World Rapid Championships

Published in Chess - 3 mins to read

Today concluded the Rapid Chess World Championships, pretty much the only thing that as kept me sane over the past three days. The women’s section was a done deal seemingly before today even started, with Alexandra Kosteniuk coming into the day an incredible 1.5 points ahead at the top after pulling off some Houdiniesque escapes yesterday, but the open section looked like it could be anybody’s for the taking. Given that the championships are being held in Warsaw, many (myself somewhat included) were hoping that local hero Jan-Krzysztof Duda might be able to capitalise on his early success to storm to victory, but his two draws to start the day were too slow to keep pace with the leaders.

The whole chess world is talking about the potential for Carlsen vs Firouzja for the next classical world championship match, but in the first round of the day it was the turn of a different member of the new generation, 17 year old Uzbeki GM Nordibek Abdusattorov, to upset the incumbent Norwegian triple crown holder. Abdusattorov duly held his nerve in the next couple of rounds and in the final round, it was him, Carlsen, Carlsen’s recent classical world championship match opponent Ian Nepomniatchi, and Carlsen’s previous WC match opponent Fabiano Caruana who were all vying for the title with 9/12, although GMs Nakamura and Duda were on 8.5/12 and with a win could still sneak in on the tie break.

And speaking of the tie break, that’s where everything seemed to go wrong in the last round, as it seemed like Caruana and Carlsen simply didn’t know the rules of the tournament. Often in these kinds of events, when there is a group of players tied for first after the last round, a tie break will be played between all of them, however on this occasion it was only to be held between the top two players based on Buchholz score. Carlsen seemed to have missed the memo, playing the tame and drawish Queen’s Gambit Declined with black against Nakamura, and Caruana offered an absolutely baffling draw against Nepomniatchi on move 6, instantly eliminating himself from contention for the title as well as any additional prize money. Abdusattorov and Nepomniatchi must’ve felt like they’d received a belated Christmas gift as they were the two squaring up for the blitz tie break, in which ultimately the younger GM’s speed and precision won out after he snared Nepo in a difficult rook endgame time scramble.

The event was super enjoyable to follow, even if I didn’t think much of the commentators, and it’s nice to not only see so many of the world’s best duke it out, but also to see so many pairings because of the shorter time format. I’m sure I will be similarly glued to the next two days of the blitz championship.