Champions Showdown: Carlsen stays on top

by André Schulz
11/15/2017 – The last day of the match between Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren continued the trend of the previous days: Ding had chances but failed to realise them. Carlsen, however, was able to exploit chances he did not really seem to have. No wonder Carlsen won the blitz-match by a huge margin. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Carlsen won some games, Ding lost some games

"Sometimes Lasker won, sometimes Janowski lost", is a witticism of the Austrian chess journalist Georg Marco about the one-sided World Championship match between Emanuel Lasker and Dawid Janowski, 1910 in Berlin, a match in which Janowski did not win a single game. The Champions Showdown match between Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren was not that one-sided but Carlsen was still clearly superior.

It was one of four matches, in which eight top-players met on four days to battle it out in rapid chess, more rapid chess, even more rapid chess, and blitz chess. Or, to quote the time-controls: 30-minute games, 20-minute games, 10-minute games, and 5-minute games. All games with a very classical time-control, that is without additional time per move, the so-called increment. This led to good old clock-bashing, mistakes, blunders, and lots of drama. Wonderful! 

Let's start! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

One can only hope that no one will hit on the idea to come up with a new rating-list for each of these time-controls. For some time now the FIDE has kept three separate rating lists - one for games with classical time-control, one for rapid games, and one for blitz.

Magnus Carlsen leads all three lists and the less time he has the better is his rating and the higher is the distance to his rivals. In blitz Carlsen has an Elo-rating of 2948 and is about 60 points ahead of Sergey Karjakin, currently number two on the blitz-rating list. But Carlsen only needs 52 points to reach a rating of 3000 points, and some spectators thought that Carlsen would try to do his very best on the fourth and final day of his match against Ding Liren to reach this milestone.

But arbiter Tony Rich quickly pointed out that according to FIDE rules the blitz games on day 4 would not be rated  because the match had already been decided.

Black was OK

Rated or not rated, Carlsen and Ding still played the twelve blitz games with ambition. Carlsen won six of them, five were drawn, and only one, the third, was won by Ding Liren. Admittedly, Ding had more chances than the final result indicates, and had a couple of very good positions which he could not convert. Time was crucial here - and Carlsen simply played faster.

Ding Liren, Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The World Champion came well-prepared to the blitz battle against Ding. After all, after his handicap simul in Hamburg he played an inofficial blitz match (1 against 5 minutes) against Lawrence Trent, the commentator of the handicap simul.

No easy task for Carlsen: Playing with 1 minute Lawrence Trent's 5 minutes | Photo: André Schulz

If you count in classical fashion (1 point for a win, ½ point for a draw and 0 for a loss) Carlsen won the match against Ding with 22-8. The Chinese could only win two of the 30 games played in the match, Carlsen won 16 of these 30 games. But the games at the Champions Showdown in Saint Louis counted differently: a win in the 5-minute games netted 2 points, a win  in the 10-minute games brought 3 points, in the 20-minutes it gave you 4 points, and in the 30-minute games the players received 5 points for a win. But no matter how clear or how close the match was, the winner always received 60,000$ while the loser had to content himself with 40,000$.

Six of the seven decided games in the blitz-match between Ding Liren and Magnus Carlsen were won by Black. 1.e4 was played in two of the twelve games (in both cases Carlsen had White), and in no less than four games Carlsen opted for the King's Indian with Black - despite the fact that Ding is considered to be a King's Indian expert. But Carlsen still won all four games.

King's Indian: A modern approach

Bologan: "If you study this DVD carefully and solve the interactive exercises you will also enrich your chess vocabulary, your King's Indian vocabulary, build up confidence in the King's Indian and your chess and win more games."







In game 8 Ding Liren was clearly winning against Carlsen's King's Indian but then gave the game away:




The blitz games


All games


On-demand playlist

Illustrating the effect of no increment time control, last week GM commentators Alejandro Ramirez and Christian Chrila played a trio of bullet games.

You can also find each days complete commentary in the playlist menu (click or tap the icon in the upper left of the video player).

2017 Champions Showdown playlist | Source: CCSCSL on YouTube

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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