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The final countdown
China-2From head to toe, from left to right, up and down and back again...the body, mind and soul of the 32 chess players have been worked out beyond their comfort zone in these hectic seven days spent in Beijing. As the plot thickened, after the Rapid and Blitz, the Basque event brought new and newer challenges, but once again, China and Russia came up roses! Congratulations to Hou Yifan and Ian Nepomniachtchi for their remarkable mental and physical efforts!
Shake a leg!
Beijing-1-8Who would have ever thought that such a "static" board game like chess, will be in crying need for very "dynamic" players (literally)?! But chess and sport are not poles apart, not when it comes to the Basque system anyway, the third and final competition on the SportAccord World Mind Games' agenda. After Day1, we have two clear leaders, both with half a point more than the runner-ups: Ian Nepomniachtchi (4.5/6) and Zhao Xue (5.5/6).

This is a unique way of practicing our favourite sport, which eliminates the advantage of the White colour and the "boring" moments when the opponent sinks into deep thought. Play takes place at two boards simultaneously with each player having one White and one Black. The time rate is 20 minutes plus an increment of 10 seconds per move, but the real amount of time is shorter, since one has to permanently "navigate" with his chair (and his mind) from one game to the other. It is important to make the forced moves without hesitating, but how to do that when you are caught up in analyzing a critical situation of the other game? For players - quite a demanding competition, but what an entertaining show for the spectators...
Medals day
FotorCreatedSpeed 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!
The thrills of speed
Beijing-46On the board of Blitz, one needs a cool temperament, a rattling feeling for the pieces, speed, reflexes, hand-eye coordination, tremendous mental power, timing and physical dexterity. This looks like an ample list, but it doesn't suffice for creating the winning recipe; true champions achieve their goals and collect their points with the force of character and judgement. Some may argue that luck must be involved for such lightening speed competitions, where 3m+2sec is a rather short time control, so anything and everything can happen. There might be the hand of Caissa in some cases yet the chess players must strike the right balance between speed and quality!

After Day2 of Blitz, we have two clear leaders who succeeded doing so: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, having one point extra on the ranking list, closely followed by Grischuk and Ivanchuk, both with 13/20, and in the women section, Hou Yifan is dominating the pack, enjoying the 1.5 point lead, currently being on 15.5/20.
Day1 Blitz
Beijing-44For some of the players, the day started with a photographic session at Beijing National stadium, known as the Bird's nest and as the most striking structure of the 2008 Olympic Games. Top players Hou Yifan and Leinier Dominguez, were kind enough not only to wake up at a time when chess players, most of them night owls, have their best sleeping time, but also to stand the cold for almost two hours, all for the sake of chess!
The effect of this morning experience over the two players was debatable, so we can only speculate; after ten rounds, Hou Yifan is in sole lead with 7/10, while Dominguez could have hoped for better...

True, it is early to draw any conclusions, but the start may have a psychological impact over the next two days of Blitz. Even such a remarkable (not only) blitz player like Nepomniachtchi, the O'Sullivan of chess, didn't feel happy with his 4,5/10. But everything can turn upside down in the next ten or 20 rounds...
For the moment, Hou Yifan is half a point ahead while in the Men arena three players share the 1st position, with 7/10: Vassily Ivanchuk, Levon Aronian and Peter Leko.
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