Lenderman Passes Wang Yue at the Finish in Death Match 27

Lenderman Passes Wang Yue at the Finish in Death Match 27

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

Despite being more than a 130-point underdog, GM Alex Lenderman took out GM Wang Yue in Death Match 27 on Saturday.

Wang edged his younger opponent in the first two time controls (5+1 and 3+1) but Lenderman won the final five games of bullet to win 17-14. The American won $600 ($500 plus a $100 bonus for winning one section) while Wang won $400 ($200 plus two $100 bonuses).

The match represented the third consecutive Death Match where a big deficit was overcome late. GM Irina Krush and IM Yaacov Norowitz also won tight matches this summer by routing their opponents in the closing minutes.

At this year's U.S. Championship, GM Alex Lenderman proved that he is working his way up in the chess world.

"You don't have time to change your play," was Wang's worry before the match began. For the first two hours, he didn't really need to alter anything. Wang won the two opening games, causing the commentators to worry that the competitors were a mismatch.

Lenderman's first win came in round four. Fans of endgames and opposite-colored bishop positions rejoiced during the match, and this game had both. 29. b5! was an elegant breakthrough, while the unexpected mate was also a nice touch.

Lenderman evened the score in round six by bravely playing on with only seconds left in a rook-and-two versus rook-and-one endgame. The plan was rewarded when he tricked Wang and won the pawn to create a trivially winning game.

Wang's Catalan, his main weapon as White, won him the following round, and so the opening segment ended 4.5-3.5 in favor of the newly-crowned Olympic champion.

GM Wang Yue at the 2014 Chess Olympiad. Team China won gold.

Both commentators on were Death Match graduates -- GM Simon Williams and GM Irina Krush. Williams had this to say when the play switched to 3+1: "When I played the Death Match, I found it very hard to adjust for the time situation."

Wang's "adjustment" was to play another Catalan! Game nine was "in the style of Wang Yue," according to Krush.

After trading a few wins, Lenderman lost game 15 in heartbreaking fashion. He had engineered a winning bishop ending (yet another opposite-colored version) but a lag issue caused him to flag. 

Several ideas win for Black, one of which was 68...b1=Q+. This frees the b2 square for Black's king and the a-pawn runs free. To his credit, after the match Lenderman said losing due to technical issues didn't faze him.

Wang outplayed Lenderman in the rook-and-pawn ending of game 16, and so entered the bullet with a three-game cushion.

The duo played 15 games of 1+1, only one of which ended drawn. After splitting 2-2 at the outset, Lenderman closed to within a point following a swindle in game 22. Wang was one move away from a double-check mate when Lenderman's dark-squared bishop swooped in just in time.

Overall, Lenderman proved to be the much faster player. In game 27, he was ahead a piece and still had 56 seconds remaining on his clock.

In game 28, another trick netted him the full point and made the match all square.

"He's timed his run to perfection," Williams said.

Immediately after, in yet another opposite-colored bishop game, Lenderman avoided getting mated on the light squares and pulled ahead for good.

Lenderman closed out the match by winning games 30 and 31 to make the winning margin three games.

"I've never before played one-minute," Wang said after the match. "I like to play endgames. In five minutes I can think."

"I took an example from you," Lenderman said to Krush (referencing the comeback).

Lenderman wearing his "superhero" jacket.

He said he also learned a lesson from the GM Valeriy Aveskulov - GM Fabiano Caruana Death Match. Aveskulov, a qualifier via his bullet chess prowess, sought to mitigate Caruana's perceived advantage in the slower time control by playing losing positions out until checkmate. Lenderman copied this strategy and explained this reasoning so as to not look disrespectful against the former world top 10.

Longer contests means fewer games before the bullet begins, but in a curious twist, Caruana only pulled away in the bullet section! 

Lenderman clearly knew that everything can change course in the bullet. Before the match he said, "I won't get discouraged if I lose some games. As [Krush] has proved, as Yaacov [Norowitz] has proved, it always comes down to the wire."

FM Mike Klein

Company Contact and News Accreditation: 

  • Email:
  • Phone: 1 (800) 318-2827
  • Address: PO Box 60400 Palo Alto, CA 94306

Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

More from FM MikeKlein
Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

New ChessKid Adventure App Released

New ChessKid Adventure App Released