After 15 rounds of rapid chess it was now time for blitz. It is said that the blitz format is the way in which chess can become truly popular. And why not? Both players get just three minutes for the entire game with an additional two seconds increment per move. In such a reduced time control the role of intuition becomes much more important. Also players who can spot small tactics are able to perform much better than long-term strategists.
At the World Blitz 2016, there were certain players who were clear-cut favourites to perform well – Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi. All of them are less than 30-years-old and have a blitz Elo rating of over 2,800. Viswanathan Anand, who at one point in time, was considered as the undisputed speed king, is no longer as dangerous as before.
At the end of the first day of blitz, Karjakin and Carlsen were clearly dominating the show as they raced to 10.0/12. Their nearest rivals were 1.5 points behind them at 8.5/12. Nine more games remain to be played, but it seems like it would be either Carlsen or Karjakin who would win the title.
In blitz chess we often see the domino effect in action. One loss leads to another and there is no stopping this phenomenon. The reason for this is the very less time between two rounds to recover and refresh yourself.
That is precisely the reason why Harika Dronavalli isn't leading in the women's section after day one. She started with a perfect 6.0/6. Excellent games were interspersed with some luck as she managed to trick her opponents and win losing games. She beat strong players like Alina Kashlinskaya, Ju Wenjun, Lela Javakhishvili, Antoaneta Stefanova and others. However, she lost two back-to-back rounds at the end, which meant that she ended the day on 6.5/9. Alexandra Kosteniuk managed to steal the show by defeating Koneru Humpy in the last round and now leads with 7.5/9. Humpy scored 6.0/9 and is in seventh position. Both the Indians have a chance of a medal.
The domino effect was much worse in the open section as grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi, the star of the rapid event for India, faced four consecutive losses after beginning well. Gujrathi started with wins over Onischuk and Moiseenko, and draws against Anand and Nakamura. However, from round five onwards, he just couldn't control his mistakes. 5.5/12 is not a score that he would be too happy with. Grandmaster Debashis Das also showed a lot of promise by defeating strong players like Vallejo Pons and Marin Bosiocic. After being on 3.5/5, he lost six games in a row. That's why blitz chess is so brutal.
Even with the influx of youngsters like Gujrathi, B Adhiban, MR Lalith Babu and others, Anand still remains the best player of the country by quite a margin as he scored 7.5/12 and finished 14th on day one. Covering a 2.5 point deficit of Carlsen and Karjakin won't be easy for Anand, but he is still with a chance.
The star performer for India has been definitely Surya Shekhar Ganguly. He beat Hrant Melkumyan, Maxim Matlakov, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and David Howell. With five draws against strong opponents, he is currently on 6.5/12 and gaining 60 Elo points. Lalith Babu beat players like Zdenko Kozul and Sergei Zhigalko and is on 6.5/12. Adhiban won against Vassily Ivanchuk and Peter Leko and scored 6.0/12. It was a great result for Neelotpal Das as he beat strong opponents like Ghaem Maghami, Laurent Fressinet and Al-Sayed Mohammed.
Standings after round 12 in open section.
Standings after round 9 in women section.
As we go into the last and final day of the World Rapid and Blitz, the players must be really tired. It's their fifth day in a row when they would be putting their minds to maximum use in order to win the World Blitz title. You can be sure that tiredness and fatigue will result in a lot of blunders and errors. In any case, this bloodbath will be a great spectacle for the viewers.
Sagar Shah, is an international Master and co-founder of ChessBase India.
Updated Date: Dec 30, 2016 21:18:51 IST