Interviews Dec 22, 2016 | 2:50 PMby Colin McGourty

Andreikin on his European Blitz triumph

Dmitry Andreikin is the European Blitz Champion after scoring an unbeaten 22/26 in the tournament held in Tallinn, Estonia on the 17-18 December. In an interview for the Russian Chess Federation website he talks about how the tournament went for him, the skills needed for blitz and rapid chess, why he’s not playing in the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Doha and what he thought of the Carlsen-Karjakin match.

Andreikin on his way to winning the European Blitz Championship in Tallinn | photo: Oleg Hartsenko,

Andreikin was talking to Grandmaster Dmitry Kryakvin in Russian, and we’ve translated some of the highlights below:

Dmitry, congratulations on your latest success! How did the events go for you in the Estonian capital? Which games were key?

Thanks! In the rapid I started quite convincingly – 5.5/6. The following day I had to play Alexei Shirov, who had a 100% record. I got a good, fighting position from the opening, but I went for a risky pawn sacrifice and, after accurate replies from my opponent, I didn’t even have enough compensation for a draw. I played the next game with Black against the young Polish Grandmaster Kacper Piorun. For a long time I was dictating play, but at some point I overestimated my position and got too carried away with an attack, as a result of which I missed a knockout counterblow. 

It was worse than that... Andreikin got mated at the end of both games - here by Piorun!

Of course that second loss in a row ruled out any chances of a successful result in such a tournament, and even a few wins at the end only enabled me to take 19th place.

Alexander Riazantsev followed winning the Russian Championship by winning the European Rapid Championship - Maxim Matlakov was 2nd and Rauf Mamedov 3rd | photo: Oleg Hartsenko,

Were you upset by that failure?

Yes, but on the other hand, it gave me hope for the blitz. The thing is that even in the games I lost I had a big time advantage. For some reason I couldn’t force myself to think even in bad positions - I played more intuitively, “with my hand”. And in blitz that’s just what you need. 

With some adventures I scored 11.5/12, after which I met Rauf Mamedov, who had 12/12. Rauf is the traditional favourite in every blitz tournament, especially, I think, since he was also a bit frustrated after the rapid tournament and wanted to make up for it in blitz. Winning that 1.5:0.5 was a real help.

Paco Vallejo and David Navara were among the legion of strong grandmasters playing in the over 500-player event | photo: Oleg Hartsenko,

For the second half of the tournament I was on the top board. It’s important that on the second day, unlike in the rapid, I managed to take up where I’d left off. My games followed different scenarios, but on the whole I managed to play dynamic, risky chess. 

Before Andreikin "unleashed" his game-ending move... | photo: Oleg Hartsenko,

The last move I made in the tournament, 19…f5 against Zhigalko, looks symbolic. In order to guarantee first place I only needed a draw, but nevertheless, in a very comfortable position, I decided to sacrifice a pawn out of nowhere, after which the comp gives +2 to my opponent. I made that weak move so convincingly that Sergey accepted the sacrifice and immediately offered a draw, which I couldn’t refuse. 

The last time I played with such youthful enthusiasm was about 5-6 years ago.

European Blitz Championship final standings (Top 10)

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
17GMAndreikin Dmitry271922,00,0439,5454,0
21GMMamedov Rauf277020,50,0449,0462,0
38GMZhigalko Sergei269919,50,0416,5430,0
412GMMatlakov Maxim266819,50,0408,5421,0
59GMLeko Peter269719,00,0443,5458,0
66GMAndriasian Zaven272019,00,0423,0436,0
74GMBortnyk Olexandr274119,00,0418,5431,0
839GMBologan Victor258419,00,0416,5428,0
92GMNavara David275419,00,0408,0421,0
1034GMAnton Guijarro David260019,00,0403,0415,0

What qualities are necessary to be a good player in blitz or rapid? How does it differ from classical chess?

It sounds banal, but you need to be a good chess player. On the other hand, for blitz and rapid it’s enough to have a few well worked out and perhaps not overly principled or correct systems. In classical chess it’s much tougher when it comes to openings: your repertoire needs to be more varied and your style of play more universal.

Do you think the prizes for the European Championship are low for such a number of grandmasters? Why do professionals still go?

What can you say – there’s always too little money  It’s true that the tournament is more of a festival, which also applies, however, to the Russian Rapid and Blitz Championship. On the other hand, the absence of big prizes enables you to relax a little and play for fun, while the title comes as a pleasant makeweight to the enjoyment. It’s no secret that the top players get decent conditions, while the remaining participants are provided with democratic accommodation rates by the organisers.

Where was it more difficult to play: at the European Championship or the Russian Championship? Are you planning to play in the World Championship?

Of course at the European Championship the “top” is stronger, but that’s not the main thing. The key factor is the number of participants. There are far more in Europe, and therefore to finish in a high position you have to score significantly more points, while the price of a single mistake grows. A loss immediately casts you down many places.

I’m not going to play in the World Championship this year as my family and I had already planned to set off to the Scandinavian countries for Christmas and the pre-New Year holidays. Now, though, on this wave of success, it seems that it might have been worth playing!

Rauf Mamedov (2nd), Andreikin (1st) and Sergei Zhigalko (3rd) on the podium of the European Blitz Championship | photo: Oleg Hartsenko, 

What was your impression of the Carlsen-Karjakin match? How would you have acted in the tiebreaks if you were in Sergey’s situation?

I can’t boast that I followed the match particularly closely. In chess terms it didn’t bring anything special, but there was, of course, intrigue to the very end. I can’t say how I would have acted in the tiebreaks since it’s clear that the psychological stress in such situations is of paramount importance. You can only feel that tension by sitting down at the board in the “skin” of the players.

Overall, from what I saw, I got the impression that Karjakin was well-prepared physically and mentally. Over the whole course of the match he looked pretty confident, with the burden of responsibility and the authority of the World Champion not affecting him as much as you might initially have assumed. At the same time, Carlsen was stronger theoretically and practically and played with more drive, which ultimately led to a logical outcome.   

On playing in the Russian Championship:

As for Superfinals: I won that title in 2012 and perhaps that’s why I don’t consider the tournament interesting enough to go through qualifying to play there. This year I thought I would qualify by rating, but the regulations concerning free places weren’t, in my view, very transparent… In general, for the moment the Superfinal and I are getting along fine without each other.

What plans do you have for upcoming tournaments and future qualifying cycles?

I’m not planning to play again this year. After the New Year holidays there’s Wijk aan Zee. It’s a tough and long tournament, from 12-29 January. Depending on how that goes I’ll put together a plan for opens. In the upcoming months that might be Aeroflot, Dubai, Reykjavik. Of course I still haven’t given up hope of getting into the FIDE Grand Prix series, but nothing to do with that depends on me.

See also:

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