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    Entries in 2017 World Rapid & Blitz Championships (11)

    Tuesday
    Jan022018

    The 2017 World Blitz Championship: Random Games of Interest

    Having dedicated a couple of posts to all of Magnus Carlsen's games from the 2017 World Blitz Championship, this time we'll take a look at some games from the rest of the action. I went through all 1447 available games (one game is missing as of this writing, and another game seems to have been a forfeit win) and have picked out 22 that caught my eye.

    Yes, I really went through all 1447 games. Not thoroughly - my finger was basically glued to the right arrow key as I zipped through them - but it still took a long time to do it. Crazy? Maybe - but I recall Vladimir Kramnik saying in an interview that part of being a professional player (at least at his level) was going through a thousand new games a week, every week, seeing what's new. So I just did it this one time.

    Anyway, the games were not picked because of their competitive significance, but - as stated above - because they caught my eye for one reason or another: a nice attack, an interesting opening idea, a brilliant tactic, or - in a few cases - because of an egregious blunder.

    Have a look, enjoy, and don't wait for me to do this again for the Olympiad or the next rapid & blitz world championship!

    Monday
    Jan012018

    Magnus Carlsen's Day 2 of the World Blitz Championship

    As promised, here are Carlsen's games from the second day of the World Blitz Championship. Except for a poor game against Vladislav Artemiev (which he won anyway), his play was exceptionally good all day, and not only in contrast with his play on day one. These are respectable, even impressive games by almost any standard!

    Monday
    Jan012018

    Magnus Carlsen's Day 1 of the World Blitz Championship

    I've been going through the games of the World Blitz Championship - as in all of them(!) - and will present a selection over the course of three posts. In this post, we'll have a look at Carlsen's games from day 1. His score wasn't very good, and it could easily have been worse, as you can see here. Next up, we'll have a look at his games from the second day, when his results were fantastic, and in the third post we'll take a look at selected highlights from the remaining games.

    Sunday
    Dec312017

    2017 World Blitz Championship, Day 2: Carlsen Massacres the Field

    Magnus Carlsen started the day two points out of first place, and heading into the last round, he had already clinched clear first with a two point lead. He steamrolled his opposition over that nine-game stretch, scoring eight and a half points. The only player to hold him to a draw was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and while he had a little bit of luck here and there (and received a gift from Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who was so determined to squeeze something out of nothing he self-destructed), but overall Carlsen's play was extremely impressive. After a shaky first day, today's performance was magisterial. A draw with Levon Aronian in the last round allowed the field to make up half a point, but they were still eating his dust.

    Carlsen scored 16/21, and Sergey Karjakin (who started the day with that two point lead) and Viswanathan Anand tied for second and third with 14.5/21. Karjakin had the better tiebreaks and took the silver; Anand the bronze. A further half a point back were Wang Hao and Aronian. Aronian was almost as hot as Carlsen scoring 8.5/10 on the day. If his first day hadn't been so terrible - 50% - who knows how things would have turned out for him.

    In the women's section, Pia Cramling had a fantastic first day, but faltered badly on day two to finish out of the medal hunt. Nana Dzagnidze played strongly both days, and did even better than Carlsen, finishing with 16.5/21. (Though not against the same opposition, obviously.) The ever-tricky Valentina Gunina came up half a point short, winning silver with 16 points, and then there was a two point gap to the third-fourth place finishers, Ju Wenjun and Kateryna Lagno. Ju had the better tiebreaks and won the bronze. Five players finished a further half a point behind, including Cramling, who had the best tiebreaks of that group.

    There were lots of interesting games, but as I'm still working through them please come back tomorrow/later today when I'll update this post, and finish off the year with a last post or two.

    Sunday
    Dec312017

    Another Protest on the Choice of Saudi Arabia

    In addition to Anna Muzychuk's protest, here's a more generalized one from Iranian ex-pat Dorsa Derakhshani, currently enriching chess in the United States. While the Saudi tournament organizers seem to be doing their best to run the tournament smoothly and treat the participants well, it's pretty hard to overcome the geopolitical issues involved with their country. Hopefully the organizers carry sufficient sway with the government to insure that all players, Israelis included, will be able to play next year - it seems as if the world rapid & blitz championship is returning there next year.

