Blitz Chess - 2015 Showdown in Saint Louis
Blitz is a dangerous game. The balancing act of time pressure, putting aggression on your opponent and not blundering anything is extremely tricky. Hikaru Nakamura is considered by many to be the best blitz player in the World, and if not that, at least top three. However, Fabiano Caruana had something to say about this - and even though he was not the favorite going into the last day of the Showdown in Saint Louis, he proved that he can play with the best of the best.
Fabiano Caruana vs. Hikaru Nakamura
Caruana dealt the first blow in game one. After a beautiful deflection early in the game, Black emerged up a pawn and had excellent winning chances. Nakamura kept holding on, and in the chaos of the time scramble even managed to get some chances to hold on. However, he failed to see the path, and Caurana’s passed pawns were too much for him to handle.
It was clear that Caruana wasn’t satisfied with just one win. He came in strong in the second game as well, getting a decisive advantage but failing to see the killing shot. His king became very weak, and again in a game that was decided in the final seconds, Nakamura took a perpetual after missing a key win.
The third game was all about Black yet again. Caruana’s position was already superior from the opening, and in a very fine positional style, specially for a three minute game, he simply blew Nakamura off the board. The final winning tactic was nice.
Nakamura came back in game four. Caruana’s was overzealous in his pawn grab, and in what should have been a drawish knight endgame, he ended up trapping his own minor piece. Nakamura’s king came over to the queenside, collected the stranded knight, and won the game.
The fifth blitz game came with a bit of a controversy. In a superior position, Caruana tried to promote his pawn. He pushed it to the eighth rank, and went to grab a queen. Unfortunately, he accidentally hit the clock before replacing the pawn. Nakamura claimed illegal move but Tony Rich, the arbiter, ruled that since it was an unintentional clock touch that the game should go on. At the end Nakamura held his own in a difficult position and drew the game.
Nakamura played strangely in the sixth game. In a must win position, he simply crumbled as Caruana’s knights galloped all over the board. Nakamura’s bishops never had any activity and they died entombed. With that win Caruana cemented his victory in the match!
White tried to win an opposite colored bishop in the seventh game, but Caruana would not let go of his position and ended up drawing after 151 moves!
Caruana missed a tactical blow in the eighth game that gave Nakamura a final win, but it was all over by then. Caruana takes the Saint Louis Showdown!
Parimargan Negi vs. Hou Yifan
The final blitz day was truly tragic for Negi. He was unable to convert many strong advantages and even lost on time once in a winning position.
Yifan started strong with an unexpected novelty in the main position of the Sicilian Dragon. She was better through most of the game, but Negi held on.
The Indian player clearly outplayed his counterpart in game two. His strong position in the queen and bishop endgame was sufficient for a huge advantage, but in severe time trouble he collapsed and blundered into a simply losing pawn endgame.
Negi was quite lucky to draw the third game, however, as Yifan should have converted in that game. Her pawns on the queenside were very strong and Negi survived by a miracle in the final endgame.
In the fourth game, Negi was up a piece. He had tricked Hou Yifan nicely and had a totally winning position. However, disaster occurred. In time pressure he confused himself, made things difficult, and instead of accepting a draw he thought too long and lost on time!
After two draws, Negi was able to take game seven for some consolation prize, but the match was certainly over by then. Despite Hou Yifan’s crushing victory, it was probably a closer match than what the score dictates.
Congratulations to the winners, Hou Yifan and Fabiano Caruana!