Reports Dec 31, 2016 | 2:11 PMby Colin McGourty

Doha Blitz, Day 2: Karjakin ends 2016 as champ

It wasn’t quite the one he wanted, but Sergey Karjakin is World Blitz Champion after edging out Magnus Carlsen on tiebreaks in a thrilling final day of the World Rapid and Blitz in Doha. For most chess players tying for first twice and taking home $68,667 would be considered a good five days’ work, but Magnus was upset enough to storm away from the celebrations. Daniil Dubov took bronze, while in the women’s event Anna Muzychuk won her last five games to claim a brilliant rapid and blitz double gold.

Magnus is thrilled as Sergey Karjakin is about to receive his gold medal | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website

You can replay all 1134 games from the open section of the 2016 World Blitz Championship, with computer analysis, using the selector below:

Karjakin “satisfied”

Sergey Karjakin added the World Blitz Championship title to his 2012 World Rapid Championship and got some measure of revenge for losing the classical World Championship on tiebreaks in New York. He commented afterwards:

This title actually means a lot because after I lost my match against Magnus I felt like ok, it was a good match, but I still need to do something to be satisfied… and now I’m satisfied!

Sergey started and ended the day level on points with his great rival, but spent most of his time playing catch-up. He first fell behind in the very first round of the day, when Magnus beat MVL and things got messy against Morozevich. Karjakin was simply a piece down, but tried one last roll of the dice with 53.Nd4:

Alexander walked straight into the mother of all forks with 53…Rxc5?? 54.Ne6+ and ultimately Sergey not only drew but missed a win.

The darkest moment for the Russian came after a game in which he’d outplayed Hikaru Nakamura and was searching for a way to convert his huge advantage. Instead he found the losing 69.Qg4??

69…Ne3+ White resigns

Everyone could see the funny side... | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website

And then he played Qg4! | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website

That left Karjakin a full point behind Magnus with six rounds to go, but they were back level again in the very next round after Carlsen was again defeated by his Ivanchuk kryptonite...

Once again it was Chucky who had the last laugh | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website

...while Sergey would go on to win five and draw one (vs. Korobov) of his remaining games. Sometimes he did it in real style, as against Peter Leko.

Karjakin has just sacrificed a whole rook on e1, but he’d correctly calculated he had a mating attack! 26.Qxf7+ Kh8 27.Bb2 Rg8 28.Nf5 and Leko resigned, since his only other option would have been to give up pieces to delay the end. Sergey was justifiably proud:

It was just a brilliant game, sacrificing the rook. I would be happy to play such a game in rapid chess, but now it was at the end of the blitz tournament. The game was fantastic!

The crucial game of the day was in the penultimate round. Carlsen scored a shockingly easy win over Vishy Anand and only a win would do for Karjakin against Radek Wojtaszek. As so often, playing for a win at all costs led Karjakin into a dead-lost position:

Wojtaszek here failed to realise that he could take the g-pawn with impunity and his passed e-pawn would go on to win the game. Instead it seemed he’d take a draw by perpetual check, but a sudden rush of blood to the head saw him go on to find a winning attempt that simply lost. In the space of a few moves Magnus went from winning the title (either immediately or after a draw in the last round) to facing an uphill struggle. It was hard to take:

Karjakin still trailed by half a point going into the final round, but he knew if he could win and Carlsen drew he’d take the title, and for those purposes the pairings couldn’t have worked out better. He had White against Baadur Jobava, while Carlsen was Black against Peter Leko. As Karjakin put it himself, “Baadur is never playing for a draw” and “We all know that Peter is solid... and I believed in him!”

The final round in one image - Magnus can't believe he has to take a draw against Leko while Sergey is calmly outplaying Jobava. Chucky walks past oblivious... | photo: Lennart Ootes, Twitter

Both opponents lived up to their reputations. Jobava managed to sacrifice a pawn on move 3 with an idea he’d ventured in one of the rapid games in Doha. 

To say Karjakin was surprised would be an understatement:

The funny thing is that he played an opening which I have never seen in my life. It was just incredible.

