Happy New Year, Chess Fans!
He did it again. If we don't consider the "fake chess," with the pieces randomly placed over the first two ranks, Magnus Carlsen owns all the titles a chessplayer can win.
In the last five days, Magnus added to his already fantastic showcase two more World titles: Rapid and Blitz.
Now he's again the owner of all the titles and the highest-rated player in the three categories.
Most people, when it comes to the end of a year, wish that the new one will be better than the finishing one. Is this possible for the Norwegian ace?
Can Magnus hope for a better year, in 2020?
In 2019 Carlsen won 10 (TEN) tournaments, two world championship titles, and did not lose a single classical game!
In 2020 Magnus will have to defend his most important Title, but at the moment, it's hard to foresee he losing a game against one of the candidates.
The 5-day marathon in Moscow was - as usual - a rollercoaster.
Let's see what happened.
(Comments and annotations by GM Joel Benjamin)
Magnus Carlsen looked to finish off a dominant year in style, and he didn't disappoint. First up was the Rapid Championship, which he won by a comfortable full-point margin, scoring 11.5/15.
Carlsen won games in many ways, but typically he would play a solid opening, maneuver around and either grind out an endgame or develop an attack. Let's first see an endgame, though, in the game against Boris Savchenko, Magnus had to hypnotize his opponent a bit.
In fast chess, the finishes are often not as smooth as they appear to the naked eye. Let's see how Carlsen brewed an attack against Viktor Laznicka, and how the last moves might have gone differently.
The big news before the tournament was the declared intention of switching federations by 16-year-old superstar Alireza Firouzja.
Iran had been barred from entering players at the World Rapid and Blitz because of their policy of refusing to play against Israeli nationals. I said in a previous show that Iranian players could soon look to leave their home country to avoid missing out on opportunities to play and win tournaments. Firouzja played as a stateless player; he is said to be living in France, so that could become his new country (and a great boon to their national team), though of course there has been speculation he might come to the U.S.
It was immediately clear why this tournament was important to Firouzja, who is even stronger at faster time controls. He scored 10.5 to tie for second with Nakamura and Artemiev. Let's see a victory for Alireza over the convincing winner of the recent Sitges tournament:
Carlsen's success was not so smooth in the blitz, but he did get there after winning a playoff match against Hikaru Nakamura. It was good to see Vladimir Kramnik back in action, and his third-place finish, a point and a half back of the winners, was certainly encouraging.
Still, he must have been shaking his head after a patented "Seinfeld" style game by Carlsen, who was seemingly doing nothing until he won the game.
Firouzja was not able to finish quite so highly in the blitz - though the sixth place is still pretty impressive. He could have bested that if he hadn't suffered an unnecessary loss against Carlsen in the 19th round.
Let's not forget about Nakamura, with top-two finishes in both events.
Let's look at snapshots from his games, beginning with a big break against J.K. Duda:
Hikaru was able to befuddle Yu Yangyi with a 19th-century opening:
And finally, a short, sharp battle with a basic mating pattern showing up at the end:
With Carlsen and Nakamura tied at 16.5/21, the playoff went two games when the champ ultimately converged on Nakamura's king:
Our GM Alex Yermolinsky was LIVE on ICCTV to recap the 5 days in Moscow: