World Blitz 2015: Grischuk wins third title

by Albert Silver
10/14/2015 – After his crushing victory in the World Rapid championship, it seemed as if Magnus Carlsen was going to pull off a three-peat by securing all three titles a second straight year. However, during the last day of the World Blitz, the world no. 1 suffered a meltdown that opened the way for the others, and suddenly the title was wide open. It was pure excitement until the end.

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The playing hall was full to the brim

Players came from all over the world for the chance to collect some scalps from the elite.
Eric Hansen is a well known aficionado and came from Canada.

Pentala Harikrishna, fresh from his victory at the Isle of Man, also flew in for the fun

To be fair, it didn't start in a dramatic way, and by all means it seemed as if this report would be all about YACV (Yet Another Carlsen Victory) for everyone to bask in and admire his brilliance. Consider that after ten rounds, Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave stood alone with 9.0/10, a full 1.5 points ahead of everyone else. Granted there were still eleven rounds to go the next day, but the way he had dominated the rapids, and was speeding ahead in the blitz, what else was one to predict?

Magnus Carlsen - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Blitz-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.13"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "2850"] [BlackElo "2758"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "110"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "GER"] {Competitively this was the most important game of the first day. Even though Magnus Carlsen beat MVL and snatched the lead from the French player.} 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. O-O O-O 5. d4 d5 6. Nbd2 c6 7. b3 Bf5 8. Bb2 Nbd7 9. c4 Ne4 10. e3 Nxd2 11. Nxd2 Nf6 12. Qe2 Qd7 13. Rac1 Rac8 14. Nf3 Bg4 15. Qe1 Bh3 16. Ne5 Qe6 17. cxd5 cxd5 18. Qb4 {Nothing special happened in the opening but White has started to probe a little on the queenside.} Bxg2 19. Kxg2 b6 $6 (19... Rxc1 20. Rxc1 Ne4 $1 {This energetic play would have ensured equality.} 21. Qxb7 Bxe5 22. dxe5 Ng5 {the light squares are too weak.} 23. Kg1 Nf3+ 24. Kg2 Ng5 $11) 20. Ba3 $1 Rfe8 21. Rxc8 Qxc8 22. Rc1 {White has perfect co-ordination.} Qf5 (22... Qa6 {was better.}) 23. Qa4 Qe4+ 24. Kg1 Bh6 25. Re1 Qc2 26. Ng4 {This is tempting but you need to be Magnus Carlsen in order to defend this position as White after winning the exchange.} Nxg4 27. Qxe8+ Kg7 28. Rf1 Bxe3 {It looks very dangerous for White but Magnus keeps his cool.} 29. Qxe7 Bxf2+ 30. Kh1 {If the bishop could just move, there would be an unstoppable mate on h2 but the f7 point is weak and there is no clear finishing stroke available at Black's disposal.} Qe4+ 31. Qxe4 dxe4 32. d5 $1 e3 33. Bb4 (33. d6 e2 34. Rc1 e1=Q+ 35. Rxe1 Bxe1 36. d7 $18) 33... e2 34. Rc1 Kf6 35. d6 Ke6 (35... Ne5 36. Kg2 Ke6 {might have made White's task more difficult but he is still better after} 37. Be1 $16) 36. Rc2 e1=Q+ 37. Bxe1 Bxe1 38. Re2+ Kxd6 39. Rxe1 {This endgame is easy for Magnus to convert.} Ne5 40. Kg2 f6 41. Rc1 Nc6 42. Kf3 a5 43. Ke4 Nb4 44. a3 Na6 45. Kd4 Nc7 46. Kc4 b5+ 47. Kd3 f5 48. Rc2 Ne6 49. Rc8 Nc5+ 50. Kc3 Kd5 51. Ra8 Ne4+ 52. Kc2 g5 53. Rxa5 Kd4 54. Rxb5 f4 55. gxf4 gxf4 {Before Carlsen could make his move Maxime resigned. Even though Magnus beat his rival in their head to head encounter, at the end of the day it was MVL who finished a half point ahead of the World Champion with 9.5/11.} 1-0

The young Spaniard David Anton Guijarro

Mamedyarov had an average performance, about his rating, with 13.5/21

Maxim Dlugy and Yasser Seirawan enjoy a few laughs

Alexander Riazantsev finished with 11.5/21

Ian Nepomniachtchi was unable to reproduce his World Rapid silver medal performance,
though he did finish in fifth place with 14.5/21

However, somehow the World Champion hit a dry patch no one saw coming, with a loss to Karjakin in the last game of the day.

