Magnus Carlsen and Nana Dzagnidze are World Blitz champions

by Alex Yermolinsky
12/31/2017 – After a thrilling two days of action, we saw severe turnarounds by the challengers on Day 2. Magnus Carlsen capped a brilliant day with a massive score against the world's best to snatch gold. Sergey Karjakin fought back to win silver, and Vishy Anand concluded his magnificent run with bronze. In the Women's event, Pia Cramling faded as she lost steam, while Nana Dzagnidze took gold. We bring a massive report by Alex Yermolinsky. | Photo:

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The final chapter of the chess year in 2017 was written today, and the headline screams: MAGNUS WINS AGAIN! What a great performance it was. Carlsen started off with four wins, including a resounding victory over the Day One leader Sergey Karjakin, then he took one draw against Vachier-Lagrave, and then another 4-game winning streak secured him the 2017 World Blitz Championship title with one round to spare. The quick last-round draw with Aronian was just a formality.

Magnus' tally of 16/21, however, cost him 20 rating points, which goes to show how far ahead he really is ahead of everyone else in the Blitz rating list. The 3000 mark remains to be conquered.

What's his secret? Carlsen didn't do anything special, he played his usual chess, only much faster than yesterday. It seemed he was at least a minute ahead on the clock in every game. People tried to resist, but eventually they would blunder in the face of the relentless pressure from the board and the clock.

Magnus Carlsen was imperial on the last day | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Scary is the word, and 'scary good' describes Carlsen's blitz skills well.

Carlsen at his scary best

A World Champion's Repertoire against the Queen's Gambit Declined

This DVD offers a complete repertoire for handling this solid opening, often featuring a dynamic approach to pose the opponent more practical problems. Both of the main continuations 3...Nf6 and 3...Be7 are covered in two separate parts.

While Magnus was just warming up, Sergey was tentative. His three draws at the start of Day Two left an impression of him trying to coast to the finish. That little hesitation proved costly. Before Sergey knew it Magnus was hot on his heels. The following encounter in Round 15 completed the tournament turnaround.

Magnus Carlsen 1-0 Sergey Karjakin

[Event "FIDE World Blitz-ch Men 2017"] [Site "Riyadh"] [Date "2017.12.30"] [Round "15"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C48"] [WhiteElo "2837"] [BlackElo "2760"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 $1 {Carlsen loves stable pawn structures.} dxc6 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Be3 Bd6 8. Bg5 $5 {Magnus plays a new move, just enough to get Sergey out of his usual pattern with Nd7.} Re8 9. h3 c5 $6 ( {The most principled reply would be} 9... h6 10. Bh4 g5 11. Bg3 Qe7) 10. Nd5 Be7 11. Nxe7+ $1 {One more of these unconventional minor piece trades we have seen a lot in Riyadh. It's all about getting a comfortable position, one that you know you can handle, particularly in blitz. Anand would trade his bishops for knights with no hesitation when it suits his purpose. Here Carlsen trades off for Black's "bad" bishop in anticipation of his plan with f2-f4.} Qxe7 12. O-O h6 13. Be3 $1 Nd7 {This continues the old tired pattern of Karjakin's chess in 2017. For as long as his position remains safe he goes on with conventional moves.} (13... c4 $5 {would have been a small spark of creativity. }) 14. Nd2 Nb8 $2 {Now a first real error.} ({That knight was needed on the K-side:} 14... Nf8 15. f4 exf4 16. Rxf4 Be6 17. Qh5 b6 18. Raf1 Ng6 19. R4f2 Qd6 {preparing to trade or evict the white queen after Qd6-e5.}) 15. f4 exf4 16. Rxf4 Nc6 $6 {Things are getting serious, but Sergey is still not paying attention.} (16... Be6 17. Qh5 Nd7 $14) 17. Qh5 b6 18. Raf1 Rf8 19. Nf3 $5 {[#] } Be6 ({One wonders if the players considered} 19... g5 {at all.} 20. Rh4 $1 { would be the only reply, leading to a fascinating attack after} gxh4 21. Bxh6 Bd7 22. Bg7 $3) 20. Rh4 $5 {This could have been refuted tactically, but in the frame of the ongoing battle Magnus made the right call.} f6 21. Qg6 Qf7 $2 {This is where Karjakin failed to live up to his well-earned reputation of a scrappy tough defender.} ({With more time on the clock he could have found} 21... Bf7 22. Qg3 Kh7 {with the idea of stopping} 23. Bxh6 $2 gxh6 24. Qf4 {by} h5 $1) 22. Qg3 $1 Nb4 $2 {When things go real bad Sergey can sometimes bail out with tactics.} ({The only move was} 22... h5) 23. Bxh6 {Not today!} Nxc2 24. Ne5 fxe5 25. Rxf7 Rxf7 26. Qg6 Bxa2 27. Bg5 Rff8 28. Rh7 Rf7 29. Bf6 1-0

