Eurasian Blitz Cup: Amonatov Wins A Fortune, Ahead Of Big Names

Eurasian Blitz Cup: Amonatov Wins A Fortune, Ahead Of Big Names

| 17 | Chess Event Coverage

Farrukh Amonatov of Tajikistan won the Eurasian Blitz Cup in Almaty, Kazakhstan last weekend. To do so he topped Alexander GrischukSergey Karjakin, Boris GelfandIan NepomniachtchiBaadur Jobava, and all the other big names that participated.

It was a tournament that came out of nowhere, and it ended with a huge surprise. In full, the tournament was titled "Eurasian Blitz Chess Cup of the President of Kazakhstan". This two-day blitz tournament saw a large number of very strong grandmasters. Why? Well, for starters the event had an impressive $100,000 prize fund and a $30,000 first prize.

Additionally, all players with a rating of 2800 or above were provided a single room with full board and an air ticket. A double room with full board was given to 2750+ grandmasters and 2450+ WGMs. We're talking blitz ratings, of course, where currently nine people are above 2800. Many of these were playing in the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour in Leuven.

A total of 105 players from 28 federations played, including 57 GMs and 12 IMs. The top ten seeds were Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS, 2846), Le Quang Liem (VIE, 2805), Sergey Karjakin (RUS, 2801), Rauf Mamedov (AZE, 2796), Boris Gelfand (ISR, 2792), Wang Hao (CHN, 2784), Alexander Grischuk (RUS, 2766), Dmitry Andreikin (RUS, 2759), Peter Svidler (RUS, 2754), and Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB, 2736). The field also included Gawain Jones (ENG, 2734), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE,271), Hou Yifan (CHN, 2704), Ruslan Ponomariov (UKR, 2695), Paco Vallejo (ESP, 2686) and Baadur Jobava (GEO, 2635).

The tournament was held by and under the general supervision of the Kazakhstan Chess Federation with the support of the Committee for Sport and Physical Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Culture and Sport, and the Almaty Department of Physical Education and Sport.

While Garry Kasparov visited the Leuven event this weekend, his famous
colleague Anatoly Karpov was in Almaty. | Photo David Llada.

The setup was as follows:  Swiss pairings with 11 double-rounds (two games against the same opponent per round). The first 14 games were played on Saturday; rounds 15 through 22 were played on Sunday. The time control was three minutes with a two second increment. The venue wasn't bad at all: the Ritz Carlton hotel in Almaty.

The tournament ended in a huge surprise, but knowledgable insiders weren't overly astonished. The winner, GM Farrukh Amonatov, Tajikistan's only grandmaster, has a classical rating (2614) that is almost two hundred points higher than the number two in the country, IM Muhammad Khusenkhojaev. However, several top GMs in Leuven confirmed to that Amonatov is a well-known blitz expert so they weren't that surprised.

Our photographer for this report, David Llada, wrote: “Since he lives in Moscow, Alexander Morozevich has played countless training blitz games with him as sparring.”

Amonatov, 24th seeded, finished on 16.0/22; he had the same number of points as Nepomniachtchi but a better tiebreak. It was a pity that the organizers hadn't chosen to hold a playoff to decide the tournament winner. A special pity was that the two hadn't faced each other! The decisive factor was the number of wins: 15 for Amonatov versus 13 for Nepomniachtchi.

After three double-rounds, the only player left with a perfect score was Wang Hao, but he got beaten 2-0 by Mamedyarov. Their second game seemed to be heading toward a draw until Wang put his knight on a bad square.

Wang Hao started with six straight wins. | Photo David Llada.

Mamedyarov was a full point ahead of a player who would do surprisingly well, the 28-year-old Grandmaster Susanto Megaranto of Indonesia. Winning his match with Rustam Kasimdzhanov 1.5-0.5, Mamedyarov kept his one-point lead. Despite the money at stake, the well-known friendliness among Azeris prevailed in the next round. Mamedyarov and Mamedov drew two quick, essentially non-played games.

By that point, Ponomariov and Svidler had gotten to half a point behind the leader. Svidler, who had turned 40 the day before, was paired against Mamedyarov, but he couldn't change the status quo as he lost the match 0.5-1.5. He drew as Black, but he lost as White due to a blunder.

Mamedyarov dominated for most of the event. | Photo David Llada.

Meanwhile Ponomariov also dropped back. The ex-FIDE world champion lost 0.5-1.5 to Amonatov who held a draw as Black and then won his white game in a line which he has played a few times — the Four Knights with 4.g3. Once again, the “bigger name” overlooked something.

