Blitz Mayhem Ends Champions Showdown
A fun day of blitz for top GMs and chess lovers. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Blitz Mayhem Ends Champions Showdown

| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

A spirited last day of blitz at the Champions Showdown in St. Louis had no effect on the final standings of the event, with winners on a clear lead from day three. At the end of five days of speed chess, the results are in: Fabiano Caruana-Pentala Harikrishna 35.5-12.5, Richard Rapport-Sam Shankland 31.5-16.5, Hikaru Nakamura-Jan Krzysztof Duda 29.5-18.5, Wesley So-David Navara 28-20, Veselin Topalov-Leinier Dominguez 25.5-22.5.

The five U.S. participants and their international opponents made it through a marathon of 36 games at the St. Louis Chess Club. Each pair of players had to play out 12 rapid and 24 blitz games to crown the champions of an intense competition between 2700-rated grandmasters.

Nakamura and So seemingly more relaxed as their matchup victory is sealed. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The last blitz games of the lengthy matchups were decided by a flip of the coin as complicated positions arose over the five boards. The 10 GMs were worn out by the amount of games played in the last few days and less motivated to perform, since the winners of the matches had already been determined in day four. Hence, spectators could enjoy some impetuous blunders and exciting turns of events, including Caruana resigning in a won position and Topalov getting mated in one!

Leinier Dominguez, close but not close enough:

Topalov-Dominguez 25.5-22.5. | Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.

After losing three games in day three of the rapid, Dominguez had to chase Topalov in the blitz section. The last day of the event almost saw him succeed, as he started off with four wins and three draws and virtually took the lead.

Topalov got himself together after playing some inconsistent chess and regained control with two straight wins. A draw in game 24 was sufficient to avoid playoffs.

“It was a terrible day for both,” he commented. “So many mistakes...But there was a crucial game I could win with the black pieces and then it was more or less clear that the match was going for me.”

Richard Rapport owns blitz showdown:

Rapport-Shankland 31.5-16.5. | Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.

A false start in the last portion of the match didn’t intimidate Rapport, who could demonstrate his superiority to Shankland in blitz, winning seven games and only losing three in day five. The one-sided final standings didn’t credit Shankland’s positive attitude and creativity on the board, as shown by our game of the day:

In the middle of the tournament’s action, Rapport remarked: “I guess it's a lot of fun to watch, but to play it's a different story. It's a short time control so there are lots of mistakes. I think mentally it is difficult to deal with them, that you make some kind of ridiculous blunders, and you have many more games to go, and you make another one.”

So-Navara, a technical matchup:

So-Navara 28-20. | Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.

A tight blitz match between So and Navara allowed the two to test opening and endgame theory and to identify their practical flaws.

“I made many unnecessary mistakes but it was caused mostly but my time management and Wesley's strong play,” said the Czech GM, and So agreed: “David is a really tough opponent, I'd like to thank him for the match. I think I know him better now, after 36 games of chess and I think I know how to surprise him in every opening, because David is a theoretician and the kind of player who prepares deeply. My black repertoire here was especially vulnerable and I keep getting bad positions straight away after the opening.”

Nakamura-Duda lives up to expectations:

Nakamura-Duda 29.5-18.5. | Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Hikaru Nakamura didn’t struggle to seal the match after a dominating 9-3 in the first day of blitz. Nonetheless, the competition grew more interesting as the stakes got lower. Some sharp positions and decisive attacks demonstrated the duo’s skills in fast chess and ensured great fun for their supporters until the last game.

Duda ended the tournament with two wins as he clutched game 23 with a slow but unstoppable bishop manoeuver:

Nothing at stake for Fabiano Caruana:

Caruana-Harikrishna 35.5-12.5. | Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Inaccurate play and a few blunders ended the Caruana-Harikrishna matchup. With nothing left to play for, the two didn’t have much to prove in day five. Harikrishna ended with the lowest performance of the tournament, but at least he managed to lower the gap, with the complicity of an oblivious Caruana, and won the last game:

A top tournament, a promotional event and a training occasion:

Overall, the speed chess tournament had an innovative formula aimed at maximizing the fun for spectators and giving U.S. players an opportunity to train against opponents of their choice. However high-rated the field, the quality of the games was surely not worthy of a classical event, but the enjoyment for players and viewers compensated for the lesser play.

The Champions Showdown was played in anticipation of the 2019 U.S. Championship starting March 18 at the St. Louis Chess Club. InForthe occasion, the U.S. champion Shankland and former title holders Nakamura, So and Caruana will compete with their new countryman Dominguez as well as Jeffery Xiong, Ray Robson, Sam Sevian, Varuzhan Akobian, Alex Lenderman, Awonder Liang and Timur Gareev.

Time for autographs for Richard Rapport. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

American idol Fabiano Caruana with his young fans. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.
Blunders happen! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Here are the final standings of the Champions Showdown:

Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Previous reports:

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