The news has been full of prophecies that Armageddon was due to hit us on December 21st. Luckily this did not happen. But in the world of chess, an Armageddon of a different kind hit a small village in Russia on Saturday December 29th. The Piterenka Rapid/Blitz tournament took place in the eponymous village of Piterenka in the Moscow area of Russia and featured an exciting ‘Armageddon’ game between Sergey Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk. One of the quirks of this event was that, as part of their prize, the winner is given a piece of land in Piterenka. This year, the winner was Grandmaster Karjakin, who, at the last rating was ranked the eighth best player in the world. Karkjakin is also the youngest Grandmaster ever, earning the title at the age of just twelve.
It was in the final, ‘Armageddon’ game between Karjakin and Grischuk that Karjakin secured the title. Though they make for extremely exciting and fast-paced chess, Armageddon games can be somewhat controversial among serious chess enthusiasts. Critics of the Armageddon setup sometimes argue that these games are engineered solely for entertainment, at the expense of solid rules, tactics, and strategy.
An Armageddon game involves a unique pair of rules. Firstly, the rules state that, in order to win the game, white must win outright whereas black needs only to attain a draw. Secondly, white is given more time (this almost always comprises an extra minute) to play than black.
Whatever your views, however, the play at Piterenka was fascinating, with Karjakan on his usual outstanding form.