Blitzcoin Invitational Day 4: Naroditsky, Liang In Finals
Daniel Naroditsky beat one of the best bullet players in the world, Andrew Tang, and advanced to the final match. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Blitzcoin Invitational Day 4: Naroditsky, Liang In Finals

| 9 | Chess Event Coverage

The fourth day of Blitzcoin Invitational saw two semifinals matches, with the four fastest and stubbornest players competing for the spots in the final match.

The top-seed GM Daniel Naroditsky went on to defeat the fastest bullet player, GM Andrew Tang, while GM Awonder Liang won his match against IM Justin Wang to qualify for Sunday's match versus Naroditsky.

How to watch?
You can follow the games and live broadcast here: Blitzcoin Invitational.

Not only did the fans and spectators enjoy the fact that the most skilled and seasoned young American players were to face each other on Saturday, but also, those who don't find bullet as tasteful as blitz had pleasant news coming their way: in the semifinals, as there are only two matches instead of four, the format would be different. 

Specifically, instead of two bullet games followed by an hour of chess with a time control chosen by the winner of a bullet mini-match, the opponents would instead play two hours of chess: the winner of the bullet mini-match would pick the time control for the first hour, while the loser would choose the format of the second leg of the match. Importantly, the blitz games would have twice as much weight. That meant the players who are better at slower time controls would have a fair shot. In particular, many were curious about how that would affect the first match between Naroditsky and Tang.

Tang won the first bullet game with a beautiful combination, which guaranteed him the right to pick the first time control as he was the lower-rated match participant.

The second game was more of a formality, but Naroditsky immediately struck back and won a lovely miniature.

At this point, the commentators, FM Peter Giannatos and the Chessbrahs star GM Aman Hambleton, were speculating about which time control would be chosen. It is not a secret Tang loves bullet, but they thought both parties would be interested in bullet at some point. However, if Tang were to pick 3/0 in the first leg, what would prevent his opponent from going for the 5/0 time control in the second half, especially as many believe Naroditsky is a better blitz player?

Their morbid curiosity was satisfied shortly, as Tang chose bullet as expected, and the biggest match of the entire tournament so far began.

Naroditsky took the lead by confidently winning the first two games; however, it did not last for too long, as his opponent immediately caught up: 2-2. Then the grandmaster who had just beaten GM Fabiano Caruana in the U.S. Championship a few weeks ago replied by winning three in a row: 5-2. The opponents next exchanged a series of shots, which resulted in a score of 7.5-5.5.

In a bullet match, a two-point lead does not mean much, so a player needed a winning streak. And the one to get it was Naroditsky: he scored 5.5/6 in the next games, which brought him a very convincing advantage of seven points: 13-6.

With only 25 minutes or so to go, the situation was rather alarming for Tang,. Indeed, he never managed to catch up: when the time of the bullet part was up, the scoreboard showed 24.5-12.5 in Naroditsky's favor. Some of the games are very instructive: for example, here is a quick decisive kingside attack made possible thanks to a typical sacrifice.

Crucially, the blitz wins are worth two points each rather than one, which meant that for Tang to tie the match, he needed to win the blitz part with a six-point advantage, which would be just enough to make up for trailing by 12 extra bullet losses. Not an easy task overall, and an even harder one when there's only an hour. 

As the blitz games started, Naroditsky made his opponent's chances for success even less likely by winning the first two blitz games. With a score of 28.5-12.5, Tang needed eight(!) blitz wins with 50 minutes to go, which was nearly impossible.

The final score of 45.5-17.5 shows Naroditsky's absolute domination, which is a scenario that had occurred in all of his matches so far: the opponents never had the lead, and it never looked as though he was in danger. A fantastic result, especially given Tang's incredible speed and experience in the bullet. Naroditsky moves on to the finals not just with a great mood but also a huge psychological advantage: for anyone, it would be very difficult to compete versus an opponent who has dominated the field by such a tremendous margin.

The next match looked very promising: Liang was the higher-rated, higher-titled, and more experienced player, but Wang had already beaten two GMs on his way to the semifinals and had earned a reputation of a highly skilled tactician and a very dangerous bullet player.

Liang won both initial bullet games very convincingly, being ahead both on the clock and on the board the entire time. Unsurprisingly, he went for bullet as the time control of the first leg.

Despite losing those warm-up games in a somewhat depressing way, Wang was the first one to score in the actual match by beautifully coordinating three minor pieces versus his opponent's queen. As the commentators pointed out, it is very difficult to use the queen successfully in bullet, as two or three of an opponent's pieces have a much easier time attacking and creating quick threats.

However, Liang answered by winning three in a row. After another loss, he scored four more wins, which brought the score to 7-2. Let's see how dramatic some of the games were, with both opponents having ample chances.

The fight was intense, but Wang never came close to equalizing the score. For example, with 20 minutes to go in the bullet part of the match, Liang was leading 14-7. 

All in all, the bullet part ended with a score of 21-12 in Liang's favor. This meant Wang needed to win five extra blitz games to win the match, while four extra wins would leave him a point short. Since the difference was an odd number, a draw was essentially impossible at this point.

The leader started the blitz part strong by winning three in a row, which essentially buried Wang's chances who at that point was trailing by eight blitz wins. He did put up a good fight; however, the match outcome was never really in question. An hour later, Liang made it to the final match by winning with a score of 34-23.

The final match on Sunday will be between Naroditsky and Liang. Probably it is fair to say most believe the former is the favorite, but Liang is an extremely strong and quick player, so the match would will incredibly thrilling. Of course, what makes it even more exciting is that we will see all three(!) time controls, and again, the points will be weighed depending on the control: 5/0 wins will count as three points, 3/0 will give the winner two points, while bullet wins will be worth just one point.

All games of Day 4

Standings after day 4

The prize fund of one Bitcoin is provided by one of Daniel Naroditsky's supporters: Chad Engan, also known as "Montanachess" on Twitch.

The 16 invited elite US Chess members will compete in blitz and bullet matches to see who prevails. The event runs from October 27 through 31.

Earlier reports:

More from IM YuriyKrykun
Ray Robson Again Dominates Puzzle Battle World Championship

Ray Robson Again Dominates Puzzle Battle World Championship

Speed Chess Championship: So Knocks Out Caruana, Advances to SF

Speed Chess Championship: So Knocks Out Caruana, Advances to SF