HO, HO HO, Merry Christmas!
The traditional tournaments of the holiday season generally run through Christmas to New Year’s, so there was a bit of the calm before the storm last week. So I will have lots of games from the Nutcracker Match of Generations…but first, a few thoughts on the World Blitz and Rapid Championships, just underway in Saudi Arabia.
Magnus Carlsen and Bu Xiangzhi. Photo from the official website
The prize fund has been bumped up to 2 million dollars, but the choice of site has unsurprisingly led to controversy. Foremost is the Israeli question. As we’ve seen before from FIDE, there was never an admission that Israeli players would not be allowed to play, but every Israeli player who applied for a visa to Saudi Arabia was denied. Many of the top players are not in attendance, but it is unclear how many are boycotting, and how many just had scheduling conflicts. Two high profile boycotters include the defending Women’s Blitz and Rapid Champion Anna Muzychuk, who wore the hijab earlier this year in the Women’s World Championship in Iran, but bristled at the prospect of wearing a full body abaya in Saudi Arabia, and Hikaru Nakamura, who tweeted, “To organize a chess tournament in a country where basic human rights aren't valued is horrible.” I don’t think any other Americans are participating either.
World Champion Magnus Carlsen is there, however. While many in the chess community would like Magnus to make a principled stand, he is well-known to be uncomfortable to inject politics into chess. Call it karma if you will, but Magnus is off to a slow start. Lightning has struck a second time, with Carlsen losing in the opening frame of the Rapid tournament to Bu Xiangzhi, who knocked him out of the World Cup earlier this year.
I’ll have more from Saudi Arabia next week.
The Nutcracker Match of Generations matched older and younger teams in men’s and women’s divisions. The Princes defeated the Kings 32.5-31.5, while the Queens vanquished the Princesses 33.5-30.5.
The Kings looked good in the Classical portion, as Shakiyar Mamedyarov rallied his team of Boris Gelfand, Alexei Shirov, and Sergey Rublevsky to a 9-7 edge. Let’s see how Mamedyarov posted 3.5/4 with a couple of nice wins:
GM Shakiyar Mamedyarov
Next, he took out Andrey Esipenko with some nice combinative play:
The Princes rebounded in the rapid portion, where their younger reflexes made a difference. The team of Daniel Yuffa, Andrey Esipenko, Grigoriy Oparin, and their fearless leader, Vladimir Artemiev, edged their elders in the match by outscoring them 18.5-13.5. The final numbers don’t seem to match up, so perhaps there was weighted scoring in this event. Artemiev’s 6.5/8 led the way—let’s take a look at his opportunistic play:
GM Vladimir Artemiev
I would like to conclude with a little fire on board from Alexei Shirov. Shirov’s rating has plummeted down to 2631, but he is still able to bring it on occasion:
GM Daniil Dubov and GM Alexei Shirov
GM Joel Benjamin