Ruslan Ponomariov became a father this week. | Photo David Llada.

Maybe Sergey Karjakin, the Candidates' winner, could do it? Well, indeed, but only for one game. Mamedyarov did suffer his first loss in this mini-match, but he won the second game to keep a half point lead over Amonatov and Jobava. He was better in the game he lost too, and he even avoided a move repetition twice.

Karjakin was the first to beat Mamedyarov in Almaty. | Photo David Llada.

Sadly, then the fun was over for Mamedyarov, who lost twice to Jobava in rounds 17 and 18. In both, he got completely outplayed. The finish of the second game was nice:

Jobava then split 1-1 against Karjakin and went into the last double-round with 15 points. That was sufficient for a half-point lead over Karjakin and Nepomniachtchi (14.5), followed by Amonatov (14), and Mamedyarov and Svidler (13.5).

Baadur Jobava was in clear first place with one double-round to go. | Photo David Llada.

Also for the Georgian grandmaster, the tournament lasted just a bit too long. He lost to Nepomniachtchi 1.5-0.5 after losing the first game, in his favorite opening, with an inexplicable and rather expensive blunder.

Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated tournament leader Baadur Jobava in their first game. | Photo David Llada.

Svidler won his final match against Karjakin 1.5-0.5. He nicely used the whole board in his black game.

Peter Svidler finished in sixth place. | Photo David Llada.

With so much money at stake, Jobava and Nepomniachtchi didn't want to take risks in their second game so they played an eight-move draw. They probably hadn't expected what would happen next. Amonatov beat Mamedyarov 2-0, caught Nepo in first, and collected the full $30,000 since prizes were not divided in this tournament! Although we now know that Amonatov lives in Moscow, it's hard to resist mentioning that Tajikistan's GDP per capita is $2,247... Here's the second game.

Farrukh Amonatov, in case you hadn't heard of him yet! | Photo David Llada.

2016 Eurasian Blitz Cup | Final Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Name FED Rtg Pts. TB2 TB3
1 24 Amonatov, Farrukh TJK 2679 16 15 2822
2 1 Nepomniachtchi, Ian RUS 2846 16 13 2827
3 30 Jobava, Baadur GEO 2635 15,5 14 2821
4 13 Artemiev, Vladislav RUS 2722 15,5 14 2812
5 3 Karjakin, Sergey RUS 2801 15 14 2791
6 9 Svidler, Peter RUS 2754 15 13 2816
7 12 Onischuk, Vladimir UKR 2734 15 11 2743
8 43 Megaranto, Susanto INA 2557 14 13 2747
9 18 Kovalenko, Igor LAT 2699 14 13 2691
10 29 Moiseenko, Alexander UKR 2646 14 12 2679
11 28 Sjugirov, Sanan RUS 2656 14 12 2605
12 10 Kasimdzhanov, Rustam UZB 2736 14 11 2771
13 19 Ponomariov, Ruslan UKR 2695 14 10 2771
14 5 Gelfand, Boris ISR 2792 14 9 2737
15 4 Mamedov, Rauf AZE 2796 13,5 12 2741
16 15 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar AZE 2714 13,5 11 2761
17 22 Jumabayev, Rinat KAZ 2685 13,5 11 2525
18 37 Arutinian, David GEO 2589 13 12 2619
19 6 Wang Hao CHN 2784 13 11 2750
20 7 Grischuk, Alexander RUS 2766 13 11 2749
21 2 Le Quang, Liem VIE 2805 13 11 2705
22 34 Volokitin, Andrei UKR 2621 13 11 2574
23 21 Vallejo Pons, Francisco ESP 2686 13 10 2630
24 56 Pak, Yevgeniy KAZ 2484 12,5 12 2550
25 31 Kazhgaleyev, Murtas KAZ 2635 12,5 11 2687
26 11 Jones, Gawain C B ENG 2734 12,5 11 2652
27 42 Potkin, Vladimir RUS 2564 12,5 11 2545
28 58 Harika, Dronavalli IND 2443 12,5 11 2504
29 17 Hou Yifan CHN 2704 12,5 10 2650
30 20 Saric, Ivan CRO 2690 12,5 10 2639

(Full final standings here.)

Nepomniachtchi won $20,000 while Jobava won $14,000. As the highest performing female player, Harika Dronavalli of India won $2,500.

Harika Dronavalli finished just ahead of... | Photo David Llada.

...Hou Yifan. | Photo David Llada.

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