2022 Summer Chess Classic - Days 7-9 Recap


After 6 rounds, the Summer Classic was shaping up to be one for the ages. In both groups, an astounding 7 out of 10 players remained within a point of first place, leaving everything to play for in the last 3 rounds. 

Day 7:

In the B-Group, co-leaders Cemil Can Ali Marandi and Guillermo Vazquez both had the unenviable task of defending their slim lead with the black pieces. Of the chasing pack, it was up to Kamil Dragun to test Vazquez while Zhou Jianchao took on Ali Marandi. 

Dragun took a conservative approach against Vazquez. While the position appeared complex, it was nothing more than a memory test as the entire game was a well-trodden theory of the Nimzo Indian. Vazquez passed the test, choosing the same defense that Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played against David Nava in 2019. 

Meanwhile, Zhou Jianchao ran into trouble in the fashionable “Dubov Tarrasch” against Ali Marandi.  Zhou faced heavy pressure on the queenside, and soon found himself in a difficult endgame, staring down a passed b-pawn. The game featured wild swings in evaluation until Ali Marandi failed to find his final chance on move 76. He had an astounding line beginning with 76… Kb6, using threats of winning king and pawn endgames and zugzwang to eventually win a second pawn (see annotations). Following this, Zhou defended perfectly, securing a draw. While he was never in danger, Cemil Can missed a great opportunity to put some much-needed distance between himself and his competitors.

The A-Group featured a near-identical tournament situation with co-leaders Benjamin Gledura and Yu Yangi attempting to defend their lead with black. 

Up against pre-tournament favorite and current leader Yu Yangyi, the young American phenom Abhimanyu Mishra chose an offbeat opening line. Yu easily equalized with 12…Nxd4. This forced Mishra into a symmetrical pawn structure, where perhaps it’s white who is under pressure facing black’s slightly more active bishops. While Mishra wasn’t able to put Yu Yangyi in danger, he deftly avoided any trouble himself and the game soon ended in a draw.

Benjamin Gledura was not so fortunate against Jonas Bjerre. Transposing into a Tarrasch defense, the players soon found themselves in a deceptively complex opening. While the structure was fully symmetrical, subtle differences in piece placement (notably Black’s bishop on e7 compared to White’s bishops on b2 and b1) allowed Bjerre to apply some pressure to Black’s kingside. Perhaps he took this idea a step too far with 19. Qf3?!, but his gamble paid off in the ensuing complications. Gledura was unable to defend against the stunning sacrifice of 20. Bxh7+! and soon surrendered his place at the top of the leaderboard.

Following these results, Yu Yangyi found himself as the sole leader, followed closely by Abhi Mishra and Jonas Bjerre.

Yu Yangyi early in his round 8 game against Aram Hakobyan

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

Day 8:

The B-group’s round 8 was unfortunately marred by the absence of Brandon Jacobson, who had to withdraw due to illness. With his forfeiture, Cemil Can Ali Marandi found himself in sole first place, while Guillermo Vazquez suddenly needed to win in order to maintain his spot as co-leader. Vazquez achieved some opening pressure in a tricky Alapin Sicilian against Zhou Jianchao, but Zhou’s counterplay down the c-file proved to be sufficient to hold the position.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Antipov quietly took care of business by defeating John Burke with black. Burke had a fantastic position following the opening, but lost his way amidst the complications with 34. Ng4. Following his opponent’s response of h5, he surely had planned to play Nh6, but perhaps he lost his nerve upon spotting the trick line of 35… Ne5! 36. b4 dxc3 37. bxc5 Rd4. Black has sacrificed a piece, but White is facing tremendous pressure with a weak king, trapped knight, and a potentially dangerous enemy pawn on c3. Instead, Burke retreated back with Nh2, allowing Antipov to take over the game.

In the A-group, the ever-dangerous Yu Yangyi secured a more comfortable lead with a win over Aram Hakobyan. With 4… a6, Hakobyan tried to take the game into strange waters, but Yu secured a safe advantage in the ensuing variation. Out of the opening, the structure was symmetrical, but Yu clearly had the superior bishop. Slowly but surely, he ratcheted up the pressure on the queenside. Hakobyan defended admirably, but Yu eventually cashed in his advantage in activity for a dangerous passed d-pawn. With his opponent’s pieces tied down, Yu went on to win by combining the threat of his passed pawn with threats against the king.

Heading into the final day, the B-group saw Ali Marandi hold a narrow ½ point lead over competitors Mikhail Antipov and Guillermo Vazquez, while in the A-group, Yu Yangyi was comfortably a full point ahead of second place Abhimanyu Mishra.

