IN A tip of the hat to Mikhail Tal’s over-fondness for playing blitz chess, a couple of years ago, at his memorial tournament in Moscow, a new tradition started (that has now carried over to other elite events) of an opening ceremony blitz tournament to determine a player’s pairing order rather than the lottery of drawing of lots.
Apart from being more exciting for the fans to watch, the winner(s) gets to pick their own pairing number, and with it the order they play white in the tournament. The US number one, Hikaru Nakamura, duly won the blitz tournament; but his strategy of selecting number five in the pairing order (giving him white in the opening and final games) soon backfired, as he was annihilated in the first round by the newly-crowned World Rapid champion, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, of Azerbaijan.
Another who lost out after determining his own fate was the Russian former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, who finished third in the blitz and opted for number seven, handicapping himself with five blacks and four whites. There was method in his madness though, as the number of games with black will be a deciding tie-breaker. But Kramnik’s strategy also failed, as was ground down in an endgame squeeze-from-nothing by world No 1 and title challenger Magnus Carlsen.
And the man Carlsen faces in November, World Champion Viswanathan Anand, made it a hat-trick of opening round losses at the Tal Memorial by being outplayed by the Miami-born and Brooklyn-raised Fabiano Caruana of Italy.
H Nakamura - S Mamedyarov
8th Tal Memorial, (1)
QGD, Ragozin variation
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 d5 4 Nc3 Bb4 5 Qa4+ Nc6 6 e3 0–0 7 Bd2 dxc4 8 Bxc4 a6 9 0–0 Bd6 10 Rad1 e5 11 dxe5 Nxe5 12 Be2 Qe7 13 Ng5 Bf5 14 e4 Bd7 15 Qc2 h6 16 Nf3 Rfe8 17 Rfe1 Rad8 18 g3 Neg4 19 h3 Nxf2! 20 Kxf2 Bxh3 21 Kg1 Bxg3 22 Bf1 Bxe1 23 Rxe1 Bg4 24 Bg2 Bxf3 25 Bxf3 Qd6 26 Re2 Qg3+ 27 Bg2 Ng4 28 Nd1 Re6 29 Ne3 Rc6 30 Qb1 Qh2+ 31 Kf1 Qf4+ 0–1