Those Guys Again: Carlsen, Karjakin Lead World Blitz Championship
BySamuel ShanklandDec 30 — 3:00 AM
Image by Maria Emelianova
After the first day of the competition, the reigning World Champion, and the player he defeated for the title a month ago, are tied for first.
One day after the World Rapid Championship ended, the World Blitz Championship started in the same location: Doha, Qatar. After the first day of the two-day competition, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the reigning World Champion in classical, or slow, chess, and Sergey Karjakin of Russia, the player he beat to retain the title in a match in New York Ciy last month, are tied for the lead, each with 10 points in the first 12 rounds. They are 1.5 points ahead of their nearest rivals.
Like the World Rapid Championship, the Blitz Championship has a prize fund of $200,000, with a $40,000 first prize.
Carlsen and Karjakin had struggled at the beginning of the Rapid Championship. Carlsen eventually recovered to tie for first (finishing third on tiebreaks), while Karjakin was 19th on tiebreaks. Both got off to a much better start in the Blitz Championship.
Magnus Carlsen, left, and A.R. Saleh Salem in Round 3. Carlsen won.
Carlsen started with three straight wins. My favorite was his victory over A.R. Saleh Salem of the United Arab Emirates:
Carlsen, Magnus vs. Salem, A.R. Saleh
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 3 |29 Dec 2016 |1-0
15. gxh5Nxh5?!This move is inaccurate.
( 15... cxd4!Black should have played this move now so that White cannot take recapture on d4 with the bishop. 16. exd4Nxh5And Black would have an edge. )
16. Be5cxd417. Bxd4!White's pawn remains on e3 so he can put pressure on the pawn on d5 pawn and can also still play f4 at some moment. 17... b518. a3
( 18. Bxg7Was also fine. )
( 18... Bxd419. Qxd4Ng3And Black once again looks fine. )
( 19. Bxg7!This move looked stronger. )
19... Rfc820. f4Bxd4
( 20... Nf6This was Black's last chance to offer real resistance. He had to avoid the exchange of his dark-squared bishop. 21. h5Ne4!22. hxg6Nxd223. gxf7+Bxf724. Rxg7+Kf825. Rh1e5And the position would be unclear. Finding this line is nearly impossible in a slow game, but in a blitz game? Forget about it! )
21. Qxd4Ng722. h5
( 22. e4This move was even better, but the move played by Carlsen also does the trick. )
( 22... Nf5!23. Qd3Qa7!24. hxg6Qxe3+25. Kb1Black would be much worse, but he could still fight on. )
23. hxg6Rxg624. e4!Be6Black resigned before White could play f5
The loss did not break Carlsen’s spirit as he rebounded with five consecutive wins. I particularly like his effort against Alexander Morozevich of Russia.
Carlsen, Magnus vs. Morozevich, Alexander
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 10 |29 Dec 2016 |1-0
Kf7The computer evaluates the chances in this endgame as equal, but I think that's ridiculous. The White pawns look much better than the extra Black piece. Indeed, Carlsen wins the game and makes it look easy. 43. Rxe6Kxe6
( 43... Nxe6This move looks more accurate to me. )
44. Ke4b645. Nf4+Kd646. g4All nice and simple. White centralizes his pieces and starts pushing his pawns. 46... b5
( 46... Ne6This is the engine's suggestion but I think White should win after: 47. Nxe6Kxe648. g5 )
47. g5a548. h4Ne649. Nxe6Kxe650. b3All still very simple. white sets his passed pawns on the queenside in motion. 50... Bf851. c4bxc452. bxc4Bd653. c5Bg354. h5Black is unable to put up much resistance. It's difficult to even point out where he went wrong. Once again, Carlsen seems to be right and the engines seem wrong. That is not easy to do, particularly in a blitz game! 54... Bf255. d5+Kd756. g6hxg657. hxg6Ke758. d6+Kf659. d7
Karjakin’s performance after beating Carlsen was not quite as efficient, but it was very strong nonetheless. He gave up three more draws, but remained undefeated overall on the day, notching several nice victories. I really liked his game with Ahmed Adly of Egypt. Adly, who had Black played the opening poorly, but it can be very difficult to punish errors in a blitz game. Karjakin was more than up to the task.
Sergey Karjakin and Ahmed Adly just after their game finished in Round 6. Adly was clearly upset by how he played.
Karjakin, Sergey vs. Adly, Ahmed
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 6 |29 Dec 2016 |1-0
5. Nc3a6?!I think that this move is inaccurate. 6. Bxd7+Qxd7?And this move is just plain wrong. If Black wants to play like this he should recapture with the knight.
( 6... Nbxd7!7. O-ONe5Black is probably okay in this position. )
7. d4cxd48. Nxd4Qg4?
( 8... e6White has a pleasant position, but the move played by Black cedes a huge advantage to White. )
9. Qxg4!Nxg410. Nd5!Black
is going to get knocked around. 10... Kd811. f3Ne512. Nb6Ra713. Be3a514. Ke2Ra615. Nb5Nbd7It took a terrific effort from Adly to not lose material immediately, but his position is still terrible. 16. Nxd7Kxd7
( 16... Nxd7This prevents the position from opening up, which would be to White's advantage, but the situation is still very unpleasant for Black. )
17. c5!Nc418. Bf2!Not fearing the loss of the pawn on b2 because Black is badly underdeveloped. 18... Nxb219. Rhc1Rc620. a4!Trapping the knight on b2. 20... e621. Ra2Nxa422. Rxa4The rest of the game was easy for Karjakin. 22... dxc523. Rxa5Ra624. Rxa6bxa625. Nc3Bd626. Na4Rb827. Nxc5+Ke828. Nd3a529. e5Be730. Rc4Rb531. Rc8+Kd732. Ra8f533. exf6gxf634. Ra7+Ke835. g4f536. Bd4fxg437. fxg4h538. Ne5hxg439. Ra8+Bd840. Nc6Kd741. Nxd8Rd542. Be3Rh543. Bf4Rf544. Bg3Rf845. Ra7+Kxd846. Ra8+Ke747. Bd6+Kxd648. Rxf8Kc549. Rg8Kd5
One thing that makes blitz interesting is the blunders. In some positions, the best move can be found very easily even in just 15 seconds, but with only two or three, errors creep in. This was definitely the case for Benjamin Bok of the Netherlands in Round 4 against Baadur Jobava of Georgia:
Bok, Benjamin vs. Jobava, Baadur
World Blitz Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 4 |29 Dec 2016 |0-1
( 43. Rc3White would be fine after this move. 43... Ra144. Rc2 )
43... Nc4+44. Kd1Ra1+45. Rc1Rd2+Probably Bok missed this when he played Kd2. Blitz produces lots of blunders!
There are only nine rounds left on Friday and I predict that Carlsen will win the two-man race and win the championship, as he did in 2014.
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.
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