Clearly, Karjakin came to this critical game ice cold. In blitz it's all about the momentum, that's why we often witness winning and losing streaks. Speaking of the former, Carlsen just kept on mowing down his opposition. His only dangerous moment came against Tigran Petrosian.

Nine out of ten against the best players in the world – a feat worthy of a king.


Magnus Carlsen discusses his delight at winning the World Blitz | Source: ChessCast

Tricks & Traps Vol. 3 - In the Flank Openings

Tricks and traps, especially in the opening, are a dangerous reality of competitive chess. All sorts of surprises await the unwary player, from devastating sacrifices to cunning move order ploys. A knowledge of such ideas is essential if a player wants to be the hunter rather than the victim.

A question remains, why can't Carlsen translate his dominance in blitz, and to a lesser extent in rapid, into regaining his supremacy in classical chess. My theory is that while Carlsen maintains a decent level of performance no matter how little time he has, others experience a sharp drop-off, particularly in blitz. When it comes down to following one's instincts and avoiding blunders nobody comes close to Carlsen. When in his comfort zone Magnus makes practically no errors. In longer time controls there's a chance of creating a more complex situation on the board, which may induce some errors from the Champ.

Sergey Karjakin lost his lead but fought back to silver | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Coming back to the "also-rans", I'd first give credit to Karjakin, who answered the call after losing his leading position. His play was not on Carlsen's level, but Sergey fought hard and won some games when he had his chances. Both Mamedyarov and Grischuk went down against Karjakin after trying semi-correct sacrifices, but I liked the following game more:

Sergey Karjakin 1-0 Anton Korobov

[Event "World Blitz 2017"] [Site "Riyadh KSA"] [Date "2017.12.30"] [Round "16.2"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Korobov, Anton"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B53"] [WhiteElo "2760"] [BlackElo "2652"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r5k1/3R2bp/6p1/4p3/1p2P3/1PnN1P1P/3B2K1/8 b - - 0 37"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2017.12.29"] [EventType "blitz"] {[#]} 37... Bf8 $2 (37... Ra2 38. Nxb4 Rb2 {would have been a timely counterattack.}) 38. Nxe5 Ra2 39. Nc4 Bc5 40. Kg3 Ne2+ 41. Kg4 $16 Nd4 42. e5 Nxb3 43. Bh6 $1 Rg2+ 44. Kf4 Nd4 45. Ke4 $2 {Not quite a Carlsen-like execution.} ({Magnus would have taken advantage of an opportunity to improve the rook first,} 45. Rg7+ $1 Kh8 46. Rb7 Kg8 47. Ke4 Nf5 {and then} 48. Kd5 Nxh6 49. Kxc5 Nf5 50. Nd6 {should do the trick.}) 45... Nf5 46. Bf4 Re2+ 47. Kd5 Bf8 48. Nd6 Bxd6 $2 ({Black could have saved himself with a clever tactic: } 48... Ne7+ 49. Ke6 b3 50. Rb7 Nc6 $11 {threatening Nd8+ and keeping the b-pawn alive, all thanks to knight forks. Finding such resources is difficult in blitz, where, as a rule, the defender gets very low on time.}) 49. exd6 b3 50. Rb7 Re1 51. Rxb3 $2 {Bad execution again.} ({Any bets against Carlsen playing} 51. Be5 $18 {here?}) 51... Rd1+ 52. Kc5 Nd4 ({Bringing the king in} 52... Kf7 {should make a draw.}) 53. Re3 $1 {A nice recovery shot from Sergey and he's going to take a full point.} Kf7 54. Re7+ Kf8 55. Bh6+ Kg8 56. Rg7+ Kh8 57. Re7 Kg8 58. d7 Nf5 59. Re8+ Kf7 60. d8=Q Rxd8 61. Rxd8 Nxh6 62. Rd7+ Kg8 63. Kd5 Nf7 64. f4 Nh6 65. Ke6 Nf5 66. Kf6 1-0

There were more heroes today. Vishy Anand once again defied his doubters by putting up a solid performance of 5 wins and 5 draws. True to himself, Vishy didn't push his luck, he just let his game flow and accepted the outcome of any given game whatever it might come. Good things happen when he plays like this.

