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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.
Ranking after 20 rounds: Men

Rank SNo.   Name Rtg FED Pts Res. Vict SB BL
1 12 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2776 FRA 14 0 11 135.50 10
2 2 GM Grischuk Alexander 2819 RUS 13 ½ 10 125.00 10
3 8 GM Ivanchuk Vassily 2720 UKR 13 ½ 10 123.75 10
4 4 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2866 AZE 11½ 1 11 108.00 10
5 15 GM Aronian Levon 2850 ARM 11½ 1 8 106.25 10
6 10 GM Radjabov Teimour 2715 AZE 11 0 8 108.50 10
7 9 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2788 RUS 10½ 0 9 102.50 10
8 1 GM Gelfand Boris 2757 ISR 0 6 88.25 10
9 6 GM Wang Hao 2693 CHN 9 0 6 84.75 10
10 7 GM Ponomariov Ruslan 2758 UKR 2 6 79.75 10
11 3 GM Dominguez Perez Leinier 2728 CUB 2 5 80.00 10
12 14 GM Leko Peter 2694 HUN 1 4 85.50 10
13 16 GM Harikrishna P. 2728 IND 8 2 5 80.00 10
14 13 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2743 POL 8 ½ 5 78.75 10
15 11 GM Wang Yue 2680 CHN 8 ½ 5 73.25 10
16 5 GM Bacrot Etienne 2739 FRA 0 5 74.25 10

Beijing-1MVL - a full point ahead
(photo: Alina l'Ami)

Peter Leko - Alexander Grischuk

After the 1st day of blitz Leko shared the lead but the 2nd day was one big nightmare, as the Hungarian grandmaster made just 1,5 out of 10. His game against Grischuk was perhaps the most striking example that 14 December was just not his day. The beaten path here is 12.h3 Ne5 13.f3, a position which Peter has played a few times already. In Beijing though, he accidently reversed the moves by starting with:


but that just loses as piece after

12...Ne3 13.Qd3 Bxd4! where taking back on d4 would lose the queen to Nxc2. Needless to say, Grischuk won shortly afterwards.

Levon Aronian - Alexander Grischuk

Also Aronian, another leader after day 1 of blitz, was unable to keep the pace with Vachier-Lagrave. The Armenian supergrandmaster scored a rather modest 4,5/10 today and is now sharing 4–5th place. His loss against Grischuk in round 16 was telling. In the diagrammed position White should be winning, he is a healthy pawn up and has no weaknesses. However, Black does threaten perpetual check with Rd1+ and Aronian decides to prevent this:


31.g4? Simply 31.Qc2 would have been better.


Suddenly White is in enormous difficulties. Rd8 is threatened, followed by taking on g4, which is very hard to prevent. In the defence of both players: they were down to their last seconds at this point! 

32.a5 Rf6? 32...Rd2! 33.Rf1 Rd8 34.Qc2 Qxg4+ 35.Kh1 Qf3+ 36.Kg1 Bd6 was the precise sequence that would lead to a winning advantage for Black. But once again; that is easy to say in hindsight and with loads of time in our pockets!



33...Qxf2+ 34.Kh1 Qf3+ 35.Kg1 Qf2+ 36.Kh1 Rd6 37.Ne7+ Kg7 38.Qc3+ f6 it's all over. The knight is lost and Rd2 is coming...

IMG 4585 副本
During the very short breaks, Wang Hao can be seen...reading! But what exactly, that is the question...

Vassily Ivanchuk - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

In round 19, the top-duel between Ivanchuk and 'MVL' took place. In the diagrammed position Black is down a pawn but the white king does look a bit vulnerable. Maxime continued:

30...Rhd5 and... that was the end of it! Ivanchuk overstepped the time limit which made Vachier-Lagrave the new tournament leader.

IMG 4691 副本
Erwin and Alina l'Ami during live commentary
I guess we were not quite sure what we should believe...

If for the Super GMs is difficult to cope with such little time on the clock, for the commentators is not easy, either, to insert move by move what happens on the board during the live streaming! And to keep on talking, too:) But it is incredibly exhilarating and, in this way, we live and feel the pain and ecstasy of each move even more!

IMG 4802 副本
Piece up for Wang Yue but just not enough time on his clock to find the right path!

