The Moscow Blitz
By Misha Savinov
Moscow Blitz Championship, sponsored by the local newspaper “Evening
Moscow”, is certainly one of the greatest traditional events on the Russian
chess scene. Many famous players enjoyed the democratic atmosphere of this
tournament, usually held in one of Moscow parks. In different times there were
different first prizes, like bicycles, for example.
But the best known of them is, of course, the Russian samovar. This trophy
has enriched the collections of David Bronstein, Vassily Smyslov, Tigran Petrosian,
Yuri Averbakh, and others. The record holder is the most beloved blitz player
of all times – Mikhail Tal. The Magician from Riga brought home as many
as twelve samovars! Tal’s skill in blitz was legendary. Needless to remind
you that it was he, an old and sick man, who won first World Blitz Championship,
ahead of world’s strongest players, including Garry Kasparov himself.
The Moscow Blitz is not only about great grandmasters. Some of very successful
blitz players are hardly known for their classical chess victories. It is enough
to name a few: Genrikh Chepukaitis from Leningrad/St. Petersburg, and Valentin
Arbakov from Moscow. So talented – and so carefree. As the chess world
becomes more pragmatic there is no room for romantics with their own understanding
of the game, an understanding which can’t be verified by and analysis
engine. Both Arbakov and Chepukaitis passed on this year, and we already miss
This year’s Blitz championship was under a threat of cancellation, due
to Russia’s mourning for the victims of recent terrorist attacks. However,
Moscow authorities decided not to cancel sport events. Another threat was bad
weather. On Friday, September 3rd Moscow experienced a tropical rain, which
raised doubts about the location of the event. Playing outside suddenly became
The President Hotel
Organizers reacted swiftly, and for the first time in many years the competition
moved to the elite “President Hotel”.
Participants and spectators arriving to the “President Hotel”.
Vadim Zvjaginsev and Vladimir Malakhov enjoying the company of fellow players
Many players raised doubts about the clocks used in the event. For example,
Morozevich said that it is highly inconvenient to play with them, as he could
not read the times during the game. So, Evgeny Najer (left) and Alexander Motylev
(right) used the first opportunity to learn more about it
Vadim Zvjaginsev (above left) became a surprise leader from the very beginning.
No doubt, he is very strong chess player, solid and skilled, but he was hardly
considered to be specialist in blitz. Nevertheless, he led the race until
Alexander Grischuk came here to play for a win, but he was not in a good shape
– Alexander caught a cold and had a slight fever.
Alexey Aleksandrov from Belarus came to Moscow to take part in the Blitz final.
He was close to the leaders in the beginning, but got tired during the second
part of the event.
Legendary David Bronstein, who rarely visits chess events now, came to the
“Samovar Blitz” to take a look at those young lions.
The former world vice-champion did not chat with the participants, making
only two exceptions. David Bronstein and Evgeny Najer.
Alexander Grischuk took the lead after Vadim Zvjaginsev’s loss in round
13, but the spectators did not spoil him with their extra attention. Crowds
more often gathered around other tables.
Traditional hand-made tables look nicer than print-outs
Alexander Morozevich – paying attention to the pieces
It wasn’t easy for TV crew to get closer to Moro’s board
Morozevich chalked up seven wins in a row between the 12th and 18th rounds,
practically securing a win, as Grischuk trailed a full point with only one
round to go. IM Deviatkin (above right) lost to Morozevich as well, but his
overall score was surprisingly high: with 13 out of 19 he tied for 3rd-5th.
Alexander Motylev (being photographed above), future participant of Russian
Super Final (which will take place in November), has never been regarded as
particularly dangerous blitz player, but it was hard to expect disastrous 6
out of 19. However, the player himself did not look depressed at all... Former
Russian champion enjoys media attention... and promotes one of the sponsor
Alexander Riazantsev (left) tied for 3rd-5th, together with Deviatkin and
Zvjaginsev. His opponent here is FIDE Master Pavel Dvalishvili, who is more
dangerous in speed rather than in classical chess
Youngest participant, candidate master Mikhail Glotov, qualified to the final
by winning Moscow U18 blitz championship. However, with adults he only collected
1.5 in 19 rounds.
There was only one conflict during the tournament. Alexey Dreev had an extra
exchange against Valery Popov, but, as usual, no one could read the clocks,
so the atmosphere was quite tense. Popov made an illegal move, but did not
push yet the clock button, when Dreev impatiently shouted: “Illegal move!”
and attempted to claim a victory by default. The game was stopped for a minute
or two. An arbiter decided that he game should go on, and unhappy Dreev mated
his opponent in 5 or 6 more moves. However, in the end Popov finished with
11.5 out of 19, a clear point ahead of Alexey...
Boris Spassky came to "President Hotel" directly from airport
David Ionovich watches the last round game of Morozevich
“Do you think it would be ok if I congratulate Morozevich? Could I approach
him?” – asked Bronstein one of his friends with a timid voice.
It seems it worked out well...
Alexander Morozevich with his trophy, and obviously tired of media attention
This mysterious visitor has something in mind...
And indeed! Here is a special prize from France to the oldest participant
of the tournament. Surprisingly, the oldest player was Alexey Dreev!
Misha Savinov is a journalist, chess columnist,
and currently doing a Ph.D. in ecology
||Deviatkin, Riazantsev, Zvjaginsev
||Aleksandrov, Amonatov, Dreev, Najer
Previous Moscow Blitz tournaments