Two Knight Raiders to Joust in 14th Death Match

Two Knight Raiders to Joust in 14th Death Match

FM MikeKlein
May 17, 2013, 9:04 AM |

Two Texas Tech Knight Raider teammates will square off in's 14th Death Match this Sunday, May 19th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific.

The match could be the "Modesty Cup" as neither player gives himself a ringing endorsement in blitz.

GM Elshan Moradiabadi, at 27, is the "veteran" of the Texas Tech championship winning team, while GM Yaroslav Zherebukh, at 19, is the new guy in town. 

Honestly, this picture could be when he was 14, or maybe present-day. He looks young enough to be Moradiabadi's son. He may only shave one per year but chess-wise, he's no teenager, having beaten fellow countryman GM Pavel Eljanov and later GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the 2011 World Cup.

His performance at the 2012 Aeroflot open included the dismantling of a trio of 2700s.

The Lubbock Rodeo will take place on the Internet of course. Surprisingly, neither player claims to be a big aficionado of online play. "I have never been a real computer savvy person," Moradiabadi said. "I prefer to actually sit at the board and actually see the person" (no word on whether the two men would play from the same room, which would be a Death Match first). They have played offhand games while in Texas. Zherebukh said, "Perhaps we have an even score," which sounds suspiciously like he holds and edge but did not want to show up the senior statesman.

But when Moradiabadi gets inspired, look out. He said his favorite place to play was Doha, Qatar. Here he needed only 23 moves to beat a fellow GM.

Moradiabadi thought his opponent would have the experience edge, but Zherebukh dropped a bombshell by telling me he did not play online until after becoming a grandmaster. "Blitz is not my strongest part of chess, so anything can happen," Zherebukh said. The youngster used rapid chess playoffs to win his mini-matches in that magical run in 2011, never having to go to the blitz portion. He said younger players have the advantage generally in blitz, but in the Death Match, he thought he would play better the more time he had (sorry Yaroslav, the most we are going to give you is five minutes). Zherebukh said his longest single session of online blitz was a relatively modest five hours. He'll play close to that just in the Death Match!

Moradiabadi has played board two for Iran in the Olympiad, which he said gave him "an unfathomable understanding of how diverse and great our world is."

He is lucky to have his formative years in the 1990s and 2000s - chess was banned in Iran for most of the 1980s (luckily Moradiabadi was too young to checkmate with king and queen then).

Zherebukh may have missed the heady days of Soviet chess dominance, but he also wants in on the Olympiad action. He never made the Ukranian men's team, but he has already started the process of changing his FIDE affiliation to the U.S. The process takes about two years. Though years away, right now, by rating alone he would have good chances to make the squad for Baku, 2016

Baku, Azerbaijan, site of the 42nd Chess Olympiad

Zherebukh is a few points ahead of fourth and fifth board contenders GMs Ray Robson, Sam Shankland and Varuzhan Akobian. Both Zherebukh and Moradiabadi plan to live in the U.S. after college.

So there you have it. The 14th Death Match players have 14 syllables but no overriding conceit for their abilities in blitz chess. IM Danny Rensch gives the nod to Zherebukh, and GM Ben Finegold is also going all chalk with the 2600. I think maybe they are overlooking the freshman year partying that accompanies spring finals. Moradiabadi takes it in the ratings upset. It's not too "Farsi"cal.