2014 World Mind Games Final Preview

CM juniortay
Nov 15, 2014, 8:40 PM |
2014 World Mind Games Final Preview - Will it be Gna-and or Katz-sen?
After 2 months of intense woodpushing ...sorry... mouseclicking, two American (based) IMs stood at the pinnacle of the World Mind Games 2014 Round 3 event, battling about 100+ rapid chess games and at least 34 different opponents to reach there.

On the top of the heap is the mysterious IM gnaburits, from Bay Area, USA.  Amassing a score of 58.5 points, the IM who chose to remain anonymous will now play in the final against 17-year old IM Alexander Katz who plays for the New Jersey Knockouts in the US Chess League. Katz, who made his IM title by virtue of winning the North American U18 Championships, garnered 56 points to place 2nd in the event.

So will it be 'Gna'-and or 'Katz'-sen to become the World Mind Games Champion and earn its $1500 winner's prize?  Mind you, the runner-up's booty is not too shabby either, a cool $1000.
I believe I have a good idea of how they play, having played both of them a total of 10 games over the past two weeks and having watched all their other games during this duration.

Let's look at some stats.

IM gnaburits:
Style: Positional, adept at tactical ploys to further improve his position. (Gnaburits after the final, revealed that his chess friends would consider him an aggressive, tactical player - he played positionally to outplay his oppponents in the Rd 3 event so as not to take excessive risks as a 2/3 score would be sufficent in each event to place highly)  Strong in the endgame.
Openings: Plays many varied systems.
Batting Average: 0.672 (58.5 points out of 87 games)

IM Alexander Katz (Cryptochess)
Style: Positional, adept at tactical ploys to further improve his position, strong in the endgame...too.
Openings: Few but very well developed, plays about two systems against 1.e4 and 1.d4.

Batting average: 0.691 (56 points out of 81 games)

So they're both pretty evenly matched and have roughly the same style of play, except that Katz is a stickler when it comes to openings while gnaburits varies much more. Apart from being similar in their styles, I feel that both IMs were quite generous with their comments and analysis during the tournament, giving good feedback about the participants' play and explaining their motivations behind the moves. Katz is however, even more vocal. I was very shocked to see him kibitzing on other players' board chat while his critical last round game was still progressing (when his opponent was on move)!

The finalists played each other 4 times in the course of the Round 3 event and split honours with one win each and two draws. They both bashed one another with Black so it looks like colours ain't gonna matter much. Let's look at their prior encounters.
Katz drew first blood with a powerful and irresistable counterattack following an uncommon Austrian attack idea (8...Bd7!?) in his beloved Pirc Defence.
Gnaburits was not to be denied his revenge, evening the score by likewise, pumelling Katz down the centre with maximum force.