Shahade is Boss in 2nd Death-Match

  • IM dpruess
  • on 2/27/12, 12:14 PM.

International Master Greg Shahade won the second Death-Match in convincing fashion, acquitting himself well in all three time controls in the new format, 5 1, 3 1, and 1 1. The USCL commissioner faced off against USCL vice-commissioner FM Arun Sharma. In pre-game interviews, FM Sharma claimed that he does more work than Shahade for the USCL and is the boss in fact if not in name. This and another clever provocation (claiming that Greg's sister was actively cheering Arun on-- a claim which he later revealed to have been a fabrication) did not rattle Shahade any more than the speedy time controls, as he produced dozens of quality games over the course of the three hour match.

A Creaky Start

Many people expected IM Shahade to dominate in the two blitz time controls of 5 minutes + 1 second increment and 3 minutes + 1 second increment, and for him to encounter some trouble in the bullet 1 minute + 1 second increment time control, as Shahade has the most practice playing blitz, and Sharma is a specialist of one minute chess.

Scarily, the match almost did not get off the ground, with the first game decided by a premove/mouseslip type issue, which everyone hated to see happen:

and the second game decided by a pretty silly knight fork:

Quality Chess

But then the two players settled in and got down to business. Sharma struck first with a typical example of his tactical awareness:

But Greg struck back with a 3-game winning streak of his own, starting with a novelty in a sharp line that Arun must have hoped Greg would not know:

and then one of the most sensational and beautiful games of the match:

Arun showed that he was not about to be blown out though, with the following masterpiece of his own in the final 5 1 game.

and the time control switched to 3 1 with the score tied at 4.5-4.5!

The Turning Point

Shahade got the better of the opening in the first 3 games at the new time control. But in the first two, Sharma defended madly and managed to salvage crucial half points. In the third, perhaps frustrated, Shahade cracked, and Sharma was able to win the endgame, thus taking the lead for the first time since game 4. The turning point in the match was probably one of the next two games. Sharma repeated the disastrous Benoni line and pretty much donated a point to Shahade. And then came this game:

After the match, commentator IM Danny Rensch asked each of the players what they thought the turning point of the match was, and Arun referred to this game as having been a big disappointment. GM Shankland also thought that game was the turning point, so I was perhaps alone in thinking that the donated point in the Benoni was a turning point (because it was so pointless, gave up the lead, and showed that Sharma was starting to have trouble picking openings).

Shahade explained that he thought what turned the match was his overall strategy: he had played a different opening in every game in 5 1. Then he had decided which openings were giving him the easiest to play positions, and now he was hammering those openings home throughout the 3 1 and 1 1 portions of the match. He thought was consistently able to get a comfortable position out of the opening, and a 20-30 second time advantage, as Sharma hesitated, lacking confidence in the opening lines that were being repeated.

The very next game after that unfortunate flagging was probably the most bloodthirsty and exciting of the match:

And Shahade really started to break the match open here, winning five in a row to claim the 3 1 portion of the match, by a score of 6-2. In this next game, Sharma had been on the defensive from the opening all the way through. He played terrifically to finally equalize the game, but was down to 10 seconds vs. a minute, and got out-blitzed:

That was a good example of how Shahade's choice of openings giving him a comfortable game and time advantage had started to pay real dividends, even when Sharma played very well. See if you can find this move from another game, whereby Shahade claimed a large advantage:


The Streak

Sharma was down 4 games going into the 1 1 portion of the match, and if he was as good at 1 minute as expected, the match would be a close one. After a draw, the second bullet game was an excellent win for Sharma-- this looks almost like a normal game, but was played in 1 minute!!!

Greg struck back, with the following tactic:

And then he started The Streak, winning an incredible nine games in a row. Bullet chess does have a tendency to have streaks, as one player gets demoralized and the other gets into the zone, and there is not much time to alter your mindset as the games go by rapid-fire. Still, winning 9 in a row is an incredible feat, of which we have to wonder: will this ever be rivaled in a future Death-Match?

I could show a lot of games from this portion of the match-- though they were played at 1 minute per side, the quality of Shahade's play here was remarkable: it was hard to see any weakness or gap in his play. But here is one important one to show. Shahade had decided (correctly, I believe) that the positions he was getting with the Gruenfeld were the best (the positions he was getting with the Nimzo were totally fine, but the Gruenfeld positions were *even better*), and so he started using it at every opportunity when Sharma played 1.d4. In desperation, Sharma eventually resorted to some English openings. See for yourself why:

another puzzle:

With time ticking down, and his chances to pull back into the match dwindling, Sharma did resort to some new openings, but Shahade was more comfortable with these more random positions as well:


Sharma finally managed to recover, and won 2 of the last 4 games, but Shahade had won the match decisively, taking the 1 1 portion by a score of 11-4, and the overall match by a score of 21.5-10.5. He thus earned half the prize fund for winning the match, and 67% of the other half the prize fund based on games won, for winnings of $668.75. Sharma won 131.25, more than $10 per game!

