The World Rapid Chess Championships concluded with another world title for Carlsen. Tan Zhongyi is first among women after winning a tiebreaker.
After three days of play, the World Rapid Chess Championships ended in Almaty. Following 13 rounds in the Open section, Magnus Carlsen came out on top, with 10/13. It is his fourth chess crown in the rapid. He had already triumphed in 2014, 2015 and 2019. Magnus also was second in 2012 (in Astana) and third in 2016 and 2021.
In the Women’s tournament, Tan Zhongyi of China won gold after defeating local player Dinara Saduakassova in the tiebreaker.
Carlsen’s road to victory
The outgoing world champion in classical chess has just clinched another world crown – his fourth title in rapid.
The Norwegian was the leader from the very beginning of the tournament and maintained his dominance throughout. Not everything was smooth, however. The third and final day of play started well for Carlsen as he scored against the young German Grandmaster Vincent Keymer. Then misfortune struck.
In Round 11, Carlsen stumbled in the game vs Vladimir Artemiev. Playing with black pieces, Magnus committed a fatal blunder in a dead-equal position and ended up in a lost endgame down an exchange. The game was relatively short, and the Norwegian swiftly left the playing hall, clearly angry at himself.
In the following 12th round, Carlsen was up against his old nemesis on the chess board – Fabiano Caruana, who had a slower start in the tournament but picked up steam and reached the top boards in the final rounds. Caruana equalised as black, and neither side had enough of an advantage to play for a win, so they decided to split a point. In the final – 13th – game of the Rapid, Carlsen crushed the former World Junior Champion Parham Maghsoodloo.
By this point, however, Carlsen’s destiny was not entirely in his hands. The rising chess star from Germany, Vincent Keymer, was playing a tense endgame against the world Blitz Champion Maxime-Vachier Lagrave. Carlsen was following the game closely. Had Keymer won – then he and Magnus would have played a tiebreaker. Both Maxime and Vincent were pushing, trying to pull out a victory, but neither player gave way. To Carlsen’s delight, the game ended in a draw, and he clinched his fourth title as World Champion in rapid chess.
“I’ll stop when somebody stops me”
In the press conference following his victory in the Rapid, Carlsen was asked “when will he stop winning world titles”. His response? “I’ll stop when somebody stops me”. Commenting on the event, Carlsen noted that this was “a really tough tournament” and that it’s “really hard to win on demand”. “I ran the risk of having zero world championship titles at the end of this tournament, so it was important to me to try and do well here, and it means the world to me right now,” said Carlsen.
Carlsen was also asked to comment on his comeback after the loss to Artemiev in Round 11.
“It’s hard not to look at the standings and say this could have been a lead instead of a tie in the standings… I managed to pull myself together, thinking that this was a super-freak accident… I felt really calm during the game with Fabi… The problem that I had towards the end was that my strength was running out”, said Carlsen.
A great performance by Germany’s Keymer
The second place in the World Rapid went to Vincent Keymer. It is the first World Rapid and Blitz the 18-year-old German GM is taking part in, and his result – 9.5/13 – is astonishing given his lack of experience in this type of event.
Despite suffering a defeat to Magnus Carlsen at the start of the third day, Keymer went on to win in the next two games (against world champion candidate Ian Nepomniachtchi and Indian player Vidit Santosh Gujrathi) and then fought to the very end against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a gripping game which ended in a draw.
Keymer earlier said that he had been preparing for the rapid and blitz with sparring partners but refused to name them. His performance and maturity – both on and off the board – show that he is already a serious force to be reckoned with.
Caruana third, Nodirbek Absudattorov tenth
After a sluggish start in the tournament, the former contender for the title of World Champion, Fabiano Caruana, scored four wins in a row to reach the plus-five mark and get a chance to fight for the top. However, the fast tempo set by Magnus Carlsen made it difficult to play catch-up.
Following a poor opening against Daniil Dubov in the 11th round, Caruana was – in his own words – lucky that the opponent offered a draw. In the penultimate round, in a direct challenge for first place, Caruana drew with Carlsen. By defeating Vladislav Artemiev in the last round, Caruana secured third place in the Rapid.
Nodirbek Abdusattorow, who was defending his 2021 World Rapid Championship title, finished in tenth place on 8.5 points. He was joined by the likes of Ian Nepomniachtchi, Anish Giri, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alexander Grischuk, as well as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who all ended with 8.5/13.
Hikaru Nakamura battled with draws the whole competition, placing 44th overall! With only two victories and 11 draws, he netted 7.5 points.
Women’s Rapid Champion decided by Blitz
China’s Tan Zhongyi and Dinara Sadaukassova of Kazakhstan finished in a tie for first place after 11 rounds of play in the Women’s Rapid with 8.5 points each. The winner was decided in a Blitz tie-break in which the first game was drawn, but the second went Tan’s way.
This is a huge success for the former women’s World Champion and the first gold for China in the women’s rapid since 2018. Tan has played convincingly thought the tournament, not losing a single game. This is another splendid performance by Tan Zhongyi following her victory in the Pool B group of Women’s Candidates.
However, the best is yet to come: “The event is not over yet; my favourite part – blitz – is ahead. So I will be thinking about the celebration in the new year,” said the Chinese Grandmaster.
The second place went to Dinara Saduakassova of Kazakhstan, who made sure that her country retains the silver in the Rapid, first won by Bibisara Assaubayeva in Poland in 2021.
Four players are sharing third to sixth place. The big Indian surprise of the event, Shri B Savitha (pictured below), continued to play well, and she came on top of the group of players with eight points, followed by Aleksandra Goryachkina, Zhansaya Abdumalik and Humpy Koneru.
Last year’s world champion in rapid, Alexandra Kosteniuk, finished ninth, with 7.5 points. On 29th December at 3 PM, the World Blitz Chess Championship will kick off in Almaty.
The organisation of the event and support
The World Rapid and Blitz championships are held by the Kazakhstan Chess Federation together with the International Chess Federation and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, as well as the Akimat of the city of Almaty.
The event is made possible thanks to the agreement with Freedom Finance, which becomes a General Sponsor of the event. Freedom Broker is an investment company and a stockbroker. Provides access to NYSE, NASDAQ, LSE, HKEX and other largest stock exchanges on the planet.
Text: Milan Dinic
Photo: Lennart Ootes and Anna Shtourman