The denouement of the chess-based film Searching for Bobby Fischer features a match played between a couple of pre-pubescent prodigies, one named Josh Waitzkin and the other Jonathan Poe. Waitzkin was a real-life player, whose father wrote the book on which the movie is based, but fewer people know that his opponent, Poe, was also based on a actual, real-life guy, a young Canadian named Jeff Sarwer.
Sarwer was tipped by many to follow the eponymous Fischer to the very top of the game, but instead disappeared apparently without trace, never to be seen as an adult around the chequered board. But chess's loss is poker's gain. Sarwer has been seen at a few EPT events in recent years, but never so visibly as today. He was in irresistible form on his charge to the summit of the overnight leaderboard, heading into tomorrow's penultimate day of season six in Warsaw.
This may soon become the defining game of Sarwer's career. He is the dominant leader, with 956,500 at this stage, about 400,000 more than his closest challenger. As the ever-exuberant Peter Hedlund observed late on, "Jeff is a Hoover. He'll Hoover all your chips." Of all the many words that pour from Hedlund's mouth, these were among the most astute.
Sarwer got involved in a huge pot against Sorel Mizzi, knocking out the dangerous Imper1um with aces against king-queen. Then aces again accounted for today's early chip leader, Piotr Kilinski. The Polish player's ace-king was crushed, and he fell short of the money.
Carter Phillips knows all about that. Another monster stack before play began, he says he lost 11 coin-flips en route from 299,800 chips overnight to the rail before day was done, taking with him the hopes of becoming the first two-time EPT champion. That particular hex endures.
It was no day to be a World Champion either. Peter Eastgate busted within the first couple of levels, by which point his Team PokerStars Pro colleague Thierry van den Berg had already been out for more than an hour.
That left the startling Luca Pagano to fly the flag alone for the Team. This is now his 12th career EPT cash, extending his record as the most consistent in-the-money finisher in the tour's history.
Pagano will have his work cut out to make it all the way to the final table, though. Top-notch players such as Clayton Mozdzen (574,000), Shaun Deeb (192,500), Antony Lellouche (332,500), Jani Sointula (182,500) and Vitaly Lunkin still remain in this field. It was a small one, but the quality has never been in any doubt.