Magnus Carlsen - Sergey Karjakin (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Blitz-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.13"] [Round "11.1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A45"] [WhiteElo "2850"] [BlackElo "2762"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "94"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "GER"] {After a streak of 25 unbeaten games, Magnus Carlsen finally lost a game and who was his vanquisher? Of course, the 2015 World Cup winner!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 {The London system has gained a lot of prominence in this tournament with many of top players like Carlsen and Kramnik essaying it.} d5 3. e3 e6 4. Nf3 c5 5. c3 Nc6 6. Nbd2 Bd6 {Karjakin goes for the most solid set up not trying to do anything outlandish.} 7. Bg3 O-O 8. Bb5 a6 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. Ne5 Qc7 11. Nd3 c4 12. Bxd6 Qxd6 13. Nc5 e5 {White might have a nice knight on c5 but he hasn't 0-0 yet and Black has more center control.} 14. b3 cxb3 15. axb3 Re8 16. O-O Ng4 $1 17. g3 (17. h3 exd4 18. hxg4 dxe3 $1 19. Nde4 Qe7 20. fxe3 dxe4 $15 { Gives Black a small edge.}) 17... Qh6 18. h4 Ra7 19. Kg2 (19. Nf3 e4 20. Nh2 $14) 19... Rae7 20. Nf3 e4 21. Nh2 $6 (21. Ne1 {was much better.}) 21... Nxh2 22. Kxh2 g5 $1 {Karjakin doesn't miss an opportunity like this.} 23. Rh1 (23. h5 f5 $36) 23... gxh4 24. Kg1 (24. Kg2 h3+ $17) 24... h3 25. Nxa6 Ra7 $1 26. Nc5 Rxa1 27. Qxa1 Bg4 28. Kh2 Qf6 29. Qb2 $2 (29. Qe1 $17 {and White is still fighting, although Black is clearly better.}) 29... Qf3 30. Rg1 Ra8 31. c4 { Diagram [#] Black has an absolute killer here! Can you find it?} Kg7 $6 (31... Ra1 $3 {This theme of deflection will end up in many beginner's books of tactics. Extremely thematic.} 32. Rxa1 (32. Qxa1 Qxf2+ 33. Kh1 Bf3+) 32... Qg2# ) 32. cxd5 cxd5 33. b4 Rb8 (33... Ra1 $1) 34. Na6 Rb6 35. Nc7 Rxb4 36. Qa2 Ra4 (36... Rb1 $1 {with the same idea as shown in the variation with 31...Ra1.}) 37. Qb2 Ra5 38. Ne8+ Kg6 39. Nc7 h5 40. Qc2 Kh7 41. Qb2 Qf6 42. Rc1 Qf3 43. Rg1 Qf5 44. Rc1 Ra7 45. Ne8 Qf3 46. Rg1 Ra6 47. Qc2 Re6 {The knight is trapped as Nc7 can be met with Rc6. Sergey didn't find this rook to the first rank win on many occasions but his position was so good that he could still beat the World Champion.} 0-1

19-year-old Daniil Dubov had a good event with a 2763 performance

Lazaro Bruzon from Cuba

Magnus Carlsen watches the last moments of Aronian's game

The following day, he appeared to wake on the wrong side of the bed, and nothing seemed to go his way. It started with a draw against Kramnik and then he lost again in round thirteen, this time to Radjabov. It was hard to know what to make of it since Carlsen has been known to have these chess blackouts even in standard games, with a strong record of miracle recoveries. When he lost for the third time in six games, now against Alexander Grischuk, it became quite clear the gap was quickly becoming too large to make up.

Loek Van Wely finished with 9.0/21

Christian Bauer from France finished with +2 at 11.5/21

Where did this leave the title then if not Magnus? Maxime Vachier Lagrave had not been suffering from the same meltdown, but nor was he racking up the points with the same speed he had the previous day. In the first six games he was only able to win one, while drawing five. While he continued in the lead, that lead was shrinking and he definitely had challengers. By round 16, his lead was only a half point over Karjakin with 12.5/16, one point over Aronian who had 11.5/16, and a pack of wolves at 11.0/16. With five rounds to go, nothing could be less clear.

