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Aker Chess Challenge in Norway

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This spiffy little event starts today. The Aker Chess Challenge is a rapid event with Carlsen, Svidler, Nakamura, and underdog Norwegian GM Lie. Six rounds of all-play all lead to gold and bronze matches. It's part of the Gjøvik International Chess Festival, the traditional swiss of which is already underway. The live link is here. Games start at 1320 local time, 7:20am EST.

It's nice to see Norway trying to put on events worthy of their golden boy Carlsen. I don't think he played in Norway once in 2008, unsurprising considering his busy global schedule. I wonder if his success could lead to the creation of a Norwegian equivalent to the MTel supertournament? Topalov and Danailov basically created that themselves. It would almost be a shame to see a great event like Gausdal blown into another category 20 when there are so few international round-robins with norm chances. When was the last time Anand played in India? 2002?

UPDATE: Don't see anything on the results page, but the games page comes through. Day 1 results: Svidler 1-0 Nakamura; Carlsen 1-0 Lie; Nakamura 1-0 Lie; Svidler 1/2 Carlsen. Obvious errors in the Svidler-Carlsen score at the end.

UPDATE 2: Nakamura beat Carlsen with black on the second day to tie him for second in the standings with two rounds to play. Svidler is in first with 3/4 thanks to the tender mercies of Lie, who was completely winning against the big Russian after a nice little combination but went on to blow the win and then fall into a mate in two. The better player is always lucky, no? It's Svidler 3, Nakamura, Carlsen 2.5, Lie 0. Sunday's pairings: Lie-Nakamura, Carlsen-Svidler, Svidler-Lie, Nakamura-Carlsen. There are blitz tiebreaks if needed to decide who plays in the match for first place.


Very sadly, Mig, I think Gausdal's having difficulty this year. Something to do with the hotel ownership changing and the new lot proving less enlightened.

It's worth to mention that the main sponsor of the event, Aker, is a huge Norwegian industrial giant. They are sponsoring a chess event for the first time, and there is hope they will sponsor another event.

I think a match between Anand and Humpy would sell well in India ("Battle of the Sexes").

(Is Anand forbidden from playing matches while World Champion?)

Anand plays without a bishop or what?

Any 2200 player would beat Anand with bishop or knight odds. Humpy is a 2600 GM.

I don't know, ed...Anand spotted Kramnik a couple of pawns in round three of the World Championship match and won ;)

(Hi from Gjøvik!) FYI...In the case of a tie, highest wins is first tiebreak.

The specifics are now posted on their home page:

Naka beats Carlsen! whoa, take that frogbert! where is your little hero now?

And that after all the rubish frogbert wrote in chessgames trying to prove Carlsen's superiority over Naka LOOL

Nakamura beats Carlsen... no surprise. If Nakamura had more opporunities he could get up to around 2750.

Off topic: be sure to check out the latest Dylan McClain summary of the Polgar/Truong/Sloan scandal, in the NY Times online.

Nakamura could get up to 2750 if rapid games were counted in the ratings, but unless I'm mistaken, wins like that one don't even count in the ratings list. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Bloggor, I would not get too enthusiastic and jump to major conclusions based on a single rapid game ... . BTW, did you actually look at the game, or only at the result? IMHO, Carlsen was not (much) worse before blundering with 43. Nxd5 - so Nakamura didn't really outplay him.

And what do you think about Nakamura's first-round loss against Svidler? Here, he was duly punished for violating basic rules about piece development and king safety - which does not diminish Svidler's fine performance (both the temporary exchange sacrifice and the technical part of the game).

Indeed, rapid games are not rated - to me it makes sense not to combine or mix up results from games played with different time controls. In running, one also would not combine 100m, 800m and marathon distances .... .

"Once upon a time" there was an effort to establish separate rapid ratings. The most recent (actually the only) links I could find are from 2002:
Was this really the end of the story?

@Daaim: Your comment is the most pertinent one, yet I would qualify it as "plausible but speculative" (no criticism implied).

Heh, Nakamura beats Carlsen in one single rapid game and some of his fans go crazy.

Let's see how today's game goes.

"If Nakamura had more opporunities he could get up to around 2750."

