What went right for World Blitz Champion GM Le Quang Liem in the first two hours of Death Match 24 Saturday? The first game. That's it. GM Dmitry Andreikin dropped the opener then pitched a shutout for the next 18 games, and eventually held off a late charge to win 18-11.
In the highest-rated Death Match in history (2716), former World Champion Candidate Andreikin chose to sacrifice pieces where possible, throw his pawn down the h-file, and generally keep the initiative against Le Quang. "Dmitry's style is very aggressive, he loves to attack a lot," Chess.com TV co-host GM Georg Meier said.
GM Dmitry Andreikin, winner of Death Match 24 and $750
Andreikin played 1. e4 in game 1, and after a French Defense he lost a knight versus bishop ending. He ditched king pawn openings and after that it was mostly the Trompowsky, or close variations. The bishop always landed on g5, sometimes no matter what Black did, including the Levitsky Attack (1. d4 d5 2. Bg5), which Andreikin employed several times.
From games 2-19, Le Quang didn't win a single game, while Andreikin tallied 11 wins and seven draws. According to co-host IM Danny Rensch, who has commentated on most of the 24 Death Matches, this is the longest streak between wins of any player. The drought lasted more than two hours until Le Quang finally got a win in the second game of the bullet portion.
Game 3 showed how a small weakness in the king's position could lead to a quick disaster. It also featured a rare counter-check on move 21.
In the next game, Andreikin played the King's Indian Defense, whereupon Le Quang blundered a piece. "It looks like he's been taken out of his comfort zone," Rensch said, adding that Le Quang would like to nurse a small advantage, not get into a complicated, imbalanced position.
GM Le Quang Liem lost and earned $250
Andreikin didn't let up, and won his third straight in game 5. His bishop again landed on g5 early, but that wasn't Black's biggest problem. Eventually a knight dropped there, initiating an attack that couldn't be defended in blitz. The game encapsulated the match - pressure trumped soundness, and proved too mighty.
Game 6 eviscerated any confidence Le Quang might still have had. Up a piece, he hung a simple mate to give Andreikin a fourth win in a row. The 5+1 segment ended 7-2 for the Russian.
The 3+1 was no better for the Vietnamese top player. Andreikin won five, and with four draws, the score there was also 7-2.
Andreikin showed he was not willing to let his foot off the gas. In game 11, he offered another piece and avoided any possible perpetual with his queen. Instead, 31...g4 set up the pretty 33...Rxf3+, ending matters.
"I don't think the computer would agree with a lot of Dmitry's moves," Rensch said. No one could doubt they were working though. "This is just a landslide."
A few games later, a carbon-copy. Andreikin again sacked a piece and eschewed the perpetual that the commentators expected. 33. f4! broke the back of Black's defense. The queen cannot simultaneously defend mates on e7 and g7.
Andreikin entered the bullet portion ahead 14-4, and the match was essentially already out of reach. "This might be the most shocking result we've ever had in a Death Match," Rensch speculated. He also guessed that this Death Match may have been clinched earlier than any other.
Using the one-second increment, the opening game of bullet had both players at or above one minute after 20 moves! Le Quang made the score more respectable in the closing section. Playing mostly double-fianchetto systems as White, he won 7-4.
Le Quang won 2.5 of the first three, and three of the last four to end the match. Andreikin still showed his willingness to grab the intiative early, playing systems as White such as 1. d4 g6 2. h4! three times.
Le Quang's best game came in round 27. Although it looked at first like Andreikin's outpost on g3 would lead to yet another kingside attack, it never materialized and White got too many passed pawns in the endgame.
After the match, Le Quang said that he missed chances in several games. "[Andreikin is] very complicated and he sacrificed pieces. I was sure I was winning in three or four games but something happened and I blundered."
Even though the World Blitz Championship is 30 games over two days, Le Quang said that the Death Match offered something unique. "I've never played three hours non-stop before," he said. "I felt I'm not playing very well today."
Andreikin was not available for an interview before or after the match.
"Hats off to the Russian superstar for playing like an absolute stud," Rensch said of the resounding result. Meier, who is Le Quang's teammate at Webster University, added, "To make Liem look so bad required great play."