World Blitz Championship in Apple City

11/10/2008 – Did you know that domestic apples come from a wild species called Malus sieversii. And that you can still find trees bearing these ur-apples in Alma Ata ("Apple city") or Almaty, as it is called today. Last weekend the World Blitz Championship was held there, and won by Cuban GM Lenier Dominguez. Here from Kasakhstan is a big pictorial report by Alexander von Gleich.

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World Blitz Chess Championship
Almaty 2008

The World Chess Blitz Championship took place from November 7th to 8th in Almaty, Republic of Kazakhstan. Sixteen players participated in a round robin tournament with classical plain vanilla time controls: five minutes for the whole game for each opponent, no increment. The total prize fund was 350,000 Swiss Francs (= 235,000 Euros = US $297,000), with the winner taking 80,000 SFr (€54,000 or $68,000). The prize money was donated by the Chess Federation of the Republic of Kazakhstan with the support of the "Alliance Bank".

World Championship Blitz Chess in Almaty

Pictorial report from Kazakhstan by Alexander von Gleich

International chess life is very busy these days, with one tournament starting immediately after the other. Only a few days ago the Worle Championship Match Anand-Kramnik closed, now the world championship in five minutes blitz chess (without time increment) was staged.

The tournament took place in Almaty, which for many years in the past was the capital of Kazakhstan. Almaty means “Apple City” ("alma" is the Kazakh word for "apple"), and the region is famous for its great genetic diversity of wild apples. In fact this is thought to be the ancestral home of the apple.

 
An original Wild Malus sieversii apple in Almaty

Every city has a symbol, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Kremlin in Moscow. Almaty is well known for the mountains which surround the city and the TV tower which is 371.5 m (1073 ft) and thus one of the highest in the world. It is was designed to withstand earthquakes up to a strength of ten on the Richter scale.


T he famous TV tower in Almaty, erected on the slopes of Kok Tobe mountain

From the center of Almaty it takes only forty minutes by car to arrive in Chimbulak, a skiing resort. They are adding new slopes there every year – Almaty has ambitions to host the Asian Olympic Winter Games in 2012.

The ice skating stadium Medeo would already meet the criterion by any Olympic standard. Located at 2000 m above sea level it is also one of the largest stadiums in the world – more than 1000 skaters have enough room for their practice.

For people who are rightly afraid of skiing, snowboarding and other dangerous winter sports the mountains around Almaty offer alternative activities. In just an hour and a half the well trained hiker can climb all the way up to Almaty Lake, a wonderful crystal clear lake, 2,511 meters above sea level, lying in a hollow like a gleaming mirror, surrounded on all sides by majestic peaks.

About ten years ago the administration and government moved from Almaty to Astana. But Almaty remains the cultural, economic and financial center of the country.

Kazkahstan is a country rich in natural resources: oil, gas, metals, coal, etc. In Almaty a construction boom started four years ago which has changed the silhouette of the city.

Oops – what is this? Not a Photoshop trick – the owners of the shopping mall Franzuski Dome (“French house”) had a 12 m high copy of the Eiffel tower erected in front of the shopping center.

There are two government languages in Kazakhstan: Kazakh which is a Turk language and Russian. People are in the majority Moslems, however all other religions are tolerated and even supported by the government. Since its independence in the beginning of the nineties, President Nazarbaew is in power. With a lot of diplomatic skills he has managed to preserve the neutral status of the country, which has best relations with its powerful neighbors Russia and China, but also enjoys a lot of support in the West. Effects of the world-wide economic and financial crisis have hit the Kazakh banking system hard, already in 2007.

Nevertheless the investment group Seimar has set significant funds aside to support charitable projects in education, hospitals, etc. The Kazakh chess community can be grateful and happy that the two main managers at Seimar, namely Margulan Seicembaew and Saken Seifullin, are very interested in and supportive of chess. Last year they organized a big children chess tournament, this year the chess federation applied to FIDE to host the blitz Championship and won the bid.

The tournament took place in the sanatorium Alatau, which is located about 15 km from the city’s centre. During Soviet times the place was reserved for important party members who would recover here from the hard work they were doing for the Soviet Communist Party… Renovated recently, it now has a modern spa, gym and pool area, about 100 rooms and three conference halls, which make it a good choice to host any large event.