Living in the jungles of Canada, you just don't get any chances to play chess. It's a battle just to beat off the lions every day.

You're a little late: the BC lion is now extinct. It was a principal reason why Vancouver was cleared to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Today's game Nakamura-Carlsen was just drawn in 12 moves (Slav exchange). If Svidler beats Lie, the three favorites have to blitz it out to decide who will be reaching the final ... .

Svidler and Carlsen play finals after Carlsen beats both in blitz and Svidler beats Nakamura

So the self proclaimed world best blitz player was white washed

Maybe this was due punishment for Nakamura's insipid play with white in the second game against Carlsen ... . Still, a blitz playoff leaves somewhat mixed feelings at least to me.

"There is no point in taking draws" -- Nakamura

I normally don't bother posting comments on such sites, but I have never claimed to be the world's best blitz player, and I don't even think I am as good as I was a year or two ago. So for someone to hide behind a fake name and make bulls**t claims is idiotic. As far as Thomas goes, I was in fact winning the 2nd blitz game against Magnus until I completely spazzed out when we were both low on time.

Whose going crazy? It's a non-event as far as I'm concerned. No big deal... that's the point.

Sorry... meant I "who's" instead of "whose"

When Naka is winning it is evidence he could get to 2750, when he is losing, it is a non-event.

Don't get me wrong, Nakamura is a strong player but since Cape d'age he hasn't show anything that was out of the ordinary that suggests that he'll become a worldchampionship challenger in the forseeable future.

You misunderstood. The point was... Nakamura beating Carlsen is a non-event. It shouldn't be that surprising.

Of course... we'll have to wait for that, but there were those on this blog who said he wouldn't beat Karjakin in that match, he'd never reach 2700, didn't beat any strong players, doesn't know openings and many other things. He just made 21 years old... not exactly in his prime yet.

Trying to calm down things a bit .... : IMHO bloggor was the only one 'going crazy' !? However, (I am repeating myself), Nakamura winning a single rapid game against Carlsen does not prove that he is as strong [or stronger] as his opponent. Nakamura losing a single blitz game is even less meaningful. Everything taken together, I think there can be no reasonable doubt that Carlsen presently is the better player, or at least the more established one - yet this may or may not change in the nearby future.

The only real non-event was the second rapid game Nakamura-Carlsen ,:) [or should it be ,:(]. About the blitz game: I was watching it live, but not analysing it - and 'spazzing out' in mutual time trouble is part and parcel of blitz games (I am also speaking from my own experience at 1900-2000 level ...). My comment about 'due punishment' stands and does not depend on the evaluation of the blitz game itself. Blitz is always a bit of a lottery (at least as far as single games are concerned), that's what I meant to imply with my second sentence in the previous post..

Hikaru, if you bother posting again: Can you explain just why you conceded a very quick draw with white against Carlsen? Was it hoping for your blitz qualities (as several people thought elsewhere on the Internet)? Hoping that Svidler couldn't win against Lie?

Good night for the time being (in my time zone).

Naka's quick draw against Magnus was perfectly understandable since this strategy served him quite well in Cap d'Agde 2008.

Magnus Carlsen has proved that Naka is just a punk*** loser!

Going to blitz games is perfectly fine. Blitz games against the world's #4 and #20 has the feeling of being a coin flip. This time, Hikaru lost.

He played 3 games vs. the World's #4 and scored 1.5/3, including 1.5/2 in the rapid. Not tragic, no?

We had a little rock-paper-scissors action with Nakamura beating Carlsen who beat Svidler who beat Nakamura.

Turns out the event was a bit poorly constructed to have a top 2 with one player out of 4 scoring 0/6. It happens.

Hi, Macauley!

I should've taken the trip to Gjøvik today, I realize. Lots of action (except the Nakamura-Carlsen rapid game, of course).

If anyone cares, I had fun going through the crazy blitz game Nakamura-Carlsen, and the idea that it at any point was a clear cut win for white, doesn't fit with my conclusions after spending some time with the computer. I'd rather say the game went back and forth a couple of times, with white's chances to win ending definitively with the exchange of queens at move 36.

