Chess players show skills shooting the rapids

January 8, 2019

Slower than fast and faster than slow, rapid chess has rapidly cemented its place in the competitive structure of the game. Once known as “active” chess, rapid chess with time controls ranging from 10 minutes to an hour per game has found the sweet spot between the sometimes plodding classical time controls and the often random quality of blitz.

The best players tend to be very good at rapid chess world champion Magnus Carlsen has twice won the world rapid title, and China’s brilliant GM Ju Wenjun is the reigning women’s classical and rapid titleholder. But rapid chess also requires some adjustments holding the initiative is classical chess is nice, but seizing the initiative in rapid can be critical.

That the accelerated time controls do not undermine calculating brilliance can be seen in the games from last month’s World Rapid Championships in St. Petersburg, where hundreds of the world’s best players competed. Russian GM Dmitry Andreikin pulled off a sweet queen sacrifice, capped by an inspired waiting move, in defeating compatriot GM Peter Svidler.

The closed Symmetrical English can be a tricky opening to play when you have just 15 minutes (with a 10-second-per-move increment) for the entire game, but Andreikin starts to break on top after 16. Nh5 g4 17. Nh4!? (Nd2 Qe5 18. a5 is fine for White) Ng6 18. Nxg7 Nxh4 19. gxh4 Kxg7, as Black’s kingside threats will arrive much faster than White’s queenside push.

It, in fact, comes much faster than White anticipated after 24. Qc3 Rg8 25. a5 (see diagram; White can lose more prosaically with 25. Qe5 d6! [Qxe5?! 26. Bxe5 Rxh4 27. a5 Rh6 28. Red1 doesn’t give Black nearly as much] 26. Qg3 Qe7 27. Red1 Rgg6 28. a5 Rxh4 29. axb6 Rh3 30. Rxa7 Rxg3+ 31. hxg3 Bb7) Qxh2+!! (and not 25...Rxh4?? 26. Qf6+ Ke8 27. Qxh4 and wins), and the rest is a fatal forced march: 26. Kxh2 Rxh4+ 27. Kg3 (Kg1 Rh1 mate) Rh3+ 28. Kf4 Rf3+ 29. Ke5 Rg6!, and there’s no defense to the twin threats of 30...d6 mate and 30...Re6 mate.

Another nice combination came at the end of the women’s rapid match between Azerbaijani IM Gulnar Mammadova and two-time Russian women’s champ GM Aleksandra Goryachkina. White actually puts up a good fight before losing her way at the end.

Perhaps sensing things are going south in this Caro-Kann, Black takes a calculated rapid risk with 22. Qxf4 Rh3?! (Rf8 23. Qh6 Ne8 24. a5 is exactly the kind of position you want to avoid in rapid chess) 23. axb5?! (Kg2! Qh8 24. axb5 Nb8 25. Nf3 Ke8 26. Ng5 is clearly better for White) axb5 24. Rxa8 Qxa8 25. Qxf7 Qh8, when White’s still on top after 26. Qf2! Ne8 27. g5.

Instead, Black turns the tables after 26. Nf3? Rg3+ 27. Kf2 Rxg4 28. Ra1 Qh3 29. Ra8?? (seeking counterplay, but the defensive 29. Rg1 Rxg1 30. Kxg1 Nf5 31. Bd1 keeps the game going) Rg2+ 30. Ke3 Nf5+!, a clever idea that forces White to block her own piece. Mammadova resigned as 31. Bxf5 (Kf4 Rg4 mate) Qh6+ (the point White’s queen can’t get back to f4 to block the check) 32. Ng5 Qxg5+ 33. Kf3 Qg3 is mate.

Svidler-Andreikin,World Rapid Championships,St. Petersburg, December 2018

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 b6 3. g3 Bb7 4. Bg2 g6 5. O-O c5 6. e3 Bg7 7. d4 O-O 8. Nc3 Ne4 9. Ne2 Nc6 10. Nf4 e6 11. Re1 f5 12. d5 exd5 13. Nxd5 Ne7 14. Nf4 Qc7 15. a4 g5 16. Nh5 g4 17. Nh4 Ng6 18. Nxg7 Nxh4 19. gxh4 Kxg7 20. Qc2 Rf6 21. b3 Rh6 22. Bb2+ Kf7 23. Bxe4 Bxe4 24. Qc3 Rg8 25. a5 Qxh2+ 26. Kxh2 Rxh4+ 27. Kg3 Rh3+ 28. Kf4 Rf3+ 29. Ke5 Rg6 White resigns.

Mammadova-Goryachkina,World Rapid Championships,St. Petersburg, December 2018

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 c5 6. O-O Nc6 7. Be3 Bg4 8. c3 Nge7 9. Nbd2 Nf5 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Nxf3 Be7 12. Bd3 c4 13. Bc2 b5 14. b4 h6 15. a4 a6 16. Bd2 g5 17. g4 Ng7 18. Nh2 h5 19. f4 gxf4 20. Qf3 hxg4 21. hxg4 Kd7 22. Qxf4 Rh3 23. axb5 axb5 24. Rxa8 Qxa8 25. Qxf7 Qh8 26. Nf3 Rg3+ 27. Kf2 Rxg4 28. Ra1 Qh3 29. Ra8 Rg2+ 30. Ke3 Nf5+ White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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