Anton Korobov - Tirgan Petrosian (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Blitz-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.13"] [Round "9.4"] [White "Korobov, Anton"] [Black "Petrosian, Tigran L"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A41"] [WhiteElo "2700"] [BlackElo "2625"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/3b4/8/8/2K5/4k1n1/8 w - - 0 95"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "GER"] {The first day of the blitz saw surprisingly high number of games ending with the material balance that we have on the board. Strong GMs like Sethuraman and Motylev unable to execute the mate with very little time on the clock. It was nice to see Petrosian having absolutely no problems in mating his opponent. Let's learn from the Armenian.} 95. Kc4 Ke3 96. Kd5 Bg3 97. Kc4 Nf4 98. Kc5 Ke4 99. Kc6 Bf2 {It always makes sense to place your knight and bishop on the same coloured squares so that they can control different colours.} 100. Kd6 Kd4 101. Kc6 Nd5 102. Kd6 Bg3+ 103. Kc6 Nb4+ 104. Kb5 Bd6 105. Kb6 Kc4 106. Kb7 { Korobov does the right thing trying to go towards the wrong coloured corner square.} Kc5 107. Ka8 (107. Kc8 Kc6 108. Kd8 Nd5 $1 {The knight is on the right circuit. The way I remember this circuit is - the a8 square can only be controlled by a knight and the best square for it to do that is c7. From c7, as we have read in numerous books the right movement is to move in W shape i.e c7-d5-e7-f5.} 109. Ke8 Ne7 110. Kf7 Kd7 111. Kf6 Bf4 {And this is a typical way to lock the opponent's king.}) 107... Kc6 (107... Kb6 {would be painful!}) 108. Ka7 Nd5 109. Ka8 Nb6+ {Now Petrosian will push his king to the a1 square. From this point onwards you should remember the mating pattern.} 110. Ka7 Bc7 { A waiting move to push the king to a6 and then control the a7 square with Bb8.} 111. Ka6 Bb8 112. Ka5 Nd5 {The knight moves in the W circuit. Now the b4 square is controlled. This is essentially the forking of roads. Beginners are most afraid of Ka4 as then it seems the king runs away. In the game Korobov went for the other option with Ka6.} 113. Ka6 (113. Ka4 {It seems the king is running away to freedom but looks how the knight and bishop will co-ordinate to lock the white king.} Kc5 114. Kb3 Nb4 {Taking control of the important c2 square and staying on the W circuit.} 115. Kc3 {c2 and d3 are controlled. We only need to protect d2.} Bf4 $1 {This is the formation that you must engrave in your head. The knight and bishop control all the squares and White king has to retreat.} 116. Kb2 Bd2 {The cage is made smaller.} 117. Kb3 Kb5 118. Ka3 Kc4 119. Ka4 Nd3 120. Ka3 Bb4+ 121. Ka2 (121. Ka4 Nb2#) 121... Kc3 122. Kb1 Kb3 123. Ka1 Kc2 124. Ka2 Nc1+ 125. Ka1 Bc3#) 113... Nb4+ 114. Ka5 Kc5 115. Ka4 Kc4 $1 116. Ka5 Bc7+ {There is no escape. Once again this is a typical move not letting the king get away.} 117. Ka4 Bb6 (117... Nd3 {continuing the circuit leads to a similar line as in the game.} 118. Ka3 Bb6 {a waiting move.} 119. Ka4 (119. Ka2 Kb4 120. Kb1 Kb3 121. Ka1 Kc2 122. Ka2 Bc5 {and the king is boxed in.}) 119... Nb2+ {The final move in the W.} 120. Ka3 Kc3 121. Ka2 Kc2 122. Ka3 Bc5+ {The same pattern.} 123. Ka2 Nd3 124. Ka1 Bd6 {A waiting move} 125. Ka2 Nc1+ 126. Ka1 Be5#) 118. Ka3 Nd3 119. Ka4 Nb2+ {Tigran has perfectly executed the W manoeuvre.} 120. Ka3 Kc3 121. Ka2 Kc2 122. Ka3 Bc5+ {The same theme of king above the knight and bishop checking to push the white king.} 123. Ka2 Nd3 124. Ka1 Bf8 {A waiting move.} 125. Ka2 Nc1+ 126. Ka1 Bg7# {Great play by Tigran Petrosian who made it look very easy!} 0-1

Boris Gelfand was certainly no slouch, and ended with 13.5/21 and a 2795 performance