My comments and diagrams can be seen here:


About the event being poorly constructed - well, Kjetil had a completely winning position against Svidler that he squandered, but other than that, he's looked a bit outrated. Initially though, the intention was that Simen Agdestein should play, but a number of mediocre results for Agdestein in late 2008 combined with Kjetil's positive results in the Olympiad resulted in a change of plans. I don't know, but I guess Simen asked to be replaced - he knows what it means to face players like Svidler and Carlsen when a bit out of shape.

Regarding "bloggor"'s comments:

Those who care to do any research, will see that I've mostly posted a number of fact-based comparisons of Carlsen's and Naka's results, rating development and so on, on various pages of chessgames.com. That Carlsen's results and international success are bigger than that of Nakamura, is hardly debatable, and that the facts I've posted also have confirmed that, isn't very surprising.

I also think Nakamura has performed very convincingly in the current event in Gjøvik so far, 50% against the elite GMs and 2-0 over Lie. In Cap d'Agde he prevailed in blitz tie-breaks/play-offs, while in Gjøvik he didn't.

How strong Nakamura will prove to be in OTB blitz in top notch blitz competitions, is still anybody's guess. I'm a bit disappointed that Nakamura never has tried to qualify for neither the Tal Memorial blitz nor the World Championship blitz events. Like in classical chess, I think he should rather try to qualify "the hard way" for such events, instead of waiting for some invitation that might not come.

And to quote another post of mine from chessgames.com, Nakamura's page:

"regarding rapid games, nakamura has held his own and then some lately, with a +2 -2 =6 record against 3x carlsen, 2x ivanchuk, 2x svidler, 2x vachier-lagrave and 1x radjabov."

Some Nakamura fans seem to accept nothing but "believers" - but I think that's got more to do with them than with Nakamura himself. I've always tried to keep expectations down regarding Carlsen (been getting harder for every year) - I think a number of Nakamura fans would "serve him" better by trying to keep expectations at a reasonable level - "a priori praise" can be tough to live with.

Rapid is not blitz. But Dominguez Perez is the best at blitz. Won the World Blitz with 2900+ ELOs.

Obviously the quick draw on Naka-Carlsen was completely rational for both players. Svidler was still playing and anything could happen, although Lie was clearly the underdog in that game versus Sivdler as he had 0 out of 5 at that point in time. From Naka's point of view, knowing he is one of the best blitz players in the world, it also made a lot of sense to draw quickly. Regretably for Naka with only two blitz games anything could and did happen.

Congratulations to Naka for another fine performance even though he was unable to reach the final. I have no doubt that if Naka is given the chance to play in more elite tournaments he will soon join the top ten in the chess world.

Ivanchuk is best in biltz, winning over 18 others in the Tal Memorial, with no direct losses either. And he won your WBC in 2007 when it was a double round of 20 rather than just 15 games, and was 2nd this time around.

I don't mean to belittle Nakamura at all, who is a great player at any time control. But there is definitely a fairly popular and unrealistic - or, at the very least, totally unproven - hype built up about him. Anyone who thinks he/she "knows" that Nakamura "is one of the best blitz players in the world" is simply wrong. (There might be a chance that he is, but nobody can know it until he proves it.) That hype just does him no good I think.

well, not that blitz matters anyway...

"Obviously the quick draw on Naka-Carlsen was completely rational for both players. Svidler was still playing and anything could happen ..."

'Anything could happen' - that's exactly the point why a quick draw is not that rational IMHO. At least, Nakamura willingly took a gamble accepting the subsequent blitz lottery.

Of course, things would have been different if Svidler had not won against Lie. In such a situation (with Nakamura-Carlsen still playing) noone should be surprised if they immediately agreed a draw - even if the situation on the board was unclear: one player having the advantage on the board but being behind on the clock, one player having a strong attack and taking perpetual check rather than looking for more, .... . This may be disappointing to the audience, maybe unfair to Svidler, but completely rational.

And the winner is .... Svidler - seems to me that Carlsen was too ambitious in the second rapid game of the final, maybe trying to avoid a second round of blitz tiebreaks no matter what ?!


As far as I know the best blitz players in the world play or have played at some point in time at ICC. There is no better place other than ICC and perhaps playchess.com to gauge who is who in the world of blitz chess.

