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Carlsen wins Super United Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour 2022

Report by GM Robert Hungaski

Each day was a process of discovery and change, for myself included. In my first daily recap, following the announcement that Magnus wouldn’t defend his title, I spoke of a Magnus used to running laps around his opponents, now needing to give his legs a rest. But I was wrong. He didn’t need to give his legs a rest, he just needed a new track to stimulate him. Carlsen’s performance is a testament to fighting spirit and endurance, the attributes that defined him at his peak and the epitome of a World Champion. Read more: Carlsen leads Grand Chess Tour 2022 after blitz day 1 / Magnus Carlsen’s decision not to defend his World Champion title / Garry Kasparov comments on Carlsen’s decision

Chess has changed a lot since the times of the first World Championship match, as Garry Kasparov stated in his interview with Alejandro Ramirez today. Is it possible that a format that brought the best out of players back in 1886, no longer has the same effect almost 150 years later? The format should help bring about extraordinary performances, not constrain them. What we saw Magnus do in this event is a strong argument in favor of change. 

It is no wonder that when asked about the upcoming World Championship Match between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren, Kasparov didn’t hesitate to state that “In order to be considered the 17th World Champion you have to beat Magnus Carlsen”.

A Test of Endurance

While Magnus had a couple of nice games today, he really paved the way in Day 4 after his 5-game winning streak. Today he scored 4.5/9, although it should be said that he lost his last two rounds, after he had clinched the title. It just goes to show what a moment of relaxation can mean, even for the best player in the world. Not long into Day-5 it became clear that everybody else was fighting for second place.

The first casualty to exhaustion was Jorden Van Foreest, who had finished the Rapid in clear 1st and began Day-5 in clear 3rd, but eventually finished 6th.

Van Foreest was one of the many that saw his play suffer due to exhaustion | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Jorden Van Foreest had an incredible display of fighting spirit. He came back after every one of his losses, up until round 24, which is when it all went wrong for him. He was not able to recover from that blow and finished scoring 0.5/4 in the last rounds.

Perhaps the greatest casualty to exhaustion was Wesley So, who began the day (and had spent the entire tournament at the top of the standings) in clear second and finished in a disappointing tie for 4-5 place. He seemed to have finally solved his problem with White (he won three games, more than in all the other days combined!). However, he conceded too many draws and in the final stretch only managed 0.5/3.

Always with a cheerful disposition, Wesley’s final place in the standings did not reflect his protagonist throughout the event | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Today was all about the Frenchmen. Alireza Firouzja scored an impressive 7.5/9, while Maxime Vachier-Legrave an unbelievable 8/9. While most struggled to keep a grip on themselves, the Frenchmen were frantically pouring energy into their games.

Firouzja scores a crucial win against Carlsen in the penultimate round on his way to shared 2nd place | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

No one would dare accuse the MVL or Alireza of lacking fighting spirit. And they certainly proved they have endurance as well. But unlike Magnus (at least in the case of Alireza and Van Foreest), they played better chasing the lead than when they had it. While Magnus, once he had it, took off with it.

A lot has happened in the past five days. Surely things will continue to develop regarding the future of Magnus and the World Championship Title. But one of the main takeaways from the event is that despite the new format, the traditional virtues that define greatness remain the same: fighting spirit and endurance.

From left to right: Grand Master and event organizer Zlatko Klaric, GCT Executive Director Michael Khodarkovsky, GCT Founder Garry Kasparov, tournament winner Magnus Carlsen, President of Super United Marin Marusic and President of Superbet Foundation Augusta Valeria Dragic | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

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