There was a happy ending for the Russian, though, as he went on to score a comfortable win, while Magnus’ attempts to whip up something against Leko only saw him come close to losing. He had nothing better than to take a draw by perpetual check.

Check out Karjakin's post-tournament interview:

So Sergey Karjakin ended the defining year of his career so far as the World Blitz Champion. He'd earned the right to do some trolling!

Carlsen’s frustration

Peter Svidler put it best:

Magnus took $36,000 for 1-2 in the blitz and $32,666.67 for 1-3 in the rapid for the top combined earnings of $68,667. He was also the only player to feature on both podiums, but he's the one player in world chess for whom one silver and one bronze medal is below his personal expectations. That was made very clear at the closing ceremony:

When the fireworks began there were even echoes of the post-Game 8 press conference in New York:

On the other hand, there was little arguing with the outcome. Yes, the tiebreaker based on the opponents’ ratings is arbitrary (Sergey Shipov said it was wrong to use a tiebreak not based on how people played in Doha), but Magnus would still have lost out on the more logical first tiebreaker of the score in games between the tied players. He lost to Ivanchuk in the rapid and Karjakin in the blitz and while, for instance, he could regret the Wojtaszek-Karjakin game, there was no sense that luck was particularly against him. As we saw, Karjakin blundered away a won position against Nakamura, while Baadur Jobava lost a game to Carlsen that he memorably claimed his grandmother would have won!

Georgia is a powerhouse of women’s chess, so it’s quite possible she would have frowned on Jobava here giving up his bishop on c6 for the knight on g2 just when a race on two sides of the board was beginning. 42.Bxg2?! (42.Kc3!) didn’t yet throw away the win never mind lose, but it was a step towards disaster. The rest will give Jobava nightmares.

You might also question the ease with which Vishy Anand succumbed in the following round, though the early resignation helped Vishy bounce back with a spectacular effort against Mamedyarov in the final round.

Magnus already plotting a "comeback"? | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website

All in all, it was perhaps the perfect result for chess fans. Magnus played excellent chess with a consistency none of his rivals could match over the five days, but still fell short of winning the titles. It means he’ll be even more hungry when he starts to defend his Tata Steel Masters title in Wijk aan Zee in two weeks’ time. One of his opponents there will, of course, be Sergey Karjakin!

The fight for bronze

The World Blitz Championship is an unforgiving tournament. UAE Grandmaster Saleh Salem could lament:

Day 1 high flyer Alexander Morozevich lost four of his last five games to finish in 30th place, while Marin Bosiocic, 5th after Day 1, finished 42nd after losing six of his last seven. Not everyone at the top dropped down, though. Daniil Dubov ended the first day in third place 1.5 points behind Sergey and Magnus and at the end of Day 2, after three wins and six draws, duly took the bronze medal.

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2 Rprtg+/-
18GMKarjakin SergeyRUS280016,52740259,0296382,6
21GMCarlsen MagnusNOR287316,52735258,0295941,0
321GMDubov DaniilRUS272414,52733259,0286579,8
43GMNakamura HikaruUSA284214,52720256,528539,0
512GMGrischuk AlexanderRUS276114,52718253,0285252,0
66GMVachier-Lagrave MaximeFRA282314,02708252,528201,6
710GMDominguez Perez LeinierCUB278313,02725253,5280613,4
834GMKorobov AntonUKR266613,02708246,0278467,6
916GMIvanchuk VassilyUKR275413,02697254,5277613,8
1015GMAnand ViswanathanIND275413,02695249,0277312,2
1126GMLeko PeterHUN269713,02678238,5275534,2
125GMNepomniachtchi IanRUS283013,02677245,02758-36,6

The big guns made their mark on the second day, though, with Nakamura (6 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw to Carlsen) and Grischuk (5 wins, 4 draws) tying with Dubov for 3-5 place, while MVL (3 wins, 5 draws, 1 loss to Carlsen) took sole sixth place. 

