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    Entries in 2012 World Rapid and Blitz Championships (5)

    Tuesday
    Jul102012

    Grischuk Wins World Blitz Championship

    Not for the first time, either - he won the title back in 2006 as well. So Alexander Grischuk is a two-time world blitz champion, winning this year's event by a hair over Magnus Carlsen. Grischuk played well both days, and thanks to a winning streak in rounds 22-25 was able to coast a bit near the end. In round 26 against Carlsen he was a bit careless - he could have held a draw pretty easily but pushed for more. After all, with a three point lead with just five rounds to go, what could go wrong?

    Well, in addition to losing that game (now just a two point lead), Grischuk lost to Peter Svidler in round 28, and it was only a one point lead with two rounds to go. Grischuk beat Viktor Bologan with Black in round 29 and clinched first by repeating a known theoretical draw on the white side of a Petroff against Nikolay Chadaev. A good thing, too, as Carlsen was just half a point behind at the finish.

    In fact, Carlsen, whose score after 22 rounds was a miserable (by his standards) 11.5-10.5, won the last eight games. It was a pretty remarkable run, and once it got started you could feel Carlsen's self-confidence grow to epic proportions. The hubristic high point came against Teimour Rajdabov in round 26, when Carlsen opened with 1.a4. (I'm guessing these two don't like each other - especially not now!) Had this monster awakened earlier in the event, he might have won  with a colossal margin; as it was, it was still a good performance.

    Sergey Karjakin took third, but was in the hunt for first or certainly second before he repeated his late-round collapse from day one, first losing to Shakhriyard Mamedyarov and then to Carlsen. (Badly in both cases.) Still, it was a good week for him: winning the rapid championship and coming in third here.

    Dmitry Andreikin was in the hunt for a long time too, but some tough losses in the late going pushed him out of contention and into a tie for fifth with Radjabov, half a point behind Alexander Morozevich. Vassily Ivanchuk had also been in contention after the first day, but he really plummeted, only managing to finish with an even score overall.

    Turning to games of interest, other than those mentioned above:

    Mamedyarov-Jumabayev was nice - through move 28 the game gives the impression of being one very long opening trap.

    Karjakin-Bologan was a blown opportunity for Karjakin, failing to win an ending with an extra exchange and a pawn. It's only blitz, but until his next tournament success he may rue some of the half and whole points he gave away here.

    Chadaev-Karjakin: Kramnik's Scotch Four Knights with 10.h3 strikes again! I haven't a clue why people play as they do against it (to take one obvious approach, 11...Re8 12.Bf4 Bd6 gives White a big pile of nothing), but until they do it will keep making the occasional cameo. Chadaev played boldly and caught another big scalp, and in general one has to be impressed by his fearlessness in this event.

    Bologan-Gelfand: An amazing endgame "fail" by Gelfand.

    Ivanchuk-Jumabayev: 59...g5! is a nice king and pawn ending trick worth noting and remembering.

    Carlsen-Mamedyarov: A nice win by Mamedyarov, who won with Black in the Philidor against both Carlsen and Karjakin.

    Jumabayev-Svidler featured a very nice (for us) and nasty (for Svidler) defensive trick. It looked like Svidler had at last worked out the mating combination, but there was this one teensy detail he missed.

    Topalov-Carlsen was one of the few bright spots for Carlsen early in the day, but one worth savoring. It's usually White who gets to enjoy the boa constrictor-style strangulation games in the Ruy (there's a reason it's called the "Spanish torture"), but this time it was White who was suffocated.

    Morozevich-Gelfand featured 10.e5 in the Anti-Moscow Gambit in the Semi-Slav, a move with a reputation for relative harmlessness. I don't know if Morozevich prepared something new and big or if Gelfand was just playing poorly, but the finale was 1-0, 25 moves.

    Mamedyarov-Kotsur was an absolutely spectacular game, in which Mamedyarov sacrificed a pawn (declined), then another pawn (accepted), a piece (accepted), another piece (accepted), an exchange (declined) and then a rook (accepted) - and all while leaving the first rook from the declined exchanged sacrifice hanging through the end of the game. It all seems to be sound, and the only minor criticism is that Mamedyarov missed a mate in three starting with 24.Qxb6+.