Live tournaments such as Tal Blitz and World Blitz Championship suffer from issues ranging from unfair qualification and invitation system as well as high travel and lodging costs, which make the risk reward ratio unbearable to players not living where these tournaments are held (ie Moscow in the case of Tal Blitz).

Naka's blitz rating at ICC has always been among the very best. Therefore your statement that he is not one of the best blitz players is incorrect.


Naka is one of the best online players, no doubt, but that does not mean that he is one of the best players over-the-board at time controls like 4+2. He might be, but he has not proven it yet. Naka has not participated in any high-level OTB blitz events, so how would you know he is among the best? The reasons that he has not participated are irrelevant.


The correlation between online vs OTB blitz has got to be extremely high. And dont forget that Naka has played hundreds, perhaps thousands of online blitz games so his rating is based on a large enough sample. The evidence suggests Naka is indeed one of the best blitz players in the world.

I can understand american enthusiasm for Nakamura , their best home-made GM in decades , but currently he's rated #32 in the World , while Carlsen, 3 years younger , is #4 ... This doesn't mean that Nakamura can't progress further but it's a clear gauge about their respective strenght of play as now.

Is there any information on the average strength of Nakamura's blitz opponents on ICC? Maybe it is just my impression, but the way he played his two blitz games against Svidler and Carlsen seems quite suitable to confuse and beat weaker opposition (where 'weaker' may be anything below 2600) - but 2700+ is something else.

Besides ICC, Nakamura's blitz reputation is based on Cap d'Agde where he beat Vachier-Lagrave (another rising young star) and Karpov (no doubt a strong player, but - with all due respect - past his peak).

I think it is quite likely that Nakamura is "one of the best blitz players in the world", but what does this mean? Top 100? Top 10? Relevant to Gjovik is whether he is 'on average' really stronger than Carlsen and Svidler. Ed, if I understand you right ("Regretably for Naka with only two blitz games anything could and did happen."), you surmise that he would score >50% if a larger sample of games was available??

But - as you referred to playchess.com - there are ongoing speculations that Svidler may be the 'mysterious Raffael' with a blitz rating above 3300 .... .

The somewhat emollient New Yorker profile of Kasparov seemed to suggest he is Raffael, although the moniker wasn't mentioned.

"As far as I know the best blitz players in the world play or have played at some point in time at ICC."

Really? Including Anand, Kramnik etc? And taken it seriously, as opposed to just fooling around like most people do when playing online blitz? I do doubt that.

And again, there _is_ a big difference between online blitz and OTB blitz. Everyone who has tried both should know.

Besides, this is what you get typing 'best blitz' on ICC:

3467 GGuseinov(GM)
3446 TheRealThing
3403 Skriabin(IM)
3391 norival(GM)
3388 ledope(GM)
3372 azerichess(GM)
3354 Dreev(GM)
3327 Uchitel(GM)
3322 tapuax(GM)
3320 BOOO
3275 Blitz-King(IM)
3272 N-Chadaev(IM)
3258 Harmonie(GM)
3254 Beersheva1
3249 Malish-Billy(GM)
3247 Volkov(GM)
3246 maomaozhu(IM)
3240 EdUiTu3000(GM)
3232 NDShort(GM)
3224 bxz(GM)
3195 jeleen(GM)

'Smallville' with his 3142 is almost there, but not quite. According to himself if the post above by him is genuine, he was a better blitz player one or two years ago, and I know he used to be in the top earlier.

Wasn't there a string of ICC blitz games available that showed Nakamura with a plus cumulative (lifetime) record against Kasparov? I remember reading a post about that on another blog back in 2004 or 2005.

I think a number of US chess fans have no idea that Svidler actually is one of the best OTB blitz players in the world - only Anand and Ivanchuk have better records than him in the latest 5 Tal Memorial Blitz and Blitz World Championships.

2006 WC Blitz
2007 Tal memorial Blitz
2007 WC Blitz
2008 Tal Memorial Blitz
2008 WC Blitz

The qualification events for these have all been open - Nakamura _should_ be able to get some US sponsor to pay his travelling costs to such an event, or some 100 fans could "sponsor" him, if he doesn't trust his own abilities enough to think he's able to reach the finals of the next such event in 2009. If he reaches the finals, it will both pay his expences _and_, if he does as well as many people think, make sure that he'll be invited for later competitions. So it should be seen as an investment.

