Pursuits: Chess

ON SATURDAY I played in an absolutely splendid tournament, an event that is, as far as I know, unique: the fourth edition of the Dutch Open Blitz Championship.

Situated in Dordrecht, just south of Rotterdam, with primary sponsorship from the Financial Plannning Organisation (FPO) in Rotterdam and additional help from several local firms, this consisted of exactly 200 players including 16 grandmasters, headed by Alexei Shirov, with other players ranging right down to one poor gentleman rated 1,200 - that's 75 BCF - who scored just 4/34.

Yes, 34! For between a little after the projected 10am and 6.30pm when they finished smack on time, they fitted in no fewer than 17 double rounds - in which you play the same opponent with both colours. At a time limit of five minutes each per game that gives 20 minutes' playing time per round, yet these started promptly at 25-minute intervals and there were even a lunch break of 35 minutes and two shorter ones of 20 minutes each later on in the day.

The organisation that achieved this near-impossible feat consisted of 26 people, including the two arbiters; and I was told that they even had two dress rehearsals at a local school hall to ensure the requisite smoothness. With specially written software, the pairings could, once all the results had been entered, be completed in seconds; and these were then displayed on five large screens, strategically placed so that milling around was kept to an absolute minimum.

As you may well imagine, there was a colossal amount of both bloodshed and fun. In the end, it was Rafael Vaganian, an Armenian now resident in Germany, who ended up clear first on 25/34. He was followed by Tiviakov on 24, Lautier, Baklan and myself on 23.5, Gurevich on 23,Van Wely and Schmalz on 22.5 and Shirov on 22. (I was fortunate that in the penultimate round my opponent took my king - the correct procedure was to stop the clocks and claim the game - which in this event was deemed to be an immediate draw!)

The games on the top board were recorded on an electronic board. Generally, blitz games often contain tactical errors but can be quite clean positionally. Here is a particularly clean win by Vaganian. After some heavy opening theory he won a pawn and then showed splendid technique.

White: Rafael Vaganian

Black: Loek van Wely


1 Nf3 Nf6

2 c4 g6

3 g3 Bg7

4 Bg2 0-0

5 d4 d5

6 cxd5 Nxd5

7 0-0 Nb6

8 Nc3 Nc6

9 d5 Na5

10 Qc2 c6

11 dxc6 Nxc6

12 Rd1 Bf5

13 e4 Bd7

14 Qe2 Qe8

15 Be3 Rc8

16 Rac1 Bg4

17 h3 Bxf3

18 Bxf3 Ne5

19 Bg2 Nec4

20 Bxb6 axb6

21 b3 Bxc3

22 Rxc3 Na5

23 Qe3 Rxc3

24 Qxc3 Nc6

25 Qe3 e5

26 Qxb6 Qe7

27 Rd5 h5

28 h4 Rc8

29 Bh3 Rc7

30 Qc5 Qf6

31 Qd6 Qxd6

32 Rxd6 Nd4

33 Bf1 Rc1

34 Kg2 Rc2

35 Bc4 b5

36 Bd5 Kf8

37 Rf6 Rc7

38 Rb6 Kg7

39 a4 bxa4

40 bxa4 f5

41 a5 Rc2

42 a6 Ra2

43 Rb7+ Kf6

44 a7 1-0