If numbers don’t lie, then this next Speed Chess Championship match is a draw. But since ties aren’t possible in Chess.com’s blitz and bullet series, we’re going to play it out anyway.
On Tuesday, August 7, GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexander Grischuk will be linked by more than just their common country. Consider that the Russians are numbers 11 and 14 in the world in classical and only separated by two rating points (slight edge: Nepomniachtchi). In blitz, they’re numbers seven and eight in the world (slight edge: Nepomniachtchi).
In head-to-head classical games, they’re knotted at two wins each, with four draws. And in over-the-board blitz and rapid, Grischuk has a small 10-7 lead in wins.
Who will come out on top? You can see for yourself on August 7 at 9 a.m. Pacific, 12 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central Europe on Twitch.tv/chess or Chess.com/com TV.
Both blitz mavens are linked in another way: They have each defeated GM Levon Aronian in a past Speed Chess Championship. Not too shabby. Grischuk has played both years and is one of the rare SCC combatants with a winning lifetime match record (3-2). In fact, he’s 3-0 when facing anyone other than Norwegian Tesla owners.
What better way to get ready for the match than hearing from the grandmasters? Here’s the two men, in their own words, discussing chess, the match, and football.
Our statistical models expect this to be the closest opening-round match (basically equal to Giri-Mamedyarov). Why do you think that is?
AG: It is simply because of the pairings. Some matchups are closer than the others.
IN: I am flattered by such expectations.
Be honest; would you have preferred an opponent with a lower rating for the first round?
AG: Sure I would.
You two have played a very large amount of rated rapid and blitz in your careers, with Grischuk having a slight edge. Do these past games help you prepare this match, or are they irrelevant?
AG: Generally experience is helpful, but sometimes it can be harmful. For example, this year time controls are changed from 5+2 and 3+2 to 5+1 and 3+1, so having the experience of finishing some games nicely with several seconds left can only damage your play.
IN: I don’t think that blitz on the internet has too much in common with blitz or rapid in real life.
If you were to make a non-monetary bet with the other person, and you win the match, what would you make the other person do (wash your car, wear a dress, stuff like that)?
AG: This is an interesting question! Having Ian wearing a dress sounds great, but would it mean that I would have to do the same if I were to lose? If so, let’s choose wash a car. At least, if I lose I would wash [a] Jaguar!
IN: Let me find such a person first!
Russia made quite a run in the (football) World Cup. Tell us a story about where you were or something great that happened during one of the wins (personally, I was in Moscow when they beat Egypt and the major streets became parking lots with people stopping and celebrating)?
AG: Basically I was yelling extremely loud. And when we lost to Croatia first I screamed on my knees and then started throwing things all over my apartment.
IN: Unfortunately I couldn’t visit any games of the Russian team, but of course it was pure exultation in the country.
Outside Spartak Stadium in Moscow after the Iceland-Argentina 1-1 draw. No ties allowed in the SCC though! | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.
Did either of you go to any matches? If Russia had made the finals, how much would you have paid for a ticket?
AG: I enjoyed so much watching at home that probably would not pay a penny.
IN: [I went to] Belgium-Tunisia and France-Denmark. Well, I’d love to watch any final from the stadium, but I had a tournament in Dortmund at the same time.
The popular view is that you both are even tougher in blitz than in classical. Do you agree? If so, what skills make you a good blitz player?
AG: But there is another way to ask this question: “Why are you even weaker in classical chess than you are in blitz?”
IN: A good chess player is usually good in blitz, too.
New idea for the SCC: Soviet-era video games! | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.
What would you rather see, the (football) World Cup won by Russia, or for a Russian to recapture the world chess championship?
AG: Obviously I would choose football World Cup, unless the recapture of WCC title is done by myself. I can swear last December I preferred CSKA to qualify to Champion’s League playoffs than me to Candidates’. Didn’t happen.
IN: Kinda surprising that you compare events of different probability. But let it be both.
Catch the three-hour Russian slugfest on August 7 at 9 a.m. Pacific, 12 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central Europe on Twitch.tv/chess or Chess.com/com TV!