Thursday 10 February 2005
This miracle of organisation is my favourite event of the year. It comprises exactly 200 players, who get through 17 double rounds of five-minute chess (in other words, up to 10 minutes per game or 20 minutes per round) in a little more than eight hours, including three short breaks.
This extraordinary feat is achieved by a team of six main organisers plus 25 volunteers, who rush the results into the system within minutes of each round finishing, thus enabling the computer to generate the next round's draw. Planning for each year's event starts in September, and involves more than a dozen meetings - as well as two full-scale rehearsals.
About a fifth of the 200 places are reserved for international players and other invitees, but such is the tournament's popularity that, after the website went live at midnight on 1 December, it took a mere 11 minutes for all the other places to be taken!
This year's top seed was the 2003 winner Ivan Sokolov (Holland), followed by Loek Van Wely (Holland) and the Fide World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzbekistan). Blitz, however, relies most of all on mood, so that a good night's sleep is far more important for success than any other preparation. Indeed, for the first two-thirds of the event it was the fifth seed American Yasser Seirawan who led the way, until he lost 2-0 to Van Wely in round 12.
Meanwhile, a posse was moving up behind and, from these, it was the Ukrainian Vladimir Baklan who emerged victorious after a fantastic finish in which he beat Van Wely, Seirawan and Kasimdzhanov, all by 2-0, before drawing one-all with Sokolov in the final round.
This put Baklan on 25/34 ahead of Seirawan on 24.5, Daniel Fridman (Latvia) on 24 and Sokolov, Kasimdzhanov, myself and Manuel Bosboom (Holland) on 23.
Rustam Kasimdzhanov (to move) vs Vladimir Baklan
Here, a tired Kasimdzhanov played 28.Rae1?, but after Bxf2! 29.Re3 Bxe1 30.Rxe1 he resigned. Of course if 29.Rxf2 Ng3+ 30.Kg1 Rxe1+ 31.Nxe1 Rxe1+ 32.Kh2 Nf1+! wins; or if 29.Rxe4, then dxe4! is decisive.
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