The ICC Open, with $10,000 prizes in cash and years' worth of free membership for class prizes, is the most important online blitz tournament of the year.
A plethora of strong GMs, IMs, FMs, along with hundreds of amateurs from all over the world measure themselves in this amazing event. This year the ICC Blitz Open has seen two World Champions face each other in the semi-finals.
Magnus Carlsen plays regularly on ICC, although the World Champion does prefer to keep his accounts anonymous. Often people catch him, analyzing his style of play, his incredible strength and, obviously, his hyperbolic rating. When this happens, Magnus creates a new account, to protect his privacy. This time the Norwegian chess genius chose an account he uses mostly to play Bullet Chess to enter the Open, with a relatively low Blitz rating, and it was a surprise to everyone when this "unknown" player won the second qualifier on Friday, advancing to the finals!
The tournament rules states that if you qualify for the finals, your real name will be made public, therefore by Saturday morning everyone knew that Magnus Carlsen was going to play for the ICC Open title on Sunday. Magnus is a media phenomenon, and the excitement to see him play live on ICC grew up by the hour.
World Champions Magnus Carlsen (Classical and Rapid) and Alexander Grischuk (Blitz), started the final phase of the ICC Open in a very different way. Magnus won easily his quarter-final match with Cuban GM Carlos Hevia, whereas Alexander had to fight to the last game and beyond against the young Ukrainian GM Olexandr Bortnyk. More than 1,000 people gathered to watch the semi-final 4-game match between the two giants. And it was just amazing. Grischuk won the first game; Magnus won the second and they drew the third.
The fourth game was going to be decisive, if one of the players could win it. It was an intense battle until move 56, with the two in a very equal position. Then Magnus faltered, and Alexandre took immediately advantage of it pushing with precision. Grischuk was running very low on time, so Magnus decided to carry on in a totally lost position. The excitement was total, with ICC people kibitzing at an unbelievable rate. Grischuk didn't lose his proverbial chill in time-trouble situations, and checkmated the great Magnus with 7 tenths of a second on his clock! What a game.
Twitter was inundated with chirps from the chess fans, and on ICC it was chaos. Meanwhile, GM Dmitry Andreikin, another blitz wizard, got to the final by eliminating with relative ease GM Daniil Dubov in the quarter-finals and GM Federico Perez Ponsa in the semis. In the final 6-game match, Alexander Grischuk won 4.0/2.0 conquering his second ICC Open in a row. Congratulations to the great Sasha!