Only blitz, alas, but it's nice to see Garry Kasparov in action again. It was an exhibition in Clichy, France, in two rounds. The first round saw Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Laurent Fressinet battle for the right to play Kasparov in the final round. After a pair of draws, Vachier-Lagrave won the Armaggedon game to advance. In the final, Kasparov won with White, setting up and executing a nice promotion combination, and then the former world champion held on to draw an up-and-down game with Black. (There was a tandem game after that which was surely memorable to the amateur participants and a good thing if it helps keep sponsors coming, but the play was abysmal and the game score ought to be destroyed before it gets into TWIC and other databases.)
Entries in blitz (6)
It was an organizer's dream - except for the finish. The BNbank blitz tournament in Oslo, Norway, was set up for a final match between national hero Magnus Carlsen, the world's top-rated player and newly crowned world blitz champion, and Hikaru Nakamura, who has long been the world's best blitz player on the internet.
The first part of the event consisted of multiple round-robins, and both Carlsen and Nakamura won their sections. Carlsen gave up one draw, to Cmilyte, while Nakamura scored a clean 6-0. Then it was on to the quarterfinals, best-of-four matches that mirrored the round-robins: both won; Carlsen giving up one draw in defeating Jon Ludwig Hammer 2.5-.0.5 and Nakamura blanking Kjetil Lie 3-0. In the semis, they were equally unmerciful: Carlsen 3-0'd Emanuel Berg and Nakamura did the same to Peter Heine Nielsen.
On to the final. In the first game, Nakamura's 12-0 run came to an end, as Carlsen beat him with the black pieces. In game 2, Carlsen was winning, and it looked like Nakamura was in for a thumping. It didn't happen. Nakamura not only managed to hold on, but when Carlsen lost a seemingly unloseable position (a pawn up in a knight ending!) the match was tied. (The culprit was 62.Kf6??, losing when 62.f4 would have won.) After this, Carlsen might have lost a little confidence, and Nakamura won games 3 and 4 as well, winning the match 3-1 and scoring a hefty 15-1 overall. Carlsen finished second, of course, and Nielsen defeated Berg 2.5-1.5 in their final match to take third.
To see all of Nakamura's and Carlsen's games from the event (preliminaries and head-to-head), as long as the Nielsen-Berg games, go here (and close the pop-up). Next step, select BNb blitz 2009, and then expand each of the alphanumeric round links in turn (from the bottom up, if you want to go in chronological order) and then on the games within the links.
In the previous post I threatened to present some games from the last day of the Tal Memorial Blitz (which was also the blitz world championship); today, I make good on my threat. (Whether it was stronger than the execution, I don't know.) There's a bit of everything: in the openings, there are gaffes, one-upsmanship and at least one big novelty. There are thrilling middlegames and strategic ones in which there's a battle of plans, and even a few endings. Have a look, here.
Magnus Carlsen stayed hot through most of today's final 14 rounds, and won the Tal Memorial Blitz, which was also the World Blitz Championship this year, with a fine score of 31 out of 42, three full points ahead of world champ Viswanathan Anand. It didn't hurt that he defeated Anand in their individual game, but he was pretty dominant even aside from that game. It was a very good result for both players. For Carlsen, it's further evidence that he's as real as it gets; his rivals aren't going to pinch themselves and wake up to find out he's not there. He's there, and the title is unlikely to stay out of his hands for very long. For Anand, resting on his laurels as always (not getting into the action like Topalov), it's also a good result that should help both his confidence and his sharpness as he continues his preparation for Chaos and son.
In a mild surprise, Sergey Karjakin finished third with 25 points, three points behind Anand but just half a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik started the day on fire, winning five straight to close on the leaders and to come within half a point of Karjakin. In his sixth game (round 34) he had White against Morozevich and seemed to be playing real chess (i.e. using serious openings and actual preparation), and had his opponent on the ropes for a long time. When Morozevich finally scraped out a draw, it seemed to take all the air out of Kramnik, whose subsequent results were horrible: loss, draw, loss, loss, draw, loss. After another draw, he finally found a victim - Karpov - and maintained fourth place. What's amazing is that at the end of that terrible sequence, he still finished just half a point behind Karjakin!
Svidler, Ponomariov and Grischuk finished a further point back, and as the drop to the next group was a point and a half this seems like a good place to stop listing results. Other results worthy of note in an unfortunate way: Ivanchuk, who won the blitz title two years ago and came in second last year by half a point, finished 15th this time around with 19.5-22.5. Less surprisingly, but a little sad after his great play the first day, was Karpov's 16th place finish with 19 points. The women did even worse: Judit Polgar was 19th with 17 points, and Kosteniuk came in last with 12.5, two and a half points below the next-to-last place finisher. Considering her rating, it was a good score, and she can boast of wins against Carlsen, Anand, Aronian and Karpov, among others. She had a nice run at the end of yesterday's rounds, but today was a disaster: she drew in round 29 (today's first round), but then lost 11 in a row. (Full results here.)
There were lots of good and interesting games, of course, and I'll try to present some later tonight. If there were any especially good games you've seen, please paste the PGN in the comments to this post or the one I hope to present later tonight.
It looks like the recent practice has done served Anatoly Karpov well! But first, let's give Viswanathan Anand his props. After 14 of 21 rounds the world champion has a fantastic score of 12 points, with nary a loss thus far. It's not as important as the slow tournament that just finished, but it's at the very least a nice consolation prize.
Two points behind - and with his game against Anand yet to come - is Magnus Carlsen. He has lost three games (including a shocker to tailender Alexandra Kosteniuk), but aside from some early problems and a round 14 loss to...Karpov!, he has played very well.
Karpov's current status in third place (9 points) is amazing, given his horrible performances the last several years. Granted, it's only blitz and practically everyone is hiding their best weapons; even so, it's a great result. He lost one game, to Bareev, but has beaten Carlsen, Gashimov, Tkachiev, Gelfand and Mamedyarov. He has lots of tough opponents to face tomorrow, so it's possible he'll drop like a stone in the standings, but for now it's a pleasure to see him doing well.
Only half a point behind are Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk. Kramnik's main problem was his choice of 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.d4 Qd6, which cost him at least three games. Maybe the line is okay, but it doesn't look very "Kramniky". One of those losses was his first-ever loss to Judit Polgar, at least the first I'm aware of. It's only blitz, but still!
You can find the full crosstable here, but now let me discuss some games aside from the ones mentioned above that caught my eye. Anand won some nice games, of course, and I liked the end of his round 2 win over Ivanchuk and his round 8 victory over Svidler. Kramnik delivered a fine pasting to Aronian in round 5, complete with a nifty petit combination to end the game. Jakovenko-Kosteniuk (round 8) saw one of the most interesting Petroff lines, and the game might be theoretically significant. Those who play or face the Marshall line (3.Nxe5...6...Bd6) should have a look. In other interesting opening news, again with Kosteniuk as the victim, see her round 10 game with Ivanchuk when he pulled the old Hamppe-Allgaier Gambit out of his hat: 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4!? Finally, Morozevich also took a trip to the museum, playing 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 at every opportunity. (The games can be replayed and downloaded here.)
UPDATE: It's a double round-robin that continues through Wednesday, so it's only the first cycle that ends after round 21.