World Blitz Ch: Carlsen and Artemiev command the standings

by Antonio Pereira
12/29/2018 – Seven wins and four draws left Magnus Carlsen as the co-leader after day one of the World Blitz Championships in Saint Petersburg. The Norwegian is sharing first place with blitz specialist Vladislav Artemiev, who recovered from an early loss to complete the twelve rounds on Saturday with an astounding 9½ score. Two strong performances were also seen in the women's section, where Kateryna Lagno and Sarasadat Khademalsharieh are sharing the lead on 7½/9. | Photos: Maria Emelianova / Lennart Ootes / Official site

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Blitz adepts

The results of the World Rapid Championship proved that chess strength tends to be rather stable in all time controls, as Nakamura, Mamedyarov and Carlsen recovered from subpar starts to end up a smidge below the champion, Dubov — the same can be said about the last editions of the World Cup, where the favourites surged ahead eventually. Nonetheless, there are some players that simply do better at accelerated time controls.

That is the case with Vladislav Artemiev, a player that is currently number 36 in the live classical ratings list, while occupying the fourth and seventh spots in the rapid and blitz lists, respectively. The 20-year-old Russian is not afraid to simplify positions in order to use his natural feel for the situation on the board in his favour. This, of course, is a core ability when playing with only seconds on the clock.


A big crowd in Saint Petersburg | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Vladislav signed a mere three draws on day one, after starting with five wins in the first six rounds. His second highest-rated victim was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who was under pressure with Black, but could have easily avoided blundering the game in one move:


Exchanging the knights with 30...Kxd5 31.Rxd7+ would have kept the fight going, while Shak's 30...Bc5 simply ran into 31.Nc7+, forking the king and the rook.

Vladislav Artemiev (left) standing shortly before the start of round one | Photo: Lennart Ootes

While Artemiev showed his blitz skills, another youngster kept up his great performance from the rapid. Alireza Firouzja started with a bang, as he won six out of his seven first encounters, including victories over Andreikin, Svidler and Jobava. Furthermore, his only draw in this run was against Levon Aronian, who was completely lost with the white pieces:


Alireza's 39...Nd4 allowed Levon to force a draw with 40.Qc7+ Ke8 41.Qc8+ Ke7 41.Qc7+, etcetera. Instead, Black needed to keep the knight on b5, protecting the c7-square, and move his queen on the diagonal with, for example, 39...Qf3 — later would come a check from f4, and there is no escape for the white king.


15-year-old Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Lennart Ootes 

The young Iranian's dream-start was stopped by none other than World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who quickly got the initiative and took down Alireza in 32 moves. Firouzja finished the day on 7/12 after losing three more games against such strong players as Wang Hao, Nepomniachtchi and Kovalev. [See: In Focus: Alireza Firoujza featuring a video of bullet games between Carlsen and the Iranian whom he refers to repeatedly and affectionately as "my boy" -Ed.]

Carlsen showed his prowess in blitz converting small advantages and holding draws when that was what the position called for. However, in round nine, he obtained the last ingredient necessary to have a good day in a blitz tournament: luck. In an absolutely winning endgame, Dmitry Andreikin missed the chance to take down Magnus by playing two moves in inverted order:


The Russian needed to queen first with 73.f8Q in order to follow 73...Rxf8 74.Kxf8 Ke6 75.Kg7, shouldering the black king away and winning with the h-pawn. Instead, Andreikin played 73.h5?? first, allowing 73...Ke6 74.f8Q Rxf8 75.Kxf8 Kf6 76.h6 Kg6, with a draw.


