Text and photos: IM/ WGM Alina l’Ami
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Speed provides the one genuinely modern pleasure and so does the Blitz arena for the media worldwide! An exhilarating race is too modestly said, especially when the top players crave for more than they got in the previously played Rapid competition.
Each player handled the three day roller coaster intense emotions the best way they could. The games end up rapidly, but take off a lot of energy. In order to retrieve their calm and forces from one game to another, some players read, others visit the draughts section or play… wee games!
Heading for the stars, Hou Yifan faced her opponents head-on, left behind the rather “disappointing” silver medal from the Rapid and claimed the gold this time, swapping places with Valentina Gunina, who had to content herself as being the 2nd best.
In the men’s ring, we witnessed a copy-paste Rapid-Blitz final ranking, with Grischuk holding to gold, followed by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. A for effort for MVL who swam towards the 1st place during these three days of blitz but he got bogged down in the process by the Russian, who is now the proud owner of two (!) shiny gold medals!
|11||3||GM||Dominguez Perez Leinier||2728||CUB||13||1||9||180.50||15|
With such a line-up, many players hoped for more, just like Aronian surely did, having to finally made do with the most bitter result in both Rapid and Blitz: the 4th place…but the Armenian flag may soar upon the others in the next two days of Basque, one of the most original way of playing chess. And we will return to that when the time will come…
For now let’s see the highlights of the final day of Blitz:
Etienne Bacrot – Alexander Grischuk
The day started well for Grischuk who won a rather drawish bishop endgame against Etienne Bacrot. In the diagrammed position, 41.h3 is perhaps the easiest way to reach the draw but Bacrot’s move should suffice as well.
41.Bxb6 Bxh2 42.Ke4 g4 43.c5?
43.Bf2! with the idea to meet 43…g3 with 44.Bxg3 would have drawn instantly. No doubt the French man was very short on time at this point.
43…h4 44.c6 44.Ke3! may still hold but is absolutely impossible to find in a blitzgame. 44…h3 45.Kf2 g3+ 46.Kf3 g2 47.c6 Bc7 48.Bg1 and there is no way to make progress.
44…h3 45.Ba7 Bd6 45…Bg3! 46.Bg1 Bf2! is a very pretty way to win!
46.Bg1 h2 47.Bxh2 Bxh2 48.b6 Kd6 49.c7 Kd7 50.Ke3 and here I am assuming Bacrot lost on time, the position is actually still drawn, there is no way to make progress for Black.
Alexander Grischuk – Vassily Ivanchuk
A very important game on the way to gold. Alexander is facing a very grim endgame with the white pieces but manages to turn things around, even a 180 degrees!
30…Nc4 There was nothing wrong with 30…Rxb6
And here 31…Nxe5 was absolutely essential. Even if the resulting rook endgame after 32.Rc8+ Kh7 33.dxe5 Rxb6 34.Rc7 may not be a win.
32.Nxc4 Rc6 33.Rb1 dxc4?! 33…Rxc4 would have drawn the game but Vassily keeps trying to play for a win. However, this c-pawn will prove to be weak rather than strong.
34.Rxb7 c3 35.Rb1 Ra6 36.Rc1 Ra3 37.Kf1 f5 38.Rc2 Kf7 39.Ke2 Kf6 40.Kd3 e5 41.dxe5+ Kxe5 42.Rxc3 and even this rook endgame should be objectively drawn but Ivanchuk could not prove this with the seconds ticking away and had to resign on move 64.
Levon Aronian – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
The race between Vachier-Lagrave and Grischuk was very exciting but eventually the French GM was unable to keep up. That was especially due to a rather upsetting finish (1.5/5).
Against Aronian, a wild game had resulted in a race between white’s d-pawn and black’s a-pawn. Maxime now played the flashy:
44…Bd5 but after
45.Rxd5 Rg1+ 46.Kxg1 a1Q+ 47.Kg2 Qa8 48.Rd4 Qd8 49.d7 he had to resign. The d-pawn is unstoppable. Instead, the (in hindsight) simple 44…Rd1 would have been just fine.
If Grischuk can say he had quite a nice time in Beijing so far, grabbing along his ways two gold-s already, Hou Yifan and Valentina Gunina didn’t have such a bad time, either:
Blitz final ranking: Women
Hou Yifan – Mariya Muzychuk
Hou Yifan was unstoppable in the blitz-event which was further underlined by the fact she left her nearest rivals 3(!) points behind her. She was both ruthless in attack and tenacious in defence. A few examples:
12.Qh5 g6? 12…Qf6! was the way forward, since the game continuation is punished in straightforward fashion.
13.Qe5 Rg8 14.Nxe6! Bd6 15.Qxd5 fxe6 16.Qxe6+ Kf8 17.Bh6+ Rg7 18.Bxg7+ Kxg7 19.Qxe4 and the game didn’t last much longer.
Koneru Humpy – Hou Yifan
Hou Yifan’s last move, 24…Bf6–g5, looks strong, but Koneru’s reply is even better:
25.Nbd4! Bxe3 26.Nxc6 Rbc8 27.fxe3 Rxc6 28.Ne5 Rcc8 29.Rxf8+ Rxf8 30.Rd6 with a technically winning position. Hou Yifan’s tenacity allowed her to have this position just 15 moves later:
Needless to say, the various passed pawns decided easily.
Harika Dronavalli – Hou Yifan
We should mention that Hou Yifan, together with Harika Dronavalli, also won today’s prize of most uncommon pawn structure!
Valentina Gunina – Hou Yifan
Valentina Gunina did manage to get some tension back in the tournament when in round 25 she defeated Hou Yifan to close the gap to 2 points. In an endgame that looked favourable for Black, a typical occurence in blitz happened: small accident…
The king is indeed supposed to be centralized in the endgame, but here the timing is off!
36.Nd6+! and Gunina had little trouble converting.
Pia Cramling – Anna Muzychuk
The biggest drama happened, of course, in the last round. Anna Muzychuk had climbed up steadily and was now in 2nd place behind Hou Yifan. A draw against Pia Cramling would have been enough to keep that position. Moreover, Pia had experienced a rough tournament scoring just 4,5 out of 29 games. With seconds on both clocks, the following happened:
47.Ra7?? There is a queen on d4, waiting just for that… 47.Rg6+ fxg6 48.Re7+ would have been mate in short order.
47…Rb1?? returning the gift, which was happily accepted with
48.Qxf7+ and mate next move. Valentina Gunina silver, Anna Muzychuk bronze. Sport can be cruel!