Rapid and Blitz World Championship Berlin 2015
I’ve been looking forward to these events for quite some time. Winning both events in 2014 in Dubai gave me the clear goal of defending my titles, and I’ve prepared specifically for these events for some time, which included a training camp with Nielsen and Fressinet in Oslo the week before last.
A week ago I did a challenging blindfold clock simultaneous display against 5 players with 12 minutes on the clock in Vienna for my main sponsor Simonsen Vogt Wiig. Arriving in Berlin early I spent three days playing training games with Vladimir Kramnik (who finished 6th in the rapid).
The Rapid event attracted most of the World elite grandmasters with the exception of the strongest Americans who takes part in Millionaire Chess instead and the Chinese.
The time control was 15 minutes each plus 10 seconds increments per move per player. We played 5 rounds spread over more than 7 hours per day for three days.
Last year I scored 4, 4 and 3 points on the three playing days and 11 points was enough to win outright. 4/5 on day one was enough for shared 2nd this time, and another 4/5 on day two, once again, brought me into shared lead. I was generally doing well winning several hard-fought battles in pressed situations by a combination of more time on the clock, experience and good technique.
As usual the final stretch was decisive. In 2014 I played Aronian, Anand and Grischuk in rounds 11 to 13 while this year they were all out of contention (with 5.5/10 points) at this point. In round 11 I played black against surprise co-leader Sergei Zhigalko whom I met for the first time since Youth events in 2003! Sacrificing a pawn to activate my pieces in the Ruy Lopez variation, after a complicated middle game I managed to force mistakes in the rook and queen endgame and win. In round 12 I met Ivanchuk who had been on a rampage winning something like 6 in a row and he outplayed me in the middle game with black. I defended stubbornly and when he over-pressed slightly in the rook endgame I quickly changed mindset and starting to play for a win. He gradually slipped allowing me to reach a queen and pawn against queen endgame. It is tricky to defend against a c-pawn and he went quickly went wrong with queen checks forcing my king to b6.
With a 1,5 points lead and 3 rounds to go, I played two quick draws against Dominguez and Kramnik. It was enough to secure 1st with one round to go! After a 75 minutes break it was difficult to focus in the last round against Mamedyarov. Having more than equalized with black from the opening I made several inaccuracies, and he put me under serious pressure at some point. Fortunately I managed to defend and draw to stay undefeated with 8 wins and 7 draws and 11,5 points in total. Ian Nepomniachtchi came second with Teimour Radjabov 3rd both a point behind.
The two-days Blitz event October 13-14 is my favorite event, and it feels great to enter the battle with the Rapid win in the pocket.
We will play 21 rounds in total, and Norwegian Television channels NRK and VGTV will cover the event live. I look forward to an exciting finish to the Berlin championships!