    Andreikin-Gelfand was the nadir of Andreikin's collapse. He had lost to Grischuk and Karjakin in recent rounds, but was still very much in the running for a medal going into round 27. Gelfand fell into an embarrassing, absolutely elementary trap with the blunder 6...Bg4?? - and won anyway. (Incidentally, 7.Ne5 may have been even better than 7.Bxf7+ - one must always consider both ideas in such positions.)

    Final Standings:

    1. Grischuk 20 (of 30)
    2. Carlsen 19.5
    3. Karjakin 18.5
    4. Morozevich 17.5
    5-6. Andreikin, Radjabov 17
    7. Le Quang Liem 16.5
    8-9. Svidler, Ivanchuk 15
    10-11. Gelfand, Chadaev 13.5
    12-13. Topalov, Mamedyarov 13
    14. Jumabayev 12
    15. Bologan 11
    16. Kotsur 8

    One final note: I haven't been able to find any video archives on the website - it just shows the last bit of whatever they filmed that day - in this case, the closing ceremony. ChessVibes filmed some of the games, though, and you can find them in their YouTube channel or on their site.

    Monday
    Jul092012

    World Blitz Championship, Day 1: Grischuk Leads

    As you'd expect from a blitz event, even and especially the World Blitz Championship, there was lots of excitement, with a fair share of both high-level play and blunders. We'll note some of the best and worst of the play below, but first, a few words about the competition.

    Sergey Karjakin won the rapid event that finished yesterday, and led most of today too, but losses in the last two rounds to Magnus Carlsen (he played that game as if intimidated, something he'll have to overcome if he wants to best his contemporary in the long run) and his former countryman Vassily Ivanchuk.

    Magnus Carlsen is the favorite by rating, but it took him a very long time to get going. After four games he was -2, and was still -1 as late as round 11! In round 1 he was clobbered by Dmitry Andreikin, while in round 8 he lost to Nikolay Chadaev (who??) and the ridiculous gambit 1. e4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nf3. (It must be bad, but in a way I approve. The Norwegian Defense strikes me as an "I can beat you with anything; you're not even worthy of a real opening" approach, so if you have the nerve to one-up your opponent and the ability to succeed once you do, then so much the better.) Finally he got on a little winning streak at the end of the day, winding up at +2.

    The leader is Alexander Grischuk, who lost a couple of games (to Andreikin and to Peter Svidler) but won against many of his closest rivals, including Carlsen, Vassily Ivanchuk (who is also tied for second with Karjakin and - as you might have wondered by this point - Andreikin), Morozevich and Radjabov.

    Other notable performances thus far: Chadaev is +1, having defeated not only Carlsen but (just counting the big names) Le Quang Liem, Veselin Topalov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Notable, though not in an especially good way, is Boris Gelfand's -1 score. It's not that bad a performance, but it's not what one would expect of a "vice-champion", as FIDE often labels world championship runners-up. (Is the title-holder the "virtue champion"?)

    Now to discuss some highlights, for those of you who might wish to look at the games, but not necessarily all 120 of them. First, some opening highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view). There was plenty of experimentation, as is to be expected in blitz. (This is both because it's easier to get away with nonsense there, and because it's prudent to hide one's best material for slower time controls.) Morozevich played the Albin Counter-Gambit a couple of times, and you've already read about Chadaev's goofy gambit. (He played some other minor oddities as well over the course of the event.) Carlsen played a King's Gambit in round 2, and after 2...exf4 he trotted out 3.Nc3. He drew, but it took a little work.

    Carlsen's opening idea was pretty shaky there, but Karjakin trotted out a far worse opening with White against Gelfand. He showed too much respect for Gelfand's Najdorf and played a terrible anti-Sicilian line instead, was quickly worse, and lost the sort of clumsy game one would expect from a player of my level, not his. Carlsen played a better version of the same feeble line against Gelfand later on, and while it didn't cause any problems for Black at least White could (and did) draw without much worry. There's nothing wrong with the Dutch, of course - especially when your opponents play it - but it's rare to see this from Carlsen. Morozevich played a sideline and went on to win a really crazy game.