The tournament hall was well equipped with modern transmission technology. All games were recorded by the government TV channels and broadcast via the Charbar cultural channel. On Sunday Charbar showed chess for four hours. In some regions people can receive only this channel, so they had to either to watch chess or switch off their sets.

The spectators could watch the games via large Demo boards. At the same time all technical prerequisites were met to allow a live translation via the Playchess Server, however the players were playing to fast and not always placing the pieces accurately in the centre of a square. The technicians complained: why cant they move the pieces properly? How man times have we told them, but they won't listen… And indeed sometimes a rook or even a queen would leave the board mysteriously, raising concerns among the spectators, especially the older generation: how can Morozevich continue to play without a queen?

Good conditions and good prize money attracted the top players to participate – of the best blitz players only Aronian and Anand were missing. Pre-tournament favorites were Grishuk, Morozevich, Radjabov and Ivanchuk. "Chuky" arrived in his talisman Real Madrid sport jacket, which had already provided moral support in previous tournaments which he won in 2008. So what was there to stop him here?

However, Ivanchuk had some problems in the first games, losing two of them and trailing the leaders by 1.5 points. After five rounds the favorites were leading the field: Grishuk 4.5, Morozewich 4, Dominguez 3.5 points.


Leinier Dominguez playing out-of-sorts Krishnan Sasikiran (with Grischuk-Morozevich in the back)

Judit Polgar had a bad start with 0.5/5, same as Raffael Vaganian. Krishnan Sasikiran fared even worse, starting with 0/5. He might have still been under the effect of a collapse during the opening ceremony. Later he scored better, but it was too late and he could not contend for one of the top places.


The only lady in the tournament, Judit Polgar, had a very bad start

The things that can happen in blitz tournament are unique, often tragic. Take a look at this game between a young Egyptian grandmaster and a great blitz veteran from Kazakhstan.

Amin,B (2560) - Tkachiev,V (2664) [C86]
IV World Blitz Almaty KAZ (4), 08.11.2008
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2 Be7 6.0-0 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 9.d3 Bb7 10.Bg5 Na5 11.Bc2 dxe4 12.dxe4 Nd7 13.Bc1 Nc4 14.Rd1 Nd6 15.Nbd2 c6 16.Nf1 Qc7 17.Ng3 Rfe8 18.b3 Rad8 19.h3 c5 20.Nh2 Bh4 21.Nh5 Nf6 22.Nxf6+ Bxf6 23.Ng4 Bh4 24.g3 Be7 25.h4 f5 26.Nxe5 Bf6 27.f4 Nxe4 28.Rxd8 Rxd8 29.Be3 Nxg3 30.Qh2 Bxe5 31.Qxg3 Bxc3 32.Rf1 Re8 33.Kh2 Be4 34.Bd1 Bd4 35.Bxd4 cxd4 36.b4 d3 37.h5 Kh8 38.Rg1 Qe7 39.h6 g6 40.Qf2 Qf6 41.Bb3 Rd8 42.Rd1 Re8 43.Rc1 Rd8 44.Rc7 d2 45.Kg3 Qd6 46.Qa7 Qd3+ 47.Kh4

Now 47...g5+ 48.fxg5 Bb7! wins (the threat of ...Rd4 or ...Qe4 cannot be met). However Tkachiev gave up a valuable full point with 47...Qg3+?? and since the queen can be simply taken 1-0.


A prominent kibitzer: twelfth world champion Anatoly Karpov


Two more legends kibitzing: Boris Spassky, left, and Viktor Korchnoi (background right)


These days Boris Vasilievich, tenth World Champion, likes to wear shades


...and Viktor Lvovich, multiple challenger, watches the youngsters with skepticism


Smokers – like Alexander Grischuk here – had to step outside to get their nicotine fix


The final decisive game: Dominguez held out against Bassem, who lost on time

About the author: Aledander von Gleich has worked for the MicrofinanceBank in Georgia and the IFC world banking group in Russia. For two years now he has been living in Kazakhstan and working as the CFO of the ATF Bank, which belongs to the Unicredit Group. He is married to Nino and father of three sons. His job and family leave him very little time for chess, a game he played ambitiously in the past but now mainly follows in the news.

Final standings


Click for a full table with tiebreak points

Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse the PGN games.



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