With good reason, the live coverage of the World Blitz Championship a week or so ago focused on the very top boards (generally but not always featuring Magnus Carlsen), but some independent videos were taken of games off the stage as well. There's a selection here, for those who would like to enjoy a little more high-class blitz action.
Entries in 2015 World Blitz Championship (3)
It was a day full of surprises, with great runs and remarkable collapses at the World Blitz Championship. Those who prospered on day 1 didn't necessarily enjoy continued success today while some who didn't race off to a great start played brilliantly on day 2.
As you may recall, with one round to go in the first day's action, Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave tore out of the gate with identical scores of 9/10. They were slowed a little at the end, with Carlsen losing a tough game to Karjakin and MVL giving up a draw, but it was reasonable to expect their run of good form would continue the next day. For Carlsen, this definitely was not the case, and he opened with a winless 1.5/5, and was fortunate to save a couple of those draws. He played a bit better after that, but never managed to fully get back on top of things. After a little run leading up to the penultimate round, he lost to Vassily Ivanchuk and finished well out of the running.
For Vachier-Lagrave, however, the day started quite well, and after 17 of the 21 rounds he was a point and a half clear of the field. And then: collapse. He lost two straight games - with White to Yuri Vovk and with Black to Vassily Ivanchuk - and found himself tied for first entering the last two rounds. After a draw with Ian Nepomniachtchi in the penultimate round his fate was no longer in his own hands. Still, he bounced back with a win, and tied for 2nd-3rd, taking the silver on tiebreak.
Two of the mighty comeback stories belong to players already mentioned, Nepomniachtchi and Ivanchuk. "Nepo" had a catastrophically bad first day, starting with 4.5/10. But then he turned things around. He won the finale of day 1 and scored 7.5/8 to start the second. He only manged to draw with MVL in the penultimate round, however, and was mathematically eliminated from the race for first. Still, a last round victory over Vovk left him tied for 4th-5th with Ivanchuk, a point out of first.
Ivanchuk, as we've already seen, played a huge role as a spoiler in the tournament. He had a decent but not great first day, scoring 6.5/11 before going crazy with an undefeated 8-2 score on day two. Had he won his last round against Vladimir Kramnik, he would have taken the bronze; as it was, he took the saddest spot - 4th - on tiebreaks. (Not so sad in terms of the prize fund, though!) He definitely put plenty of pressure on Kramnik, who was also trying very hard to win, but the game ended peacefully.
It was Kramnik who finished with the bronze, but had he managed to defeat Chuky in that last round he would have taken first on tiebreaks. Kramnik started the event slowly with 2.5/5, but went undefeated the rest of the way. He was already in good shape at the end of day 1 with 8/11, even if that put him a point and a half behind the streaking Vachier-Lagrave. He came very close to beating Carlsen in the first game of day 2, but only drew, and for a while he seemed to be in a drawing rut, getting through round 16 with only one win (on day 2) under his belt. Finally, things picked up in round 17. He beat Sergey Karjakin, who up until then had been very much in the race for first place, beat Levon Aronian in round 18, drew with Alexander Grischuk in round 19 and beat Vovk in round 20 to enter the last round tied for first with Grischuk. Had he won he would have had a better tiebreak score (opponents' average rating, which implies a higher TPR) than Grischuk, but his draw left him tied for second with MVL, and MVL had the highest tiebreak score of the event thanks to his great start.
So it was Grischuk who was the big winner, acquiring his third world blitz championship title. (He previously won in 2006 and 2012.) His day 1 score wasn't especially good - 7.5 points - and he started day 2 with a loss to Teimour Radjabov. And then he woke up, going 8/9 the rest of the way. He beat Pavel Eljanov, Dmitry Bocharov, Magnus Carlsen (with the black pieces), drew with MVL, beat Hrant Melkumyan and Sergey Karjakin, drew with Kramnik and then finished with wins over Evgeny Tomashevsky and Boris Gelfand (who made a great run on the second day) - in both cases with Black! He was a deserved winner.
It was a very exciting first day of the World Blitz Championship, and through ten rounds it was a two-horse race between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Magnus Carlsen. Both players won their first four games, and then Carlsen was held to a draw by Tigran Petrosian in round 5. MVL won his fifth in a row, but then Carlsen defeated him in their head-to-head match-up in round 6. Carlsen drew in round 7 with Aronian while Vachier-Lagrave won again, so they were tied at 6/7 and kept winning through round 10. Finally, both players experienced a bit of kryptonite in the last round of the day. Carlsen was beaten in good style by Sergey Karjakin, while Vachier-Lagrave was held to a draw by Teimour Radjabov - and he was fortunate not to lose.
There are ten more rounds to be played today (Wednesday), and here are the current standings at the top:
- 1. Vachier-Lagrave 9.5
- 2. Carlsen 9
- 3-4. Karjakin, Dominguez 8.5
- 5-7. Aronian, Radjabov, Kramnik 8
- 9-25. Too many to list, all with 7.5