    It's one thing for Carlsen to make questionable opening choices - he is #1, after all. But sometimes others made questionable choices against him. Teimour Radjabov, for instance, may not have deserved censure for taking the white side of a Hedgehog. But the way he played it, with 15.h3, 16.g4 and 17.f4 had the naive look of the 1970s to it. Back then those on the white side thought that with all that extra space they could expand and kill Black, and it was only after enough games where Black exploded the center and massacred White that players started taking the Hedgehog seriously. (Have a look at the fantastic game Polugaevsky-Ftacnik, Lucern Olympiad 1982 for an example.) Well, apparently some lessons must be learned anew, and when Carlsen played 18...e5! 19.Nde2 d5! the fertilizer hit the air circulation system.

    In the technique department, there were plenty of good games. Andreikin's win over Carlsen in round 1 was a surprise entry, and he later won a nice rook ending against Gelfand and a great rook ending against Radjabov. Karjakin won a slew of fine endgames - against Chadaev, for instance, and then in a marathon queen ending vs. Mamedyarov as well.

    Other interesting games: Gelfand vs. Viktor Bologan featured a slew of interesting exchange sacs, Svidler-Bologan was a nice positional massage, Karjakin won a terrific-looking game vs. Morozevich, while Morozevich-Bologan and Bologan-Chadaev are also both worth a look.

    Finally, the blunders. There were lots of them! Here's what is surely just a partial list of games: Radjabov-Chadaev, Kotsur-Bologan (which had a nice finish), Gelfand-Ivanchuk, Bologan-Karjakin, Grischuk-Morozevich (49...Rg8 was the lemon; but maybe it shouldn't be called a blunder), Radjabov-Le Quang Liem, Kotsur-Topalov, Gelfand-Bologan, Andreikin-Svidler, Jumabayev-Bologan, Carlsen-Ivanchuk (and how!), Chadaev-Jumabayev, Topalov-Andreikin, Radjabov-Kotsur (27...Qg7??), Jumabayev-Grischuk, Mamedyarov-Le Quang Liem, Topalov-Ivanchuk (21.Rxd2??) and Grischuk-Mamedyarov (but this is so incredible I suspect a problem with the DGT board/relay system).

    There are also some pseudo-errors caused as usual by the dumb DGT system in conjunction with poorly trained/forgetful/incompetent arbiters. All chess fans should know by now (even if arbiters don't - why can't the Turkish Chess Federation President ban them instead?) that if the last move given is Ke4/e5/d4/d5 by either side and it makes absolutely no sense at all, it's a DGT "move" and can be disregarded.

    Let me conclude with a note about all the blunders. It's remarkable that these players do as well as they do in blitz - it's very difficult to play a blitz game against a strong opponent without making serious errors. As the players are surely a bit tired from the previous days' games and their travel to Kazakhstan, my suggestion would be to enjoy a little pleasure from their blunders - it reminds us that they're only human too - but to enjoy even more the very good chess they play the rest of the time.

    Monday
    Jul092012

    Karjakin Wins World Rapid Championship

    As most readers probably predicted, someone born in 1990 won the World Rapid Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan; as most readers probably failed to foresee, however, the identity of that individual was Sergey Karjakin, not Magnus Carlsen.

    Carlsen came into the last day of the tournament with a point and a half lead, and he kept that lead with a win in the first of the day's five rounds. In round 12, however, he lost to Vassily Ivanchuk, and then in round 13 he suffered a loss to Alexander Grischuk. Karjakin won in those two rounds to take a half-point lead, and won in round 14 as well while Carlsen drew with Radjabov. Karjakin coasted in with a last round draw to clinch first. Carlsen, meanwhile, nearly lost his third game of the day - should have, really, but Veselin Topalov missed a simple mate and only managed to draw.

