Carlsen was ideally placed a half point behind tournament leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France at the midpoint of the marathon blitz course of 21 rounds - but he had a dreadful second day with a losing streak that knocked him out of contention for the title. And Carlsen - who finished with a below par score of 14/21 - wasn’t the only one to collapse at the crucial moment.
With four rounds to go, Vachier-Lagrave had a 1.5-point lead over the field and looked set for a famous French victory, only to dramatically lose two successive games. So going into the final round, Russians Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk, along with Vassily Ivanchuk and Vachier-Lagrave could win the title, but in the end only Grischuk emerged from the leading pack to win his last round game to claim victory with 15.5/21, as he captured the $40,000 first prize and his third World Blitz title.
To access the full crossable of the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Championships, click here.
Although the rapid games with a time limit of 15 minutes plus 10 seconds for each move were sufficiently slow for the leading grandmasters in classical chess with less obvious blunders being made, it was harder in blitz where each player had only three minutes for the entire game plus two seconds per move: a time control where frankly anything can - and often does - happen, as Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave discovered to their cost.
The gold standard for blitz is still Bobby Fischer’s performance in Yugoslavia in 1970, where the time limit was five minutes per player per game with no increment. That was an elite double-rounder of 12 players, regarded as the strongest blitz tournament of the 20th century, and included four world champions (Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian and Fischer) and two world title challengers (Bronstein and Korchnoi), with Fischer dominating on 19/22, winning some impressive games en route, whereas Carlsen's win last year with 17/21, and Grischuk’s this year with just 15.5/21 was against slightly weaker opposition and both had more than a few rocky moments.
Also Fischer’s famous win came in what is now regarded to be the first unofficial world blitz contest - and it was a victory that caught the imagination of the media and public, as it demonstrated for the first time that there could well be a bright future for speed titles in chess.
Yasser Seirawan - Alexander Grischuk
World Blitz Ch., (1)
King’s Indian Defence, Seirawan Variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Bd3 This is Yasser Seirawan's pet system against the Kings Indian, and he has had a lot of success with it over the years - most memorably when beating favourite Vassily Ivanchuk in the 1997 FIDE World Championship Tournament. And there's method in Yasser's madness: if Black isn't careful, he can end up in a bad Samisch (with White's kingside bishop developed in front of the knight) or even Four Pawns Attack. 5...0-0 6.Nge2 Nc6 7.0-0 Nd7 A good move, as it cuts across White's idea of an easy Samisch-like set-up, as already Black's hitting d4 and threatening ...e5. 8.Be3 e5 9.d5 Nd4 Usually this is instant equality, as White would prefer to take with his knight, which he can't here, as it would lose a piece. 10.Nb5 Nxe2+ 11.Qxe2 b6 12.Rac1 a6 13.Nc3 a5 14.b3 f5 15.exf5 gxf5 16.f4 exf4 17.Bxf4 Ne5 18.Qd2 Stronger looked 18.Nb5 , as it keeps tabs on c7, meaning Black can't readily activate his queen. 18...Bd7 19.Ne2 Qf6 20.Bb1 Rae8 21.Ng3 Qg6 22.h3 Rf7 23.Rf2 Looking to double rooks on the f-file put pressure on Black's vulnerable f5 pawn. 23...h5 24.Rcf1 h4 25.Ne2 Qh5 26.Nd4 White can't be bad here, as he has the better piece development and potential. 26...Ng6 27.Bh2? The 'blitz blunder': it happened to all the best players in the world this week in Berlin, with so much to calculate and yet so little time on the clock. In trying to preserve his bishop, Seirawan overlooked one crucial factor. 27...Bh6! (See Diagram) Not only hitting the queen, but also heading for e3 to pin White's rook. 28.Qc2 Be3 29.Nf3 Ne5 The rook isn't going anywhere, so Grischuk further improve his position by now seeking to exchange pieces. 30.Kh1 Bxf2 31.Rxf2 Nxf3 32.Rxf3 It's amazing how quickly Yasser capitulates following his blunder with the constant time pressure 32...Re1+ 33.Bg1 Rfe7 34.Kh2 Qxf3! 0-1 After 35.gxf3 R7e2+ is grounds for immediate resignation.