Jennifer on Blitzing in Beijing
By Jennifer Shahade   
October 6, 2008

Chinalead.jpgHello again from the 1st World Mind Sport Games in China! The picture to the left is from Lan, a surreal restaurant on the fifth floor of a generic looking Beijing mall. It was the coolest looking restaraunt I’ve ever been to, by a landslide. Paintings adorn the ceilings, art galleries lurk beside bars and kitchens, and the lamps are shaped like guns and eagles. The dishes were overpriced and odd (gelatin dumplings) but feeling like an extra in a David Lynch movie is priceless.

Meanwhile, the chess festival is underway. If you haven't been following it so far be sure to bookmark links to live games/pgn files and results organized by country.

The women's section of the blitz tournament was incredibly strong featuring three World Champions (GMs Alexandra Kosteniuk, Xu Yuhua and Antoaneta Stefanova) as well as the top Indian, Ukrainian and Chinese women players. Newly crowned World Women’s Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk won the Women’s blitz while IM Martyn Kravtsiv of Ukraine, ranked only 24th out of 32 going in, won the men’s section.



I saw Kravtsiv in the elevator and tried to congratulate him, but he didn’t seem to understand me and left the elevator after making some sort of unidentifiable noise, so I asked his teammates if he spoke English. One Ukrainian GM told me: “Russian is enough. Russian is a superior language.” Luckily, they won’t be reading this!

On the other hand,  the Chinese delegation couldn’t be friendlier. GM-elect and prodigy Hou Yifan spoke English well enough for us to have a simple interview.

GM-elect Hou Yifan

Hou Yifan continued her meteoric ascent by reaching the Women’s World Championship final. The always smiling teenager told CLO that her favorite game from Nalchik was her first win against Humpy Koneru. Hou loved Nalchik and said,“The air is good there”, which made me laugh because as amazing of a city Beijing is, the one complaint we all have is the polluted air. You don’t see a lot of tourists wearing masks, but there are a good number of Chinese who do; perhaps those who have a pre-existing condition.

Despite his Texas sweatshirt, I'm pretty sure this young man was Chinese.

I asked Hou about her ambitions for the World Championship and she was very modest at first, saying that she would just train, play and try her best to increase her level. But when I said, “You are 15, you will have many chances to win the World Champs”, she got a bit indignant, quickly correcting me: “I am only 14!”  Hou said that Bobby Fischer is her favorite player of all time, because he took on the Russians alone. Hou Yifan is the biggest promise for a woman to break into the top ten since Judit Polgar. She's also a very nice person, so I will be rooting for her in the coming years.


 Most of the Chinese men I spoke to said that the Chinese women are very strong due to communal training. The following picture demonstrates that these study sessions are not ALL as serious as you may think…


Do you notice anything strange about the position on the chessboard?
The blitz was an uphill battle for the Americans in the lower half or even quarter of the field. (the individual events only accepted the top 50 players with a max of 5 for each country.) Abby Marshall impressed in the blitz, defeating five higher rated players, and finishing on “only” minus one. Irina Krush started with 3.5/4 but ended up with only 5.5/11. I scored 4.5/11, but wasn’t too upset. With the exception of my last round loss against Elisabeth Paehtz where I got totally demolished on the Black side of a c3 Sicilian, I felt my games were of pretty high quality for blitz. Here was my favorite game, in which I try some inspiring sacks…At the end, I missed 27.Bg7+ and went for a longer mating line.



I think almost 100% of players would agree that blitz can help your openings, i.e-you diligently study your ICC games with chessbase or opening books. But I also think blitz, especially with an increment, can reveal the flaws in your instincts and which patterns you're slow at recognizing. I missed Bg7# because I’m biased toward the much more common queen mate battery.

My bishop mate inadequacy quickly showed itself at a longer time control. In the rapids (25 minute + 5 second increment), I won against Atousa Pourkashiyan of Iran but again missed the quickest win, based on a bishop mate.


White to Move and Win

I played Bd2?! threatening Bc3. With five second left, she didn't find the only move, Qf6! after which White is still much better after Bc3 e5 Qc4, but of course I'm looking for more. Best is Rc7!! Now if Qf6 (Qxc7 Qg7++) Rxe7! Qxe7 Bg7++

WIM Atousa Pourkashiyan

I'd like to increase my comfort level with tense positions by focusing on maintaining tension in blitz—When I have fewer than 10 seconds on the clock, I lose all concept of what a good piece is and just start knocking wood aimlessly, like in my blitz loss against Abby Marshall. I’d like to be the sort of blitz player who instinctively DOES NOT play 34...Nxf3, even on my last seconds. 



Varuzhan Akobian did the best of the Americans in the blitz, finishing in 11th place. (check out all the American results here.) Var said the following win with Black over Wang Yue (2736!) was his best game:


Abby has promised to blog for CLO during the break we have next week. GM Jesse Kraai, who made the entire U.S. delegation laugh till they cried at dinner yesterday, will also contribute an upcoming report to CLO, on a victorious trip to Mexico.

Kraai had a blazing start in the blitz, 3/4 against 2600+ opposition. After round four, I was very excited because I’d just defeated IM Yelena Dembo of Greece. “I beat someone better than me!” I told Jesse, and he responded with the deflating, “I beat a 2700.”


Tomorrow, nine of us will wake up at 6:30 AM to take a bus two hours outside Beijing and climb the Great Wall. Meanwhile, David Pruess and Irina Krush will team up for the "Pairs" competition in which two players from each delegation, one male and one female, play side by side. Expect more pictures, games and stories from China in the next week (there are more in the first report ), and enjoy these for now:

Photo Gallery

IM Dmitry Schneider, just after arriving in Beijing


Don't forget there are four other games at the Mind Sport Games. Here a Chinese draughts prodigy ponders his move.

The opening ceremony was a grand affair including stunning dance performances.

IM Irina Krush in her first round of the blitz tournament

GM Alexander Shabalov blending in with the graffiti

798, the main art gallery district in Beijing

IM Yelena Dembo faces off against former Women's World Champ GM Xu Yuhua.

Three chefs take a break.

Shirley Ben-Dak defects from the chess hall to learn Go.

Shirley took this photo in a side street of Beijing.