The King is Dead at Death Match 17
After the longest Death Match in history, GM Arkadij Naiditsch of Germany toppled Dutch GM Loek van Wely by the final score of 14.5-11.5. The German grandmaster, playing under the username CaptainJames, took control of the 5+1 and 1+1 segments to overcome a mid-match run and late charge by KingLoek.
The match looked to be lopsided at the outset even though both are Super-GMs and only a few rating points apart. Naiditsch blazed to a commanding 5.5-1.5 start in the opening hour, proving to be the superior player in standard blitz.
The most pleasing game flowed from the typical Sicilian knight sac on d5:
The match gained a lot of drama in the middle 3+1 portion. After losing the opening game to broaden the deficit to five games, van Wely climbed all the way back to even with an impressive 5-0 streak.
"Everything was going well for me," Naiditsch said. "In the 3+1 I had some nice positions but somehow it got shaky. I was wondering when it was going to end."
"Even players who are equal strength, you see these kinds of runs all the time," GM Ben Finegold said on the live commentary on Chess.com/tv. "That's just the way blitz chess goes."
Closing out the run was a topsy-turvy win for KingLoek in Game 13. van Wely stared down the prospect of 20...Qf5 by playing the counter-intuitive prophylactic move 20. Na4! He threatened Nb6 but also opened the third rank for his queen to assist in defense.
CaptainJames spent much of his remaining time drumming up more resources, and consequently was too low on time to see the mate beginning with 34...Qf2+. van Wely eventually won on time.
That was the only real crisis for Naiditsch, who went on to win the final two 3+1 games, then won the opening game of bullet (1+1) to open a lead he would never relinquish.
Naiditsch seemed resolved to not get behind on the clock in the 1+1. Employing that same resourcefulness he showed previously, CaptainJames netted a profit in the opening game of the final section. Though 30...c3 looks winning for Black, watch how craftily White scares up an attack:
After that, instant karma. Several technical difficulties arose after which Naiditsch graciously asked host IM Danny Rensch to remove two wins due to server malfunctions. He then proceeded to have two losses excised due to the same malfunctions, so all was even in the end (the two wins and losses were removed from the final tally). After the reset, the match continued without issue.
"We're like exterminators here," Rensch said. "We find bugs and we kill them."
The respite did nothing to reinvigorate van Wely, as Naiditsch rattled off 3.5/4 to clinch the belt mathematically. The chasing GM won 4.5 of the final six but ran out of time before having a chance to fully overcome the difference in score.
"A bad start is not lethal, but bullet is not my specialty," van Wely said after the match. "I will [now] finish a cup of poison."
Naiditsch was assisted by his opponent simply hanging mate in one twice. "Loek helped me with some big blunders," he said. "Thanks Loek!"
Tune in to the next Death Match. the 18th edition will take place on Saturday, October 5 at 12 p.m. Eastern, 9 a.m. Pacific, when GMs Nigel Short and Judit Polgar face off in the first man versus woman Death Match! As always, free live commentary to all members can be found at Chess.com/tv.