Sergey Karjakin is on course to defend his World Blitz Championship title after scoring an unbeaten 9/11 on Day 1 of the two-day event. His closest pursuer is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, half a point back, while World Champion Magnus Carlsen trails by a full two points after a day that got off to a bizarre start. Ernesto Inarkiev made an illegal move and then tried to claim a win when Magnus made a move in reply. Mayhem ensued. In the women’s section 54-year-old Pia Cramling lost the first game on time then scored a stunning 9.5/10 to lead by a full point.
You can replay all the games from the open section of the 2017 World Blitz Championship using the selector below – click on a game to open it with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his results:
Rewatch the full day’s show:
The start of Round 2 of the World Blitz Championship was delayed by over half an hour after Ernesto Inarkiev came up with one of the weirdest winning attempts you’ll ever see, against none other than Magnus Carlsen. Their Round 1 game was going the World Champion’s way when he played 27.Rxb7+!
An ending a pawn up was likely to follow, but Inarkiev said he failed to spot he was in check and instead played the “clever intermediate move” 27…Ne3+!?!? Now both players were in check, and in sharper form Magnus would surely simply have stopped the clocks and claimed a win due to his opponent’s illegal move. Instead he instinctively got out of the check with 28.Kd3, which is when we entered the twilight zone, since Inarkiev now claimed a win himself!
His argument essentially was that any move Magnus made other than claiming a win was illegal, since the position was illegal, but it’s worth pointing out that after Magnus made his move the position is once again legal…
You can watch the incident below, with the initial result being that Inarkiev got the win he wanted:
He was interviewed after the “win”:
It didn't last, though. The Chief Arbiter soon entered
the fray, deciding that instead the
game should be played on from the position after the two unconventional moves.
Inarkiev wasn’t having that, though, and when he refused to play on a win was awarded to Magnus.
Ernesto appealed, but the Appeals Committee, that included Malcolm Pein, decided against him, even if they did feel the argument was interesting enough to warrant returning the $500 fee Inarkiev had needed to submit along with the appeal. As Malcolm points out, one motivation in rejecting the appeal is that if you can make an illegal move in blitz and claim a win if your opponent doesn’t spot it we’d have “anarchy”:
The incident seriously delayed the action, but was excellent theatre (of the absurd). Magnus was caught on camera expressing some choice thoughts about the arbiter for the game...
...while a transcript of Inarkiev trying
to get his point across was instant comic genius:
Vassily Ivanchuk also tried to get to the bottom of it all.
All good things come to an end, though, and we eventually did get Round 2, where Inarkiev won while Magnus fell for a trap set by Sanan Sjugirov when he played 30…Bd4?
31.f5! won a full piece, since after 31…gxf5 32.exf5 Bxf5 there was 33.Qxh5+. Magnus played on to move 65, but it was a hopeless cause. He won the next three games, but it wasn’t always entirely convincing…
…and then after four draws and a win he lost to Yu Yangyi in the last game of the day. Two points behind with 10 rounds to go is by no means out of range for the World Champion, but he’ll probably need to play somewhat better and hope no-one else has a great final day.
At this stage last year, after a poor rapid tournament, Sergey Karjakin had scored an unbeaten 9.5/11 in blitz, was half a point ahead of Carlsen, and ultimately went on to claim gold on tiebreaks ahead of Magnus.
This year he has half a point less, which you could put down to a missed win in the first game of the day, but otherwise it’s been close to flawless, with 7 wins and 4 draws. A win which meant something to him was against 15-year-old Andrey Esipenko, who had crushed him in the rapid section. Sergey commented:
Ten years ago I was laughing at these grandmasters and I felt very confident, I felt great, but now I’m more experienced and now I understand that it’s not easy at all to play against young talents!
The game came when Esipenko was on fire, having followed up victory over Vassily Ivanchuk by inflicting the only loss of the day on 3-time Blitz World Champion Alexander Grischuk. He could have added Karjakin to his growing list of scalps if he’d be alert to one fleeting chance:
24…Qf6! forks the a1-rook and c6-knight, and if Karjakin decided to take on d7 anyway it’s amusing that the queen would return to give another fork on f6 after gobbling up the snack on a1. In the game Espienko defended the d7-knight with 24…Qg4, though, and the moment had passed. Esipenko went on to lose to Le Quang Liem in the final round of the day as well, spoiling what had been a wonderful start.
This year the closest challenger for Karjakin is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who scored an unbeaten +6 to remain within half a point, while the group of players on 8/11 features blitz specialists Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (who won his last six games) and Le Quang Liem, Peter Svidler and the Chinese trio of Wang Hao, Yu Yangyi and Ding Liren. Nepomniachtchi and Grischuk stand out on 7.5/11, while the huge group on 7/11 includes Carlsen and Anand. Vishy had made it an unbeaten 25 games in Riyadh, including winning a mini-match with Carlsen (a win in rapid chess and draw in blitz)...
...but seemed to run out of energy in the very last game, dropping a rook for no reason to Nepo on move 20. In general many of the stars have begun to reassert their dominance after a poor rapid showing, though 2nd seed Levon Aronian is languishing in 68th place....
The leaders are as follows:
Of course it’s not all about the results, and blitz allows the players to be a bit more experimental than usual… not that Baadur Jobava needs to be asked twice!
Ruslan Ponomariov met 17.c6! with the brave but ultimately inadvisable 17…Kxe5?!, when the king’s adventure in the centre of the board didn’t last long: 18.cxb7 Rb8 19.e3! Kd6 20.Bxd4 N6g5 21.Bxb6+ Black resigns
Pia Cramling has been close to the top of the women’s game for four decades, but to score 9.5/11 in a blitz championship at the age of 54 was enough almost to make Vishy Anand look unremarkable! It could even have been more, since Pia was winning in the final position of the first game of the day before losing on time to Valentina Gunina. The 9.5/10 streak that followed included wins in consecutive rounds over Harika, Lagno and Dzagnidze, which may have reduced her next opponent, former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, to a quivering wreck!
23…Qd4! was already close to winning for Pia, but that was no reason for what followed:
24.Qc2?? Qxa7 Kosteniuk resigns
It’s hard not to root for Pia, who was even more surprised than Vishy at everything falling into place:
It was like magic! I don’t know what’s happened. Normally I’m not a blitz player, I prefer to play rapid or slow games, so I’m just very surprised and very happy.
Of course there’s a long way to go, and the one-point gap could vanish in the space of a single round: