5th Blitz Marathon brings Anand

by Albert Silver
6/11/2014 – Last weekend, the 5th Blitz Marathon was held in Rabat, Morocco, bringing a very strong field with sixteen grandmasters among the 100-plus participants to play 21 rounds of non-stop blitz action. Even low-rated players had reason to give it their all to the end: since the only way to play in the simul against Anand and Ipatov was to win a spot. Illustrated report with GM analysis.

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Vishy Anand and his wife Aruna enjoy some shopping in the street stalls

Upon seeing this, Anand commented it looked a lot like a Berlin, but the players didn't mind

Starting at 9:30 AM and ending at 7:30 PM, it was a hard-fought event until the end. Until rounds 15-16, there had been no clear leader, though top Elo Christian Bauer (2670) and Loek Van Wely kept a minimal edge over their pursuers. It seemed as if Bauer would repeat his previous win as he defeated Van Wely and other favorites, but as in any marathon, endurance is of the essence and he collapsed at the very end, losing to several 2500 GMs. At the same time, Loek Van Wely's physical conditioning made the difference and he overcame Bauer and the leaders, finishing the tournament with a dazzling one-point lead. In second and third were Dutch GM Robin Van Kampen and Canadian GM Eric Hansen.

Anand plays the opening move to launch the tournament

Eric Hansen (left) came in third, while Christian Bauer ran out of steam at the end

The two Dutch players, Robin Van Kampen (left) and Loek Van Wely (right), took silver and
gold respectively

It was not all about masters and grandmasters, and players of all ages and ability participated

The playing hall with games underway

Andrea Zechner from Austria was the top female

Alexander Ipatov played Christian Bauer in a tough game

Annotations by GM Alexander Ipatov:

