Alexander Grischuk won the 5th ACP Cup, which took place last weekend in the Latvian capital of Riga. In a tense final, the Russian grandmaster beat his compatriot Yan Nepomniachtchi in the all decisive Armageddon game.
The ACP Cup is a 16-player knockout, organized by the Association of Chess Professionals. After four tournament between 2007 and 2010 in Odessa, Ukraine, the 5th edition moved to Riga, which hadn't host such a top event for many years. The playing venue was the Rietumu Bank, also the main sponsor of the event.
The playing system consisted of two games with 25 minutes + 10 seconds increment. In case of a tie, two blitz games of 3 min + 2 sec were the final straw to prevent a decisive Armageddon game. According to news websites, the total prize money was $75.000.
Many participants experienced the Cup as a pleasant interruption of their too-serious tournament schedule, with all Grand Prix and the recent World Cup. WIth the absence of both classical chess and the scary ghost representing the world chess crown, the players were absolutely relaxed, making jokes, analysing together and playing poker in the evening. However, the basic principle of sports was still valid: they hate to lose.
The average rating was 2723, only 16 points less than the final-16 of the Tromso World Cup
In the eighth finals, some big cracks like Morozevich, Ivanchuk and Shirov lost to higher rated opponents. But the most notable game however, was produced by Yan Nepomniachtchi, in his second game against European Champion Alexander Moiseenko:
Alexander Morozevich and Ruslan Ponomariov played a very wild match. In their first game, Morozevich played an even more bold (but losing) rook sacrifice than Nepo (28...Ra5, played after 5 minutes thinking). In the second game, the board was an 8x8 minefield. For my own safety, I will leave the game unanalysed.
Vassily Ivanchuk lost his match against Radoslaw Wojtaszek
Top seed Alexander Grischuk needed to prove his blitz skills to beat Laurent Fressinet - which he did convincingly. In the quarter finals, however, Grischuk needed only two games to beat Wojtaszek with strong play. In fact, all matches in the quarter finals were decided in the rapid play. Ruslan Ponomariov kicked world rapid champion Shakhriyar Mamedyarov out of the cup with two pretty wins. Nepomniachtchi didn't gave Malakhov a single chance and Radjabov blundered a pawn against Svidler and couldn't find the motivation to come back in his 2nd game.
In the semi finals, the lineups were Ponomariov-Nepomniachtchi and Grischuk-Svidler. In his first game, Svidler had some chances for an advantage. However, in the endgame he spoiled everything by exchanging rooks.
Svidler missed 48...Na6.
In their second game, Svidler had a slow start, but seemed to recover by gaining the open d-file and to win a pawn with 28...Bxf2. Grischuk, on his turn, took his time and found a way to equalize, made the draw and qualified for the finals.
Ivanchuk as a VIP on stage, turning his attention to the Ponomariov-Nepomniachtchi game.
Ponomariov won his first first game against Nepomniachtchi in a Bg5-Gruenfeld in great style. The Ukrainian occupied the c-file and forced the Russian to retain his forces to defensive roles on the back rank. Defense is not the type of play Nepomniachtchi admires. During the game he was worried, puffing and making anxious expressions.
The contrast couldn't be bigger in the second game, which was a complete power play by the Russian grandmaster, who found time walk around and to pose confidently like:
No poker faces for Nepomniachtchi. It's clear when he's worse, and it hurts when he's better.
Time for tiebreaks. Although Ponomariov made a strong impression in the previous rounds, he was outplayed by Nepomniachtchi in the two resulting blitz games. A Russian final. We have seen that before...?
Before going to the final, I have to say that the blitz games could have been followed really live. Special for this tournament, DGT Projects introduced its new cloud service on international top level. Usually, there is a delay of 30 seconds between a move being made and its visibility on the net - and new moves are sent in packages every 10 seconds, which sometimes leads to a bunch of new moves at once. With the new cloud service, which consists a non-flash board, games are relayed without any delay and without packages. In less than a tenth of a second a new move is showed online. Really helpful to follow rapid and blitz play! Besides that, the ACP Cup featured live commentary by several grandmasters.
In the first final game, Nepomniachtchi outplayed his opponent with black in an irregular 6.Bd3 Najdorf. With only 19 seconds on the clock, Grischuk sacrificed his Bishop to generate some perpetual checks. Nepomniachtchi, who had more than 17 minutes left (!) should have been impressed by Grischuk's excellent blitzing skills, as he couldn't find a way to move out of the checks.
The second game had the same contours: Grischuk played an attacking, but little bit inferior opening and ran out of time early in the game. Nepomniachtchi again couldn't profit from his huge time advantage and agreed to a draw. Blitz time!
Instead of describing the blitz and resulting Armageddon, I would like to leave you the tense live experience in the livestream:
Nepomniachtchi resigns the final game.
Grischuk next to Emile Sutovsky (ACP President) and the Reiitumu Bank representative