A 2853 rating performance wasn't too shabby for Nakamura, but a bronze medal was within his grasp | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website

The most entertaining game among those was Nakamura-Grischuk, where for a long time it seemed an early blunder by Hikaru would simply be punished without much adventure. Instead we ended up with a crazy position where Nakamura had an extra queen but was almost getting mated, then a dead drawn position, and then a final blunder…

After 67…h2! 68.Rb1 Ne4! there was suddenly no defence against knight forks or simply Nf2 and queening the h-pawn. Hikaru chose 69.Rf1 and resigned after 69…h1=Q!

It was fitting that Grischuk won, though, not just for his earlier play in that game but for his overall play in Doha, where his silver medal in the rapid ($32,666.67) and shared 3-5th place in the blitz ($21,333.33) made him the top earner after Magnus with $54,000.

Grischuk lost his World Blitz title, but had the best facial expression... | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website

A curious incident

The strangest game of the day was the encounter between Egypt’s Ahmed Adly and Argentina’s Diego Flores on board 23 in round 16. It paid off for Adly to keep on playing in a rook vs. knight ending… eventually! When Flores realised he’d blundered he claimed a draw by the 50-move rule, but it turned out only 47 moves had been played since the last capture. Then he made a few more and claimed again, but at the second count the arbiter decided he’d again fallen just short. Then Flores’ plan was clearly to claim a third time, but with a second on his clock he just blitzed out moves and was mated on the board… with the arbiter pointing out no claim had been made. 

You can watch the whole incident below:


Vassily Ivanchuk provided the most memorable moment of the 2015 World Rapid and Blitz Championship when he jumped out of his chair when playing a winning move against Magnus Carlsen, and it’s fair to say he at least came very close to overshadowing Karjakin’s triumph. Vassily’s blitz tournament somewhat fizzled out after he beat Anand and Carlsen in consecutive rounds, but 9th place (tied for 7-12th) was another impressive performance.

Where Ivanchuk really stood out, though, was at the medal ceremony, where he received the rapid gold medal, flowers and even managed to draw a smile from Magnus!

Photos alone don't do it justice!

We could go on all day:

In the words of the man who organised this great event:

Vassily will be back at the chessboard in Gibraltar in a few weeks’ time.

Anna Muzychuk makes it a golden double

Kateryna Lagno (bronze), Anna Muzychuk (gold) & Valentina Gunina (silver) | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website

While the top three remained unchanged from Day 1 in the open event, the women’s tournament saw a dramatic turnaround. Alexandra Kosteniuk lost five games to sink from 1st to 7th, while other players were on fire. Valentina Gunina won seven games and drew one, but it was only enough for silver, since Anna Muzychuk ended with five straight wins to take the title by half a point.

The last game was a thriller, since Antoaneta Stefanova’s attack was crashing through:

24.f4 and 24.Nf4 are among the winning moves, and Antoaneta’s 24.Nc7 didn’t yet spoil anything, but in a few more moves the attack was over, queens were off the board and Anna smoothly converted a better ending into 1st place.

That made it two gold medals and $20,000 in prizes. Anna talked to Anastasia Karlovich:

Kateryna Lagno took bronze:

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2 Rprtg+/-
11GMMuzychuk AnnaUKR264513,02486159,5267618,0
23GMGunina ValentinaRUS260512,52482158,0265422,2
32GMLagno KaterynaRUS264112,52464156,026322,4
46WGMTan ZhongyiCHN255211,02473161,0257210,4
510GMHarika DronavalliIND250110,52499160,0257333,8
620IMCharochkina DariaRUS237510,52470156,5253973,2
712GMKosteniuk AlexandraRUS250010,02484157,5253216,8

So that’s all for the 2016 World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Qatar. The year itself is also about to end, but we won’t have too long to wait for the top stars to be back in action. First off is Wijk aan Zee from 14 January, with Peter Svidler, Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent all lined up to provide commentary here at chess24. First, though, check out Jan's Review of 2016!

Happy New Year! 

See also:

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