Other US players _do_ participate in the qualifiers, so why don't Naka? I really don't understand this "defensive/passive" approach - he should earn enough on other US events to afford such a trip, right?

Regarding Svidler, let me repost this, which I also posted on Nakamura's chessgames.com page:


wc 2008:
16 players
Svidler (2727) 3rd

tal blitz 2008:
18 players
Svidler (2738) 4th

tal blitz 2006
18 players
Svidler (2750) 4th

wc 2006 (israel):
16 players
Svidler (2742) shared 1-2

Always among the top 4, twice on the podium. For comparison, Kamsky has one 4th and two 9th places in 3 starts (2006-2008), and even the blitz specialist Grischuk has finished outside top-5 on 2 occasions (shared 1-2 (winner after play-off), 3rd, 4th, 7th, 7th).

I think only Anand and Ivanchuk have better results than Svidler in these five blitz events 2006-2008. And I seriously doubt Nakamura would've done better than Svidler. (But it's hard to tell for sure.)

Mamedyarov has only once placed top 5 - his record is 5th, 6th, 10th, 12th in four starts, while someone like Morozevich has never finished top 5 - a 6th from Tal Memorial 2007 is his best result.

Radjabov is probably closest to svidler, with two 3rds and one 5th place in three starts.

Results 2008:

Tal Memorial blitz
1. Ivanchuk
2. Kramnik
3. Carlsen
4. Svidler
5. Mamedyarov

(Anand didn't participate, Kamsky finished 9th of 18 in the final)

World Championship
1. Dominguez
2. Ivanchuk
3. Svidler
4. Grischuk
5. Radjabov

(Neither of Anand, Kramnik or Carlsen participated, Kamsky finished 9th of 16 in the final - it can be noted that the Tal Memorial blitz probably was a stronger event on average too.)


The idea that ICC gives a better picture of who the better OTB blitzer is, is something I strongly disagree with. For one thing, you never have competitions where so many strong players participate in a CLOSED round robin event on ICC (compare to the Tal Memorial 2008 Blitz field, for instance).

Secondly, based on what several people tell me and also my own experience, I think that younger people that have grown up with playing blitz via the computer have an advantage there, compared to "older people" like me (I'm 36 like Shirov, a bit younger than Anand and Ivanchuk, a bit older than Moro, Svidler, etc). My brain seems to need some time to "see" moves "popping up" somewhere on the screen, as compared to watching the opponent reach for a piece and move it, like in OTB play. There also seem to be something about my visualization, that makes me blunder more frequently when playing via a computer screen.

And of course this has got nothing to do with being computer illiterate or something (computers are among the things I know best). I'm sure there are tests/articles regarding "normal" video games that show how these things vary between teenagers or people in their early twenties, compared to people closing in on the 40ies like myself.

3372 azerichess(GM)

This is Mamedyarov, known as one of the best blitzers on ICC, and like I said, in the mentioned events, he has placed like this:

5th, 6th, 10th, 12th

Compare to Svidler's

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th

Amusingly, Starwars has a +7-6=3 record against Raffael on Playchess; so if Raffael is Svidler (or even Kasparov) then that is mighty impressive. Of course, a round of big OTB Speed events would sort it out. Perhaps MIG can organise a whip round for Naka's expenses for the Tal Memorial qualifier so we can get some data here.

People who are interested, can also consider the qualifying results for Tal Memorial 2008. It can be noted that Grischuk had to qualify, even if recognized as a top blitzer and World Champion in 2006.