We would love to get feedback from anyone who watched the event about this event, as continues to try to push chess entertainment forward! If you would like to participate in a future match, you can try to raise your blitz or bullet rating by April 14th to qualify for the 4th Death Match, or if you are an IM or GM, contact me about your interest. Upcoming Death-Matches include:

March 31: Hess vs. Shankland

April 28: #1 Rated Blitz Player v. #1 Rated Bullet Player

May 20: Kacheishvili v. Sammour-Hasbun

11196 reads 49 comments
5 votes


  • 5 years ago

    IM dpruess

    with regards to the April match, the rules for qualifying are:

    1) qualification for the match is based on ratings as of April 14th at 11:59 pm pacific.

    2) you have to not cheat. we will check the #1 rated carefully, and if they are cheating, close their account, and offer a spot in the match to the new #1, etc.

    3) you have to be active = you must have played at least 50 games between march 15th and april 14th.

  • 5 years ago


    Another +1 for removing the 1/1 time control. Even as tie. Being a tie doesn't make it more watchable.

    Thanks David for the nice match summary.

  • 5 years ago


    Yh loads of people will cheat to get there rating up but there are also pther high rated titled players who play a lot more blitz chess because of question how would they cheat?

  • 5 years ago


    "April 28: #1 Rated Blitz Player v. #1 Rated Bullet Player"

    hopefully this means current number 1s because otherwise I can see loads of cheaters fighting for the number 1 blitz spot Frown

  • 5 years ago


    April 28: #1 Rated Blitz Player v. #1 Rated Bullet Player

    IM brute4ever(3004) vs FM Eilyisum(2686)

  • 5 years ago


    Very nice IDEA ! I like it.IT's A GAME!

  • 5 years ago


    2nd death match was a crazy long puzzle :)

  • 5 years ago


    Fantastik match !

    Loved the commentary + Shankland

    I did not think during the match, which part i enjoyed most, but now, i can give my analysis:

    There seemed to be a time disconnect between 3/1 and 5/1, even David mentioned that oddly they had the same amount of games. There probably is more than one explanation for that.

    1/1 was great, but i have to admit, i started watching more than engaging in calculations, because i cannot do it so fast. So 1/1 to me is pure entertaining and not educational.

    When i started watching, i asked myself why they have 3 different formats in single match, and assumed that this was a testing ground and afterwards would ask people which one would they prefer. So here is my answer, if that is the case.

    I would like Deathmatches to be a  3/1 format. Thnak you very much

  • 5 years ago


    I tend to agree with Danny's idea of simply reducing the number of 1|1 games played at the end. At the end of this deathmatch I was already getting mentally tired and having trouble keeping up, to the point where I just quit.

    That said, such a fast control does add to the drama and excitement so I wouldn't get rid of it altogether, just reduce it to the last 15-30 minutes (and I'd probably tend more towards the lower end of that scale).

    EDIT: Just though I'd also add that the commentary was excellent.

  • 5 years ago


    Excellent!! ...Very ingenius and excessively exciting. Its like the exciting watch of Kasparov playing! ....I am so totally applauding !!! You guys are the ultimate future and the best online chess site ever !!!  Thanks .

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago

    IM dpruess

    obviously yes, achterberg, but seeing as we live 1500 kilometers apart, that's not something we can improve. :-(

  • 5 years ago


    Loved it. Commentary was great though sometimes a bit chaotic. I think it would have worked even better when the two commentators were in the same room.

  • 5 years ago


    Very good show- with excellent commentary ! The bullet-format is way to fast for me though...unfortunately...Wink

  • 5 years ago

    IM dpruess

    sorry, Dan. i thought you could just scroll past them pretty quickly if you just wanted to read the story.

  • 5 years ago


    too many puzzles and games for my liking.

  • 5 years ago

    IM DanielRensch

    What about the idea of keeping 1/1 but only for ties? Or maybe when a buzzer sounds (like the last 30 minutes or something) we move to 1/1??? Just to have some crazy finish?

  • 5 years ago


    lol..too much chess for me.. 

  • 5 years ago


    the match was a suprising revesial

  • 5 years ago


    it's amazing how much chess stuff titled professionals have stored in their heads. they must have millions of patterns just hard wired. they are the only people who can play near quality chess in such short time controls, I don't really think it's possible for anyone else. what did karpov say about blitz? it's like two dogs smelling each other's asses or something? 

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