Carlsen Crushes Guseinov In Speed Chess, Wants To 'Do Better'
On Wednesday Magnus Carlsen defeated Gadir Guseinov 20.5-5.5 in what was the last match of the Chess.com Speed Chess Championship's first round. The next opponent for Carlsen, in the quarterfinals, will be Wesley So on November 21.
The 15-point match difference left no doubt. Carlsen was much, much better than Guseinov, and the winning margin was similar to that of last year's victory against Tigran Petrosian in the GM Blitz Battle. But Carlsen wasn't satisfied—on the contrary.
"To be honest I didn't think I played well at any point today. I'll have to do better next time."
@chesscom) October 4, 2017
Carlsen started playing with headphones but said he wasn't listening to music.
This comment came as a surprise to commentators GM Eric Hansen and IM Danny Rensch, and probably most of the fans. However, a closer look at the games does reveal that the world champion had a number of bad positions, even in the games he ended up winning.
Missed the event? You can replay the whole show here.
Spoke to Carlsen about the #speedchess event after his win on Isle of Man: "It's absolutely a fun event, which is why I am playing it."— Tarjei J. Svensen ( @TarjeiJS) October 4, 2017
The very first game was typical for a matchup between a strong grandmaster and an elite grandmaster. Guseinov, who won one of the qualifiers to earn a spot in the championship, could keep up on the board for a long time, but was much slower.
Here he just played 29.d6, which seems to force a draw instantly. Carlsen plays on, but is soon down a pawn. But he was faster, and won on time.
In total Guseinov, a 31-year-old member of the Azerbaijan national team, would lose nine games on time. "In a way it's the biggest blunder in chess," said the broadcast host Daniel Rensch.
The pace made a difference. "For sure, it's important to play faster in blitz," said Carlsen afterward.
It's true for any type of chess but even more so in speed chess: one should play fast.
Playing only three days after winning the Chess.com Isle of Man tournament, Carlsen continued his strategy of playing some offbeat openings. In game two he chose 2.a3 in the Sicilian, a move that was used a lot by the Dutch player Roel van Duijn, who has been active as a left-wing (!) politician from the 1960s.
While taking some food during the game ("Magnus is going to snack town"! - Rensch), Carlsen looked winning early but the win wasn't there yet when he missed 19...Rab8!. 25.c4 was nice, but not the "game changer" Hansen called it when Carlsen erred on move 33. Time was again a helper in the rook ending.
After four straight wins for Carlsen, Guseinov finally got himself on the scoreboard with a good draw in game five. It showed both Carlsen's will to win, and excellent defensive technique by his opponent.
Then, in game six, we saw the first blunder by Carlsen. Almost relieved, Rensch said: "We have lift off! Magnus Carlsen is a human being!"
Back from Isle of Man, at times Carlsen showed he's "a human being."
Unfortunately that was also the moment of touch down. For the first time ever, after hundreds of shows in the past years, Rensch's office internet collapsed for a moment. The show went off air, the chat went crazy, but it can happen. In less than two minutes we were back on air, just too late to see Carlsen's swindle:
Game eight didn't go well for Carlsen either. In the middlegame he got tricked, and on camera he was shaking his head. Again, it wasn't fatal.
"Magnus is so good, even if he blunders he gets playable positions." (Hansen) "His blunders are other people's good moves." (Rensch)
This game reached the 1.5 hour time mark for the 5|2 segment, which meant that one more game followed, Chess960. Carlsen won that as well, to start off the match with a brutal 8-1 score.
Score: 5|2 Time Control
After a short break, Carlsen reappeared in front of his camera now wearing a hoodie and eating some pasta. The fans got "up close and personal," as Rensch called it. "He's a celebrity. People want to know what he looks like when he eats. Now we know!"
Guseinov started the 3|2 portion with a good draw, but then got punched in the face four times in a row. The score was 12.5-1.5 for Carlsen when Guseinov finally won a game. (He would win three in total.) It was the most spectacular fight so far:
It was tough from the start, but eventually Guseinov won three games and drew five.
Games like the following must have been what Carlsen meant when he said he wasn't satisfied with his play. His attempts to trap his opponent's queen failed, and led to a lost endgame. After fighing back to an equal position he blundered, but Guseinov missed it and then got flagged when it was still a draw.
Carlsen also won the Chess960 game that ended the 3|2 portion. He scored 6.5-1.5 there, which made the total score before the bullet 14.5-2.5.
Score: 3|2 Time Control
The very first bullet game was fantastic. Carlsen won again, but Guseinov had been completely winning before. It was there that the Azerbaijani decided that he needed to change his game plan.
"I realized I had to play tactical chess and I started to sacrifice. It was much better," Guseinov said after the match. The bullet was the best of the three segments for him.
After winning two more games, Carlsen had built up the huge score of 17.5-2.5. Guseinov was in danger of losing by the biggest margin ever in Death Match, Blitz Battle and Speed Chess history, but thanks to a strong finish the Azerbaijani managed to avoid that. He drew games 21 and 24, and won games 22 and 25.
In game 22 the world champion dropped his queen in the opening (it can happen to anyone!) and failed to hold it, despite Hansen "calling it a win for Magnus." (Rensch: "He owns a pair of maneuvering pants!") Funnily enough, Guseinov didn't see it either, at first, but got a second chance. Typical bullet stuff!
Carlsen won all three Chess960 (or Fischerrandom) games. The final score was 20.5-5.5.
Score: 1|1 Time Control
The updated bracket shows the quarterfinal matches: Carlsen-So, Grischuk-MVL, Nakamura-Caruana and Nepomniachtchi-Karjakin.
In the post-match interview Guseinov praised his opponent. "Magnus played very well. Almost all endgames I lost to him." (...) "He won some really fantastic endgames." (His heart probably sank when Carlsen said he wasn't happy with this play.)
"Everbody knows that Magnus is the big favorite to win the whole tournament. For me it was exciting to play this match."
This author knows about Guseinov's talent in blitz, after seeing the Azeri successfully playing the likes of Carlsen, Nakamura and MVL in the hotel lobby after the 2015 Shamkir tournament. But online everything is different, and apparently he was rusty too.
"Last time I played blitz was one year ago. [Editor's note: Guseinov did play blitz on Chess.com this year to qualify for the Speed Chess Championship.] I don't play too much. Only after some games I started to play better and better."
Carlsen will face Wesley So in the next round, on November 21.
Looking forward to that, he said: "I think I have the chance to do well, I just have to play better than I did today. Today in a number of games I was lucky...not to get less points than I did. I have to do a lot better, especially in the bullet. In the bullet he started to play a lot more confidently and more quickly; it put me off a bit."
Carlsen won $1,788.46 for this round; Guseinov $211.54.
He said he doesn't care, but the fans might: despite winning with a big margin Carlsen started with a blitz rating of 3002 and ended on 2983; his bullet rating dropped from 3209 to 2994.
During the match we encouraged fans to tweet crazy hair photos with #speedchess or photoshop some crazy hair onto the hosts. The one-year Diamond membership prize went to this fan:
@mcurious24) October 4, 2017
@mcurious24) October 4, 2017