Mikhail Antipov with the black pieces against John Burke

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

Day 9:

The A-group saw no major surprises in the final round. Abhimanyu Mishra was the only player mathematically capable of catching Yu Yangyi, but he was unable to find a way forward against a solid Nikolas Theodorou. In the end, Mishra never had a chance as Yu Yangyi further extended his lead with a win over Jonas Bjerre. 

It should be noted that Yu Yangyi chose the surprising, 11… Nd5!? against a rather innocuous line of the Catalan. With just a half-point needed to secure tournament victory, it was great to see Yu Yangyi give himself a chance to outplay his opponent for a full point. Yu soon had a firm grip on the position with a powerful knight on d3, and he never let go. Jonas collapsed under the pressure, granting Yu Yangyi a tremendous score of 6/8 - a full point and a half ahead of the field.

Things did not prove to be so easy for the round 8 leader of group B, Cemil Can Ali Marandi. To win the tournament without tiebreaks, he would need a full point in the final round as Guillermo Vazquez won by forfeit against the unfortunately ill Brandon Jacobson. Ali Marandi also found himself playing black against Mikhail Antipov, who needed a victory to make the tiebreaks.

Things began smoothly for Ali Marandi, who equalized with a quick 11… d5 in the Ruy Lopez. The tide began to change following his Nd7-b6 maneuver. With Black’s knight leaving the kingside, Antipov provoked some concessions with the smart maneuver of Nf1-e3-g4. Black chose to capture on g4, giving White an advantageous structure and the pair of bishops. Sensing the danger, Ali Marandi went for complications with 28… Bd4 to try to take advantage of White’s temporarily undefended pieces. Antipov played well, sacrificing his f2 pawn in order to invade. On the verge of victory, Antipov faltered and failed to find numerous ways to end the game. Eventually, Ali Marandi had a brief chance to save the game with 49… f5, granting his king an important flight square on f6. Instead, he opted for 49… h5 which wasn’t sufficient to defend his king. Antipov allowed no more chances and ended the game with a beautiful checkmate pattern after 57. Ng4+!. Antipov had secured his place in the tiebreaks, while simultaneously eliminating Ali Marandi from contention.


Following Mikhail Antipov’s thrilling victory, he was up against the formidable, and fresh, Guillermo Vazquez. While Antipov was battling, Vazquez had a default win against Brandon Jacobson. The players were set to play the 2-game rapid tiebreak, and if needed, a following armageddon game. 

Perhaps this rest helped Vazquez in game 1 as he maneuvered through a tricky pawn sacrifice by Antipov. The game was wild and full of mistakes, but one always had the feeling that Vazquez held the upper hand, both on the board and clock. Eventually, it was clear that Black’s tenuous position would not hold together, and Vazquez navigated to an easily winning endgame.

With his back against the wall, Mikhail Antipov proved his mettle in game 2. In some strange home preparation, he sacrificed his queen for a rook and bishop in less than 15 seconds. For compensation, he had the upper hand in king safety. Vazquez was unfazed, and once again seized the upper hand with Antipov spending 7 of his 10 minutes on the following three moves, only to end up in a lost position. With a draw securing match victory, Vazquez used his advantage to simplify the position into a drawn endgame. Seemingly out of nowhere, Vazquez’s long-term issue with king safety reared its ugly head. Following 28… Qh4??, Antipov struck with 29. Rd5! threatening both Rxe5 and checkmate on the side of the board. As is often the case, one blunder beget another, and Vazquez continued to err with 29… Kb7. Antipov saved his bishop with a check and won a full piece with Rxe5. He had saved his tournament chances and earned a spot in the Armageddon game.

Mikhail Antipov in his second must-win game against Guillermo Vazquez 

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

The deciding game had finally arrived. Antipov had white in the Armageddon game and incredibly, found himself in a third must-win game in a single day. He chose the Italian, and the ever-solid Vazquez equalized without difficulty. Searching for a breakthrough, Antipov infiltrated down the a-file. Eventually, a hasty Qxa7?! by Vazquez traded the queens, but granted Antipov a small plus by allowing white’s rook to remain deep in black’s position. This small plus soon grew, as the rook on a7 was joined by a powerful knight on d6. Under pressure, Vazquez collapsed with Ne8??, allowing Antipov to snag an important pawn on f7. He converted this pawn advantage into a winning endgame and walked away the champion of the B-group.

A-group Champion Yu Yangyi in front of the World Chess Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Austin Fuller

With such a thrilling conclusion to the B-Group, and the impressive domination by Yu Yangyi in the A-Group, the 2022 Summer Classic was truly an instant classic.