2022 SPICE Cup: Liang outlasts Mishra in Tiebreaks

GM Awonder Liang
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Awonder Liang (courtesy SLCC / Bryan Adams)


The 16th annual Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) Cup took place in St. Louis from December 18-23. 77 players, including 15 grandmasters, representing 18 federations competed in the nine-round event. In the end, GMs Awonder Liang, Abhimanyu Mishra, and Aram Hakobyan shared top honors with 7/9. Liang bested Mishra in an Armageddon playoff to earn the title of SPICE-iest player.


Abhimanyu Mishra
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courtesy SLCC / Austin Fuller


The world's youngest grandmaster, Abhimanyu "Baby SPICE" Mishra, took the early lead with four consecutive wins. His tactical flourish over WGM Tatev Abrahamyan was particularly satisfying.



Armenia's Hakobyan suffered an early setback with a third round loss to Icelandic GM Hedinn Steingrimsson, who kept pressure on Hakobyan in an aggressive Carlsbad Structure and eventually converted his lasting pressure into a winning endgame.



But the tournament's de facto "Scary SPICE" took off from there, winning three straight games before drawing Mishra in the seventh round. His topsy-turvey victory over Liang's collegiate teammate GM Praveen Balakrishnan put him in sole first going into the last game.


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Aram Hakobyan (courtesy Webster University/SPICE)



Hakobyan's last round draw with GM Illia Nyzhnyk allowed Mishra and Liang to catch to Hakobyan and overtake him on tiebreaks. 




Another familiar name, FM Brewington Hardaway, had a chance at his first IM norm with a draw in the last round.


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FM Brewington Hardaway (photo David Llada)


To get to this point, Hardaway had to navigate several impressive endgames, including a piece-heavy win against WIM Zoey Tang and an imbalanced queen ending against IM Irene Sukandar.




While Hardaway was not able to hold the draw against IM Aaron Grabinsky, some of the biggest names in chess were there to remind him that this heartbreak is all part of the process.



Fellow New Yorker FM Liam Putnam had more success, earning his second IM norm. 



Putnam followed the same formula as Hardaway, defeating lower-rated players and holding on to draw when paired up. Likewise, Putnam also had to navigate a number of interesting endgames, including a dreaded two-pawn-up opposite-colored bishop ending against David Zhurbinsky and a rook ending against IM Andrei Macovei where Putnam came close to a win!




Quick Links

2022 Spice Cup pairings and standings

Live games -- Lichess

Live games -- Chess.com

SPICE at Webster University