Dubov is World Rapid Chess champion

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Daniil Dubov
GM Daniil Dubov

GRANDMASTER (GM) Daniil Dmitrievich Dubov (born April 18, 1996 in Moscow) won the $60,000 first prize (approximately P3.15 million at the World Rapid Chess Championship by posting a score of 11/15 with seven wins, eight draws and no losses.

FIDE World Rapid Championship (sponsored by King Salman of Saudi Arabia)
St. Petersburg, Russia
December 26-28, 2018

Final Top Standings
(Rapid Ratings)

1. GM Daniil Dubov RUS 2723, 11.0/15

2-5. GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov AZE 2786, GM Hikaru Nakamura USA 2844, GM Vladislav Artemiev RUS 2812, GM Magnus Carlsen NOR 2903, 10.5/15

6-17. GM Alireza Firouzja IRI 2412, GM Yu Yangyi CHN 2758, GM Anish Giri NED 2739, GM Sergey Karjakin RUS 2774, GM Tigran L. Petrosian ARM 2676, GM Anton Korobov UKR 2740, GM Maxim Matlakov RUS 2690, GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda POL 2683, GM David Anton Guijarro ESP 2708, GM Alexander Grischuk RUS 2732, GM Dmitry Jakovenko RUS 2731, GM Pavel Ponkratov RUS 2650, 10.0/15

Total of 206 Participants

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

Dubov’s great performance was a bit of an upset — his 2723 Rapid Rating put him at a starting rank of no. 25. The top 5 seeds were:

Magnus Carlsen NOR 2903

Hikaru Nakamura USA 2844

Vladislav Artemiev RUS 2812

Vladimir Fedoseev RUS 2810

Levon Aronian ARM 2802

Remember this game from the 2017 World Cup?

Dubov, Daniil (2666) — Artemiev, Vladislav (2692) [B98]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi (3.2), 10.09.2017

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Be7 9.Qf3 Nbd7 10.0–0–0 g5 11.fxg5 hxg5 12.Bg3 Qc7 13.Bb5 g4 14.Qe2 e5 15.Nf5 axb5 16.Nxb5 Qc6 17.Nbxd6+ Bxd6 18.Nxd6+ Kf8 19.a3 Ne8 20.Nf5 Ra4 21.Be1 Ndf6 22.Ng3 Nxe4 23.Rd8 Be6 24.Bb4+ Rxb4 25.axb4 Nxg3 26.Qxe5 Ke7 27.Rhd1 Rxh2 28.b5 Ne2+ 29.Kb1 Qc4 30.Rxe8+ Kxe8 31.Qb8+ Bc8 32.Qxh2 Nc3+ 33.bxc3 Qxb5+ 34.Kc1 Qg5+ 35.Rd2 Qa5 36.Rd4 Qg5+ 37.Kd1 Qf6 38.Qc7 Qf1+ 39.Kd2 Qxg2+ 40.Kc1 Qf1+ 41.Rd1 1–0

Dubov acknowledged that he did not want a draw as the match would go into rapid tiebreaks where Artemiev would be the favorite. He had to play to win but in standard chess Artemiev had better technical skills, so the only alternative was to go for a complicated struggle, which was why he lashed out with 13.Bb5 even though he had no special preparation.

Here in St. Petersburg Dubov showed strong play over the whole board, correctly adapting himself to the needs of the position. This crucial win over Wang Hao in the penultimate round shows this characteristic.

Wang, Hao (2782) — Dubov, Daniil (2723) [D78]
FIDE Wch Rapid St. Petersburg (14.3), 28.12.2018

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 c6 5.d4 d5 6.Nbd2 0–0 7.0–0 a5 8.b3 Ne4 9.Bb2 Bf5 10.Nh4 Nxd2 11.Qxd2 Be6 12.f4

White has a very good score with this line, something liike 6 wins 1 draw out of 7. His attack based on the threat of f4–f5 has usually proven to be very strong.


The obvious 12…f5 to prevent f4–f5 has not proven to be effective. After 13.Rac1 Nd7 14.Qe3 Bf7 15.cxd5 cxd5 16.Nf3 Nf6 17.Ne5 Ne4 18.Rc2 a4 19.Rfc1 axb3 20.Qxb3 Bxe5 21.dxe5 Qa5 22.Bd4 White had the advantage. Wen, Y (2617)-Darini,P (2523) Bandar e Anzali 2017 1–0 44.

13.f5 gxf5 14.Nxf5 Bxf5! 15.Rxf5 e6 16.Rff1 f5 17.cxd5 cxd5 18.Rac1 Nf6 19.Bf3 a4 20.Qe3 Qd7 21.Rc2 axb3 22.Qxb3 Rac8 23.Rfc1 Bh6 24.Rxc8 Rxc8 25.Rc5

Wang Hao is himself a very strong rapid player. Before the start of round 14 he was just half a point behind the leaders Yu Yangyi and Dubov and obviously was trying to squeeze all he can out of the position. This backfires on him.

25…Bf8 26.Rb5 Rc7 27.Rb6 Ne4

With the idea of Ne4–d2(or d6)-c4.

28.Bxe4 fxe4

Alarm bells are ringing now. Not only does Black have the c-file but the f-file is also open and his king is all alone.

