Blitzcoin Invitational Day 2: Wang, Checa, Hong, Liang Win

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The 28th of October brought us the second day of the Blitzcoin Invitational, a bullet and blitz knockout event hosted by the Charlotte Chess Center, where 16 top US players U-25 compete in blitz matches for a prize of one Bitcoin.

This was the last day of qualifications for the quarterfinals, and this time, the winners of the day who got a spot to the next round were IM Justin Wang, GM Nicolas Checa, IM Andrew Hong and GM Awonder Liang.

Blitzcoin

Day 2 of the event was the last day of qualifiers to the quarterfinals, and just like yesterday, there were four matches.

This time, to commentate the tournament, the CEO of the Charlotte Chess Center FM Peter Giannatos was joined by GM Aman Hambleton, one of the key people behind Chessbrahs.

The first match of the day was between GM Ruifeng Li and Wang. The former won both bullet games of the mini-match and got to choose the time control. Interestingly enough, yesterday’s tendency continued: no one wants to play 3/0 or 5/0 blitz, and this time again, bullet was chosen as a time control for the one-hour-long match.

In the beginning, the opponents exchanged shots and started with a score of 1-1. However, then Wang firmly took the lead: a few intermediate scores during the match were 7-2 to his favour, then 12-3, 17-7, etc. There were many miniatures and attacking games along the way, and some are certainly worth learning from.

At the end of the day, Wang won the match 22.5-10.5, even though, to his honour, Li managed to somewhat change the aftertaste by winning the two last games.

The next match was between Checa and IM Joshua Sheng. The former managed to win the bullet mini-match 2-0, but here came a very interesting decision: initially, Sheng could be considered a top seed in bullet, as he was rated 100 or so points higher. But, Checa just won two games, so what would the right choice be? Fortunately for the more conservative chess fans, who like to see not just bullet, he went for the 3/0 time control, the classic blitz. 

This time, the match started quite evenly, as after three games the score was 1.5-1.5: Checa won the first one, but Sheng scored a drew and then stroke back. Grandmaster managed to recover and win two in a row, but his opponent scored two wins as well, which resulted in a score of 3.5-3.5 with 28 minutes to go left. With the match being very tense, Checa took the initiative back and got a strike of four consecutive wins, which pretty much sealed the match, given only ten minutes was left until its end. Oftentimes, a key component of those wins was a sharp tactical vision, here is an example.

To Sheng’s credit, he won two in a row, but with four minutes to go, he had no chance, since a common strategy in such matches, when you are significantly ahead is to just play slowly, wait, or even stop moving at all, looking to have the timer of the match run out. In the next game, Checa was a pawn up, and even though the match was nearly over, for some reason his opponent chose to lose a pawn rather than easily draw, and the match ended in Checa’s favour with a total score of 9.5-5.5. A very enjoyable fight, which gave the viewers a piece of mind, more interesting games and theoretical duels, rather than flagging only.

In the third match of the night, Hong faced GM Michael Brown. The funny part about this match is that when the bullet part began, Hong had a provisional bullet rating of 2400, while Brown’s rating was over 2900. A provisional rating, as it is known, is subject to changing very quickly, and as Hong won both bullet games, he found himself at 2767, just 50 points short of his opponent. And, of course, he chose bullet as a time format for the match.

This was a rather one-sided match. Brown managed to keep the score even after two games, but then his opponent turned out unstoppable: soon enough, the score was 6-1. Later, it reached 9-3, and then, as half of the given clock time passed, leaving the players with 30 minutes to go, 11-7. At this point, Brown went on to win three in a row, coming just one point short with 11-10 in his opponent’s favour, but after that, the collapse happened, as he lost eight in a row, resulting in a score of 19-11. With 12 minutes to go, Hong actually apparently got relaxed and started playing worse, losing some games and giving the opponent chances, but he adopted a very practical strategy: once he was dead-lost, or even one or two moves short of getting mated, he would simply stop moving, letting the clock run out to minimize the amount of time until the end of the match. To many, this might not sound like the most ethical strategy, but that’s something even top players have been doing for years in matches of this format, and it is a perfectly understandable approach once you think of chess as a sport, as opposed to entertainment or art. He also went for some showing off in the opening, which more often than not was punished.

With the final score of 22-15, with a total of four draws only and 31 decisive games, Hong advanced to the quarterfinals.

The final match of the day was between Awonder and IM Craig Hilby. The former was 500 points higher-rated in bullet and confirmed the initial fears of Hilby’s fans by convincingly winning the two bullet games. 

And, as you might expect, he chose bullet as the time control. 

This match happened to be the least challenging of all matches of the day because Awonder had not just the 500-point rating advantage, but also an absolutely amazing day: after a score of 1-1, he won six games in a row, gave the opponent a chance to win a few, which resulted in a score of 9-3, and then won…25(!) games in a row and at some point was leading 34-3. Some of these games happened to be very beautiful attacking miniatures; let’s look at one of those.

Hilby managed to get an honourable draw which broke this legendary streak, but the final score of 36.5-3.5 was definitely something Awonder would add to his collection of the amazing tournament and match results.

As the second day ended, the last four players qualified for the quarterfinals, so now all four pairs of tomorrow’s matches are known. Those are GM Daniel Naroditsky versus GM Brandon Jacobson and IM Atulya Shetty versus GM Andrew Tang, as was determined yesterday, while the pairs that were determined today are Wang versus Checa and Hong against Awonder.

All games of Day 1

Standings after day 2

The prize fund of one Bitcoin is provided by one of Daniel Naroditsky’s supporters: Chad Engan, also known as “Montanachess” on Twitch.

The 16 invited elite US Chess members will compete in blitz and bullet matches to see who prevails. The event runs from October 27 through 31.


Earlier reports:

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