The event featured an impressive cast of characters that included world champion Magnus Carlsen, but the chess was so dreadfully bad that the best thing to do is acknowledge its existence and promptly forget about it. That, and at least for me, to issue at least a semi-retraction to all the people I've told over the years that increments in blitz are only there to prevent people from "manning up" to accept that they've lost on time. I still feel that way about blitz as a participant (even on those occasions when I'm the one losing a winning position on time), but as a spectator it's another story. A huge percentage of the games were utterly ruined, as you can see for yourself if you're so inclined.
Entries in Alexander Grischuk (33)
The Russian Club Championship started on Sunday, May 1 and continues through May 10. Among the heavy hitters who have played so far there's Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler - to include only the players over 2750 - and Vladimir Kramnik is supposed to jump in at some point as well.
On Wednesday, Ding Liren and Wesley So will begin a four-game match in China. (Or maybe there will be four classical games and some additional rapid and/or blitz games. All I know thus far is the very little given in the "Future Events" section of this page. Further details would be appreciated.)
Alexander Grischuk defeated Levon Aronian 11.5-9.5 in their quarter-final match in Chess.com's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship. It was a hard-fought match, and generally well-played, too. Grischuk dominated overall, and was close to winning many more games than he did, but Aronian's tough defense (sometimes aided by Grischuk's characteristic time trouble) kept the match close, and with two games left the match was tied. The penultimate game was key, a marathon battle that saw Aronian start with an extra pawn and a lead on time. Grischuk had the bishop pair, and slowly but surely managed to fight his way back to equality and a likely draw. But the battle continued, and after some final adventures Grischuk pulled out the win.
In the semi-final Grischuk will play the winner of a similar match between Magnus Carlsen and the winner of a qualifying tournament, and before the latter match the other quarter-final matches will take place: Hikaru Nakamura vs. Pentala Harikrishna on May 4 and Fabiano Caruana vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on May 10.
The full Grischuk-Aronian match, with commentary by GM Robert Hess and IM Danny Rensch, is available here.
This should be a lot of fun for spectators. Current world blitz champion Alexander Grischuk and erstwhile world #2 (and former world blitz champion) Levon Aronian will face off on Chess.com tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1 p.m. Eastern time = 6 p.m. London time. They will play for three hours in three formats: 5 minutes + 2 seconds for 90 minutes, 3' + 2" for 60 minutes, and then 1' + 1" for another half an hour. (There will be short breaks in between each transition.)
Better still, this is just the first match in a series. On May 4 a similar match will take place between Hikaru Nakamura and Pentala Harikrishna, on May 10 Fabiano Caruana will play Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and on June 8 or 15 none other than Magnus Carlsen will take on the winner of a qualifier scheduled for May 31. (More here.)
These four matches are not wholly independent events, but the quarterfinal of an overall competition with $40k in prizes. Not bad for a maximum of nine hours' work.
Once again, a round that offers the tournament in microcosm: four draws in five games, the Berlin shows up again, a winning position is squandered and things go wrong for Veselin Topalov. (The latter two points refer to the same game.)
The one decisive game in round 6 of the London Chess Classic saw Alexander Grischuk outplay and defeat Viswanathan Anand. Grischuk played the (relatively) untheoretical 1.c4 e5 2.d3, and in the improvisational game that followed Grischuk outplayed his great opponent, though not without a serious slip in the endgame. Overall though, it was a well-deserved victory, and Grischuk moved into a tie for first place.
The games Nakamura-Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave vs. Caruana and Giri-Carlsen were all well-behaved draws, and in each case it was clear early on that those games would almost certainly come to a peaceful end. The draw between Topalov and Michael Adams was another story. Adams equalized out of the opening, but from moves 27-32 made a series of inaccuracies culminating in a bit of a blunder that cost him the exchange. Almost everything that could go wrong for Topalov in the tournament has gone wrong for him, and his 38.Re1?? (with a small extra assist to 40.Rxc6) allowed Adams to escape. (Games here, with my comments.)
With three rounds to go there are four players tied for first: Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave, Nakamura and Giri, with Caruana, Adams, Aronian and Carlsen just half a point behind. Here are the pairings for round 7:
- Caruana (3) - Giri (3.5)
- Anand (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
- Adams (3) - Grischuk (3.5)
- Aronian (3) - Topalov (1.5)
- Carlsen (3) - Nakamura (3.5)
In round 3 of the European Club Cup the top teams, all heavy-laden with 2700s, won their matches - handily. Better still, for them, there were almost no upsets on individual boards either. I only spotted one, but (to employ an archaic colloquialism) it was a real doozy. Another game seemed headed for an upset when the would-be David was killed by his own slingshot.
The successful upset saw Evgeniy Najer defeat Alexander Grischuk. Najer is no slouch, generally rated in the mid-to-upper 2600s, but he is certainly an underdog against Grischuk - especially with black. But in this game, he was the boss. He repelled Grischuk's attack and then took over, steadily gaining ground and dominating his elite opponent in the endgame.
The near-miss was Daniil Dubov vs. Li Chao. The young Russian held a pleasant edge for a long time, and it was starting to grow when, at move 37, he thought it was time for the kill. A brilliant kill, at that. He played 37.Rxe5, threatening 38.Re7 and accurately calculating that 37...Bxe5 38.Qe7+ followed by 39.Bxe5 would lead to a speedy massacre. What he failed to see, however, and with plenty of time on his clock, was the move Li Chao actually played: 37...Qxe5. Oops! Dubov resigned on the move, as the best White can do after 38.Bxe5 Bxe5+ 39.Rc3 Rc8 is a position where Black has a rook and two overpowering bishops against White's queen.
