Paris Grand Chess Tour Blitz: Karjakin Takes Over
Sergey Karjakin scored 6.5/9 on the first day of blitz. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Paris Grand Chess Tour Blitz: Karjakin Takes Over

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

With one day of blitz to go at the Paris Grand Chess Tour, Sergey Karjakin is one point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura. Wesley So, who lost two games today, is half a point further down. 

Today the Paris tournament switched to the blitz time control of five minutes and three seconds delay per move. In this type of chess, Karjakin and Nakamura are known to be specialists, and it showed.

Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018 playing hall

The playing hall during today's fourth round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Karjakin's inspiration for today's successful play might have come from the next generation. Before playing himself, he visited the Russian Embassy where, together with Alexandra Kosteniuk, he opened the second chess festival of the Russian Chess Academy in Paris.

The specialists, Karjakin and Nakamura, played a draw against each other in a rather quiet first round; so quiet that it made the commentators in St. Louis compare it to classical chess. Jovanka Houska used the term damp squib, where Yasser Seirawan preferred "squid."

In this first blitz round, Vladimir Kramnik lost on time vs Levon Aronian. The Russian GM was quite surprised, asked the arbiter about it and wanted to see video footage of his game, but as it turned out he did press his clock about 0.1 second too late (in a position that was bad, but not lost yet).

Kramnik vs Aronian Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Kramnik offering a handshake after flagging. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Flag chess Paris

The clock showing 0.00 vs 0.08. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Kramnik Aronian Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Kramnik asking the arbiter if something might be wrong with the clock. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The next round saw another flagging moment as Fabiano Caruana lost on time vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. A tough loss for the American, who was completely winning during the second half of the game. He had also missed a win against Anand in the first game of the day.

Caruana vs MVL Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

This time it was Caruana's flag showing 0.00. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Sergey Karjakin narrowed the gap with So to just half a point as he beat his compatriot Alexander Grischuk in a wild game. Karjakin went from better to winning, but in his opponent's timetrouble he erred and was lost for a while. The strongest nerves (and better time management!) eventually prevailed.

Karjakin vs Grischuk Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Karjakin beating Grischuk with a bit of luck. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Karjakin also won his next game, against another compatriot. Showing his skills in an endgame, he beat Kramnik beautifully.

Karjakin Kramnik  Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Another good win for Karjakin against another Russian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura kept the pace with Karjakin as he beat Grischuk in another wild affair. It's hard to believe all this came from the normally rather boring 5.Re1 Berlin!

Grischuk Nakamura Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Grischuk discussing the viability of his kingside attack with his opponent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Starting with two draws, So won just in time to maintain his lead—although it wouldn't last much longer. He beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov as White in one of those games where the engine finds a nice, hidden idea—this time, a way for Mamedyarov to hold the draw:

Wesley So Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

So could only hold on to his lead for a few rounds today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round 13 saw the big clash between Karjakin and So, and it didn't disappoint, especially for the Russian fans. It started with 1.e4 and then So moving his hand to his e-pawn for his first move, Karjakin already moving his hand to get his king's knight out, but only then seeing 1...e6 instead of 1...e5 appearing. So seemed ready for a fight!

It became a French Winawer, where Black was initially fine, but somehow he allowed the White attack to become too strong. "After 30.Qf4 I thought it should be winning but in [blitz] you have to keep concentration till the end," said Karjakin.

The 2016 world blitz champion finished the game without mistakes, and said afterward that he enjoys blitz quite a bit, compared to classical. "In blitz you just come and play without big knowledge, big preparation, just enjoy playing. It's much more fun."

Karjakin So Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Karjakin winning the crucial game today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After this, Karjakin was on 14.5 points, So on 14 and Nakamura on 13.5. The Russian increased his lead to a full point in the next round with a win vs Caruana, which he could easily have lost as well. The clock was the most important part in this game, as in many games today.

Caruana flagged again, but here that didn't matter. As Karjakin was better for most of the game, the result wasn't completely unfair.

Caruana Karjakin Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

One of many clashes between these players this year. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Hardcore King's Indian fans must have enjoyed Grischuk's win over So in the old Mar del Plata variation. It was an excellent game by the Russian GM, who seemed in his element—Houska and Seirawan doubted whether So should have gone for this opening, against this player.

So Grischuk Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Grischuk playing a lovely King's Indian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura continued winning as well. After the opening he won an exchange, and gave Kramnik no chance to come back into the game.

Nakamura-Kramnik Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Kramnik going down against Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Karjakin was on fire as he won his fifth(!) consecutive game. He increased his lead even further, to 1.5 points as both Nakamura and So drew their games. It was a rather technical but excellent win vs Anand, where Karjakin won a pawn just out of the opening and converted in a double rook ending:

Karjakin Anand Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Anand was Karjakin's fifth victim. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round 16 saw a clash of contenders that lasted less than two minutes: So and Nakamura drew with a known move repetition in the 5.Bf4 Queen' Gambit (e.g. Carlsen-Nakamura, Isle of Man last year).

It was also the round when Karjakin lost his first game: Vachier-Lagrave beat him as White in a Queen's Gambit. The Frenchman built up pressure on the kingside, and came out of the tactical phase a pawn up.

MVL Karjakin Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Karjakin suffers his first loss. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"This is a masterclass. This is really good stuff by Sergey." Seirawan loved how Karjakin won his game against Aronian in round 17, and thus bounced back immediately from his first loss.

Aronian played the exact same line as against Nakamura two rounds before, but trading on c4 was a bit odd as it activated White's bishop. It was still within the draw margin but one more mistake was decisive.

Karjakin Aronian Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Great endgame play by Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

This time Nakamura did not keep the pace; in fact he lost his first game in the whole tournament in Paris. The rook ending was perhaps holdable, but very difficult over the board and in blitz.

Nakamura Mamedyarov Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Mamedyarov played the role of spoiler, as it turned out two rounds in a row. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Karjakin finished the tournament as the leader, but his situation could have been even better if he hadn't lost a crazy last game to Mamedyarov. The evaluation changed so many times in this game, which was obviously caused by tiredness and nerves.


Mamedyarov Karjakin Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

A rather unfortunate loss for Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura finished his day with a win against Caruana, thus limiting the damage to a point. All to play for in tomorrow's last nine rounds!

Wesley So Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Wesley So, sporting sunglasses only during the ninth round, watching his compatriots. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018 Standings

Tomorrow, round 19 starts at noon in Paris, 11 a.m. London, 6 a.m. Eastern and 3 a.m. Pacific. There will be nine blitz games again, starting with a nice clash between Nakamura and Karjakin.

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