    Saturday
    Dec302017

    2017 World Blitz Championship, Day 1: Karjakin Leads with 9/11

    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.

    Thursday
    Dec282017

    Anand Wins the 2017 World Rapid Championship

    Well done, Viswanathan Anand! His success was a bit surprising, in that he took short draws in four of the five games. But it all worked out: he won the right game, got into a playoff, and emerged victorious.

    Along the way there were many challenges. First and foremost, there's the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, who quickly earned board 1 rather than receiving it as an endowed chair. He won in round 11, and then faced then-leader Vladimir Fedoseev. The game seemed headed for a draw for a very long time, but Carlsen worked his endgame magic and amazingly found himself in clear first. He was still in clear first after a draw in round 13, but after drawing in round 14 he entered the last round tied for first with Anand.

    Carlsen's last-round opponent was Alexander Grischuk, who started the day with three straight wins. That put him in a big tie for second when facing Anand in round 14, but Anand won a very good game to put an end to Grischuk's chances for first place. But Grischuk bounced back with an excellent win - with Black - against Carlsen to knock the latter out of first and off the medal stand. The most surprising aspect of Carlsen's performance is that he was absolutely brutal on his opponents when playing Black: an undefeated 6-1 score. But with White his performance was absymal (by his standards): 4-4, including three losses.

    What about Fedoseev? He started the day in first by half a point, but after a draw and the loss to Carlsen he was half a point behind. He drew in rounds 13 and 14, and bounced back into a tie for first by beating fellow Russian youngster Vladislav Artemiev in the final round to tie Anand for first.

    But wait, there's more: Ian Nepomniachtchi. Nepo started the day a point and a half behind Fedoseev, but won in round 11 (against Yuriy Kuzubov), drew Anand in round 12, beat Aleksandr Rakhmanov in round 13, drew Peter Svidler in round 14, and beat Wang Hao in round 15. The result was that he joined the three-way tie for first at 10.5/15.

    Svidler could have joined them with a win over Boris Savchenko, but he lost that game. Bu Xiangzhi could have made it to 10.5 instead of Anand if he had beaten him, but despite having the white pieces he was content to draw in just 11 moves. Surprising, but overall he had a great tournament - don't forget that he defeated Carlsen in round 1.

    The tie for first was settled like this: the players with the best tiebreak scores would play a two-game blitz match (3'+2"), with an Armageddon game if necessary. Not surprisingly, given Nepomniachtchi's comeback on the last day, he had the worst tiebreakers and received the bronze medal. So it was Anand-Fedoseev, and the former world champion won convincingly in the first game. In the second game, Anand was better throughout and often winning (despite an impressively tricky idea by Fedoseev midway through the game) but allowed Fedoseev a draw in the end. (The arbiter misunderstood both the position and Fedoseev's handshake offer and marked it as 0-1, but the correct result is up on the official site.) Thus Anand won the playoff and the title. (I don't know if Carlsen was given the gold medal on Norwegian TV, but for the rest of the world Anand was the victor.)

    Here are the final standings for the top three score groups:

    • 1-3. Anand, Fedoseev, Nepomniachtchi 10.5
    • 4-9. Bu, Carlsen, Grischuk, Savchenko, Mamedov, Guseinov 10
    • 10-18. Svidler, Wang Hao, Yu Yangyi, Artemiev, V. Onischuk, Ding Liren, Harikrishna, Grigoriants, Zhao Jun 9.5

    A selection of games from the final day, here.

    Finally, while I didn't bother to cover it, the concurrent women's world rapid championship was won by Ju Wenjun with an impressive 11.5/15, half a point clear of her countrywoman Lei Tingjie. Elisabeth Paehtz was the surprise bronze medalist, clear third another half a point behind.

    The blitz tournament starts tomorrow, and the only thing we can count on is that Magnus Carlsen will be on board 1. (I wonder if that will continue even after Fabiano Caruana or Wesley So defeats him in next year's classical world championship.)

