Moscow Blitz

During the World Cup tournament in Tromsø there was an interview, conducted on Skype, between Nigel Short and Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, both of whom were in Tromsø, and Garry Kasparov, a citizen of the world who could have been anywhere.

It was obvious that Kasparov had followed all the stages of the knock-out tournament attentively. One question put to him was not immediately connected to chess. Dirk Jan asked: “If there will ever be a movie about your life, which actor should play you?” It seemed that Garry had considered this question already earlier, for his answer came immediately: Joaquin Phoenix.

This was remarkable. Joaquin Phoenix is a fine actor who exudes great energy, just like Kasparov himself, but often he has played characters who are a bit deranged.

Later I read an interview with Magnus Carlsen in which he was asked what animal he would like to be if he were not Magnus Carlsen. A crocodile, he said, for the crocodile could lie quietly in the water and eat every creature that passed by. I think Joaquin Phoenix and the crocodile stand for two opposite styles of chess.

While the World Cup was still going on, but only for the finalists Vladimir Kramnik and Dmitry Andreikin, some Russian players who had been previously eliminated took part in the Moscow Blitz, a prestigious yearly tournament which in the past has been won by world champions such as Smyslov, Petrosian and Tal.

It's always in the open. This year there was cold, rain and even lightning in the Krasnaya Presnya Park, but for such cases there is canvas.

The president of the Moscow Chess Federation said that in Moscow, chess had always been played on benches at the boulevards, in parks and in courtyards, and that Moscow Blitz wanted to be part of this beautiful tradition.

No doubt he was right. I saw how the Russians had exported their chess on the benches when I walked the boardwalk from Coney Island to Brighton Beach, an ocean-side New York neighborhood with a big Russian population.

From the train that brought us from Manhattan to Coney Island through Brooklyn, we had seen a building with big letters that said Erasmus High School. “That's where Fischer went to school,” I said. “Shall we go out and have a look?” asked my wife. But I let that opportunity pass.

Halfway along the boardwalk between Coney Island and Brighton Beach you knew you were coming to Russia. Old men sitting on the benches playing chess. This was about ten years ago and I wonder if they're still there. A bit further down the boardwalk there were the Russian restaurants.

This year's Moscow Blitz was won by Sergei Karjakin. Can a 3+2 game (three minutes thinking time for the game plus an increment of two seconds per move) be beautiful and instructive? Hardly ever, but I think the blitz game between Alexander Morozevich and Karjakin is an exception.

The Japanese ink wash painter brushes a beautiful peacock in a few minutes and asks a high price from the tourist buyer, not for his five minutes work, but for the decades of practice that enabled him to do it so quickly.

More or less the same applies to this game. Karjakin's ninth move, 9...Ne8, is a bit less common than 9...Nd7. Later, by way of c7, b5 and d4, this knight arrives in the nick of time at f5 to ward off an extremely dangerous kingside attack by Morozevich. I think it must have been either meticulous home analysis by Karjakin, or else a lot of practice with informal blitz games.

Position after 19...Nf5

White has sacrificed a piece and it seems as if his attack has come to a standstill. But Morozevich gave it a new life with 20.Be4, a brilliant move and certainly his best chance, though by a hair’s breadth it couldn't save his game. It should have deserved a beauty prize, I think.

Click to play through the annotated game.

Morozovich - Karjakin

Moscow Blitz 2013