[Event "Rabat, Maroc"] [Site "Rabat, Maroc"] [Date "2014.06.07"] [Round "12.1"] [White "Ipatov, Alexander "] [Black "Bauer, Christian"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A37"] [WhiteElo "2629"] [BlackElo "2670"] [Annotator "Alexander Ipatov"] [PlyCount "131"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [TimeControl "300+42"] [WhiteClock "0:00:22"] [BlackClock "0:00:14"] 1. c4 $5 {We played this game on 1st board when we both still were contenders for medals. It is also worth mentioning that Christian was my teammate in the French league ( Bois Colombes team ), which had finished just a couple of days before the Marathon. Christian had been trolling me throughout the entire league ("N..!"), also he beat me in speedminton ( okay, he is almost a professional in it! ), so naturally I was looking for "blood" in this game! The dilemma, however, was how to achieve it, as we both play crooked "anti-positional" chess, except that Christian is an upgraded version: he calculates better, plays faster, and knows more! I rejected my favorite 1.d4 because of 1...a6 (??!), where Christian is considered to be a specialist and was not afraid to play it against a world's top-20 player in the French league. My other blitz choice 1.b3 I rejected because of 1...f6 (serious!) 2. Bb2 Nh6 which Christian had already played against me in a friendly game in Saint Quentin right after the last round... :)} c5 (1... a6 {doesn't seem to work due to} 2. Nc3 b5 3. cxb5 axb5 4. Nxb5 $1 {and I'm just a pawn up. This was the main line of my brief preparation before the game.}) 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nf3 b6 $5 {Christian is true to his style and finds the way how to move the game out of the book.} 6. O-O Bb7 7. e3 Bxc3 $5 8. bxc3 d6 9. d3 ({ After the game Christian told me that} 9. d4 {would be the most principal continuation which had been already tried against himself last year.} Qc7 10. d5 Na5 11. e4 Nf6 12. Re1 Nd7 13. Bh6 f6 14. Bh3 O-O-O 15. Nd2 Kb8 16. f4 Bc8 17. Qe2 Ba6 18. Be6 Ka8 19. h4 Rb8 20. a4 Rhd8 21. Kg2 Nf8 22. Bxf8 Rxf8 23. f5 Qd8 24. Rf1 Qe8 25. Qd3 Rd8 26. Rf2 Rh8 27. Qe2 h5 28. Qd3 Rh6 29. Kh2 Qf8 30. fxg6 Rxg6 31. e5 Rh6 32. exd6 Rxd6 33. Rf4 Qd8 34. Qe3 Rh7 35. Re1 Rg7 36. Ne4 Nxc4 37. Qe2 Rxd5 38. Bxd5+ Qxd5 39. Rd1 Qe5 40. Rd8+ Kb7 41. Qd3 Nd6 42. Nxd6+ exd6 {1/2 (42) Wirig,A (2496)-Bauer,C (2633) Nancy 2013}) 9... Qd7 10. e4 O-O-O $1 11. Ne1 f5 $1 {Christian, as usual, feels the dynamics of a position very well.} 12. exf5 gxf5 13. Nc2 Nf6 14. Bg5 Ng4 15. h3 Nge5 16. d4 $1 {Otherwise Black would have exchanged the light-squared bishops with Nc6-a5 and grabbed the initiative.} Nxc4 17. Qe2 h6 18. Bh4 (18. Bxe7 $142 Nxe7 19. Qxc4 f4 20. dxc5 dxc5 21. Qxf4 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Nd5 23. Qc4 Qf5 $44) 18... N6a5 19. Qxe7 Qxe7 20. Bxe7 Rde8 21. Rfe1 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Rh7 23. Bh4 Rxe1 24. Rxe1 Kd7 25. Kf3 Nd2+ 26. Kf4 Rf7 27. f3 Nac4 28. Ne3 $4 {Okay, it is blitz. Heh.} Nxe3 $4 ({I immediately saw that} 28... Ne5 {was winning} 29. dxe5 dxe5+ 30. Kxe5 Nxf3+ 31. Kf4 Nxe1 $19 {,}) ({but there is an even simpler way according to the engine:} 28... Nb2 $1 $19) 29. Kxe3 Nc4+ 30. Kd3 b5 {The position is objectively equal but it is easier to play with Black as White's bishop on h4 is out of play and g3-g4 cannot be advanced.} 31. Rb1 Na3 32. Re1 Nc4 33. Rb1 Kc6 34. a4 a6 35. axb5+ axb5 36. Ra1 Nb2+ 37. Kc2 Na4 38. Re1 Kd5 39. dxc5 dxc5 40. Kb3 Nb6 41. Rd1+ Kc6 42. Re1 Nc4 43. Re6+ Kd5 44. Rxh6 Nd2+ 45. Kc2 Nxf3 46. Bf6 Kc4 47. g4 {The only way to create a counterplay.} fxg4 48. hxg4 Ra7 49. g5 (49. Kb2 $1) 49... Ra2+ 50. Kd1 Rd2+ (50... Kd3 {was winning} 51. Kc1 Rc2+ 52. Kd1 (52. Kb1 Nd2+ 53. Ka1 Kc4 $1 54. Rh3 Ne4 $1 55. Kb1 Rf2 $1 56. Re3 (56. Be7 Nxc3+) 56... Nxf6 57. gxf6 Rxf6 58. Rh3 Rf2 $19) 52... Rg2 53. Kc1 Nxg5 54. Bxg5 Rxg5 55. Rh3+ Kc4 56. Kc2 Rg2+ 57. Kd1 Kb3 $19) 51. Kc1 Rg2 52. g6 Kb3 53. Kd1 Rd2+ 54. Kc1 Re2 ({Once again Christian excused me} 54... Rc2+ 55. Kd1 Kb2 $3 {A truly amazing idea} 56. c4+ (56. Bg5 Nxg5 57. g7 Nf3 58. Rd6 Rg2 $19) 56... Kb1 $19 { and there is no defence against Rc2-d2X}) 55. Rh1 Ra2 56. Kb1 Nd2+ 57. Kc1 Ra1+ $4 (57... Ne4 $1 $19 {Threatening both Ne4xf6 and Ra2-a1xh1 and the game would be over again.}) 58. Kxd2 Rxh1 59. g7 {Now it is a draw. White's bishop is very well placed : supporting both g and c pawns.} Rg1 60. Kd3 $4 {Oops!} (60. Ke3 $1 $11) 60... b4 61. cxb4 cxb4 $4 {Now it is a draw again.} (61... c4+ $1 { Oh! That's why 60.Ke3 would be better...} 62. Ke4 c3 $19) 62. Ke4 Kc2 63. Kf5 b3 64. Ke6 b2 65. Bxb2 Kxb2 66. Kf7 {What can one say? As I had assumed before the game, Christian was stronger throughout, and in this fighting game I was lucky to escape!} 1/2-1/2

