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Carlsen Doubles Down vs Grischuk, Wins Blitz Battle 16-8

Carlsen Doubles Down vs Grischuk, Wins Blitz Battle 16-8

SamCopeland
Aug 23, 2016, 10:05 PM 41 Chess.com News

Despite a choppy start, World Champion Magnus Carlsen convincingly conquered the reigning World Blitz Champion Alexander Grischuk in a masterpiece of a Blitz Battle. Carlsen now advances to the GM Blitz Battle Championship final, and will face the winner of Wednesday's match between Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Carlsen lost the opening two games before slamming down three wins in a row to go up by a point. From then on, Carlsen never relinquished the lead (well, once Grischuk managed to level the score albeit for just one game), but it wasn't until the final 30 minutes of bullet that he really pulled away. Winning 8-1 in bullet, Carlsen doubled Grischuk's score in the match, victorious by the score of 16-8.

The match broke every viewership record that Chess.com (and possibly all of online chess) had. Chess.com's Twitch stream pushed the chess category ahead of Minecraft and numerous other popular games to be the fourth-most-popular stream on Twitch. In total, more than 72,000 unique viewers watched the match.

As the match got underway, no one had a better seat for the action than the upcoming Chess.com Isle of Man commentator, WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni, who enjoyed the action beachside in the Chess.com app.

Carlsen and Grischuk played 1.5 hours of 5|2 (five minutes plus a two-second increment), one hour of 3|2, and 30 minutes of 1|1. The first game in each time control was Chess960. The full Blitz Battle rules are available here.

Grischuk had won every Chess960 game from his match against Levon Aronian, and he acknowledged reviewing the first 960 position today.

"I put a lot of effort into this match. I mean I prepared," said Grischuk. It paid off in game one as he got a clear advantage and converted with a fine win.

Up 1-0, the ostensible underdog Grischuk then outplayed Carlsen in a symmetrical position and finished off with clean and accurate tactics.

Down two games, Carlsen was visibly frustrated. Would we see him throw any pens? Game three started off even worse than the first two games as Grischuk got a huge plus and then picked up a pawn. This is where Carlsen really dug in his heels. He defended impeccably with his strong knight on d6 as the cornerstone. Having already gone wrong, Grischuk fell into a trap and played 32.Kf2??. Carlsen cashed in with a big grin as Grischuk was clearly deflated.

Carlsen got on the board in game three and never looked back.

With plenty of blunders and tactical shots already cropping up by game three, the match was ideal for spectators. A staid Sinquefield Cup this wasn't!

You might expect Grischuk to struggle immediately after such a reversal, but again he outplayed Carlsen. 24...e3!! might have been the move of the match, but missing 26...Rxe3! left things undecided. Up on time, Carlsen was then able to swing the fight into the endgame where his knight proved more nimble than Grischuk's bishop.

Would Carlsen ever have a satisfactory opening position?! Grischuk was dominating game five early with complete control of the open c-file, but absolutely incredible resistance by Carlsen kept him in the fight until the two entered an endgame favoring Carlsen. Both players made mistakes, but Grischuk faltered last as he couldn't find a way to hold up Carlsen's last pawn in the knight endgame.

Finally Carlsen did get an opening advantage. He was winning in the opening with 19.Qe4 and the fork 20.Nc6! Then inaccuracies crept into Carlsen's play and he allowed Grischuk two strong bishops. Carlsen was still winning, but after a final slip, he had to permit a repetition.

In game seven, Carlsen got his first "vintage Carlsen" win. Outplaying Grischuk, he slowly built up before nabbing a pawn with tactics on the kingside. Grischuk tried to bail out into an endgame, but Carlsen saw further and found a strong line.

With the trend decidedly against him, Grischuk finally won a game after Carlsen had scored four unanswered points. In an error-packed game, Grischuk was the second-to-last player to make a mistake, and he nursed his a-pawn to victory.

As the 5|2 mini-match closed, both players could find positives. Carlsen had actually come out the victor despite being worse-to-lost in almost every game. Grischuk had frequently outplayed Carlsen, and had closed with a win. The storm clouds were brewing for Grischuk though. If he couldn't convert good positions in 5|2, the faster mini-matches were certain to pose problems.

