We’ll start the year off with a bang, as I have some great action from the World Rapid Championship plus a little extra bonus from the World Blitz, also held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
I can say with authority that sometimes it feels like there is no counterplay for old men. But don’t tell that to Vishy Anand, who at age 48 is the World Rapid Champion. He tallied 10.5/15 and won a playoff match over Vladimir Fedoseev for the title.
Let’s start by showing an awesome cheap shot Vishy used to take down English GM Luke McShane in round 7:
The road to any title goes through Magnus Carlsen, so let’s start by seeing how Vishy did just that in round nine:
Carlsen bounced back with a big win over Ian Nepomniachtchi, who remained a factor until the end. There were some interesting mutual tactical errors late in that game:
Carlsen got his bearings and seemed poised to go all the way after defeating Fedoseev in round 12. He entered the last round tied for first with Anand at 10-4. Anand took a quick draw with Carlsen’s nemesis Bu, while Magnus suffered a shock loss to Alexander Grischuk. It meant that Vishy went through the tournament without a loss. Meanwhile, Fedoseev moved up with a victory over Vladislav Artemiev in the last round. Nepom made it a trio on 10.5 by winning against Wang Hao—let’s take a look at the last bit of that one:
Nepom, unfortunately, was the odd man out on tiebreaks, by virtue of having the weakest average field. So Anand and Fedoseev contested a two-game blitz playoff. Fedoseev had been a frontrunner throughout the event; he started with 6.5/7, but was knocked out of the lead by Carlsen. When he dropped the first playoff game he found himself in a desperate situation. He played with desperation, but it was not enough to knock off Anand in the second game:
Before we move on to the Blitz, special mention has to be made of the brilliant victory by Andrei Esipenko over WC Challenger Sergey Karjakin. Esipenko took it on the chin in last week’s show, but it is important to note he is just fifteen years old. Look what he does to Karjakin:
We saw that Magnus had a rude awakening in the first round of the rapid, and his blitz tournament started out more strangely—let’s recap the bizarre experience that was his game with Ernesto Inarkiev:
Carlsen had a few lulls in the blitz; at one point he drew four games in a row. But on the last day, he turned on the jets with a streak of 8.8/9 that gave him first with a round to spare. His final tally of 16/21 placed him a point and a half ahead of Karjakin, who is an especially strong blitz player, and that old man again, Vishy Anand.
Next week we will likely see some action from traditional holiday events like the Rilton Cup and Hastings, and maybe something from the Pan American Intercollegiate.
GM Joel Benjamin