    Wednesday
    Dec272017

    2017 World Rapid Championships, Day 2: Fedoseev Leads; Anand, Svidler, and Wang Hao Half a Point Back

    Ten rounds down, five to go. Vladimir Fedoseev has led all the way, and although he has drawn his last three games he's still half a point ahead of Viswanathan Anand (who defeated Magnus Carlsen in round 9), Peter Svidler, and Wang Hao. Fedoseev has 8 points, Anand et al have 7.5, and Carlsen is in the group of five players with 7 points apiece.

    Lots of interesting games have been played, and I have included a bunch here, mostly from round 2. (If other games caught or catch your eye, please let me know and I'll add them either to this list or to a new one.) Enjoy!

    The website is here, and here are the top pairings for round 11 (in real board order, not fake Norwegian TV order):

    • Mamedov (7) - Fedoseev (8)
    • Svidler (7.5) - Anand (7.5)
    • Wang Hao (7.5) - Safarli (7)
    • Pantsulaia (7) - Carlsen (7)
    • Mamedyarov (6.5) - Yu Yangyi (7)

    Wednesday
    Dec272017

    2017 World Rapid Championships, Day 1: Fedoseev & Jobava Lead **UPDATED**

    Day 1 of the World Rapid Championships is in the books, and while the chess was interesting there's much to complain about. First and foremost, though it's not really about day 1 but about the event in general, is the location. I've addressed it already, but as it's not only Israelis who haven't attended but almost all of the Americans, and on the women's side defending rapid & blitz champion Anna Muzychuk has forsaken the event as well. More about that over here.

    Another complaint: Why in the world does Magnus Carlsen get to be on board 1, no matter his place in the standings? This bothered me when it happened in 2016, in Berlin, but I thought maybe it was because he was the then-defending rapid & blitz world champion. Apparently not: he lost both titles, but after losing in round 1 (to Bu Xiangzhi again, with White!) he remained on the top board the rest of the way. Is this some sort of prima donna thing, or what? Even more obnoxious: both rounds 2 and 4 were delayed because Carlsen hadn't come to the board. Apparently the tournament is using zero tolerance rules, but with his royal highness not back at the board they avoided the possibility of forfeiting him by not starting the round. 233 players are sitting, waiting for him, and never mind all the staffers. I sincerely hope there's another explanation, and it's not just Carlsen giving everyone a golden shower. He's an awesome player and often a good ambassador for the game, but he also behaves in a very unprofessional way - regularly.

    One more complaint: The coverage was terrible. This wasn't so much the fault of the commentators (chiefly Evgeny Miroshnichenko) as it was their problems with the DGT boards (or getting the moves to the computers) and a lack of cameras. So the viewers got a heavy dose of Carlsen's game and the board one game in the women's championship, and only tiny smatterings of the other games. Granted, the 15'+10" time control doesn't produce marathon games, but it's not a 3-minute game either. The rounds generally went an hour or so, more than enough time to cover several games with reasonable depth while peeking in briefly on a few others. Hopefully this problem was mostly a day one hiccup, and everything will run more smoothly in the subsequent days.

    On the positive side, there was lots of excellent chess, including some of Carlsen's games (his loss, yes, but his wins were also impressive). Readers: if you found games that impressed you, please mention them in the comments. I'll try to compile them into a replayable board/PGN file as we go along. For now, the ball is in your court!

    **UPDATE** As many of you have written in to point out, Carlsen's "board 1" status is part of an agreement between the organizers (both here, and last year in Doha) and Norwegian TV network NRK1, which is paying for the arrangement. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to debate, but it's not due to Carlsen requesting some sort of special privilege. Thanks to all of you for the information!

    Tuesday
    Dec262017

    2017 World Rapid & Blitz Championship Starts Today

    In less than four hours, as of this writing, at 6 a.m. ET (2 p.m. local time in Saudi Arabia). It will doubtless be covered on every major chess site, including Chess24 as well as the official page. There will be three days of rapid play (five rounds per day), followed by two days of blitz (11 rounds the first day, 10 more the second). Pairings and player lists don't seem to be up at this point, but among those who have confirmed their participation there's Magnus Carlsen (the world champion and world #1 in classical, rapid, and blitz), Sergey Karjakin (last year's world rapid champion), Vassily Ivanchuk (last year's world blitz champion), world #2 Levon Aronian and world #3 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The official site says that "over 180 top grandmasters" are among the confirmed participants, so it ought to be a ridiculously entertaining five days.