No spoilers here for those of you who missed yesterday's action, fear not. You can watch the semi-final match between Magnus Carlsen and Alexander Grischuk here (the report is here, for those who don't care about spoilers); while the second semi-final in Chess.com's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship, between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura, will start at 1 p.m. ET. (Viewing instructions here.)
Entries in Alexander Grischuk (36)
It's a pity that the match wasn't longer or combined with rapid games as in the Gelfand-Inarkiev match, but it's still interesting whenever two players in the super-elite face off. On this occasion too experience won out, as Alexander Grischuk defeated Ding Liren in the first game (a long battle culminating in a knight ending that Ding could have drawn) and then drew the remaining games to come out on top.
More info here.
The semi-final matches Magnus Carlsen vs. Alexander Grischuk and Hikaru Nakamura vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave have been set; they will take place on August 18 and August 24, respectively.
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.
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.