Carlsen Dominates Speed Chess; Defeats So
"Magnus Carlsen dominates speed chess" is a fairly accurate description of chess in 2017. Carlsen has destroyed multiple fast chess formats. After shared firsts (but no title on tiebreak) in the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in December, he has won the three Titled Tuesdays, the Norway Chess blitz tournament, the Paris and Leuven blitz and rapid tournaments, the Champions Showdown match with Ding Liren, and now he has defeated Wesley So by the incredible score of 27.5-9.5 in the Speed Championship.
Carlsen won today's first section played at 5|2 by the score of 11-3. He won the bullet time control by the incredible score of 12.5-0.5! So won the 3|2 portion, showing well there, but Carlsen's ultimate point total was a speed chess record.
Can anyone challenge Magnus Carlsen in the speed chess format?
Perhaps the biggest off-screen winner in the match was Ding Liren. On Monday, Carlsen defeated him 22-8 in the Champions Showdown. Carlsen's margin of victory today improved on that and must leave Ding Liren feeling vindicated like GM Mark Taimanov did after he lost 6-0 to Bobby Fischer and then watched Fischer defeat Bent Larsen by the same 6-0 score.
NOTE: The first speed chess championship semifinal match is Tuesday, Nov. 21st as Carlsen plays Alexander Grischuk at 10 a.m. PT.
Prior to the match, our stats team predicted the outcome, accurately forecasting 3|2 to be So's best time control, but ultimately underestimating significantly Carlsen's margin of victory.
5|2: Carlsen Puts The Match Away?
In a callback to Carlsen's match with Ding Liren, Black had the advantage in the initial games in the match. Carlsen started with a nice quick win with Black, forcing resignation in only 27 moves as he broke through on the dark squares.
Two draws ensued as first So and then Carlsen pressed with Black. So was pressing again with Black in game four, but he suddenly found his rook in trouble and lost the exchange as Carlsen spotted the tactical flaw.
So got his first win in game five, sacrificing the exchange for relentless pressure.
From then on the 5|2 portion was governed by Carlsen. He won seven more games and allowed only two draws to reach a score of 11-3, becoming the first player to score 10+ points in single speed chess time control! Carlsen's best game might have been the very next one as he played an extremely precise attack before finishing with a beautiful mating combination.
@chesscom) November 18, 2017
Score: 5|2 Time Control
3|2: So Strikes Back
Chess.com's match predictions indicated that 3|2 would be So's best time control, but with Carlsen still an overdog in this format, it was a big surprise that So won this format by two points!
An initial draw was followed by a win for So as he snagged Carlsen's knight.
So followed immediately with another win as Carlsen saced an exchange but was then unable to stop So's passed pawn on the queenside. Two further draws were followed by a third win for So! This was So's high-water mark in the match as he had won three in a row and shut Carlsen out in 3|2.
So righted the ship in 3|2, demonstrating considerable resilience.
From here on, the match was all Carlsen. Every trick and trap fell his way. Positions that seemed entirely lost were drawn or even won. The World Champion was bobbing his head, laughing, chatting, and clearly having the time of his life. He began with a win in the next game as he landed a one-two punch with a back-rank mating combination that turned into an h-file mating combination.
Carsen was then completely crushed by So but escaped with a rook sac that lead to a perpetual! It was a great moment for Carlsen but a horrible one for So who was completely winning and needed only stop this one trick to secure the win.
Two more draws closed out the time control. So won 5-3, an impressive performance from So and a surprising underperformance from Carlsen who later sated the pundit's curiosity by admitting that he had been multi-tasking by watching the Real Madrid game that started almost concurrently with the 3|2 time control.
Score: 3|2 Time Control
1|1: A Force Of Nature
With the Real Madrid game reaching halftime, Carlsen seemed to be refocused, and he put on a bullet chess show. The experience of watching Carlsen play bullet inspired commentator Eric Hansen to make a bold and questionable (We hope!) claim.
@chesscom) November 18, 2017
Carlsen was the master of small tactics in bullet as he first swindled So in a completely lost position.
Score: 1|1 Time Control
Carlsen's victory secured him the final semifinals slot in the Speed Chess Championship. He will play Grischuk on Nov. 21st while Hikaru Nakamura will soon play Sergey Karjakin at a date to be determined.
We leave you with one final hypothetical as we advance to the semifinals. Who do you think would win the Speed Chess Championship 1917?! Post your answers in the comments!
You can rewatch the full match with commentary from IM Danny Rensch and GM Eric Hansen on twitch.tv/chess.
Don't miss the first semifinal between Magnus Carlsen and Alexander Grischuk on November 21 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. New York and 7 p.m. Central Europe (CEST) at www.Chess.com/tv!