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Reports Dec 29, 2021 | 1:00 PMby Colin McGourty

Abdusattorov & Kosteniuk win World Rapid gold

17-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov is the youngest ever World Rapid Champion after beating Ian Nepomniachtchi in a blitz tiebreak. The 2-player tiebreak was controversial since four players had tied for 1st, but since Nodirbek had beaten both Magnus Carlsen (bronze) and Fabiano Caruana (4th) in rapid chess, his overall victory was richly deserved. Alexandra Kosteniuk survived some tricky moments to win her first Women’s World Rapid Championship, while another 17-year-old, Bibisara Assaubayeva, took silver, and Valentina Gunina bronze.


You can replay all the games from the 2021 World Rapid Championship in Warsaw using the selector below. 

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko. 

Magnus Carlsen went into the final day of the World Rapid Championship with the sole lead, but it didn’t last long. 

Abdusattorov's win over Carlsen ensured a dramatic final day | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

It seemed that he’d outplayed Nodirbek Abdusattorov with the black pieces, but slight inaccuracies from Magnus and tenacious defence from the youngster left a position where it was time for Magnus to accept a draw. 

In the 42 seconds Magnus took here he must have been contemplating the simple draw with 51…Qxh5! 52.Qxh5 Ng3+, but instead he “played for a win” with 51…f5!?, based on the same trick that 52.Qxf5 runs into the winning 52…Ng3+. Nodirbek played 52.h6!, however, and the passed h-pawn meant that he had all the chances.

Nodirbek would say afterwards:

I was a little bit lucky because he could have just forced a draw immediately with Qxh5. Overall the game was pretty much equal, all the way till the end, because he played f5 and played on, but I thought that I was not risking whatsoever. 

Instead it was Magnus who had condemned himself to a miserable defence, and Nodirbek missed some chances before he finally sealed victory just after move 80.


81…Qc8+ or 81…Qf8+ and it turns out Magnus was still objectively drawing, but after 81…b4? 82.Qd2+! Ka1 83.Qd4+! Magnus resigned, since when the queens are exchanged the h-pawn will turn into a new queen. 

A huge win for the youngster, who overtook Magnus and was joined by Ian Nepomniachtchi, who defeated Alexander Grischuk on time. It’s also noteworthy that in failing to convert a winning position against Hikaru Nakamura, Alireza Firouzja dropped out of the running for 1st place.

Magnus would have been proud of the way Nodirbek exploited his chances at the end | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE 

Magnus had a chance to catch Nepo immediately in the next round, since the players were paired together for their first game since the World Championship match in Dubai. 

With so much at stake it was perhaps no surprise that both players seemed willing to burn their match preparation — while our commentators Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko, who worked for opposing teams during that match, couldn’t spill the beans!

Remembering deep prep at rapid speed isn’t easy, however, and it seems that Ian first strayed with 14…cxd4?

Here, however, Magnus blitzed out 15.Nxd4?! only to freeze for a huge 7 minutes after 15…Nc5! It’s highly likely he realised that he’d missed the zwischenzug 15.Na4! Rb8 and only then 16.Nxd4!, when the black knight can no longer come to c5.

That miss essentially cost any winning chances in the game, and suddenly Magnus found himself caught by Hikaru Nakamura (who beat Hovhanissyan), Alexander Grischuk (Alekseenko), Levon Aronian (Mitrabha) and 15-year-old Gukesh (Jobava). 

Levon Aronian joined the race for first | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Meanwhile Abdusattorov continued to lead with Nepo after twice surviving a dead lost position against Vladimir Fedoseev. 


47.Nf7! was a killer move, when after 47…Nxf6 (otherwise the knight will do huge damage by jumping to h6) 48.Nxd8 both Black pieces are attacked and White has a trivial win. Luckily for Nodirbek, Fedoseev quickly played another tempting option 47.Rh6, but after 47…Nf4! Abdusattorov was able to fight his way back and save the game. 

Magnus was now in a dog-fight if he wanted to win the tournament, and he showed huge fighting spirit to grind out a win against Levon Aronian. The ending had seemed as though it would be drawn, but gradually powerful silicon and an equally impressive Peter Leko found a path to victory. 

Magnus did the same.

There was less of a fight in Nepomniachtchi-Nakamura, where Hikaru let most of his tournament winning chances go by taking a 14-move draw. 

Meanwhile Abdusattorov once again demonstrated his ability to bamboozle opponents from seemingly hopeless positions. This time it was his teenage colleague Gukesh, who would still have been winning with e.g. 30.Be2!, but after 30.cxb7 was hit by the stunning resource 30…Re5+!

The rook can’t be taken as Qd2 would then be checkmate, while 31.Be2 now was met by 31…Rxe2+! 32.Kf1 Rxf2+ 33.Kg1 Qg7+! 34.Kxf2 Qg3+ and it was a draw by perpetual check. “Very exciting… I would have enjoyed it more if I’d won!”, said Gukesh afterwards.