Comparing to ICC (current best list), we find the following who did NOT manage to go through to the final:

GM Ni Hua - 3391 norival(GM)
GM Dreev, Alexey - 3354 Dreev(GM)
Tigran L Petrosian (top ICC player for a long time)
GM Volkov, Sergey - 3247 Volkov(GM)

to mention a few. Of those who did qualify to the final, their results were like this:

7. Grischuk (depressnyak)
8. Karjakin
12. Boris Drachev
16. Movsesian
17. Eljanov

Grischuk (depressnyak) has the rating record in blitz on ICC, with 3737, a few points higher than Nakamura's record (smallville) of 3716. But these "records" on ICC mainly say something about stamina and are typically not set by playing other strong blitzers, but by working your way up beating people you know to beat most of the time.

depressnyak's current ICC rating is 3615, but still it doesn't guarantee him top places in OTB events. At all. Like I said, Svidler has a better OTB blitz record of lately.

Everybody knows that Smallville can spend hours and hours in order to break silly records like highest bullet and so on. But that mostly proves stamina - grown ups like Anand or Ivanchuk wouldn't spend half a day trying to set such records. It's similar for the blitz records. It's like chess+computer game feeling - going for the high score!

When ICC blitzers rated 3200-3400 exchange punches, their ratings are usually more or less unchanged after a number of games, whether they play 10 or 20 games. The big movements upwards usually come when they play clearly weaker opponents for longer periods of time, and move up small chunks at a time.

I don't know the exact number of players with a personal best of 3400+ on ICC, but it's a rather long list. Working your rating up there, however, doesn't mean that you would be able to place in the upper half of an event like Tal Memorial blitz. Of course you are a strong blitz player to do that, but when you sit down by the table and look into the faces of Anand or Ivanchuk or Carlsen or Kramnik, it takes more than being a strong blitz player to prevail.

"Perhaps MIG can organise a whip round for Naka's expenses for the Tal Memorial qualifier so we can get some data here."

I support the iniative! (Not necessarily with money, though... :o)

"Amusingly, Starwars has a +7-6=3 record against Raffael on Playchess; so if Raffael is Svidler (or even Kasparov) then that is mighty impressive."

Still, it 'only' indicates that Starwars (Nakamura?) has about the same strength as Raffael (Svidler? Kasparov?) in Internet blitz - quite impressive but insufficient to support claims that he would be clear favorite, and losing OTB was an annoying and highly unlucky accident.

To my unsubstantiated knowledge Raffael is Kasparov. Doubtless Mig will NOT confirm that :). One time I saw I guy called Garry Kasparov1 play v Short. As the guy was lost after about 10 moves Short realized he had been had. (The guy cheated his way to a high rating). I should think that internet blitz has rules of its own, and while high strength in the one may indicate corresponding strength in the other, it is not necessarily so. The situation on Playchess is interesting in that OTB slow strength often widely varies from playchess rating. 2400 IMs (or lower) can have 2900 ratings; 2550 GMs less than 2500. Doubtless blitz and slow strength can be very different for individuals, but it is interesting to speculate on whether many players are better attuned to internet blitz than, um, "physical" blitz...may be younger guys like computers better etc...any comments?

The other main issue with online blitz, beyond mousing being a critical skill, is the ability to pick and choose your opponents. Guys who are far from top-10 strength OTB and even in online blitz strength can build up big ratings by judicious opponent selection. Such people usually avoid the top GMs.

The mouse thing is certainly a significant factor though. Having watched Garry play hundreds of online blitz games, he gives up a lot of half points because he's relatively slow compared to many of the blitz specialists. E.g. he doesn't do the pre/drop-move thing much.

I remember being blown away watching Nakamura play at lightning speed using the *keyboard*. Insane.

"I remember being blown away watching Nakamura play at lightning speed using the *keyboard*. Insane."

I played my first-ever online blitz game using a keyboard - it was 1995 or so, and I had only a Telnet connection (i.e. no GUI).

In that game, I beat a 2700-rated computer named "Ferret." It's all been downhill ever since.

"Doubtless blitz and slow strength can be very different for individuals, but it is interesting to speculate on whether many players are better attuned to internet blitz than, um, "physical" blitz..."

I know I play online blitz at a much lower speed than OTB. I truly need like 1 second to process whatever happened on the screen and one more second to make the move, often 2 seconds. The result is that I will surely lose any game that goes down to 20 seconds or less; for example: it is very rare for me to win an easily winning position where I have 20 seconds and my opponent has 10 seconds. I lose.

I'd never lose that position in a regulat OTB blitz game.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 2, 2009 2:42 AM.

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