29.Kg2 Bg7 30.Rb5

Wang Hao has clearly lost the thread of the game. Black now finishes very strongly.

30…Qf7 31.Rb6 Bh6

Whereas White was wasting time with his useless rook moves Dubov has repositioned his pieces and now threatens …e3 or …Be3 targeting the White king.

32.Qd1 Be3 33.Qf1 Qh5!

Now threatening either …Rc2 or …Rf7 with a winning position.

34.Rxe6 Rc2 35.Kh1 Rxb2 36.Re5 Qf7 37.Rf5 Qe6 38.Re5 Qd7 39.Qf6 Rb1+ with unavoidable mate. 0–1

The reigning classical chess world champion Magnus Carlsen was of course the big favorite to win, considering that he is the no. 1 ranked player in the world in classical, rapid and blitz (and don’t forget that in 2014 he was the world champion in all formats), but he spoilt his tournament with losses in the first two rounds to GM Adam Tukhaev and IM Shamsiddim Vokhidov. Never heard of them before? That’s the point. In the second day of rapid play he lost once again, this time to GM Alexander Zubov of the Ukraine. That meant that Carlsen was playing catch-up for the entire tournament and it is to his great credit that he finished tied for 2nd half a point behind Dubov, although tiebreaks relegated him to 5th place.

Another favorite is Hikaru Nakamura, rated no. 2 in the world in rapid chess and a legend in the online chess servers. He lost two games though to Nepomniachtchi and Tigran L. Petrosian and even a closing 3.5/4 burst could not overtake Dubov. His tactics though were still a joy to watch.

Nakamura, Hikaru (2746) — Sargissian, Gabriel (2689) [A06]
FIDE Wch Rapid St. Petersburg (13.7), 28.12.2018

1.Nf3 d5 2.b3

Similar to Georgia’s top player Baadur Jobava, Nakamura has taken to playing b3, especially in quickplay games, with the idea of retaining pieces to give full scope to his tactical genius at getting the most of his pieces in the middlegame.

2…Nf6 3.Bb2 Bg4 4.e3 e6 5.d3 Be7 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 0–0 8.g3 a5 9.a4 Bb4+ 10.c3 Bd6 11.Bg2

We are out of the opening now and Nakamura starts kingside operations. Watch!

11…Nbd7 12.0–0 Qe7 13.Qe2 c6 14.Nd2 Rfe8 15.e4 dxe4 16.dxe4 Ne5 17.f4 Bc5+ 18.Kh2 Ned7 19.e5 Nd5 20.Rf3 Qf8 21.Ne4 Be7 22.c4 Nb4 23.f5 exf5 24.Rxf5 g6 <D>


Now it begins.

25.e6! gxf5 26.exd7 Red8

[26…fxe4?? 27.Qg4+ followed by mate]


With the idea of Nf6+ Bxf6 Bxf6 and wins

27…f6 28.Qxf5 Qf7 29.Bxf6 Bxf6 30.Nxf6+ Kg7 31.Rf1 Qe7 32.Qxh7+ 1–0

I thought that Peter Svidler might be a dark horse to win this championship as he is a native of St. Petersburg and he usually does well in front of a hometown crowd. He was among the leading group after 9 rounds but got hit with a couple of brilliancies in the latter rounds. Here is one of them.

Svidler, Peter (2753) — Andreikin, Dmitry (2725) [A30]
FIDE Wch Rapid St. Petersburg (10.5), 27.12.2018

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3 Bb7 4.Bg2 g6 5.0–0 c5 6.e3 Bg7 7.d4 0–0 8.Nc3 Ne4 9.Ne2

The most common move here is 9.Bd2, but as in the Nakamura game above, when you are going for a win you strive to retain pieces in the opening so that you will have more wood behind your attacks.

9…Nc6 10.Nf4 e6 11.Re1 f5 12.d5 exd5 13.Nxd5 Ne7 14.Nf4 Qc7 15.a4 g5 16.Nh5 g4 17.Nh4 Ng6 18.Nxg7 Nxh4! 19.gxh4 Kxg7 20.Qc2 Rf6 21.b3 Rh6 22.Bb2+ Kf7 23.Bxe4 Bxe4 24.Qc3 Rg8 25.a5?

If he had seen the threat Svidler would have played 25.Qe5 although after 25…d6 26.Qg3 Qe7 27.Rad1 Rgg6 followed by …Rxh4 Black is still winning.

25…Qxh2+! 26.Kxh2 Rxh4+ 27.Kg3 Rh3+ 28.Kf4 Rf3+ 29.Ke5 Rg6 0–1

Andreikin threatens mate with either …d6 or …Re6. There is no defense.

Now for something interesting, during the first day of play an interviewer asked Dubov what time control he preferred. The surprising answer was:

“I can say what I hate most. I actually hate rapid. Normally a classical game is a serious game — you prepare, you kind of need to sleep at night, you need to be in a very good physical shape. Blitz is exactly the opposite — you don’t care at all. You can be drunk, you can dance all night, whatever happens — you just need to be lucky and it will work. In rapid it’s not that you don’t care at all, but still it’s kind of not exactly a serious type of chess. I normally don’t know — should I party all night or should I sleep all night? Should I do Grischuk style and think with whom should I sleep all night and such stuff. I don’t know!”

So, the current World Rapid Champion hates Rapid chess. Something to think about.


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 for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.