Ranking after 20 rounds: Women

Rank SNo.   Name Rtg FED Pts Res. Vict SB BL
1 16 GM Hou Yifan 2662 CHN 15½ 0 14 149.25 10
2 13 GM Gunina Valentina 2582 RUS 14 0 13 124.00 10
3 10 GM Muzychuk Anna 2665 UKR 12 0 11 107.50 10
4 4 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2479 RUS 11½ 9 115.25 10
5 1 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2569 BUL 11½ ½ 7 112.50 10
6 12 GM Harika Dronavalli 2533 IND 11 2 8 87.25 10
7 9 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2591 GEO 11 0 9 100.50 10
8 8 GM Zhao Xue 2576 CHN 10½ 1 9 98.25 10
9 15 GM Koneru Humpy 2521 IND 10½ 0 6 89.00 10
10 14 GM Ju Wenjun 2469 CHN 0 7 76.25 10
11 11 GM Kosintseva Tatiana 2578 RUS 9 1 7 72.50 10
12 3 GM Ushenina Anna 2467 UKR 9 0 6 91.50 10
13 2 IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2522 GER 0 6 83.50 10
14 7 IM Muzychuk Mariya 2439 UKR 7 0 4 71.25 10
15 5 GM Khotenashvili Bela 2457 GEO 0 3 62.00 10
16 6 GM Cramling Pia 2433 SWE 3 0 1 27.50 10

Beijing-57One and a half point more for Hou Yifan before stepping into the 3rd Day of Blitz
The 'secret'? - rushing outside in the cold for some fresh air and then back in for another game...
(photo: Alina l'Ami)

Valentina Gunina - Alexandra Kosteniuk

Gunina is a master when it comes to entwining tricks and problems for her opponents to solve. Here she is in big trouble against Alexandra Kosteniuk but sets her a last trap:


42.Re8+ Rxe8 43.d8Q Rxd8 and it works! After 43...Qc5+ 44.Kh2 Rxd8 45.Rxd8+ Black would have been able to interpose with the bishop on f8. 45...Bf8

44.Rxd8+ Bf8 45.Rxf8+ with an exchange up, Gunina converted some moves later.

Valentina Gunina - Ju Wenjun

Against Ju Wenjun, Valentina faced even bigger problems. However...

Guni-Ju wenjun

43...Qxa6 ...suddenly allowed a perpetual check with...

44.Qd4+ Kh6 45.Qe3+ Kg7 46.Qd4+ Kh6 47.Qe3+

...and when your opponent decides to continue playing for a win with:

47...g5 ,you know it is simply your lucky day!

48.Rc6+ That must have been unpleasant to face... the handshake followed shortly.

Hou Yifan - Anna Ushenina

After an intense game with mutual chances, Hou Yifan must have thought the game would quickly end in a draw:


64.h4 Bd6?!

But this is already a step in the wrong direction after which Black's position holds by a thread. 64...Bxg3 65.h5 Bd6 66.h6 Bf8 and if 67.h7? then Bg7 would even be winning for Black! (thanks for the comment, Peter!)

65.h5 Bf8?

Mistakes don't came alone! But 65...Kc4! was indeed a tough move to find.

66.Kxf6 Now the pawns easily decide:

66...Kc4 67.g4 Kd5 68.g5 Ke4 69.h6 Bd6 70.g6 Bf4 71.g7 Be5+ 72.Kf7


Hou Yifan - Elisabeth Paehtz

Also against Paehtz, there was little to complain about for Hou Yifan! The direct:


50...Rg1! would ensure Black a winning attack but instead there followed

50...Bd5? 51.Nf3 and now the white king is perfectly safe again. After the further...

51...Rf1 52.e6! fxe6 53.Qb8+ Kf7 54.Ng5+ Kf6 55.Qf4# it was instead the black king that got mated!

IMG 4775 副本
A true chess fan is never close enough to the battle field

With so much tension hovering in the air, we have little  to complain about. Since tomorrow is the 3rd, last and decisive Day of Blitz for the final podium, the spectators are sure the players will find even more gas to spill over the burning chess boards!

And the hosts are ready to respond promptly!
(photo: Alina l'Ami)

Text: Alina l'Ami
Photos: Gu Xiaobing

Day2 Blitz photos by Gu Xiaobing

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