Will Carlsen manage to defend his title? | Photo: Maria Emelianova

Magnus knew he got lucky, but after this fortunate incident he went on to beat Aronian and Svidler, which set up the twelfth round showdown against Artemiev, with both players tied on 9/11. Unlike his final rapid game against Nakamura, this was a fierce fight, in which the young Russian bravely gave up a piece for positional compensation:


Artemiev could have continued the manoeuvring battle with 22.Kh1 or 22.Rd1, but instead chose to open up the position with 22.Ndxe4!?, giving way to a crazy struggle that finished with a miraculous save by Vladislav — it is worth pointing out that the Russian did create a situation in which Magnus could have gone wrong with devastating effect...but it is never easy to beat the strongest player in the world. The draw was signed after 70 moves.

Standings after Round 12 - Open section (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Carlsen Magnus 9,5 2927
2 Artemiev Vladislav 9,5 2908
3 Andreikin Dmitry 9,0 2891
4 Nepomniachtchi Ian 9,0 2861
5 Svidler Peter 9,0 2840
6 Duda Jan-Krzysztof 9,0 2834
7 Giri Anish 9,0 2820
8 Wang Hao 8,5 2814
9 Karjakin Sergey 8,5 2807
10 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 8,5 2790
11 Korobov Anton 8,5 2783
12 Aronian Levon 8,0 2813
13 Jobava Baadur 8,0 2800
14 Golubov Saveliy 8,0 2794
15 Cheparinov Ivan 8,0 2786
16 Tsydypov Zhamsaran 8,0 2776
17 Kovalev Vladislav 8,0 2769
18 Smirin Ilia 8,0 2768
19 Le Quang Liem 8,0 2766
20 Nakamura Hikaru 8,0 2764
21 Maghsoodloo Parham 8,0 2756
22 Adly Ahmed 8,0 2748
23 Matlakov Maxim 8,0 2718
24 Grischuk Alexander 8,0 2709
25 Dreev Aleksey 8,0 2708

All available games - Open section


Lagno and Khademalsharieh lead the women's section

While Carlsen and Artemiev finished the day with +7 scores, the leaders amongst the women achieved ‘only’ +6...but they did it in nine rounds! Just like in the open section, the more experienced leader — in this case Kateryna Lagno — got that score without losing a single game, while the younger contender lost one game at the start of the tournament.


Kateryna Lagno happily talking to the press | Photo: Lennart Ootes

After surprisingly losing in round one, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh went on to win her next seven games in a row, including a victory over World Champion Ju Wenjun. In fact, the Iranian even managed to finish that game with a well-known — albeit alluring — tactic:


There is no way to save Black's queen after 36.Rxg6 Qxg6 37.Rh8+. Ju Wenjun resigned immediately and followed this loss with two straight wins to remain half a point behind the leaders with eight rounds to go — the 'triple crown' dream is still very much alive.

Sarasadat with Zhansaya Abdumalik

Friends and rivals — Sarasadat with Zhansaya Abdumalik | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after Round 9 - Women's section (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Lagno Kateryna 7,5 2675
2 Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 7,5 2603
3 Ju Wenjun 7,0 2586
4 Lei Tingjie 7,0 2578
5 Tan Zhongyi 7,0 2555
6 Garifullina Leya 6,5 2532
7 Cramling Pia 6,5 2491
8 Harika Dronavalli 6,5 2478
9 Arabidze Meri 6,5 2473
10 Mamedjarova Zeinab 6,5 2465
11 Gunina Valentina 6,5 2455
12 Guichard Pauline 6,5 2445
13 Ushenina Anna 6,5 2433
14 Abdumalik Zhansaya 6,5 2433
15 Bodnaruk Anastasia 6,0 2520
16 Koneru Humpy 6,0 2492
17 Kosteniuk Alexandra 6,0 2451
18 Vo Thi Kim Phung 6,0 2438
19 Voit Daria 6,0 2421
20 Goryachkina Aleksandra 6,0 2384
21 Galliamova Alisa 6,0 2373
22 Girya Olga 6,0 2351
23 Khotenashvili Bela 6,0 2315
24 Bivol Alina 6,0 2249
25 Drozdova Dina 5,5 2462

All available games - Women's section



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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