One other game I'll note wasn't an upset. Vladimir Kramnik defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi and moved to 6th on the Live Rating list. If qualifying spots for next year's Candidates' tournament were based solely on the current ratings, Kramnik would be in. It's not, however, and in addition to his having no chance at passing Veselin Topalov for one of the rating qualification spots I don't think he has much of a chance of passing Anish Giri for the second spot, either. But if anyone has more precise information on this, and what would be necessary for Kramnik (or maybe Grischuk, if he can put an end to his year-long slide) to have a chance please let us know in the comments.
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.
There weren't too many short draws on day 1 of round 3 at the World Cup, but one way or another 12 of the 16 games finished in a peaceful way. Of these, perhaps the most notable was the board 1 game between Veselin Topalov and Shanglei Lu. Topalov was winning - by a mile, and with multiple ways of cashing in. For instance, 25.Ref1 (rather than 25.Rhf1, which should also have been good enough) 25...Qg3 26.Qf6 is beyond devastating, threatening captures on f7 and f5 as well as 27.Rhg1. Later, 30.Bb3 f6 31.Rxe5 fxe5 32.Rxg6 would have been a fairly easy win as well. Finally 32.Bxh5 may still be winning, but this is a lot less certain. It seems at first as if it should be easy, as White's pieces appear to escape while Black's knight remains in the box, but Black can escape to a rook ending that at first glance may not seem completely clear after a line like 32.Bxh5 Rc5 33.Be2 Re5 34.Rxe1 Rde8 35.Rf1+ Kg7 36.Nf5+ Rxf5 37.Rxf5 Rxe2. Maybe it would be unclear if Black's king were on d6, but cut off from the queenside I suspect this is a win for White as well.
So Topalov let his young and much lower-rated (though also underrated) opponent escape, and so did Alexander Grischuk. (Both players have something else in common, too. Can anyone recall what that might be?) In Grischuk's case, he not only lost a chance to win against Pavel Eljanov with 38.a7 and then a move later (though less clearly) with 39.Qf5, he even went on to lose the game. Beating Eljanov, a solid 2700 who has been as high as 2761 is not going to be an easy task for him tomorrow, especially with the black pieces.
The other three decisive games were won by the white pieces. Sergey Karjakin his recent string of super-human results against Chinese players, smoothly outplaying Yu Yangyi in a Sicilian. Fabiano Caruana also won smoothly in a Sicilian, defeating Anton Kovalyov after the latter chose 23...dxc5 rather than 23...bxc5. I'm not sure what Kovalyov was hoping for, as d6 doesn't look like a great blockading square in this particular position while the b-file could have proved useful to him, if only to distract White's pieces from building at leisure in the center and on the kingside.
Finally, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov defeated S. P. Sethuraman in a sharp line of the Panov-Botvinnik Attack against the Caro-Kann. I haven't looked at the theory of the variation they played in a while, but my understanding was that Black normally flicks in 7...h6. White doesn't have to play 8.Bh4, but if he does then Black goes for the same line as in the game, with the point being that after 14...Ne6 (actually 15...Ne6) the rook on c4 attacks the bishop on h4, gaining a crucial tempo for the defense. The way Sethuraman played it has been known for a long time and the evaluation has always been in White's favor. My inclination was to say that he must not have thought White's advantage amounted to very much, but considering that he spent 36 minutes on his 16th move in a position that is well-known in this variation and arises almost by force once Black plays 7...Qxd4, I'm at a loss to explain what Sethuraman was thinking. Maybe his 7th move was a fingerfehler and he intended to play 7...h6 first? If someone comes across an answer, please share it in the comments.
No, I'm not talking about (more than) 99.99% of the internet, though I could be. Instead, I'm referring to an interesting phenomenon in chess that has increasingly caught my attention of late: moves that appear to waste a tempo in the opening for what seems at first like absolutely no good reason. Further, in most of the cases, the pattern is similar: a piece moves to a square, then a move or so later proceeds to a square it could have reached on the previous turn. I've cataloged five instances of this for you here; readers are invited to offer examples of their own.
Round 1 of the third Grand Prix event of the current cycle, held in Tbilisi, Georgia, kicked off today with a bang. Four of the six games were decisive, the two exceptions being Berlins with 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1. We'll say nothing more about them in this post!
We begin with a noteworthy achievement: Anish Giri won with Black against Peter Svidler, and in the process became the 9th player in chess history with a FIDE rating over 2800. (It's not official yet, but will at least be immortalized on the Live List even if he doesn't manage to sustain it.) Amazingly, the 20-year-old Giri is just half a point behind Fabiano Caruana and the third spot on the list.
The number two spot is held by Alexander Grischuk, who has increased the distance between him and Caruana by defeating Rustam Kasimdzhanov on the black side of a Noteboom Variation. This is not entirely to the credit of that interesting opening line, however. Kasimdzhanov enjoyed a clear advantage as late as move 29, but it was a complicated enough position that a couple of natural moves took him to equal and then lost within a space of three moves. When Kasimdzhanov resigned just a few further moves later, after 35 moves, he was already getting mated in three.
Another win by Black, also in a late turnaround, was achieved by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. MVL stood better for much of the game in a 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf, but in what was probably mutual time trouble his mistakes were more frequent and more harmful than Mamedyarov's. Vachier-Lagrave made the time control and his 41st move, but then resigned.
Finally, the white pieces managed to deliver in one game. Baadur Jobava played one of his oddball openings with Black against Evgeny Tomashevsky, and while he was slightly worse out of the opening he found the brilliant 15...Nxe5!!, which seems to equalize with perfect play. Unfortunately, he hadn't worked out all the details, and 17...Bxd4? resulted in a long forcing line where White was up a piece for two pawns. Whether White was winning at that point isn't clear, but Tomashevsky made steady progress and was winning by the end, even if might have been helpful to many of the fans to see how White could win against continued resistance.