phase of the Olympic Esports Series 2023 concluded with the following players qualifying for the next stage: GMs Shant Sargsyan, Christopher Yoo, Oleksandr Bortnyk, Aleksandr Rakhmanov, Maksim Chigaev, and 17-year-old IM Yahli Sokolovsky.
As Caissa would have it, two of these winners initially lost in a final before ultimately winning another later. Sargsyan defeated Bortnyk in the ninth Trial final, but the Ukrainian grandmaster recovered and won in the 11th. Similarly, Sokolovsky took down Rakhmanov in the 12th final, but the latter tasted sweet victory after another attempt, in the 13th.
14 players from the Trials and two invited players move on to the Preliminaries, which will begin on May 4 at 8 a.m. PT / 17:00 CET.
See what happened
With hundreds of games occurring between Trials 9 and 14, there are too many stories to tell. So we focus on two cases where the same player won the final on their second attempt.
As was the case in a few other Trials, the first-place finisher of the Swiss happened to also win the knockout that followed. In the ninth Trial, it was Sargsyan, and he took down Bortnyk in their first game after the latter blundered a pawn.
Would you find this move in a blitz game? Put on a timer to test yourself.
White to play and win a pawn.
Bortnyk was back with vengeance two Trials later, though. After finishing second in the Swiss, he defeated GM P Iniyan to face FM Read Samadov in the final of the knockout. The second time was the charm. Bortnyk sacrificed a pawn to ruin his opponent’s pawn structure, and in the long term, it paid off.
In the final position, he was two pawns down but winning, a good example of piece quality over quantity in chess.
Just one non-grandmaster managed to best the field in the last five Trials of this season. The teenage IM from Israel, Sokolovsky, defeated Rakhmanov in the semifinals and then beat FM Garg Aradhya in the final to win the 12th Trial. This was just one of two finals that did not feature a single grandmaster (the eighth Trial was the only other).
Sokolovsky actually defeated Rakhmanov twice in the same event. The first time was in round three of the Swiss. They played again in the knockout portion, where the youngster sealed victory with a few pawn promotion tactical tricks. He drew the following game to win the match.
Rakhmanov came back and won the following Trial, however. He managed to finish first in the Swiss and then defeat GM Jon Ludvig Hammer to win the final.
This wraps up the Trials Phase of the event and we’re off to the Preliminaries. This next phase will determine the eight players who will play in the Finals, taking place in Singapore starting on June 22.
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