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On chess: U.S. vs. the World in blitz battle

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 13, 2012 - Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov and four-time U.S. Champion Yasser Seirawan are concluding their head-to-head match today at the Chess Club in St. Louis, and after four games of play the two are in a dead heat. A special 10-game blitz battle (speed chess) will award bragging rights and $10,000 to the winner, with $7,000 going to the second place finisher.

The match showcases three different time controls, which makes it an interesting spectacle for chess players and non-chess players alike. The first two days exhibited classical chess, which features a long time control, and the players took full advantage as each took a lot of time to find the best moves.

Both classical games ended in draws, but not after the players exhausted all possibilities. The first game lasted more than five hours while game two took more than 4.5 hours to finish. Both games displayed high-level strategy and high-level defense with Seirawan pressing an advantage at the end of each. Karpov, however, was able to display his stellar defensive skills to hold his positions. Anatoly was always known as a great defender, and even at the ripe old age of 61, he was up to the task, jet lag notwithstanding.

After the classical games, the players went to stage two, the rapid chess portion of the match. In rapid, both players start with 25 minutes on their clocks, and the games are played at a much quicker pace. Karpov was close to winning the first rapid game, but this time Seirawan defended brilliantly; and with seconds left on his clock, Karpov decided to accept a peace offer (draw) rather than play many quick moves and risk losing the game. The second rapid game was equal throughout, with both players playing solid and safe.

This leaves the blitz part of the match, as both players will have only five minutes for all of their moves (!!) each game, and they will play 10 games to see who wins the match. Both players have excellent reputations for playing quickly in blitz, but those reputations were earned more than 25 years ago. The action will be fast and furious, and the live commentary by me and Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade also will be a challenge, since the games will last less than 15 minutes and the players will be moving furiously at various points throughout each game.

Tune at 1 p.m. CT today at www.livestream.com/uschess to see if we can keep up with these legendary grandmasters.

Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

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