Carlsen is Rapid Champion

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

World Championship Rapid
Moscow, Russia
Dec. 26–28, 2019

Final Top Results

1. Magnus Carlsen NOR 2886, 11.5/15

2–4. Alireza Firouzja FIDE 2614, Hikaru Nakamura USA 2819, Vladislav Artemiev RUS 2756, 10.5/15

5–11. Levon Aronian ARM 2784, Leinier Dominguez Perez USA 2755, Jan-Krzysztof Duda POL 2751, Daniil Dubov RUS 2752, Anton Korobov UKR 2818, David Anton Guijarro ESP 2709, Yu Yangyi CHN 2747, 10.0/15

Total of 205 participants

Time Control: 15 minutes for the entire game with 10 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1.

Venue: VIP Zone of the Luzhniki Football Stadium in Moscow, Russia.

Others: The prize fund is $350,000, with $60,000 for first place. Prize money is shared equally between players on the same number of points, with a playoff for 1st place that consists of two 3+2 games followed, if necessary, by Armageddon, where White has five minutes to Black’s four, with a draw for Black to be counted as a victory.

In the January 2010 FIDE Rating List Magnus Carlsen, still only a teenager (born Nov. 30, 1990) opened the decade by becoming the highest rated player in the world with 2810 ELO rating points, overtaking Veselin Topalov on 2805. This also made Magnus the youngest no. 1 rated player in chess history. It was another three years before Magnus became world champion but even back in 2010 it was expected that Magnus would have a rather long tenure at no. 1.

There was only one rating list then and it took 30 more months, on July 1, 2012 that rapid and blitz ratings appeared on the World Chess Federation (FIDE) website. In 2014 Magnus Carlsen won the World Rapid and Blitz Championships held in Dubai, UAE and achieved the triple crown, simultaneously holding the titles in all three time controls.

On Dec. 30, 2019, at the close of the decade, he has shown no signs of slowing down:

Magnus Carlsen is once again the World Champion in all three time controls,

He ends the year with 10 tournament wins, no losses in classical chess.

He is also the highest rated player in classical and rapid chess, just narrowly missing out on the blitz chess ranking, his 2887 finishing 2nd behind Nakamura’s 2900.

The only title that eludes him is the World Fischer Random championship, but that is OK since it is our Wesley So who holds the title there!

Vladimir Kramnik lost to Magnus in the blitz section and, when asked for comment, simply replied that: “I wish I had such motivation as Magnus! Of course he’s incredible, with his level and also with his motivation, because he won already basically everything which you can win, and I can still see how concentrated and motivated he is. Of course it’s quite remarkable (…) I already stopped counting some time ago how many events he won. It’s now more of a surprise if he doesn’t win — if he wins it’s like business as usual!”

And Magnus knows it too. During the Rapid tournament there were several players who took quick draws to preserve their energy. On the other hand Carlsen always played to win. When asked about this he gave a rather blunt explanation: “I think although these days are very long it’s possible to give your all in all the games, but I think it also helps that I’m better than the others! So for me it’s easier to play for a win. For the others, they maybe risk more if they have to play for a win. I think that’s just the brutal truth — that if you’re a bit better than the others you can afford to take more chances. Maybe some of the other guys playing several short draws had the optimum strategy for themselves, but in order to win it’s not the optimum strategy, I think. Probably in order to do well it’s not a bad idea, but again it’s not the way that I play, but it’s partly because I can afford it!”

Afterwards Magnus noted that although he’d had some tough positions he was never in real peril and, “to go 15 games without being lost in a single one is something I take great pride in.”

His games even under rapid time controls are not blunderfests with the one who commits the second-to-the-last mistake winning. In fact, I would estimate that Magnus only drops around 20% in quality between classical and rapid time control and even at 80% his games are quite impressive.

Carlsen, Magnus (2872) — Le, Quang Liem (2713) [D20]
Wch Rapid 2019 Moscow RUS (10.1), 27.12.2019

Recent developments have shown that Black does not have a clear way to equality in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. However, under faster time controls the rapid piece mobilization that Black can whip up makes it playable.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 Nf6

Forces White to push his pawn to e5. After Nd5 Black will establish d5 as his strong point.

4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 Bf5

The main line is 6…Nc6 but anyway 7.Nf3?! Bf5! 8.Nc3 e6 just transposes back into the game position.

7.Nf3 e6 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.Be3 Be7

Black can also castle queenside with 9…Qd7 10.0–0 0–0–0 11.Qe2 Bg4 12.Rfd1 Nb4 13.a4 N6d5 but it looks pretty scary for black, what with the half-open c-file staring down Black’s king.

10.0–0 0–0 11.a3 Na5 12.Bc2 Qd7?!

Perhaps Black should have prefaced this with a bishop exchange on c2, because White now gets a strong pawn center.

13.Bxf5 exf5 14.d5! Nac4 15.Bxb6! Nxb6 16.Qb3 Rad8 17.Rad1 Rfe8 18.Rfe1

White’s protected pawns on d5 and e5, standing beside each other, is a textbook example of the kind of position the first player wants to get out of the opening — Black has no center plus his bishop and knight are not working well together. If White can time his pawn advances right he can win. If he does not then the pawns become a weakness, they fall, and White loses.

