World Blitz Championship: Anand adds another feather to his cap in Riyadh; wins bronze in Blitz
Vishy Anand ended the year with a bang at the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Riyadh, yesterday. After winning the title of the world rapid champion, Anand did not sit back and celebrate. He went on with just as much energy to clinch another bronze medal at the blitz championship. Magnus Carlsen was another player who really shined in the blitz event. After a slightly off day on day 1, the classical world champion came back with 9.0/10 on day 2 to bag the title prize. An illustrated report with games and analysis
Anand bags medals in both rapid and blitz!
After winning the title of the World Rapid Champion at the King Salman World Rapid Championship, Viswanathan Anand added yet another feather to his cap by winning bronze in the blitz leg of the event. Anand scored 14.5 points out of the 21 games he played in the tournament and was tied for second with GM Sergey Karjakin but due to an inferior tiebreak score, was awarded the third place. The winner of the event was the reigning classical world champion, Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen was way ahead of the field and had won the event with a round to spare having scored 16/21.
By the end of the first day, Anand and Carlsen had scored 7.0/11 and were nowhere near the tournament leader Sergey Karjakin, who was two points ahead at 9.0/11. In the final round of the first day, Anand took his first loss of the event to Ian Nepomniachtchi. Carlsen also suffered a similar fate after over-pressing against Yu Yangyi in an equal position.
Two days, two incidents
In his first-round game against Ernesto Inarkiev, the latter had made an illegal move on the 27th turn when he forgot to defend his king from a check by Carlsen’s rook and gave a check of his own instead. Both players were down to their last seconds at this point and, in the heat of the battle, Carlsen did not notice that black’s king was in check. After Carlsen defended the check on his own king, Inarkiev claimed a win based on Carlsen’s illegal move. Quite shocked, Carlsen initially accepted this result but was suggested to talk to the chief arbiter about it. The Chief Arbiter then overruled the original decision and asked players to resume the game before the first illegal move was played. Inarkiev wasn’t happy with this decision and refused to play on. Carlsen was thus declared the winner.
But the entire fiasco had clearly taken a toll on Carlsen who lost his next game to GM Sanan Sjugirov in a very uncharacteristic manner. On his 30th move, Carlsen overlooked a simple tactic that lost a piece. He limped on for quite a few moves after this but the result of the game was never in doubt.
Round 19 witnessed another appeal. This time, it was in the game between Alexander Grischuk and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. At some point in the game, Grischuk had stopped the clock and claimed a draw by threefold repetition. The arbiter, however, said he did not see it and play resumed. After an 87-move-long struggle, Mamedyarov was finally able to force resignation.
But when Grischuk checked again after the game, he found that there was not a threefold but a fourfold repetition in the game! He immediately informed the chief arbiter and the game was declared a draw. And this time, Mamedyarov appealed against the arbiter’s decision claiming that the game was over and the score-sheets were signed. The appeals committee, however, rejected this appeal stating that once a correct claim is made, the game ends there; all that happens afterwards is irrelevant.
The super-solid Anand
Vishy Anand, on the other hand, began solidly and wasn’t taking much risk. Until the 10th round, he had won four and drawn six of his games. But in the final round of the day against Ian Nepomniachtchi, things went south very quickly for him. Nepomniachtchi had essayed the English Opening with the white pieces and had established a strong queenside pawn majority, coming out of the opening phase of the game. Anand too had his trumps in the position and it was all balanced in the opinion of the computers when Anand blundered and lost an exchange. Just two moves later, the newly crowned world rapid champion resigned.
On the second day, both Anand and Carlsen made strong comebacks. While Anand gathered three points out of his first four games on day two, scoring two wins and two draws, Carlsen kicked off with four back to back wins. Especially important among these was Carlsen’s win against Sergey Karjakin in the fifteenth round. Karjakin was leading the tournament until this point by a half-point margin and Carlsen, with his win, had pushed himself to the top spot by beating the leader.
As for Anand, he was much lower on the leaderboard on the 16th spot. In round 16, Anand defeated Vladimir Fedoseev for the third time in a blitz game in Riyadh (the first two being his two wins in the playoffs for the world rapid title) and made huge leaps up the leaderboard in the succeeding rounds.
The problem, however, was that Carlsen had also continued his thrusts forward energetically and had made it extremely difficult for anyone to catch up with him. By the 19th round, Anand was 1.5 points behind Carlsen and catching up with him seemed highly unlikely with only two rounds to go.
After round 19, Anand had reached the joint third spot by this point and was half-a-point behind Sergey Karjakin, who was second in the standings. In the penultimate round, Anand had the black pieces against Wang Hao and went for the Berlin Defence. Hao allowed the mainline of the opening which is considered extremely dull. The opening didn’t have much to offer to either side and after a mass exchange of pieces, the players agreed to a draw on the 27th move.
Carlsen, at this point, had defeated Anton Korobov after a long 58-move struggle. The game was pretty equal until the endgame when Korobov missed an important drawing resource and let Carlsen dominate. With this win, Carlsen had established a two-point lead over the rest of the field and had won the tournament with a round to spare. For the second spot, there was a four-way tie between Wang Hao, Karjakin, Aronian and Anand.
In the game between Alex Grischuk and Sergey Karjakin on board two, the former generated a monstrous attack on Karjakin’s king but faltered at the crucial moment and missed delivering the final blow. Furthermore, he blundered an entire rook just two moves later and resigned immediately.
Something similar was seen in the game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Viswanathan Anand. Anand kept his safety-first approach intact during the final round. The game opened with an Italian Opening and was pretty equal almost all throughout but on the 50th move Vachier-Lagrave cracked and blundered a full piece. With this win, Anand was able to keep up with Karjakin’s score of 14.5 while Aronian and Wang Hao could only draw.
In the final standings, Karjakin took the second place due to a better tie-break score while Anand was declared third. With this finish, Anand was the only player with a podium finish in both the rapid and the blitz event. His performance in Riyadh was simply commendable. When most players – who are almost half his age – cracked and made blunders, Anand stood strong and found the best moves. Out of the 38 games he played in Riyadh (21 at the blitz tournament, 15 in rapid and 2 in the playoffs), Anand lost only one. With such brilliant performances towards the end of the year, Anand will definitely be a player to watch out for in 2018.
About the Author
Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He has been an advertising copywriter and is currently pursuing a Master's in English Literature at the University of Mumbai. He loves all things German and is learning the language. He has also written scripts for experimental films.