The 77th Polish Individual Chess Championship took place in Warsaw from 21st to 28th of July. It was quite a challenge to run the event during the pandemic, but the federation was granted special permission by the government. It was extremely important for the national federation to run this historical tournament and not to abandon the tradition that traces back to 1926. The tournament was held under the patronage of Prime Minister Mr. Mateusz Morawiecki. Minister Lukasz Schreiber, former Polish Champion U10 (he defeated GM Wojtaszek then!) attended the opening ceremony as a special guest. President of Polish Chess Federation GM Jedynak and Mr. Schreiber played a friendly blitz game which eventually ended in a draw after a tense battle (Lukasz Schreiber is an accomplished player, rated 2100).
For the first time in its history, the championship was held in a knock-out format. The exact system was two games of classical chess, then if it is 1-1 the opponents played two rapid games, if 2-2 – two blitz games and if it is 3-3 then Armageddon 5 minutes vs 4 minutes with White having to win.
The tournament started with 16 players and the very first round spang a few surprises. The # 1 seed GM Mateusz Bartel, four-time Polish champion, faced 16th seed 17-year old IM Pawel Teclaf. Bartel had winning or much better positions in each of four games but lost the match 2,5-1,5. The first round was also devastating for one of the favorites GM Bartosz Socko, national coach of Polish team who lost to the eventual runner-up GM Daniel Sadzikowski. With this win, Sadzikowski started his incredible run which eventually propelled him into the final.
In the second round, Sadzikowski and Orzegorz Gajewski qualified for the semifinals but both went through extremely dangerous positions. This is particularly true for Gajewski, whose opponent GM Marcin Dziuba had an overwhelming advantage +15.0 (according to a chess engine) but lost anyway! It looks like the stress of the knock-out system and a long break from tournament chess affected many players.
In the semifinals, Kacper Piorun won over Gajewski 4-3 in Armageddon. It was 2-2 after classical and rapid games, in blitz Piorun delivered first punch, but Gajewski bounced back to make it 3-3. In the decisive Armageddon game, Gajewski chose white but lost and Piorun advanced into the final. Sadzikowski had a smooth sail in rapid games against GM Heberla, who defeated IM Teclaf one round before, ending youngster`s dream-run.
In the final match, four first games were drawn and it went into blitz portion. After Sadzikowski shockingly forfeited on time in a drawish ending in the first game it looked like the end of a story. However, in a second blitz game, he came back sending the black king to the long journey up to the 2nd rank(!) and won a special brilliancy prize (a weekend in a luxury Dr. Irena Eris Spa hotel in the mountains).
With 3-3 on the scoreboard, it came down to decisive Armageddon. Piorun confidently won the game and took the Polish Championship title for the second time in his career.
In the match for third place, Gajewski downed Heberla 1,5-0,5.
With Polish best commentators, GM Pakleza and IM Brodowski on the microphones the tournament had a record-breaking exposure doubling the number of spectators compared to any other previous championship. Only Jan-Krzysztof Duda games in the best events are comparable in terms of viewership.