Variants Community Series Atomic Championship: The Bizarre, Delightful World Of Atomic: Younger Brother Triumphs In Sibling Rivalry

CM Matfey Rogov prevailed in the Atomic Chess Championship of the Variants Community Series (VCS) on Thursday. In a sibling rivalry-fueled Final, he overcame his older brother, Timofey Rogov.

Along the way, Matfey also defeated the top seed, GM Awonder Liang. Inspired by the mayhem of Atomic chess, Matfey and Timofey knocked out all other competitors in their paths to generate an all-in-the-family finale duel.

Final Standings

# Name Prize
1st CM Matfey Rogov $1,000
2nd Timofey Rogov $750
3rd GM Awonder Liang $500
4th Nikolaos Sklavounos $500
5th FM Vasilios Kasioumis $250
6th NM Emilio Hernandez $250
7th Johan Phan $250
8th IM Yoseph Taher $250

The beauty of variants is they take the chess pieces we all know and love on a ride into another world―one far less mapped out by opening theory and ripe for creativity. The explosive captures of Atomic chess tend to speed up the pace of the action. King hunts dictate the game from move one. The board can be ripped open in an instant, leading to a fury of tactics and attack.

Learn Chess 

Here are a few amazing features of Atomic. Prepare for your classic chess brain to explode.

1. Explosions trump check. 

Johan Phan utilized this principle to score a victory vs. Liang in the Quarterfinals. In the diagram below, the American grandmaster played 35…Rf1+, and it looked as if the white king was in dire straits. Yet, Phan was able to ignore the check on his own king to play 36.Qxf8!, exploding Liang’s monarch to win.

Phan vs. Liang

Position after 35…Rf1+

2. The usual hanging-piece alarm that goes off in our minds is a false alarm.

Check out Matfey’s stunning queen en prise vs. NM Emilio Hernandez in the Quarterfinals section below.

3. Not only can kings be next to each other—it’s where they’re safest.

Liang’s king proved invincible vs. two extra queens in game three of his Semifinals match vs. the tournament winner.

Matfey vs. Liang

Position after 65…Kc2!!

See the game finish in the clip from the match below.

Championship Bracket

Signs of Matfey’s Atomic prowess showed in his 3-1 Quarterfinals victory vs. Hernandez. In their last game, Matfey sealed victory with a jaw-dropping tactic: 11.Qd6!!―throwing his queen into Hernandez’s position like a grenade.

Matfey vs. Hernandez

Position after 11.Qd6!!

Matfey threatens both 12.Qxe7 and 12.Qxd8. Though his queen appears to be hanging, both captures lose on the spot. If Black plays 11…exd6, all the pieces around d6 disappear, leaving an open diagonal for the a3-bishop to slice across the board and capture on f8―denotating the black king.

If Black instead captures with 11…Qxd6, again the a3-bishop swoops down the board, this time capturing on e7 to win.

Meanwhile, Timofey defeated FM Vasilios Kasioumis in the closest match of the tournament, triumphing in a double-overtime bullet tiebreak.

In the Semifinals, Matfey faced Liang, the only grandmaster in the field. In game three, the competitors showed a fascinating defensive technique only possible in Atomic chess. Matfey promoted not one but two of his pawns into extra queens. Yet, Liang’s king survived the queen duo’s attack by staying within range of the enemy monarch. Watch the mind-bending finish below.

In their last game, Liang’s queen dreamed of explosions down the h-file, but Matfey’s minor pieces surrounded his opponent’s uncastled king to deliver the knockout blow first. With 2.5-1.5, Matfey advanced.

When Timofey won his own match vs. Nikolaos Sklavounos, scoring 3-1, the brother vs. brother Final was set up.

Matfey drew the first blood. With an imaginative bishop move, he locked up Timofey’s strongest remaining piece, and then his own rook went in for the kill.

Game two featured resourceful play from both competitors, ending in a draw and showing how closely matched they are. In the third game, Timofey blew up the center to clear the way for his queen to chase down his brother’s king, tying the match with one game to go. As commentator Greg Joseph noted: “Big brother doesn’t go down easy.”

Big brother doesn’t go down easy.

-Greg Joseph

It all came down to the last game. Timofey unleashed one of the most dangerous variations in Atomic theory. Yet, Matfey dodged his brother’s threats and found an open path for the queen to hunt down the opposing king, clinching the match with Black. In the end, 17-year-old Matfey triumphed vs. his two-year-old sibling in a closely-fought 2.5-1.5 match.

The variant for the next seven-week cycle is still being determined, and this page will be updated when it’s announced. After the glorious chaos of Atomic chess, where will they go next?


The VCS is a series of events for streamers and the chess variants community. Each seven-week cycle is centered around one variant. Every Thursday for six weeks, participants compete in a two-hour arena of that variant, where the prize fund per cycle is $3,750 plus 610 Twitch/Kick subs.

Players qualify through six weekly arenas to secure their spot in the Championship, which takes place in the seventh and final week. The Atomic Championship was a single-elimination knockout tournament for eight players. Every match consisted of four games played at the 3+2 time control (not one tiebreak was needed this time). The first player to reach 2.5 points won the match. More details can be found here.


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