Meier Qualifies vs. Shankland For Death Match 31

Meier Qualifies vs. Shankland For Death Match 31

In the closest qualification month in history, GM Georg Meier barely eclipsed GM Tamir Nabaty on the final day to earn the right to compete against GM Sam Shankland. The two will square off Saturday, March 28 at 9 a.m. PST. The Death Match will be covered live on Chess.com/TV.

Both Meier and Shankland will be playing in their second Death Match. The winner of Death Match 31 will become the first two-time champion in the event's three-year run.

With Shankland as the invited player, the entire Chess.com community was invited to obtain the highest blitz rating at the close of February (minimum 100 games played in the month). Meier played more than 200 games and therefore had the games requirement locked up, but chased Nabaty in rating.

Meier logged in on February 28 and promptly played 21 blitz games, going 20-1, including a 17-1 series against GM Robert Hess. The result? A final rating of 2729 as the calendar flipped to March.

Nabaty came up just short. He played 15 games on February 27 and another 34 on February 28 but only got to 98 before 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, the end of the qualification period. In addition, his rating was 2724, a mere five points shy of Meier (Nabaty did play 10 more games on March 1 and raised his rating to 2734, but those results are ineligible for the qualification). Nabaty needed this to be a leap year (there will be a February 29, 2016)!

Even as this report is written, Meier and Nabaty are next to each other in blitz ratings. The only players ahead of them are GMs Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave, and Jobava!

Meier and Shankland are near equals in FIDE rating. In fact, Shankland's rating at the time of invitation in January is exactly the same as Meier's current rating! Meier does hold an advantage in FIDE blitz rating, but those figures are still in their infancy due to small data size.

GM Sam Shankland (FIDE 2661) -- The past winner of Death Match 3 (against that guy Hess again!), Shankland frequently tunes in to Death Matches as a spectator, even helping commentate occasionally. He recently entered the world's top 100, and looks to be a mainstay on the American national team. 

GM Sam Shankland is on his peak FIDE rating.

Shankland won an individual gold for his undefeated run at the 2014 Olympiad in Tromso, Norway. In his rookie Olympiad, he began with an amazing 7.0/7 and finished with eight wins and two draws as team Captain IM John Donaldson called his number in all but one round. The final game in that perfect start was a win against GM Judit Polgar, the last game of her career. 

He is also well known to the international community (perhaps too well by Hungarians!) from his 2011 World Cup win over GM Peter Leko

Shankland has had a busy 2014-2015 campaign as he finishes up his second and final term as a Samford Chess Fellow. With a few months remaining on his $42,000 annual chess scholarship, recently he has played in the Millionaire Open, American Continental Championship (where he qualified for the World Cup), Qatar Masters, Al-Ain Classic, Tata Steel, and will participate in parts of the Hawaii Chess Festival later this month. Just after the Death Match, he will play in the strongest U.S. Championship ever.

Shankland (left) from his Facebook page. He writes: "Apparently I need to be more careful about doing my analysis at the airport...You never know when there could be an interested peeping observer!" The man in the hat is of course GM Vassily Ivanchuk.

He also recently won an award for his writing. For more on his career, you can check our his updated website

GM Georg Meier (FIDE 2652) -- One of the most recognizable names on the Chess.com live server, Meier played 203 blitz games in February and recently won his second Titled Tuesday crown.

He is a past member of the highest-rated collegiate chess team in U.S. history (Webster University) and he has recently moved back to Europe. Although he is a German native, his Chess.com page lists Stockholm, Sweden, but he is spending more time in Vienna, Austria.

Georg Meier

He learned the game from his mother before he began school, and for a while had as his trainer GM Vladimir Chuchelov, the same guy who helped a certain player win seven straight at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup.

Meier had been in the top-100 for much longer than Shankland, although at 27 he is four years older than his opponent. The two have met over the board at least once, in 2012 when Meier had a healthy 100-point rating advantage.

Meier has been nearly as active as Shankland over the last half-year. He plays nearly all the monthly Bundesliga games, where he is team member of the outstanding OSG Baden-Baden club (teammates include GMs Anand, Aronian, Svidler, Adams and other 2700s). He also recently won the Elite Hotels Open in Sweden.

Back to his time in St. Louis, Meier was part of several college championships at Webster. Here's a fascinating endgame he won at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, capped by a sweet zugzwang.


Tune in to Chess.com/TV on Saturday, March 28 at 9 a.m. Pacific (UTC -7), which is noon Eastern and 4 p.m. London for all the action! At this time, Chess.com is also planning to introduce a special host that has never before commentated on a Death Match.

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