Grischuk-Nakamura was one of the day's most spectacular games | photo: Anna Shtourman, FIDE

The picture going into the final round was completed by Fabiano Caruana winning a stunning game against Alexander Grischuk. Things were already crazy on move 20.


Pieces are en prise everywhere, potential mate on g2 is a detail not to be overlooked, and White is now also threatening to win the black queen with Ne7. 

Fabi thought for almost three minutes before deciding, correctly, to give up his queen with 20…gxf3! 21.Ne7+ Kb8 22.Nxd5 f2+ 23.Kf1 Bxd5.


In a classical game you might spend an hour trying to work out what’s going on, but in this case decisions had to be made in seconds and eventually Fabi emerged victorious to join the leaders at the perfect moment. 

In previous years the World Rapid Championship has been played over 15 rounds, but this year that had been reduced to 13. The schedule feels more humane, but it did put huge pressure on the players in the final round. We got lucky, in a way, that the pairings were so good — as our commentators explained, no-one could be happy!

2018 and 2021 World Championship Challengers Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi faced each other, and we could barely reflect on how hard it would be for either to win before a blink-and-you-missed-it draw was agreed.

As we would see, that made a lot more sense for Ian Nepomniachtchi, who was guaranteed a playoff unless either Magnus or Nodirbek won, while for Fabiano it almost certainly meant any hopes of winning the tournament were gone. What had motivated his decision? Anna Kantane asked him shortly afterwards.

As you can see, it was a combination of factors — exhaustion, not having any Petroff-killing weapon available to hand, and not wanting to take excessive risks that might backfire. To get ahead of ourselves a little — Fabiano may have finished 4th, beyond the podium, but he took home the same $45k as the other players tied for first, while a loss would have cost him over $40k. 

Nodirbek Abdusattorov had the white pieces, but in Jan-Krzysztof Duda he was facing the Polish no. 1, who knew that a win would give him a great chance of sharing first place on home soil. Sure enough, Duda took over and came very close to winning, with Nodirbek later commenting:

It was a very tough game because I played very painfully in the opening and then got a very bad position, and somehow miraculously I held the game because he was very low on time. That was a bit of luck, but in these tournaments without luck it’s very hard to achieve the win. 

For a while it looked promising for Magnus, but in the end Duda would do him no favours in his game against Abdusattorov | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

The final pairing saw Magnus Carlsen play with the black pieces against Hikaru Nakamura, a repeat of the final game of the 2019 World Rapid Championship. Back then Hikaru trailed by a full point and Magnus needed only a draw to clinch overall victory, which he got in an uneventful 22 moves. 

This time, however, both players essentially needed to win — Hikaru to reach the tie for 1st, and Magnus to win the tournament outright. By this stage he knew his tiebreaks might well not be enough to reach a playoff if he drew and there was a tie for 1st.

Nakamura-Carlsen almost decided the fate of the title | photo: Mark Livshitz, FIDE

The game saw Magnus play what looked to be some more match preparation…

…but at first it seemed Hikaru’s sensible response had comfortably eliminated any danger. Nevertheless, a few missed chances to simplify and suddenly Magnus got an endgame he could try to grind out for a win, and he came incredibly close.

Here abandoning the f5-pawn with 59…Re2! was in fact winning, while after 59…Ke6 60.Rf3! Hikaru was holding. Magnus would later tell Norwegian TV:

I have mixed feelings obviously. It was a very, very tough day. I felt bad, but I am very happy how I recovered after the first game today, and in the second game against Ian it was almost going in the wrong direction until I pulled myself together. In the last few rounds I didn't have much to give, but I fought well. There was apparently one moment where I could have won against Nakamura, but you can't expect to find that every time.

The draw meant that all the leaders had drawn and finished tied for 1st. 

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
159Abdusattorov NodirbekUZB25939,5103,0109,02674
24Nepomniachtchi IanCFR27989,5100,5107,52699
31Carlsen MagnusNOR28429,597,0103,02691
46Caruana FabianoUSA27709,595,0100,02649
53Duda Jan-KrzysztofPOL28019,098,0103,02679
614Aronian LevonUSA27289,096,0100,02544
72Nakamura HikaruUSA28369,095,5102,02650
815Mamedyarov ShakhriyarAZE27279,092,098,02588
9174Gukesh DIND20509,091,095,02619
1010Rapport RichardHUN27509,088,094,02592
119Karjakin SergeyCFR27579,078,582,52519

They all took home $45,000, while the group of players on 9 points took just under $15,000 each. The controversial regulations for the event meant that only the two players with the best mathematical tiebreakers would take go on to a playoff, leaving Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana out of the running. The World Champion called that, “completely idiotic”, and you can read much more about that controversy in our separate article on the tiebreak regulations.

