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Karjakin Squeezes Meier In Speed Chess

Karjakin Squeezes Meier In Speed Chess

Sergey Karjakin and Georg Meier are renowned for their similar python-like style of play. Each has regularly demonstrated the ability to patiently maneuver and press from a superior position until their opponent suffocates for lack of moves. In their Speed Chess Championship match this week, the reigning world blitz champion proved himself to be faster and better at this style of play. As Meier laconically observed after the match, the best blitz players just play better moves and play them faster.

Karjakin now awaits the winner of the match between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Levon Aronian (August 23). Karjakin entered the tournament as the second seed in blitz. If things go according to seed (big if!) for him and his peers, Karjakin would face Hikaru Nakamura in the semis en route to a possible rematch with Magnus Carlsen in the finals.

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Although the margin (19-7) was large, the match was closer than the score. Meier lost many winning and drawn positions, but ultimately Karjakin scored nearly 20 impressive points against the top-rated qualifier.

As a reminder, the unique Speed Chess format combines 5|2, 3|2, and 1|1 games with short breaks between each format for the players. One Chess960 game closes all three formats.

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Of course, dedicated fans knew the format well, and had engaged in pre-match preparations to achieve their ideal spectating setups.

The match started with a typical win in game one for Karjakin. Meier had a pleasant positional advantage when a tactical error immediately cost him the game.

A nice recovering effort from Meier while low on time held game two, but then Karjakin rattled off a string of three wins in a row! The first was a murky and exciting affair as Meier had the better pawn structure and at some points a winning advantage, but he continually needed to tend to his central king. A misstep late in the game cost him.

Karjakin played possibly his finest game in the match in game four as he expertly utilized his bishop pair across all phases of the game. The final simplification was a very nice way to demonstrate his bishop's superiority to Meier's knight.

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Meier then used Karjakin's own medicine against him, squeezing a small advantage with the bishop pair, but Karjakin unleashed tactics with ...Nxf2 in an effort to break free. After a nice sequence, Meier appeared to be better in a complex endgame, but the position started slipping away, and ultimately he played the blunder of the match with Ra7??

A draw settled things down a bit, but then Karjakin won another game, running up the score to 6-1! Meier actually made a winning attempt by sacrificing a pawn to set up a rook fork. However, he missed Karjakin's rejoinder, which saved the extra pawn through a clever idea to trap Meier's rook.

Meier claimed another draw in game eight in one of the rare games where the fortunes of war favored him. Karjakin was completely winning in a race between connected passed pawns, but after winning Meier's rook, he needed to find a couple of accurate moves. Meier managed to regain the rook and draw the endgame a knight down.

Meier converted on that positive energy to get his first win in the match as he defeated Karjakin in the Chess960 game to conclude the 5|2 time control. Meier's blockading knight on e3 kept him ahead positionally until he was able to get a tactical opportunity.

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Score: 5|2 Time Control

Player FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Final
Sergey Karjakin 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 6.5
Georg Meier 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 2.5

Down by four entering the 3|2 format, Meier desperately needed to hold his own and hopefully close the margin by a point or two to have a chance at a comeback in the bullet portion of the match.

The first four games were good for Meier. Despite a loss in the opening game, Meier drew games two and four (from a winning position) and won his best game of the match in game three as his pair of bishops raked the board.

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Karjakin won with some nice rook maneuvers in game five, but Meier could have recovered in game six in which he missed a tactic. Can you see the opportunity?

A win from a worse position in game seven where Meier overpressed, and a dominant win in the Chess960 game closed out the 3|2 portion of the match. With a seven-game lead, Karjakin had all but mathematically assured himself of the match win.

Score: 3|2 Time Control

Player FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Final
Sergey Karjakin 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 5.5
Georg Meier 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 2.5

The main question for the viewers and the hosts at this point was how good was Karjakin's bullet. Strong bullet play has consistently been the decisive factor in otherwise close matches between elite players in this match format. For Karjakin to make a championship run, he must hold his own in this format. In terms of score, Karjakin impressed greatly, scoring six wins with only one loss and two draws.

Karjakin's play was a bit more shaky. He was lost in both of the first two games when Meier flagged. Meier seemed to have trouble adjusting to the one-second increment after acclimating to a two-second increment.

Karjakin's wins in games three and five were more convincing, but it was once again a forfeit on time that cost Meier in game six. Meier did have the pleasure of winning the final two games, but fortune, once again, was not with him. The first of the two wins did not count as time had expired in the 1|1 portion and the players had rematched without noticing the match communications. Thus, that game, while played, did not affect the match score.

Score: 1|1 Time Control

Player FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Final
Sergey Karjakin 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 0 7
Georg Meier 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1 2

Karjakin and Meier were magnanimous after the match

Missed the live event? Watch the replay in full with commentary from IM Danny Rensch and WGM Jennifer Shahade!

Watch live video from Chess on www.twitch.tv

With the percentage so heavily in Karjakin's favor, he collected the python's share of the prize money. With $1,000 guaranteed to the winner and another $1,000 split based on the percentage of points scored, Karjakin came away with $1,730.77 while Meier earned $269.23.

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