Death Match 31: Shankland Suffers In Meier Massacre

Death Match 31: Shankland Suffers In Meier Massacre

| 11 | Chess Event Coverage

It's hard to put it differently: GM Georg Meier wiped the floor with GM Sam Shankland in one of the most one-sided encounters in Death Match history. The German GM dominated in all three segments.

Meier won Saturday's 31st Death Match with an overwhelming 18-8 score. A 10-point margin also occurred in the previous Death Match, between GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Wesley So in January of this year.

Before that, it was seen in GM Erwin l'Ami vs GM Jan Smeets (one year ago) and GM Alexander Fier vs GM Leonid Kritz (two year ago). It's not easy to beat the record: in July 2012 GM Wesley So defeated GM Ray Robson by a score of 23-9.

So what went wrong for Shankland? Playing from California, he did take a shower in the morning (“unusual for a chess player to do that but I thought I’d break the tradition”) and wasn't lacking energy (“I had breakfast, ate my fruits”).

Maybe it was just poor form, which he brought back from Hawaii? Less than a week before, on the second day of the GM Challenge, Shankland had scored only 1.0/6. 

Playing from Vienna, Austria (where the match started at 5pm) Meier turned out to be in excellent shape. In fact he is becoming more and more known as a blitz specialist.

He crushed the field in the second Titled Tueday tournament, scoring 8.5/9. He also did well at the World Blitz Championship in Dubai last year where he scored 12/21 and a 2739 performance.

“My strongest discipline in chess is blitz, over the board or online,” he said himself after the match, “because I make moves with the hand.”

Meier at the World Blitz Championship in Dubai last year.

Shankland's negative trend started immediately in the match. He managed to score his first win only in game 7. Two “normal” losses and two draws were followed by a completely unnecessary loss in the endgame below. That must have hurt.

Meanwhile Meier was scoring his points with quiet, healthy, positional chess. The following endgame looks totally drawn as well, but look how White slowly improves his position and then sacrifices an exchange — very practical especially in a blitz game!

As said, being down 5-1 Shankland finally won in game 7. And it was a good one:

Then, after playing a double fianchetto four times as Black, he changed his setup to a Pirc and scored his second win in a row! Meier overlooked a pin, and so the 5 + 2 segment ended in 5-3.

31st Death Match | 5+2 Segment

# Name 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 Score
1 Meier ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 0 0 5
2 Shankland ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 1 1 3


The next segment went even worse for Shankland, who only managed to score one victory. That game gets the Aron Nimzowitsch Award for best mysterious rook move of the match! Would you play 12...Rc8 in the following position? And watch what that rook will do later in the game!

Shankland loses the match, but wins the Aron Nimzowitsch Award!

But most of the time Shankland was just outplayed. His worst game must have been the following — it was over before it really started.

Meier (“a very cool customer” — GM Alex Yermolinsky in the commentary) won the 3 + 2 segment with a huge 7-2 score, improving the overall score to 12-5. It seemed that the match was decided, but hey, in bullet anything is possible, right?

31st Death Match | 3+2 Segment

# Name 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Score
1 Meier 1 ½ 1 0 1 1 1 1 ½ 7
2 Shankland 0 ½ 0 1 0 0 0 0 ½ 2


However, Meier duly won the bullet segment too. Starting with two wins, there was no doubt about the outcome anymore, and Shankland was basically suffering until the end. In game 19 he was again surprisingly helpess:

Most 1 + 1 games were actyually rather “correct”, but game 23 saw the typical chaotic finish bullet is known for. In a completely winning position Meier first gave away the win, and then the draw.

Shankland could finish the match with a smile as he won the final game in perfect (Meier?) style: quiet opening, position play, winning a pawn, and even checkmating the black king! Overall score: 18-8.

31st Death Match | 1+1 Segment

# Name 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Score
1 Meier 1 1 ½ ½ 1 0 1 1 0 6
2 Shankland 0 0 ½ ½ 0 1 0 0 1 3

In the post-match interview Shankland gave all credits to his opponent: “He just outplayed me, I wish there was some other way to put it. There’s no use hiding from the truth.”

Meier: “I knew before the match, if we get a lot of technical positions, I will be much better.”

After such a whitewash it helps putting things in perspective. Shankland: “I was not the one the Germans crushed most this year. I suggest you watch the match with Brazil.”

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