Anand's run to bronze

After winning the World Rapid title, Vishy Anand came in third in the World Blitz. What a run! | Photo:

The critical win came in the last round when Anand became the grateful recipient of MVL’s huge blunder.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0-1 Vishy Anand

[Event "World Blitz 2017"] [Site "Riyadh KSA"] [Date "2017.12.30"] [Round "21.4"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "2789"] [BlackElo "2782"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "100"] [EventDate "2017.12.29"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 O-O 6. c3 d5 7. exd5 Nxd5 8. a4 a6 9. Re1 Bg4 10. h3 Bh5 11. Nbd2 f6 12. Ne4 Ba7 13. b4 Nce7 14. Bd2 c6 15. Ng3 Bf7 16. d4 exd4 17. Nxd4 Bxd4 18. cxd4 Qd7 19. Ne4 Nf5 20. Nc5 Qc8 21. Nb3 Re8 22. Rxe8+ Qxe8 23. Qg4 Nde7 24. Bxf7+ Qxf7 25. Nc5 b6 26. Nd7 h5 27. Qf4 Rd8 28. Nxb6 Rxd4 29. Qb8+ Kh7 30. Bc3 Rd3 31. Be1 Nh4 32. Qf4 Neg6 33. Qc4 Qxc4 34. Nxc4 Nf4 35. Ne3 Rb3 36. Kf1 Nhg6 37. Nc4 Ne5 38. Nxe5 fxe5 39. Bd2 Rb2 40. Bc3 Rc2 41. Bxe5 Nd3 42. Bd4 Nxb4 43. Rb1 Rc4 44. Bb6 Nd5 45. a5 c5 46. Ke2 Rc2+ 47. Kf3 c4 48. Bd4 Rd2 49. Ke4 Nf6+ {[#]} 50. Ke3 $4 (50. Bxf6 gxf6 51. Rb6 $11) (50. Ke5 $1 $14) 50... Rd3+ 0-1

My Career Vol. 1

The first DVD with videos from Anand's chess career reflects the very beginning of that career and goes as far as 1999. It starts with his memories of how he first learned chess and shows his first great games (including those from the 1984 WCh for juniors). The high point of his early developmental phase was the winning of the 1987 WCh for juniors. After that, things continue in quick succession: the first victories over Kasparov, WCh candidate in both the FIDE and PCA cycles and the high point of the WCh match against Kasparov in 1995.
Running time: 3:48 hours

Afterwards, Anand spoke to ChessBase India about his experience in Riyadh:

"I just feel so happy. It's very very hard to even describe it. I showed in Dubai that I am capable of good performances. In all the previous World Rapid and Blitz that I played I hadn't come close to a first place. It didn't look like something that's going to get easier either. 
First two days of rapid I had done extremely well, on the third day somehow in the beginning I started to go more slowly and I drew three games. Magnus had started winning games and it felt like slipping out of my grasp. In fact I was even wondering if I was going to have a podium finish. Luckily in the Grischuk game I was able to get a very good advantage and press. This meant that I could break free of the pack and join Magnus for the first place.
Bu (Xiangzhi) played ultra solid with white and took his draw. So this meant that I had to wait for Magnus. But I was philosophical about it. If Magnus won then he deserved to win, but I was trying to get ready for the tiebreak. After successive changes, first I thought I was going to play Magnus, very soon I understood that it would need a blunder from Grischuk for Magnus to win. First Nepomniachtchi and then Fedoseev caught up and I realized that my tiebreak opponent would actually be Fedoseev.
It all went very fast. The arbiter tell you that you have to play, you have a few minutes to compose yourself. It's all very chaotic. You cannot do much work. I played the two blitz games and I played them quite well. In the second game, when I was a piece up, I didn't need to give it back. But luckily my position was so good that even after that I was safe and I had my cushion. Just relieved and happy and this is a very nice way to enter 2018... Yeah! I am just very happy!"

