Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Round 1 Recap of the Crazyhouse World Championship

There were over 150 players who signed up for the 2018 Crazyhouse World Championship (CWC), so a qualifying tournament was organised with over 1000 other participants to reduce the field to 128. A double-elimination knockout among these 128 seeds is now underway to choose 8 to join TwelveTeen and opperwezen in the Candidates round-robin Tournament, the winner of which will face off against Champion JannLee to crown the 2018 Crazyhouse World Champion. The players themselves are responsible for organising their matches against their assigned opponents and notifying the time they have scheduled in the official thread so that it can be added to the calendar and fans can watch. In round 1 it was seed 1 against seed 128, seed 2 against 127 and so on. This means that the first rounds should be rather easier on the really strong players, while lots of tight games are expected in the middle of the draw. 

Crazyhouse can be a brutal game against a stronger opponent, so as expected a lot of the top boards made a clean sweep winning their matches 10-0. Players can stop playing once the match is decided but playing all ten games is encouraged for the sake of spectators of the game and playing a stronger player, while humbling, is also a good learning experience. In my own match, I (okei) lost 0-10 to profz, flagging with mate on the board in game 9 with what would have been a nice consolation. See if you can spot the mate in 4:

The toughest challenge to the top seeds was given by Simba7 (#116), who managed to score 3 wins out of 10 against #13 seed IM gsvc. See if you can find his winning move in the following position:

If black flees his king to a8, then a queen drop on a6 would have carried a double mate threat on a7 and b7. IM gsvc bounced back however, converting game 9 particularly elegantly with a triple smother:

Other underdogs who caused headaches to their opponents were RussianDragun (#103) against TaylorEternity (#26), opening up game 1 of their match with a smothered mating combination:

But he missed the winning move in another game. What to play instead of R@g8+?

Another player who scored 3 wins against a much stronger opponent was Schachmalanders (#102) against crosky (#27), the founding father of the /r/crazyhouse subreddit. Crosky was black in the following position with an unstoppable mating attack of his own so long as he could get his own king out of checks. Where is safe to run? 

Crosky did what any crazyhouse player intuitively would: try to avoid losing the queen with check. But a deeper calculation shows Kxf7 and running to g8 is perfectly safe while the other way the queen will fall anyway with check. Schachmalander made no mistake although overall crosky proved too strong for him.

The biggest upset of the round was LegionDestroyer (
#93) beating #36 seed matser 7 games to 3. See if you can find his sweet combination as black in the following position:

Another strong performance was from Karagialis (#81) who beat the #48 I0euros. Leading 5-4 and in a completely winning position, Karagialis flagged leaving the match tied at 5-5 after 10 games. But he continued to play solid crazyhouse, exploiting pins to set up big attacks to take Games 11 and 12 and so win 7-5. Most memorable was the second game of their series, annotated in detail below.

Note in particular the desire from both players to avoid opening theory, the interesting rook lift from Karagialis and the imaginative way he brought his queen into the attack, sacrificing the rook in the process.

The biggest upset scoring-wise was Alexnader123 (#73) who took an unassailable 8-1 match lead against anduchess (#56). His style and opening play seem to draw inspiration from JannLee and we think he is one to watch for the future. He did leave chances however. Can you see the mating combination anduchess missed in their first game:

Game 8 however was an attacking masterclass from Alexnader123, annotated here:

Not taking the pawn on h6 on move 12 and not taking again once it got to g7 proved to be lethal.

Knowing when to take and when not to take is an important skill at the intermediate to advanced level. This CWC round 1 position between Ominous and the strong terra87 is another good example of this. What would you play as white here?

Ominous played 16. gxf3 and the end was swift. Can you see black’s mate in 5B@g3 or even Bxf3 would have been safer because the h3 square remains defended after Black recaptures.

The game of round 1 however would have to be this 92-move epic between Bofrostmann and esken, in which esken ultimately triumphed, winning also their match 6-3 in a closely-fought contest.

To complete this round-up, the match of round 1 was the two-hour battle that went four games into over-time between KyleLegion and PawnInTraining. First, KyleLegion found a cool mating sequence starting from this 

PawnInTraining bounced back with a neat mate:

From 2-5 down, PawnInTraining levelled the match at 5-5 and then took a 6-5 lead. But KyleLegion then pulled out three games in succession to take the tie 8-6. The following position was critical with PawnInTraining having a subtle mating idea as black, but the move he played was too slow.

The key question one has to ask oneself is which move leads to mate in the fewest moves? B@h3, which he played, carries mate in 2 threats. Moving the knight on g2 by contrast threatens mate in 1! This mate can easily be blocked by dropping on g2, but there is one knight move which weakens white's back rank, creating a second more complex mate threat that cannot be blocked. Because he was a tempo behind, KyleLegion had time to play fxg7 and his attack ended up breaking through faster, a real lesson in the importance of tempo and keeping initiative!

Puzzle Solutions: You can see the detailed analysis of all the above positions in chapters 1-15 of the CWC Round 1 study 

Some of the matches in round 1 were live-streamed and you can watch them here (update — linked videos were removed from Twitch and will be re-uploaded if possible on YouTube): 

Mugwort - just2play

okei - profz
KyleLegion - PawnInTraining
Simba7 - gsvc & matser - LegionDestroyer
the-lone-wolf - ArtofDeception
Chucklemagne - broskall6

The CWC is now entering round 2. Do join the House Discord:

https://dscrd.me/housechessvariants and check out the unofficial calendar and CWC team page to stay updated. We will continue to keep you posted here too on the crazyhouse blog. 

okei (with MMichael) 

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