Players 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 5|2 Score
GM Magnus Carlsen 0 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 0 4.5
GM Alexander Grischuk 1 1 0 0 0 ½ 0 1 3.5

Entering 3|2, Carlsen became the first Blitz Battle competitor to score a win against Grischuk in Chess960. He made it look easy too as on move 14, Nxc3! ripped open Grischuk's king cover and allowed a relentless attack.

In one of his best games in the match, Grischuk immediately leveled the 3|2 mini-match by outplaying Carlsen and converting a rook endgame with nearly impeccable technique. I say nearly impeccable because he missed a chance to win Carlsen's rook on move 53!

Grischuk may have lost the match, but he outplayed the champ at many points.

Carlsen could have nabbed another win in the next game, but he settled for a perpetual. Perhaps he was complacent, or perhaps he missed ...Qg2!

At the halfway point, viewership was peaking as roughly 16,500 fans were following the action on Twitch. This was more than double the previous Chess.com record of 7,500 set in the Carlsen vs. Tigran Petrosian match.

Chess even surpassed Minecraft in Twitch viewers!

In the author's favorite game of the match, Grischuk delivered cleanly on one of his excellent opening positions. Open lines, and active pieces lead to pawn breaks and pretty tactics.

Grischuk had to be winning again in game eight, the final 3|2 game, but Carlsen wriggled away again, finding just enough counterplay on the queenside to never give up a clear win to Grischuk.

The 3|2 mini-match was a success for Grischuk as he split with Carlsen.

Players 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 3|2 Score
GM Magnus Carlsen 1 0 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 3.5
GM Alexander Grischuk 0 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 3.5

As both blitz mini-matches finished, Carlsen stepped into the number-two spot on the Chess.com leaderboards. Who is number one? Why that would be Nakamura, who still holds a 99-point advantage!

The prospect of a Carlsen vs. Nakamura match (should Nakamura win against Vachier-Lagrave) has never seemed tastier.

Carlsen held a 1|1 lead as the players moved to the bullet portion. Who did this favor? Well many (including commentator IM Danny Rensch) thought this favored Grischuk who holds the top bullet ranking on ICC. Carlsen has only rarely been caught playing outside of his quarterfinal match with Petrosian.

The players themselves disagreed.

"My expected score against Magnus in bullet is like -5," said Grischuk.

"I felt from the last match [against Petrosian] that the bullet would probably be favorable to me," said Carlsen.

If he who analyzes blitz games is stupid, he who analyzes bullet games must be imbecilic. Suffice to say that Carlsen earned every bit of his 8-1 whitewashing. We provide just a few notes.

Game two was a terrible game, but it was a blast to watch as both players found and missed various tactical shots before Carlsen finally shepherded home his pawns.

Grischuk notched his only bullet win against Carlsen in game four. Even this game wasn't easy as Carlsen nearly slipped the noose and made his way back to equality before faltering at the end.

Grischuk had another opportunity for a bullet win, but 37.Qxc6 proved to be a touch too much greed. Carlsen opened the kingside, creating plenty of mating combinations and Grischuk simply could not hold on.

In a small bit of drama, game nine started just after the game clock visible on Twitch reached zero. Should the game still count? The judges ruled yes as there were still three seconds on the official match clock.

Grischuk had one last chance to finish the match on a high note. Sadly, for Grischuk, he underestimated the dangers of winning Carlsen's queen for two rooks. The two rooks were far superior and ended the match with one more win, his sixth in a row.

Players 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1|1 Score
GM Magnus Carlsen 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
GM Alexander Grischuk 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

Whereas Carlsen finished the blitz mini-matches second on the leaderboard to Nakamura, he closed the bullet mini-match with a 91-point lead on the bullet demi-god. Carlsen's current bullet rating of 3274 stands at five points less than Nakamura's peak rating of 3279. Carlsen did cross Nakamura's peak during the match, reaching 3291, but his rating is still provisional whereas Nakamura has played over 7,000 games. Attentive readers may note that Carlsen also lost one bullet game against Petrosian, but that game was the Chess960 game. It is not rated in the general bullet pool.

With one player through to the finals, chess fans don't have long to wait to see who will join Carlsen. Tune in August 24 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Chess.com/tv or Twitch.tv/chess.

Relive all the moments with commentary by IM Danny Rensch and GM Robert Hess.

For his victory, Carlsen earned $3,333.33 to Grischuk's $1,666.67. The $400 best game prize will be allotted pending a vote by the Chess.com news team.

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