    Had Topalov won that game, he and Carlsen would have tied for second. As it was, Karjakin finished with 11.5/15, Carlsen 10.5 and both Topalov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov came in with 9.5 points apiece. For Topalov, it was his second mini-tragedy of the day - he was winning against Vladislav Tkachiev some rounds earlier, and certainly had what one would normally consider an utterly unloseable position. But Topalov has been known to overpress, and he managed to achieve the seemingly impossible, losing an ending with a knight and four pawns against Tkachiev's knight and lone pawn.

    Next on the list was Alexander Grischuk with 9, and then Boris Gelfand finished with 8. Sixth out of sixteen wasn't a fantastic placement, but it's not terrible either, especially with players like Svidler, Ivanchuk, Radjabov and Morozevich below him in the tournament table.

    Tomorrow (today for most of us) most of these players will resume battle in the world blitz championship. Alas, Anand, Kramnik and Nakamura aren't present, but it should still be a lot of fun to watch. And judging by the rapid games, lovers of schadenfreude will enjoy a real feast!

    Saturday
    Jul072012

    World Rapid Championship: Carlsen Leads After Day 2 of 3

    For a while it was a two-horse race, but in the later rounds today Magnus Carlsen got some breathing space relative to his 1990-contemporary Sergey Karjakin. The two were tied after day one with 4.5/5 apiece, and after eight rounds Karjakin had even nosed into the lead with 7 points to Carlsen's 6.5. Unfortunately for Karjakin, he lost in round 9 to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov while Carlsen beat Vladislav Tkachiev, and then in round 10 Carlsen won their head-to-head matchup.

    In that game and quite a few others I've seen, Carlsen has been able to play to his strength, grinding everyone down with his fantastic technique. Almost no "drawn" position is safe against him - even if the opponent is in the absolute elite. Will his peers and up-and-coming admirers learn from his example and spend a little less time on the opening and more time on technique? They should!

    Meanwhile, back to the event. Carlsen leads the World Rapid Championship with 8.5, Karjakin and - surprisingly! - Veselin Topalov are tied for second with 7 points each. Mamedyarov has 6, Alexey Dreev, Alexander Grischuk and Teimour Radjabov has 5.5. Among the other top players, Peter Svidler has 5, Boris Gelfand and Vassily Ivanchuk have 4.5 (Ivanchuk's loss to round 10 against Radjabov was hideous - or a delight, if you like train wrecks) and Alexander Morozevich has 4.

    The last five rounds are tomorrow, and then the blitz championship starts Monday. Meanwhile, you can find some short videos here, while if you go here it looks like you can replay the day's action. (You should drag the slider in a bit, though, as it's just the logo for the first 10+ minutes. It's better than nothing, but the camera people could take a few tips from their counterparts in Moscow.)

    Thursday
    Jul052012

    World Blitz & Rapid Championships: Pairings

    All here, on this handy page on the TWIC website. The rapid event starts tomorrow (Friday) and runs through the weekend; the blitz tournament takes place Monday and Tuesday. (Here's the event website.)

    Both events have 16 players, with the same top 11 in each:

    1. Magnus Carlsen (2837)
    2. Teimour Radjabov (2788)
    3. Sergey Karjakin (2779)
    4. Alexander Morozevich (2770)
    5. Vassily Ivanchuk (2769)
    6. Alexander Grischuk (2763)
    7. Veselin Topalov (2752)
    8. Peter Svidler (2749)
    9. Boris Gelfand (2738)
    10. Viktor Bologan (2732)
    11. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2726)

    Five other players qualified for each event. In the rapid, the happy qualifiers were Alexey Dreev (2677), Igor Kurnosov (2663), Vladislav Tkachiev (2644), Murtas Kazhgaleyev (2589) and Anuar Ismagambetov (2471). In the blitz, they were (and are) Dmitry Andreikin (2700), Le Quang Liem (2693), Nikolai Chadaev (2580), Pavel Kotsur (2548) and Rinat Jumabayev (2525).