2017 World Blitz Championship, Day 1: Karjakin Leads with 9/11
Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 1:57AM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2017 World Rapid & Blitz Championships, Sergey Karjakin

There are still 10 rounds to be played, so nothing is settled yet. But it's an excellent start for Sergey Karjakin who leads the World Blitz Championship with an undefeated 9 out of 11. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is in clear second, half a point back, and then six players have eight points a piece. (Wang Hao, Peter Svidler, Yu Yangyi, Ding Liren, Le Quang Liem, and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.) Five players have 7.5 points, and the board 1 guy is in a 19-way tie with 7 points.

Magnus Carlsen had an adventurous day, as all of us who watched the broadcast know, since his games were always shown from start to finish, no matter how interesting the pairings on the other boards and no matter how many people were ahead of him on the crosstable. His games were interesting, generally very good, and full of drama, but even so it would be nice if the commentators would at least pretend that there are other people in the tournament who can play good chess and whose games might be worth watching.

His weirdest adventure came in round 1. He was outplaying Ernesto Inarkiev quite nicely, and his 27.Rxb7+! was a nice touch. Inarkiev had a problematic decision to make: how should he get out of the check? Should he take with the rook or the king, or just move the king away? In a fit of inspiration, Inarkiev found an in-between move: 27...Ne3+!! But this was not yet his best move. When Carlsen, very short of time, replied with 28.Kd3, Inarkiev immediately called over the arbiter and pointed out that Carlsen had made an illegal move. Brilliant! The befuddled arbiter agreed, and Inarkiev was awarded the full point.

This belongs in the dictionary as a definition of chutzpah, akin to the kid who murders his parents and asks the jury to feel sorry for him because he's an orphan. Thankfully, this trick, dirty or not, didn't work. The result was appealed, and first the committee thought the game should be counted as a draw. That's better, but still incorrect. Then they ruled - correctly - that they should play on from the position after 27.Rxb7+. Inarkiev wasn't interested in playing out the lost position, and thus Carlsen was correctly awarded the point after all. (It should also be noted in passing that Carlsen didn't make an illegal move, though he did make a move in an illegal position.)

Having unlost his first round game, Carlsen was more successful in losing in round 2 to Sanan Sjugirov. After this he got back on track with three convincing wins, but then things started going awry once more. He drew four consecutive games, and in most of them he was in some trouble. He won in the penultimate round when Hrant Melkumyan played too directly for a draw, but in the final round he came acropper to Yu Yangyi. His king lacked pawn cover, and to keep everything guarded forever in a blitz game was too much even for the world's best player.

Can Carlsen leapfrog 13 other players to win the event? Of course...but will he? His margin for error will be extremely small.

As for games, I'll offer some tomorrow. Again, readers, if games catch your eye let me know, and I'll try to incorporate them.

Article originally appeared on The Chess Mind (http://www.thechessmind.net/).
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