Sergey Karjakin won the title on tiebreaks over Magnus Carlsen because of a crucial last-round win and some good breaks.
Sergey Karjakin’s victory in the World Blitz Championship on Friday was a combination of good play, good timing and good luck. Magnus Carlsen, the reigning classical World Champion from Norway, could not shake Karjakin in the race for the gold, and when it really mattered, Karjakin, who is Russian, came through.
The two players had ended Day 1 tied, with 10 points apiece, a point-and-a-half ahead of their nearest competitors. On Day 2, they contined to set a torrid pace, each scoring 6.5 points in nine rounds. They ended the tournament with scores of 16.5 points each, two points clear of the three players who tied for third — Daniil Dubov and Alexander Grischuk, two compatriots of Karjakin’s, and Hikaru Nakamura of the United States.
Karjakin took first on tiebreaks (the average rating of his opponents was higher than the average rating of Carlsen’s), while Dubov edged out Grischuk and Nakamura for bronze based on the same tiebreaker.
Going into the last round, Carlsen held a half point lead, but knew that he needed to take clear first to win the tournament. A draw with the always-solid Peter Leko of Hungary opened the door for Karjakin.
Leko, Peter vs. Carlsen, Magnus
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 13 |30 Dec 2016 |1/2-1/2
20. Bd2Bd7?!This move is inaccurate.
( 20... Bxd4!21. cxd4Qxd4There was nothing wrong with taking the pawn. )
21. Qf3!Ne622. Nxe6!Bxe623. Re1Qd624. Kg1White has a slight initiative because of his lead in development. 24... Nf6?
( 24... Rd8And White would be only slightly better. )
25. Bf4!Qe726. Bxe6?
( 26. Nf5!This move would have given White a big advantage. 26... Qd727. Nxg7!Kxg728. Bxh6+Kg629. Qf4And Black would likely soon be mated. )
26... fxe627. Be3Bxe328. Qxe3Carlsen is now slightly worse and has no counterplay. It is basically an impossible position to win. 28... Re829. Qe5Qd730. Ne4Nxe431. Qxe4Qd532. a3Kf733. Qf4+Qf534. Qc7+Re735. Qd6Qc236. Qf4+Kg837. Qb4Rf738. Qb6Qd239. Rxe6Qc1+40. Kh2Qf4+41. Kg1Qc1+42. Kh2Carlsen managed not to lose, but it was not enough.
Karjakin did what he had to do by beating Baadur Jobava of Georgia in the final round.
Karjakin, Sergey vs. Jobava, Baadur
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 13 |30 Dec 2016 |1-0
3. Nxe5d5?!This looks like a very dubious idea.
( 3... d64. Nf3Nxe4Leads to one of the main systems in the Petroff Defense. )
4. exd5Qxd55. d4Nc66. Nc3!?Not objectievly the best move, but I like it. Black is forced into an unpleasant endgame. 6... Qxd4
( 6... Bb4This move was worth considering. )
7. Nxc6Qxd1+8. Nxd1bxc6The position is symmetrical, save for Black's crippled queenside pawn structure. 9. Be2Bd610. Ne3O-O11. O-ORe812. Bf3Bd713. Nc4Bc5?This move allows White's pieces to spring to life.
( 13... Ng414. g3And Black would be only slightly worse. )
( 14. Be3!?Also looks strong )
( 14... Be6!15. Nd2Bd5And once again Black would be only a bit worse. )
15. Bg3Black will lose material after White plays Ne5. 15... Bf5
( 15... f616. Rad1Be617. Na5Would have been no better. )
16. Ne5Bxc217. Rac1Bd618. Nxc6
( 18. Rxc2Bxe519. Rxc6This move looked stronger, but the move played by Karjakin was also fine. )
18... Be419. Rfe1?!
( 19. Bxe4Rxe420. Bxd6cxd621. Rfd1And White would again be much better. )
19... Bxf320. Rxe8+Rxe821. gxf3f5?
( 21... Nf4!Black has decent chances to hold a draw. )
22. Bxd6cxd623. Kf1
( 23. Nxa7Why not take the pawn? )
( 23... Rc8Looks more accurate. )
24. Rd1!Nb6?The last mistake
( 24... Rc8!Black should be able to hold after 25. Rxd5Rxc626. Rxf5Rc1+27. Kg2Rc228. Ra5Rxb229. Rxa6d5 )
25. b3!d526. Nd4
( 26. Nb4Would have won a pawn. )
26... g627. Rc1Nd728. Rc6The activity of White's pieces should net him at least a pawn. 28... a529. Rd6Ne530. Rxd5Nd331. Ne2!Accurate. White does not want to allow Re1+.
( 31. Rxa5Re1+32. Kg2Nf4+33. Kg3g534. h4!White barely survives and would eventually win because of his extra pawns, but the move chosen by Karjakin was much simpler. )
31... Rxe232. Rd8+!The point of White's previous play. The rest of the game was straight forward.
Perhaps Sergey Karjakin, back to camera, is telling Hikaru Nakamura, "Don't say I didn't give you anything for Christmas," after blundering and losing to Nakamura in Round 15. A smiling Magnus Carlsen, rear, is only too happy to see what happened, though it would not be quite enough.
Nakamura, who is a noted blitz specialist, recovered well from a slow start on Day 1 to nearly get to the podium. I especially liked his game with Karjakin in Round 15, showing that strange things can happen in blitz that would almost certainly never happen in slower games:
Karjakin, Sergey vs. Nakamura, Hikaru
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 15 |30 Dec 2016 |0-1
Kd7White has a big and clear advantage, but would takes some effort to win. Karjakin's next move shows that even a World Blitz Champion is not immune to outrageous blunders when time controls get short. 69. Qg4??Ne3+
Magnus Carlsen, back to camera, talking with Alexander Grischuk.
Grischuk might have been able to claim bronze, but he made a strange decision to agree to a draw in the final round against Leinier Dominguez Perez of Cuba. Of course, he had the Black pieces, but he had much more to gain from a win than to lose from a loss, so I didn’t really understand the logic behind it.
Dominguez Perez, Leinier vs. Grischuk, Alexander
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 21 |30 Dec 2016 |1/2-1/2
14. a3Black surprisingly agreed to a draw in this position. He is not worse and both sides have their chances. I would think this was a good place to continue to play.
Finally, one cannot write about blitz without mentioning some blunders. This time it was Mohammed Al-Sayed of the host country of Qatar who finished in the worst way: by making a terrible mistake in the last round against Laurent Fressinet of France.
Fressinet, Laurent vs. Al-Sayed, Mohammed
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 21 |30 Dec 2016 |1-0
52. Qd3Black is up three pawns and has a safer king in short, a huge advantage. Basically, every possible move should lead to victory, except for... 52... Qd5+??53. Qxd5cxd554. Rg6!And Black resigned as he cannot stop the White h-pawn from promoting.
Though Carlsen didn’t get the gold in either tournament, I think he clearly showed he is, over all, the best rapid and blitz player in the world by tying for first in both championships.
Lex Luthor to his Superman. A loss by Magnus Carlsen, left, to Vassily Ivanchuk in Round 16 ended up derailing Carlsen's chances for gold in the Blitz Championship. Ivanchuk, who won the Rapid Championship, also beat Carlsen in that tournament.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
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