From Hamburg to St. Louis
With an early morning flight Friday out of Hamburg I got to St. Louis in time for the Chess Hall of Fame Olympiad Exhibition Opening the same evening. The museum is one of many contributions to chess in St. Louis by patrons Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield cementing the status of St. Louis as the, or on of the, main chess cities in the world.
The main event this time is the Champion Showdown. The first edition took place during my World Championship match against Karjakin last autumn. The 2017 edition featured a new concept and format: Four matches with 30 games of rapid and blitz (with 30, 20, 10 and 5 minutes and no increments per player per game on the four days). My match against Ding Liren graciously started two days later than the other three matches allowing my participation after the Play Magnus event on the 9th while allowing Ding to reach the FIDE Grand Prix in Europe starting November 16th.
The three other matches finished today with Nakamura winning convincingly against Topalov as expected, while Caruana and So pulled off comeback victories against Grischuk and Dominguez respectively. Caruana was trailing until well in the Blitz portion where three-time Blitz World Champion Grischuk was the favorite, but Caruana still managed to pull if off. Wesley So was far behind after two and half days only to win most of the remaining blitz games on demand both yesterday and today.
Slightly low on energy despite a good nights sleep I got into trouble as white in game one yesterday. I had underestimated his kingside pawn push and was a bit fortunate to draw the game. Not much happened in game 2 while I managed to reach a winning position in game 3. With plenty of time on the clock I went for a non-existent win (planning to pick up the rook with check because I thought Kg7 or g8 was forced, completely missing the square h7) instead of taking the piece on b6 (and a likely technical win) and was again slightly fortunate to have a perpetual. In game 4 he allowed my d4 and d3 push creating a miserable position. The bind was highly unpleasant, but I expected him to be able to defend until he went for Ke1 instead of e4 and Ke3. It went downhill from there and I took the lead after day 1.
Today I played better, despite the reduced time control (20 minutes each per game), and when Ding lost his way as white in the bishop against knight pawn-ending in the second game of the day, he seemed to get slightly out of balance. He managed to draw the third game, but two subsequent losses (and a draw in the final game) left him trailing 30,5 against 13,5 with the point scoring system used in the Champions Showdown.
With two days of Blitz coming up, I hope to be able to continue to play steady chess and avoid big blunders.