Blitz vs. Classical
A Master of the Slow Game
Who’s a Speed Demon, Too?
The best players in the world are ranked on their ability to play slow, or classical, chess, in which each side has at least a few hours for a game. None of them are slouches at blitz chess, in which an entire game lasts five minutes or less, but it puts a premium on tactical skill and quick thinking — which is usually the forte of younger players.
So it is not surprising that Magnus Carlsen, 20, who is the No. 1-ranked player in the world in classical chess, and 22-year-old Hikaru Nakamura, No. 17, look to be the best in the world at blitz chess.
Carlsen, a Norwegian, is the reigning world blitz champion, having won the title in November at a tournament in Moscow. Carlsen beat a stellar field that included Viswanathan Anand of India, 40, the current classical world champion, who has long been considered one of the world’s best blitz players. The one blemish on Carlsen’s achievement was that Nakamura, the United States champion, was not invited to the Moscow event, which included 22 players.
That omission seemed particularly glaring two weeks later when Nakamura beat Carlsen in the final of the BNbank Blitz championship in Oslo.
Nakamura reasserted his dominance last weekend by winning the 11th Dos Hermanas blitz tournament, the strongest online event of the year. Carlsen did not compete; he was in Nice, France, playing in the annual Amber tournament.
Dos Hermanas was hosted by the Internet Chess Club, where players often adopt nicknames. Nakamura’s is Smallville, the hometown of Superman.
Among his nicer victories was a quarterfinal win over Federico Perez Ponsa an international master from Argentina. Nakamura outmaneuvered his opponent. The game ended with White resigning.
In the final, Nakamura beat Yaroslav Zinchenko, a Ukrainian grandmaster. During the fourth game of the match, Nakamura took advantage of a blunder. Zinchenko should have played 41 ... Qd2, which would likely have led to a draw. Instead, he played 41 ... Qg6 and lost.
In the interview on ICC afterword Nakamura was asked if he was planning on playing more internet or OTB (over the board) Blitz chess. He response was illuminating and why I wrote this blog.
Nakamura feels that as he has become older, blitz chess holds his interest a bit less - although he loves it. This after he has world Blitz championships and published a book “Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate”.
You would think that with all of his winning at Blitz he would embrace unconditionally, but no, that is not the case. I am paraphrasing here, but he said something like that resembled that there are two different skill sets, one for classical chess and one for blitz. Spending less time on classical chess has hurt his blitz chess, which is fine. Although Mr. Nakamura did say and one on one blitz with Mr. Carlsen would be fun and interesting.
That is where the NY Times and the ICC interviews leave off. I though have a comment or two. Maybe because I am in my 50s - but I doubt it. I have always appreciated classical sports, play, music, etc. It sounds that in some ways, Mr. Nakamura is somewhat like me. Do you want to be compared to Tal and Fischer or to a group of “kids” who made up new rules?
I suppose many of us can think of new rules. So what? Can we think on our feet like Fischer? If my rating never exceeds 1100 I would be OK with that.
I was a championship golfer. I could have been compared to Nicklaus or Palmer. That would have been important to me. Is being compared to Tal, Anand, Lasker, or Dr. Euwe important? I would think so.
Carlsen bowed out of the world championships because they were done in a classical manner. I personally find that a slap in the face to the great champions of the past who won in a classical manner (although during the temporary split, Anand won World Championships in four different manners of play).
To use a world football term, “play on”. Winners win and losers lose - and both most often come from something inside the soul.