Things went like a dream for Nodirbek Abdusattorov | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Ian Nepomniachtchi himself had experience of missing out, having tied for 1st place with Vishy Anand and Vladimir Fedoseev in Riyadh in 2017, though the huge $150,000 prize that he took home was again decent compensation for not getting a tiebreak — Vishy would go on to take gold at the age of 48. 

This time he was in, however, and his opponent was 17-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

The first playoff game ended in a draw | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

The format had changed slightly so that the players would begin with two 3+2 blitz games, and if the score was 1:1 they’d then keep playing blitz games until one of the players won. In the end, however, only two games would be needed, with Ian Nepomniachtchi living to regret not taking his chance in the first game. 


Once again it was a case of one of Nodirbek’s opponents getting a winning position but no time to convert it. 39.Kg3! and a series of only moves to follow could have led Ian to victory, but after 39.Nc7 Kxg4 Nepo had to end a race that could have backfired by exchanging off all the material for a draw. 

The 2nd tiebreak game, however, was the only time all day that Nodirbek was never losing. In fact he soon built up a big advantage, spoilt it somewhat, and then took over again, until a simply insane finish ensued. Nodirbek had a simple mate-in-2 after move 45, then a tricky one after move 46, and again on move 47!


48.Rg5+! hxg5 (48...Kh4 49.Re4#) 49.Rh7# was the way to finish the game in style. “I had a feeling I missed some very easy mate, but I was very low on time,” he would say afterwards. 

In the game 48.Re1? Rd5+ gave Ian chances to survive again, but soon Nodirbek got another chance and this time he methodically converted his advantage to clinch an amazing victory. 

Nodirbek Abdusattorov becomes the World Rapid Champion | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Nodirbek had needed a series of great escapes on the final day, but there was no way you could argue with the players he’d managed to beat. 

Magnus was magnanimous.

Ian had at least taken a silver medal, while Magnus took bronze.

It was the third playoff victory for Nodirbek in quick succession after winning two open tournaments in Spain, and we can be certain there’s a lot more to come from the young star. Perhaps the most striking thing about him has been how calmly he’s taken his wins, always looking to the challenge ahead. That, and his response when asked if he’d expected a result like this.

Somehow yes, I expected that it can happen!

Some players are destined for greatness. 

There’s plenty more we could say about the World Rapid Championship, with one of the most remarkable comebacks being posted by Sergey Karjakin. 

He made it up to the big tie for 5th place, but while he was pleased with that performance…

…he noted another curiosity.

The lagging of rapid and blitz ratings behind classical is partly down to the pandemic and will be solved by more events, but Sergey’s suggestion is also worth considering.

Alexandra Kosteniuk with her husband Pavel Tregubov after clinching the title | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

In the women’s event, meanwhile, things were notably simpler. Alexandra Kosteniuk went into the final day with a 1.5-point lead, but she had a very tough start with Black against Humpy Koneru. At one point she was dead lost, but all it took was one imprecise move, 37.f5?, and suddenly with 37…e2! Black had chances, until it was possible to force a draw. 


After 43…Rxh3+! Humpy tried to dodge the perpetual with 44.Kg1, but after 44…Qf4! there was no choice but to take and allow a draw. 

Kateryna Lagno could have forced a playoff with a win, but was uncomfortable with her position when she offered a draw | photo: Anna Shtourman, FIDE

In the 2nd game of the day Alexandra drew against 17-year-old Bibisara Assaubayeva from Kazakhstan, who would take silver, before she went into the final round knowing that a draw against top seed Kateryna Lagno would guarantee her gold. If Kateryna won, however, she would force a playoff, and, at least going by computer evaluations, that looked a possibility. 

It turned out, however, that Kateryna felt anything but comfortable in the position, and, down on the clock, she offered a draw. She explained what had happened afterwards. 

That result saw Valentina Gunina take the bronze medal, while Alexandra Kosteniuk finally had a Rapid gold to add to her medal collection. 

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
13GMKosteniuk AlexandraCFR25159,069,073,52377
219IMAssaubayeva BibisaraKAZ23698,565,069,52263
35GMGunina ValentinaCFR24998,072,578,02374
41GMLagno KaterynaCFR25458,068,573,52299
578WIMSerikbay AsselKAZ20237,572,077,02399
67GMKoneru HumpyIND24837,568,071,02281
79GMDzagnidze NanaGEO24717,567,572,02307
820IMPaehtz ElisabethGER23677,563,067,52232
911GMStefanova AntoanetaBUL24437,562,565,52291
1030WGMMichna MartaGER22917,561,565,52146
1110GMAbdumalik ZhansayaKAZ24497,560,564,02236
1215IMMammadova GulnarAZE23887,560,065,02246
136GMMuzychuk AnnaUKR24977,558,563,02198


Alexandra gave a press conference afterwards. 

So the World Rapid Championship is over, but there’s no break before things get even more intense, with the year ending with the World Blitz Championship, which remains the traditional 21-round ordeal. Don’t miss all the action live here on chess24 from 15:00 CET/09:00 ET: Blitz OpenBlitz Women

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