The second-best performance of Day Two belonged to Levon Aronian, who shook off a horrible 5.5/11 on the first day and went 8.5/10! Levon has the chops to play strong blitz, as he proved this summer by winning the St. Louis stage of the Grand Chess Tour.

Aronian shows his stuff

For the rest of the field it was a hit or miss day. Clearly, fatigue was the issue for many combatants. Come to think of it, five days filled with non-stop chess is very taxing. I believe an off-day between the rapid and blitz parts should be mandated. Blunders galore to follow.


This last example makes me wonder about the proper place for blitz events in the future of our beloved game. While I'm all for promoting Rapid Chess, Blitz is a whole different animal. How many illogical results can we tolerate? When do we finally get sick of blunders?

Typical mistakes by 1600-1900 players

Some mistakes repeat themselves often in amateur games. With themes such as "Miscalculating Forcing Lines", "Being Too Materialistic" and "King Safety" Nick Pert shows you how to avoid making typical mistakes.

I can praise Carlsen for making the best out of what is given to him, which is three minute per game. He can avoid blunders while still playing something that resembles his regular chess, but what about other styles of play? Creativity is severely punished in blitz. Maybe not in every game, but over the course of a long tournament it will be.

In my personal experience I knew two applications for blitz. One is a relaxing form of entertainment when played between friends over some drinks and harmless banter. I still wouldn't mind doing this, if I had a chance, but the tense tournament schedule of this day and age doesn't allow much time.

The other side of blitz is the dark side. It has always been there in the back rooms of coffeehouses and on park benches found all over the world. It's called chess hustling and that's what it really is. All sorts of cheating occurs there, it's a dog eat dog world, and it's not pretty. Trust me, I have done my share of diving into it, when — how to put it — let me use the beat up excuse "I was young and I needed the money".

An attempt to blend the two in form of high-profile blitz tournaments inevitably creates conflicts, and the more money is thrown into the pot, the uglier it will become. Witness the Inarkiev incident yesterday. To me it's clear he cheated, and what his punishment was, forfeiting an already lost game? With that kind of incentive I wonder what comes next.

We already had Kasparov taking back a move against Judit Polgar, Nakamura's repetitious j'adoube, the Canadian Championship won by GM Sambuev's clever hiding of the queen behind his back as his opponent was about to promote his pawn and many more of the kind. As to the hidden queen, I have seen this trick done so many times that I knew guys who carried spare queens, white and black, in their pocket when playing "street chess".

In short, playing blitz for high stakes brings out the worst in us. Let's keep it where it belongs, and not use the deserving rise of faster time control chess, i.e. 25+10 or slightly lower, as a vehicle to promote blitz events alongside.

To conclude my excessively long report I'll mention that on the women's side the Cinderella story of Pia Cramling sadly came to an end when the venerable veteran simply ran out of gas. Only the first round game went her way on Day 2, and it was all downhill from there. Pia lost her last three games to finish in 5th place.

Pia Cramling had a brilliant first day, but a dismal second one, and finished 5th | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Pia runs out of gas

In the end, it was Nana Dzagnidze who persevered and outlasted everyone else. I want to apologize for not being able to present a better example of her wins, but it is certainly the most striking one.

In the end, Nana Dzagnidze took gold with a round to spare, followed by Valentina Gunina with silver (right), and Ju Wenjun, who had an identical run to Anand: gold in the Rapid and bronze in the Blitz. | Photo:


Nana Dzagnidze is interviewed by Anastasia Karlovich after winning the title | Source: ChessCast

Nana Dzagnidze 1-0 Klaudia Kulon

[Event "World Blitz Women 2017"] [Site "Riyadh KSA"] [Date "2017.12.30"] [Round "19.1"] [White "Dzagnidze, Nana"] [Black "Kulon, Klaudia"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E62"] [WhiteElo "2522"] [BlackElo "2370"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "135"] [EventDate "2017.12.29"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. O-O d6 6. c4 Nc6 7. Nc3 e5 8. b3 Bf5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Bb2 Qe7 11. Qc1 Rfd8 12. Rd1 Nd4 13. e3 Nxf3+ 14. Bxf3 c6 15. Rxd8+ Rxd8 16. Qe1 e4 17. Be2 Nd7 18. Rd1 Ne5 19. Rxd8+ Qxd8 20. Qd1 Qa5 21. Qa1 Nd3 22. Bxd3 exd3 23. a3 d2 24. b4 Qd8 25. Nd1 Bxb2 26. Qxb2 Bg4 27. Qc2 Bf3 28. h3 Qd7 29. Kh2 Qf5 30. Qxd2 Qb1 31. Qd8+ Kg7 32. Qd4+ f6 33. Qf4 Qxd1 34. Qc7+ Kf8 35. Qc8+ Ke7 36. Qxb7+ {[#] I don't mean to diminish Nana's accomplishment, but nobody can see White winning from here.} Qd7 (36... Ke6 37. Qc8+ Ke5 38. Qc7+ Ke4 39. Qe7+ Kd3 40. Qd6+ Kxc4) 37. Qb8 Be2 38. Qf4 Qd6 39. Qe4+ Kf7 40. c5 Qd5 41. Qf4 Qd7 (41... g5 42. Qc7+ Kg6 43. Qc8 Bf3) 42. Qe4 Ba6 43. Qf4 Bc8 44. Kg1 Qxh3 45. Qc7+ Qd7 46. Qb8 h5 47. Kh2 h4 48. gxh4 Ba6 49. Qf4 Bd3 50. Kg3 Bf5 51. e4 Be6 52. f3 Kg7 53. Qb8 Bf7 54. Qf4 Qd1 55. Qe3 Qh1 56. e5 fxe5 (56... f5 57. e6 f4+ 58. Kxf4 Qxh4+ 59. Ke5 Qe7 {Granted, this one is hard to spot.}) 57. Qxe5+ Kh7 58. Qe7 Qg1+ 59. Kh3 Qf1+ 60. Kg3 Qc4 61. Qxa7 Kh6 62. Qc7 Be6 63. Qf4+ Qxf4+ 64. Kxf4 Bb3 65. Ke5 Kh5 (65... Ba4 $11) 66. b5 cxb5 67. c6 Bd1 68. c7 1-0

Congratulations to the winners, and Happy New Year to everyone reading these words.


Video summary of the last day | Source: ChessCast

Final standings in Open

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Carlsen Magnus 16,0 0,0
2 Karjakin Sergey 14,5 0,5
3 Anand Viswanathan 14,5 0,5
4 Wang Hao 14,0 0,0
5 Aronian Levon 14,0 0,0
6 Ding Liren 13,5 0,0
7 Petrosian Tigran L. 13,5 0,0
8 Yu Yangyi 13,5 0,0
9 Korobov Anton 13,5 0,0
10 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 13,5 0,0
11 Svidler Peter 13,5 0,0
12 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 13,0 0,0
13 Grischuk Alexander 13,0 0,0
14 Savchenko Boris 13,0 0,0
15 Melkumyan Hrant 13,0 0,0
16 Le Quang Liem 13,0 0,0
17 Mamedov Rauf 13,0 0,0
18 Adly Ahmed 13,0 0,0
19 Dreev Aleksey 12,5 0,0
20 Amin Bassem 12,5 0,0

Final standings in Women

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Dzagnidze Nana 16,5 0,0
2 Gunina Valentina 16,0 0,0
3 Ju Wenjun 14,0 1,0
4 Lagno Kateryna 14,0 0,0
5 Cramling Pia 13,5 0,0
6 Tan Zhongyi 13,5 0,0
7 Kosteniuk Alexandra 13,5 0,0
8 Abdumalik Zhansaya 13,5 0,0
9 Kulon Klaudia 13,5 0,0
10 Mammadzada Gunay 13,0 0,0
11 Ushenina Anna 13,0 0,0
12 Zhukova Natalia 13,0 0,0
13 Danielian Elina 13,0 0,0
14 Goryachkina Aleksandra 12,5 0,0
15 Javakhishvili Lela 12,5 0,0
16 Lei Tingjie 12,5 0,0
17 Paehtz Elisabeth 12,5 0,0
18 Khotenashvili Bela 12,5 0,0
19 Hoang Thanh Trang 12,5 0,0
20 Michna Marta 12,0 0,0

Replay all Open games


Replay all Women games



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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