Carlsen To Face Tigran Petrosian In GM Blitz Battle
The reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen will face a grandmaster named for a former world champion in the next GM Blitz Battle on June 23.
GM Tigran L. Petrosian of Armenia bested a field of 99 players Tuesday in what can be considered the strongest online blitz tournament ever for the right to face Carlsen next month.
Petrosian scored 9.5/11 in the GM Blitz Battle qualifier to finish a point clear of a very strong field, including some of the top players in the world like Wesley So, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Evgeny Tomashevsky.
Petrosian earned $1,500 for the win, and entry to the $40,000 GM Blitz Battle championship bracket, where he will take the number-eight seed against Carlsen.
Report by Peter Doggers:
With some terribly strong grandmasters from Russia (Ian Nepomniachtchi, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Daniil Dubov) entering on the last day, the Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship qualifier easily turned into the strongest ever online blitz event “of mankind and chess,” as commentator GM Simon Williams put it. Other big names included Ruslan Ponomariov, Dmitry Andreikin, and Baadur Jobava.
And it's not difficult to explain why so many strong players participated. Besides the $1,500 first prize — not bad at all for 1.5 hours of chess — a match (or rather, battle!) with the world champion was at stake -- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for almost any participant.
Unlike Chess.com's Titled Tuesday tournaments, where the time control is three minutes with two seconds increment, this qualifier was played without increment: just three minutes for the game. In a way this rate of play is the ultimate battleground where things can get really nasty.
“I'm going to predict a lot of dirty flagging going on,” said Williams at the start of the tournament. “Yes, the solid players are going to have to take the gloves off a little bit!” said co-host IM Aman Hambleton.
Williams went a bit further with making predictions, and created odds for some players. He made a bit of fun there of his good friend Lawrence Trent, the manager of Fabiano Caruana.
@ginger_gm) May 31, 2016
In the first round, top seed (based on Chess.com blitz ratings) Baadur Jobava was paired against the very decent Italian grandmaster Sabino Brunello, which showed how strong this 11-round Swiss really was. In fact, Brunello won this game convincingly. (Sadly, Jobava would withdraw from the tournament after round two, which he lost on time after move five probably because of connection problems.)
Unfortunately the tournament was over before it stated for the top seed.
An arguably bigger upset was second-seeded Wesley So being held to a draw by IM Ottomar Ladva from Estonia, who simply played a very solid game. The former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov got to know the fast chess skills of Chessbrah GM Eric Hansen.
In round two, Dmitry Andreikin, a Titled Tuesday regular and winner of the recent Hasselbacken Open, was completely crushed by Viktor Bologan. That was right after he was described as being “appropriately dirty” by Hambleton, the way you need to be playing in such an event. What that means exactly? That you can “turn on the hustle switch” (Williams).
After four rounds one player was left with a perfect score: Gawain Jones. In fact the English grandmaster added two more wins to reach the fantastic score of 6.0/6, a dream start already slightly beyond the halfway mark. Here's how he crushed Daniil Dubov in round four:
Gawain Jones started with six straight wins!
The first cracks appeared during his round-six win against IM Kacper Drozdowski of Poland, a well-known blitz expert. The endgame was very bad of course, but anything is possible in blitz and somehow Jones managed to turn things around. Williams: “This is witchcraft!”
The next round Jones faced Tigran L. Petrosian of Armenia and this turned out to be the key game of the tournament. An early trade of two pieces for a rook didn't quite work for Jones, who was just worse in the endgame and desperately tried to find counterplay. His king got into some kind of mating net but in the last seconds of the game it was just crazy with the evaluation switching between probably drawn and lost.
Petrosian kept his lead with a win against another blitz expert, GM Tamir Nabaty of Israel. His early push of “Harry the h-pawn” is a typical blitz idea, although it's exactly the kind of thing that you get to see more and more in classical games by top GMs these days.
In this game it didn't really work out and Black was completely winning up to move 33. However, Petrosian gave away all of his advantage as he allowed a “perpetual” on his queen, or so it seemed. A true champion, he decided to continue playing for a win since only first place was what mattered!
Nabaty came up with some pretty blows to create a pretty picture...
...only to give away everything right after! A crazy blitz game like you can expect in such an event.
In the ninth round, Petrosian drew his game with José Carlos Ibarra Jerez, but was still leading by half a point. The (very) surprising runner-up was IM Lawrence Trent, who might have been even more motivated after seeing Williams' odds!
Lawrence was the first to admit (on Facebook) that he had been lucky, with e.g. one player disconnecting just when the players were repeating moves. And of course there was the moment against Wesley So, who missed a mate in one. Yes, you heard that right!
Lawrence Trent. | Photo courtesy LawrenceTrent.com.
But Trent certainly deserves credit as well for playing some great chess here and there. For example he managed to win the all-English clash against Gawain Jones in round nine. In the chat Jones said afterward: “First time I've been totally outplayed by Lawrence.”
But like Jones, Trent couldn't keep it up for 11 rounds — he lost to José Carlos Ibarra Jerez and Ian Nepomniachtchi in the last two rounds. Since Petrosian drew again in the penultimate round, with Russian GM Grigoriy Oparin, Trent was in fact playing for reaching shared first before the last round. However, the Cinderella story ended here:
@DanielRensch) May 31, 2016
Daniel Naroditsky was the last one who could stop Petrosian in the final round, but the American grandmaster collapsed completely, first blundering a rook and then a mate in one. Magnus Carlsen's opponent in the June 23 Grandmaster Blitz Battle gladly accepted the gifts!
And so the winner was not a name that anyone expected beforehand. Petrosian is one of those players bearing the same name as a former world champion (there's also e.g. a Mikhail Botvinnik and a Robert Fischer). In this case it was deliberate: His father named him after the great Armenian champion, who happened to pass away a month before the “new” Tigran was born.
The now 31-year-old grandmaster from Armenia (obviously), who became a grandmaster in 2002, was part of the Olympic gold winning team at the Olympiads in 2008 and 2012. He is also a two-time Armenian champion.
2016 GM Blitz Battle Qualifier | Final Standings (Top 20)
(Full final standings here.)