Unstoppable Sergey Karjakin, too hot to handle at the Tal Memorial Blitz!

by Sagar Shah
3/6/2018 – 13 rounds of blitz is tiring. If you are not playing well you want to get over with it as soon as possible. But if you are winning like Sergey Karjakin was at the Tal Memorial Blitz 2018, you would want to keep playing forever! Sergey was in top-notch form as he mustered up 10.0/13 (+8,=4,-1) and finished 1½ points ahead of second-placed Nakamura. The American tried hard but couldn't keep up with Karjakin's pace. Third place was won by Ian Nepomniachtchi. We have the full coverage with interesting games, positions and lot of videos!

Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian

Wesley So published two new opening DVDs: 1.b3, the so called Nimzo-Larsen-Attack, for White and his black secrets in the modern Italian. Get them in a package and save money!


Karjakin wins with a score of 10.0/13

After a long day at the Russian Chess Federation, Amruta and I were walking back towards our hotel. We were discussing the reason why Sergey Karjakin simply ran through the field of the Tal Memorial Blitz and won it with a score of 10.0/13, one and a half points ahead of the rest. "Sheer will-power", both of us exclaimed in unison! There has been never any doubt about Karjakin's chess talent, but then there were players with similar chess abilities at the event. There were six players above the blitz rating of 2800 — Nakamura, Nepmniachtchi, Grischuk, Artemiev, Anand and Andreikin. But the things that you could notice while Karjakin was playing was the tremendous willpower. He just wanted to win at all costs.

He really wanted to win it!

I will give you an example. Here's his game against Boris Gelfand from the penultimate round:


Karjakin has many ways to win. He chose the most direct one with 24.c5!  Boris took the pawn 24...dxc5 and it was met with 25.b5! The game was lost because Nb4 would be met with Nxc5 when both d7 and b4 are hanging. After making the move b5, most of the top players would know that they are winning and look here and there or at least at the opponent's face, just to see his reaction. Sergey had absolutely no such distractions. He was hunched over the board, he had his hands over his ears and when Boris stretched out his hand in resignation, he didn't even notice it. He was so busy in his calculations. This victory meant a lot for Karjakin. He wanted to win it at all costs and he did so with some fantastic games.

"I will have to check Wesley So's DVD on 1.b3!" - Karjakin after his emphatic victory

Karjakin's fantastic results in the 13 rounds of blitz at Tal Memorial 2018

When Karjakin was asked about his favourite games from the tournament he pointed out to his two wins with 1.b3. The first move 1.b3 has kept him in good stead in both rapid and blitz events of the Tal Memorial 2018. When he was asked if he had seen Wesley So's ChessBase DVD on 1.b3, Karjakin was surprised. "Oh really! I will have to look at it and learn from it to improve my 1.b3!", he said. 

My Secret Weapon: 1.b3

Meanwhile, 1.b3 has also found its way into the practice of today's world elite, and now finally a modern top ten player has taken on the subject for ChessBase: none other than Grandmaster Wesley So!

Here are both of Karjakin's wins with 1.b3


Karjakin felt that this victory has boosted his morale before the Candidates. When asked to choose a player apart from him who he thinks is a favourite to win in Berlin, he said it was Levon Aronian. "I have great sympathy for Levon Aronian. He deserves a World Championship Match", said Karjakin. "But I will try my best to stop him!", said the Russian with a smile.

Final standings


Six cups awaited the winners: the ones on the left were given to the rapid winners: Anand, Mamedyarov and Karjakin, while the gold ones were given to the blitz champions: Karjakin, Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi

Vishy Anand with the cup and a big smile! He won the Tal Memorial Rapid by a margin of a full point.

Vishy Anand with the only man to win two cups - Sergey Karjakin! Karjakin won the first place in the blitz and third in the rapid

All the players captured in one frame!

Interesting moments from the blitz

My main aim in the blitz was to capture as many games as I could and upload them to the ChessBase India Youtube Channel for people to see how the top players in the world play blitz. There are many videos from the rapid and blitz section and we have created a special playlist for you to follow all of them:

Replay many clips from the rapid and blitz tournament in one playlist

But I did follow the games as well and I would like to share some of the most interesting positions with you:


Artemiev's next move created quite an impression on me. Usually, I would never allow a knight on d4 to remain there and hence I would think about moves like Nxd4 or just keep the status quo. However, Artemiev took on e3 and then just 0-0. His logic was that the knight on d4 was not immovable. The bishop could come to c5 and chop it off any time. So I think Nxe3 was a very interesting decision.


Tactics are everywhere. You just have to be alert. Gelfand took Bxb8 and then the pawn on a6 with his bishop! You have to be alert! Unfortunately, Boris lost this game when Andreikin launched a brilliant attack with moves like h5-g6-Kg7 and so on.

Tricky Andreikin beats Gelfand

Nakamura, as we all know, is a tremendous Blitz player and finished second

One game that impressed me to no end was his win over Dmitry Andreikin. Nakamura played a fantastic technical game and capped it off with some nice tactics. The thing to note here is: Black had queenside majority, White had a majority on the kingside. But Naka made use of his advantages so well, while Andreikin was simply powerless. Play through the entire game below and you can also watch it on the video:


Battle of two blitz monsters - Nakamura vs Andreikin 1-0

Ian Nepomniachtchi is an amazing blitz player. The thing which surprises me the most when I see him playing is how little time he takes to make his move. Does he even think, I ask myself! His moves are made at a speed that makes me feel as if it's some kind of an involuntary action for him.


Surviving the worst possible position!

In blitz, you keep trying. Even if the position looks like a dead draw, it is never a dead draw! You just keep playing and keep trying! That's what Nepo did against Fedoseev. 


Nepomniachtchi beats Vladimir Fedoseev

"I just didn't play any game well today" - Vladimir Fedoseev

Fedoseev was quite depressed with his play, but I think that he did play some good games. His win against Mamedyarov was excellent, filled with many complications and interesting moments.


That's how exciting it was! (Click or tap any image to enlarge!)

RCF building inside and out

The Russian Chess Federation building has one of the most exquisite playing halls. Look at the chandeliers on the ceiling! Lights outside the entrance gave a festive feel to the event.

How could former World Champion Anatoly Karpov miss visiting such an event!

A great supporter of chess in Russia - Deputy Prime Minister of the country Arkady Dvorkovich

Sometimes your hairstyle can create problems when you play blitz!

The only man who could beat the eventual champion, Karjakin, in the blitz event. Will Kramnik be able to stop Karjakin in Berlin as well?

Replay all games:


We hope you enjoyed our coverage of the Tal Memorial 2018. We still have two more articles coming up. One on the duel between Anand-Karpov-Kramnik versus Karjakin-Nepo-Dubov and the other one is a tour of the Museum at the Russian Chess Federation.


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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