The Only Certainties: Death Matches And Taxes

The Only Certainties: Death Matches And Taxes

| 8 | Chess Players

If it feels like we haven't had a Death Match since the early summer, that's because we haven't! Back when GM Maxim Dlugy claimed his title, the days were at their longest and outdoor barbecues were in full swing.

But don't fret! As the air gets cooler and leaves begin to fall, the next Death Match promises to usher in a new season (note to all of our Australian members, please invert everything I just typed). On Saturday, September 26, GMs Mackenzie Molner and Illya Nyzhnyk will contest Death Match 33.

The prize fund will be $1,000, and according to foreign exchange websites, the value of the dollar is the exactly the same vs. the Euro as for our last Death Match (1.116 USD = 1 Euro). Ben Franklin, a chess player himself, was surely right: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except Death Matches and taxes*."

* may have altered his quote slightly.

Molner plays via direct invitation while Nyzhnyk qualified by virtue of having the highest rating of any player with 100 blitz games in August. The three-hour slugfest will feature 5+2, 3+2 and 1+1 time controls and will be covered live on starting at 10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern (GMT -4).

1) You're either Mac or Mackenzie / Illia or Illya. What should we really call you? Do you have any nicknames?

MM: I've been called many things but Mac is my first choice :-) [No truth to the rumor that his parents are big fans of the movie "Friday" -- M.K.]

GM Mackenzie Molner: Don't call him "Mac"aroni.

IN: I do not really have any nickname at this moment. However, when I was young my family used to call me “dril” which represents some type of monkey. Not a very long time ago, my chess team gave me nickname “The Brain,” although I have no idea where it came from [Also no truth to the rumor that wanted to host a "vowel-free" Death Match between GM Nyzhnyk and GM Lysyj -- M.K.]

2) Mac I've read you speak Russian. Can you trash talk in Russian? Illya can you trash-talk in English?

MM: I only know a little Russian otherwise it would be fun to trash talk in Russian with Illya. I have a feeling he would get the better of me in that exchange.

IN: I can. I do it sometimes, but only in circle of friends, and never in public.

GM Illya Nyzhnyk: You'll have to get to know him to hear him trash talk.

3) You are two GMs who chose to go to college. Tell me if that was a difficult decision, or if you think it hurt/helped/was neutral to your chess career. And Mac I see you studied Romance Languages -- are you the only GM with that degree that you know of? Illya, what are you studying?

MM: When I was younger I basically just followed my parents' path. They expected me to go to college and I never really considered doing otherwise. If I was where I am now, at the time when I was thinking about colleges, it's definitely possible I would have done something else. In general, I had a real good time going to college in New York and loved the time I spent there. I think I mostly got to do the studying and playing I wanted and still had the option to play at the Marshall, so I don't think it hurt my chess.

Unlike Molner's experience, this may actually hurt your chess -- watching staff play at the Marshall Chess Club! Here's a slightly more instructional video taken there.

As far as I know I'm the only GM with that degree. I was actually hoping that I would be able to use the languages I learned to play more in Europe after I graduated and possibly live there but plans changed and that never happened.

IN: It was indeed a very difficult decision for me. I was afraid of being far from home, but my parents eventually convinced me to take this opportunity. I think by working with my chess teammates I do become a better chess player, slowly but surely :) I am studying Mathematics (major) and Computer Science (minor).

Playing in his home state, Molner went undefeated and finished in an eight-way tie for second at this year's U.S. Open in Arizona.

4) If you could secure an invitation to any of the top tournaments in the world, which one would you play in?

MM: The way that the U.S. Championship is looking these days, I would call it a top tournament, especially if Naka, Caruana, and Wesley are all playing. I didn't have a particularly great event the only other time I played it [In 2014 -- M.K.], so I'd like another crack at it. If I had to pick one of the more normal "top" tournaments, I would say the World Cup. I can only imagine the excitement of making a deep run in such a grueling and challenging tournament. It looks like total fun!

IN: It would be Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee.

Nyzhnyk has already played in the "C" group (second place in 2011) and the "B" group (tied for sixth place in 2012), so we can only presume he wants to play in the top group!

5) Which time control (5+2, 3+2, or 1+1) suits you the best? Which one are you most worried about?

MM: For me, the slower the better. It's always been like this for me. When I was a kid I used to go into New York City and play against chess hustlers at Washington Square Park just to get practice in fast time controls because I am such a slow player by nature. For that reason probably the bullet scares me the most. I guess anything can happen in bullet though...

IN: I think I am pretty bad player when it comes to fast time controls. However, I have been doing decent in bullet chess recently, so I feel the most confident in 1+1 time control.

6) Have you two ever played each other before, either over the board or online?

MM: As far as I know we've never played before in any form except for bughouse in St. Louis recently. I partnered with Ray Robson (not such a bad partner to have) and we won the only game or two we played. I propose a bughouse match afterwards with me and Danny vs Illya and Mike :-) [Challenge accepted, once adds bughouse, which is coming! -- M.K.]

Nyzhnyk and Molner weren't the only ones playing bughouse in St. Louis recently. How about Aronian/Vachier-Lagrave vs. Caruana/Dlugy?

IN: Although I am not 100 percent sure, I think we have.

7) You were both at the U.S. Open this year. Did you two meet in person there?

MM: I practically don't know Illya at all. I see him at tournaments all the time but still haven't really spoken to him. Even at the U.S. Open we somehow avoided playing each other and were busy with our own games.

IN: I do not think so.

GM Nyzhnyk played on board one in the final round of the 2015 U.S. Open, but GM Alex Shabalov held the draw for the title.

8) What are your interests outside of chess?

MM: My main interests outside of chess are sports, especially soccer. I still try to play once or twice a week in a league if possible and watch any European league I can find on television. Other than that I like working out, and I'm almost always listening to music. As far as I know, I'm the only person who has headphones on in their picture on

IN: I like spending free time with my friends. We play chess, watch movies, and sometimes play computer games :)

Death Match 33: The battle of who has the bigger watch?

9) Who will be world champion after November 2016? Who will be world champion in 2025?

MM: Magnus in 2016 and 2025 but with all of the young players that are coming up right now like Naka, Caruana, Giri, Wesley, Ding Liren, Wei Yi, I definitely think that in the not so distant future, they would have some chances in a match against Magnus, and that Magnus' reign may not be continuous throughout that time.

IN: Although there are lots of worthy candidates, I think that Magnus Carlsen is still the strongest chess player in the world, so I say he will hold his title for at least two to three more years. As for 2025... I do not even know. Maybe Anish Giri or Wei Yi?

GM Anish Giri, who usually has the biggest watch.

10) If you were offered, would you go to Mars to play a chess match to become the champion of the entire planet (you would be allowed to return)?

MM: I don't care about calling myself world champion of Mars but sign me up anytime!

IN: That would depend on my academic performance :)

Tune in at 10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern (GMT -4) this Saturday, September 26 to to see Death Match 33! Then check back to for full coverage of the most exciting games and quotes from the players.

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