Sergey Karjakin - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Blitz-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.13"] [Round "9.2"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "2762"] [BlackElo "2758"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r3/pp5k/1np1r1qp/7p/4R3/2N2P1Q/PP4P1/3R2K1 w - - 0 30"] [PlyCount "2"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "GER"] {A game of blitz can make you do many illogical things for which you would have no explanation. For example, in this perfectly fine position, one of the best blitz players of our generation blunders an entire rook.} 30. Rd6 $4 {But why?} Rxd6 {There is just no reason. Maybe he thought the e8 rook was undefended or he just saw that Rxe4 was not possible because the queen would be hanging. Such oversights happen all the time in blitz.} 0-1

Then it was the Frenchman's turn to falter, and two losses in rounds 18 and 19 saw him caught up by Yuri Vovk, the surprise of the tournament, Vladimir Kramnik, and Alexander Grischuk, all sharing 13.5/19. Magnus seemed poised to stage a comeback as he was now at 13.0/19, and anything could happen in the last two rounds. Unfortunately for the Norwegian's fans, that is exactly what took place, and he lost a crucial game to Vassily Ivanchuk when he fell into the Ukrainian's preparation. He was now officially out of the running.

Vassily Ivanchuk had a superb event, knocking out Carlsen for good in round 20, and coming
in fourth place with a 2827 performance

Entering the final round, the top four spots were quite surprisingly dominated by the older generation of players with Kramnik and Grischuk at 14.5/20 and MVL and Ivanchuk at 14.0/20. It was all decided in the last game, when Grischuk overcame Gelfand, while Kramnik was forced to save his game against Ivanchuk.

As a result, Alexander Grischuk won his third World Blitz title, in sole first with 15.5/21, while MVL was silver with 15.0/21, edging out Kramnik who came in third, on tiebreak.

The three medalists of the World Rapid: Teimour Radjabov (third), Ian Nepomniachtchi (second)
and Magnus Carlsen (first)

Alexander Grischuk receives the gold medal for his World Blitz title from Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

A close-up of the medal

The three top finishers in the World Blitz: Vladimir Kramnik (third), Alexander Grischuk (first),
and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (second)

Final standings after 21 rounds

Rk SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts  TB Perf
1 5 GM Grischuk Alexander RUS 2814 15,5 2699 2876
2 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2854 15,0 2727 2877
3 15 GM Kramnik Vladimir RUS 2763 15,0 2705 2856
4 10 GM Ivanchuk Vassily UKR 2789 14,5 2691 2827
5 3 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2831 14,5 2642 2775
6 1 GM Carlsen Magnus NOR 2914 14,0 2720 2837
7 25 GM Svidler Peter RUS 2726 14,0 2691 2810
8 7 GM Navara David CZE 2806 14,0 2646 2767
9 113 GM Vovk Yuri UKR 2566 13,5 2742 2827
10 66 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam UZB 2641 13,5 2720 2810
11 4 GM Aronian Levon ARM 2817 13,5 2710 2805
12 18 GM Gelfand Boris ISR 2743 13,5 2700 2795
13 28 GM Dominguez Perez Leinier CUB 2717 13,5 2687 2781
14 12 GM Mamedov Rauf AZE 2777 13,5 2659 2757
15 17 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2749 13,5 2648 2744
16 54 GM Ponkratov Pavel RUS 2666 13,5 2608 2694
17 16 GM Karjakin Sergey RUS 2759 13,0 2720 2800
18 59 GM Vitiugov Nikita RUS 2655 13,0 2711 2774
19 37 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2694 13,0 2683 2761
20 31 GM Korobov Anton UKR 2705 13,0 2663 2744
21 11 GM Andreikin Dmitry RUS 2781 13,0 2663 2734
22 9 GM Anand Viswanathan IND 2791 13,0 2658 2739
23 36 GM Fressinet Laurent FRA 2699 13,0 2647 2727
24 14 GM Fedoseev Vladimir RUS 2765 13,0 2644 2728
25 23 GM Alekseev Evgeny RUS 2729 13,0 2633 2717
26 30 GM Malakhov Vladimir RUS 2707 13,0 2596 2679
27 78 GM Petrosian Tigran L. ARM 2630 12,5 2745 2798
28 6 GM Radjabov Teimour AZE 2808 12,5 2730 2794
29 137 GM Gajewski Grzegorz POL 2520 12,5 2704 2773
30 121 GM Swiercz Dariusz POL 2555 12,5 2666 2718

Click for complete standings

Photos by Pascal Simon


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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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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