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Thursday, October 01, 2020

Explained: Armageddon, the penalty shootout of the chess pieces

The Armageddon is the final decisive clincher and at the Online Chess Olympiad, set out the rules as, White gets 5 minutes, Black gets 4, but a draw would suffice for the latter.

Written by Shivani Naik , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai | Updated: September 2, 2020 4:57:34 pm
Armageddon, express exlained, penalty shootout, india chess, chess olympiad, india chess olympiad, india chess final, india vs poland chess, india chess champion, koneru humpy, viswanathan anand, nihal sarinKoneru Humpy won in an Armageddon against Poland's Monica Socko to take India into its first possible Top 2 finish and finals of the first-ever online Chess Olympiad. (Representational)

It was an Armageddon that saw Koneru Humpy take India into the final of the first-ever online Chess Olympiad. India play Russia at 4.30 pm on August 30.

Koneru Humpy won in an Armageddon against Poland’s Monica Socko to take India into its first possible Top 2 finish and finals of the first-ever online Chess Olympiad. India play Russia in the finals at 4.30 pm on Sunday (August 30).

Chess’s version of the penalty shootout can get exciting, and Koneru held her nerve in the cliffhanger.

Here’s more about Armageddon.

What is an ‘Armageddon’ in chess that Koneru Humpy won to take India into the finals?

It’s similar to a Super Over in cricket or a penalty shootout in hockey or football. At times it sees players nervously slap on the clocks, fumble with their pieces, and generally hurry through their moves. The online version, of course, would’ve simply seen quick clicks.

Koneru Humpy, Koneru Humpy chess, Koneru Humpy World Rapid Chess Championships, Chess Championships, Viswanathan Anand, Indian express Chess’s version of the penalty shootout can get exciting, and Koneru held her nerve in the cliffhanger.

The Armageddon is the final decisive clincher and at the Online Chess Olympiad, set out the rules as, White gets 5 minutes, Black gets 4, but a draw would suffice for the latter.

Humpy kept her ice-cool composure to snick a sensational win when even a draw would’ve been enough against Poland’s Monika Sacko in the semifinal. She had lorded over Socko in the two rounds of rapid earlier.

How did it whip up excitement at the online chess Olympiad semis?

Black, considered at a disadvantage, is given a minute less to process the game and the handicap effectively puts the onus of a win on White.

“At that moment, in those 4 minutes, whole of India’s expectations hinged on Koneru Humpy’s shoulders. But the moment I knew she was playing, I was sure India was winning. Her temperament is exceptional,” Prof Anantharam, chess arbiter and raconteur, said.

Prior to that, lots were drawn to pick which of the categories would contest the Armageddon – among men’s, women’s, and juniors. Once it was ascertained that the women would contest, Koneru Humpy was asked to fight the shootout for India’s attempt to get into Top 2 contention for the first time ever.

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Why was it a stunning come-from-behind win?

India was trailing after losing the first round 2-4 where Polish GMs Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Radek Wojtaszek nicked a full point each off Viswanathan Anand and Vidit Gujarati despite some aggressive play from Vidit, while Koneru and Harika Dronavalli drew on the third and fourth boards with Nihal Sarin winning on the penultimate board. Divya Deshmukh had good positional advantage, but couldn’t capitalise.

In Round 2, India came back fighting, Anand canny in his opening to strike back against Duda and Vidit driving the knife in after an even opening against Gajewski who turned up to sub Wojtaszek. Koneru and Harika both won as India levelled to win Round Two 4 1/2 – 1 1/2. Then came the Armageddon.

How did Koneru win the Big A?

It has been dubbed as one of the most exciting Armageddon shootouts of recent times. Socko is a similarly experienced player and did not carry her two losses into the shoot-out showing early aggressive intent with a pawn gambit.

Until moves 35 or 36, things were pretty even, but Socko’s pawn move to e5 was a visible tripping after which Koneru’s superior queen manoeuvring and counter attack saw her stomp through to the finish, as she bulldozed out the bishop.

Also read | Not as grand as it seems: India’s historic showing at Chess Olympiad, explained

What are the most recent instances of the Armageddon?

Four top level online tournaments featuring chess’s biggest name Magnus Carlsen were held this year, with the first of those triumphs coming from the Armageddon. But the most exciting one saw the world champion on the losing side against the maverick Hiraku Nakamura in the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals which saw a tennis-like set format.

Set 5 had seen four uneventful draws in the rapid. GM Yan Nepomniachthi had quipped watching: “Ok, four draws in rapid section, so there’s nothing to tweet about.” On cue, things began to sizzle as Carlsen won the fifth Game, with Nakamura responding to rally from behind to win in the forced decider after Carlsen had chosen white.

Giving yourself the time edge also means equipping yourself with the best sword while backing into a corner. Nakamura didn’t settle for the “winning draw” that Armageddons offer, but went for the win. Fun was had by all. Until the next A.

On the final day of the final faceoff, Carlsen won his own tour against Nakamura (who played a stunner till the last 10 minutes) by drawing on black in an Armageddon. The brutality and the epic injustice of it all, was lamented by everyone online.

Of late, which have been the most dramatic Armageddons?

At an Aronian-Grischuk game in Norway last season, the terms were set at 10 minutes vs 7, after classical games were capped at 4 hours, followed by the Armageddon. The vanquished was inconsolable, calling it one of the three biggest disappointing results of his life.

Why do classical romantics frown upon the Armageddon?

It has been said that many chess enthusiasts are critical of Armageddon and/or the scoring system, which downgrades classical games. The Aronian-Grischuk meltdown post the cruel shootoff drew a lot of scornful Internet traffic Armageddon’s way.

It is seen as an unwelcome disruptor corrupting the classical pace and rhythm with its restless impatience. Some would say chess is clucking at the hyper hand activity involved. Carlsen had weighed in favourably; The Guardian quoted him as saying: “There has been plenty of fight in the classical games, and having Armageddon just gives it an extra dimension. It’s just extra excitement every day. I am sure there are people who like it, people who don’t like it, but I think it’s been very exciting so far and I look forward to the future.” The fact that a coin flip decides time odds, drives critics nuts.

What are the oddest things to happen during an Armageddon?

Yan Nepomniachtchi and Nakamura faced off in a World Cup quarters in 2015 where Nakamura won in an Armageddon. But the Russian protested belatedly that Nakamura had used both hands to make a single move on the rook and king — allusion to a form of penalty invoking act, while castling the king.

It’s a typical error that can happen with the clock breathing down the earlobe menacingly. But the appeal was denied after a microscopic interpretation of sub-clauses of rules. In a blitz/rapid World Mind Games at Bird’s Nest in 2008, K Sasikiran rightly pointed out that should a piece be knocked out, it should be adjusted on own clock by the opponent. But a rematch was ordered, which India lost. Time control pressures can wreak havoc, and Armageddons typically see pulse rate soaring as the game is spiced up.

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