18…g6 19.h4 Kg7 20.h5 Bc5 21.Qc2

The immediate threat now is 22.d6! because both 22…cxd6 and 22…c6 is met by 23.b4 winning Black’s bishop.

21…a5 22.Qc1

Preparing to slide to either g5 or h6 after the preliminary e5–e6!

22…Qe7 23.Qf4 Nd7 <D>


24.b4! axb4 25.axb4 Bb6

[25…Bxb4 26.d6! attacking the black queen and bishop simultaneously]

26.h6+ Kg8 27.d6 Qf8

[27…cxd6 28.Nd5!]

28.e6! fxe6 29.dxc7 Rc8 30.Rxd7 Re7 31.Rxe7 Qxe7 32.Nd5! 1–0

Magnus Carlsen made the Queen’s Gambit Accepted look like a forced loss.

A new star was born during the World Rapid Championships. The Iranian Chess Federation banned its players from participating in the tournament but 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja really wanted to play, so he took the big step of defying his federation and registering as a “FIDE” player, i.e., currently stateless.

Now, Alireza was rated 2614 before the beginning of the event only good enough for the 69th seed. He started well with upsets over Korobov and Karjakin and as the young upstart kept scoring points he was continuously matched against the superGMs — Duda, Aronian, Giri, Svidler, Yu Yangyi, Inarkiev, Le Quang Liem, Andreikin, Wang Hao, Mamedyarov – over the course of 15 rounds he faced no less than 12 superGMs rated over 2700. Contrast this for example with Carlsen’s schedule which included 7 over-2700 and Nakamura’s 4 over-2700 opponents.

Karjakin, Sergey (2754) — Firouzja, Alireza (2723) [B90]
Wch Rapid 2019 Moscow RUS (4.11), 26.12.2019

Sergey Karjakin is really one tough opponent. Born Jan. 12, 1990, he holds the record for the world’s youngest ever grandmaster, having qualified for the title at the age of 12 years and 7 months.

In November 2016 he lost the world classical chess championship match to Magnus Carlsen in rapid tiebreaks after drawing 6–6 in the classical games. Karjakin won the 2012 World Rapid Chess Championship and the 2016 World Blitz Championship. As you can see, he is an all-around tough customer in any time control. Take a look at what happens in his game with Firouzja.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bd3

A rare move, but one which Karjakin has been playing recently and quite successfully. The idea is to avoid exchanges with Nde2, 0–0, Ng3 and possibly f2–f4.

6…e5 7.Nde2 Be7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Ng3 Re8 10.Bc4 Be6 11.Nd5 Nbd7 12.Be3 Rc8 13.Bb3 Bf8 14.c3 Qa5 15.Nxf6+ Nxf6 16.Bg5 Nd7 17.Qe2 Nc5 18.Bxe6 Nxe6 19.Be3 d5! 20.exd5 Qxd5 21.Rfd1 Qc6 22.Qg4 g6 23.f3 Bc5 24.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 25.Kh1 Rcd8 26.Qe4 b5

Black’s knight is better than its counterpart. From here to the end you will be impressed how Firouzja keeps advancing and Karjakin keeps retreating until White has nothing else to do.

27.Qc2 f5 28.Qb3 Kf7 29.a4 Qc4 30.Qxc4 bxc4 31.Nf1 Rd3 32.Re1 Nc5 33.Kg1 f4 34.Re2 e4! 35.fxe4 Rxe4 36.Rxe4 Nxe4 37.Re1 Nc5 38.a5 Rd5 39.h4 Kf6 40.Nh2 Kf5 41.Nf3 Nd3 42.Re7 Rxa5 43.Rxh7 Nxb2 44.Rf7+ Ke4 45.Kh2 Nd1 46.Rd7 Ne3!

[46…Nxc3? 47.Rd4+ Kf5 48.Rxc4 with the crucial pawn on c4 gone I am no longer sure if Black can win this]


[47.Rd4+ Kf5 48.Nd2 does not work because of 48…Ra3! 49.Nxc4 Ng4+! 50.Kh3 (50.Kg1?? Ra1+ 51.Rd1 Rxd1#) 50…Rxc3+ wins]

47…Ng4+ 48.Kh3 Nf2+ 49.Kh2 Ra1 50.Ng1 Ng4+ 51.Kh1 Ne5 52.Kh2 Ra2

Threatening …f4–f3.


[53.Kh3 Ra1 the knight cannot move because of …Rh1 mate]

53…a5 54.Nf3 Ra1+ 0–1

[54…Ra1+ 55.Kh2 (55.Ng1 a4 This pawn is unstoppable) 55…Ng4+ 56.Kh3 Nf2+ 57.Kh2 Rh1#]

GM Alireza Firouzja finished in second place with eight wins five draws and two losses. His rapid rating now stands at 2703 to complement classical rating of 2723 and blitz rating of 2750 — I think from now on everyone will treat him seriously.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.