The prize winners: Eric Hansen (bronze), Youssef Iraqui (tournament director), Loek Van Wely (gold)
and Robin Van Kampen (silver)

For local fans, the top Moroccan was IM Ali Sebbar, who had previously qualified for the World Cup in Norway last year, ending 8th in the Marathon. Obviously following such an event was hard, but the organizers provided live streaming for the top four boards, that could be viewed at their site and Playchess, but also on a big screen at the venue for fans who came to watch.

Large projections were made of the top boards so visiting fans could follow the action

On Sunday, there were two simuls given, one by five-time World Champion Vishy Anand, and one by top Turkish GM Alexander Ipatov. Spots in either simul could only be earned from a result in the Blitz Marathon from the previous day, with five categories of which the top five played against Anand, while those 6th to 10th would play against Ipatov. Anand scored 23.5/25, drawing against FM Michael Bon (2353), and losing to Clément Stahl, while Ipatov finished with 24.5/25.

Anand's presence gave the event a touch of prestige only a player of his calibre could bring

The players eagerly await the start of the simuls

Anand and Ipatov do a littlle pre-simul opening preparation

Finally it starts, and Anand is greeted with t-shirts saying "Your move, Vishy!"

After the simul, the two played a short exhibition blitz match that Anand won 1.5-0.5, followed by a Q&A session with Vishy Anand and fans and players. It was a heartwarming moment for the Indian player as he was shown support by so many, insisting they were very sensitive to his humble, down-to-earth attitude. He Assured his fans that he was not just a part of past chess history, but would play a role in its future as well. He also discussed ways to develop chess from the base, such as chess in schools, and said he loved the country and would gladly return to the next edition, possibly even as a participant in the Blitz Marathon.

After the simuls, Anand and Ipatov played a quick blitz match for the fans

Anand was received very warmly and many comments in the Q&A were to express support

Youssef Iraqui, the Tournament director and organizer

Final standings

Rk SNr  Ti. Name Rtg FED Pts TB
1 2 GM Van Wely Loek 2647 NED 17½ 5592½
2 12 GM Van Kampen Robin 2478 NED 16½ 5511½
3 6 GM Hansen Eric 2576 CAN 16½ 5513
4 3 GM Fridman Daniel 2640 GER 16 5497½
5 4 GM Ipatov Alexander 2629 TUR 15 5561
6 1 GM Bauer Christian 2670 FRA 14 5545½
7 16 GM Czebe Attila 2419 HUN 13½ 5438
8 18 IM Sebbar Ali 2388 MAR 13½ 5413½
9 7 IM Shoker Samy 2575 EGY 13½ 5397
10 13 GM Movsisyan Karen 2477 ARM 13½ 5327
11 9 GM Tregubov Pavel 2515 RUS 13 5413
12 5 GM Peralta Fernando 2602 ARG 12½ 5372
13 8 GM Horvath Adam 2541 HUN 12½ 5326
14 11 GM Romero Holmes Alfonso 2479 ESP 12½ 5259
15 15 GM Garcia Palermo Carlos 2426 ITA 12½ 5222
16 20 FM Bon Michel 2353 FRA 12½ 5209½
17 52   El Bekkali Kamal 1940 MAR 12½ 5193
18 24   Choukri Adel 2207 MAR 12½ 5068
19 109   Tachafine Anouar 0 MAR 12½ 5020½
20 46   Kholti Achraf 2100 MAR 12½ 4959½

Click for complete standings


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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