Vassily Ivanchuk is Rapid World Champion after finishing level on points with Alexander Grischuk (silver) and Magnus Carlsen (bronze) in Doha but edging them both on tiebreaks. Anna Muzychuk made it a famous double for Ukraine as she cruised to victory in the women’s event, finishing a point ahead of Alexandra Kosteniuk (silver) and 1.5 points clear of Nana Dzagnidze (bronze). On Thursday and Friday play speeds up with the World Blitz Championship.
You can play through all the rapid games using the selector below – hover over a player’s name to see all his results:
The death of Carrie Fisher was the latest sucker punch in a year that just seems to keep on taking, but seeing Vassily Ivanchuk win a World Championship is some kind of redemption for 2016. No-one has ever doubted his talent but, as Vlad Tkachiev noted in his article Is Ivanchuk a genius?, the 47-year-old Ukrainian has failed to shine on the very highest stage:
While collecting material for this article I was incredibly surprised to discover that Vassily doesn’t have so many official titles: the 2004 European Champion, a 4-time Olympiad Champion – twice with the USSR team and twice leading Ukraine. 1st place in the 2001 World Team Championship, 2007 World Blitz Champion. And that’s all!
At the same time, Ivanchuk is the winner of a multitude of events of different kinds and levels, including the chess Wimbledon – Linares, three (!) times. But that’s not the main thing. He’s a genius. Acknowledged. In his own lifetime.
Now Chucky is only missing the classical World Championship, after a day full of surprising twists started with Ivanchuk losing a pawn and then an opposite-coloured bishop ending to Ian Nepomniachtchi. The Russian star would lead until the penultimate round, when he lost to Magnus Carlsen in a game reminiscent of the 3rd rapid game from the Carlsen-Karjakin match, with the black pieces invading on the 2nd rank:
That was Nepo’s first loss of the event and led to a crazy 5-way tie before the final round. He went on to lose to Grischuk and finish in only 6th place:
The only other unbeaten record, that of Vishy Anand, also fell in the penultimate round, and it was in dramatic circumstances. The former World Champion had been “playing for two results”, a white win or a draw, before 61.Rf5?? allowed a scarcely credible third:
61…Rxe5! brought resignation, since a knight fork on f3
would of course follow if the rook is captured.
It was a case of what might have been for Vishy, since he also let a win slip away in Round 12 against Alexander Riazantsev:
42.Rd8! wins on the spot, with 42…Kc7 best met by 43.Nd5+, but instead after 42.d5? Kc7 Vishy even came close to losing.
For Chucky, meanwhile, that result meant he went into the final round knowing that a win against Hrant Melkumyan would give him the title whatever happened in the other games… it would also simplify things for the rest of us!
Vassily got little out of the opening, but just when it looked as though he’d be playing one of the longer games of the round he’d suddenly won! 35…h5? was the point of no return.
36.Bd6! set up a mating net, and after 36…Qc8 37.Qe7+ Kg8 38.Be5 Melkumyan resigned since the only defence against mate would be to give up the b7-bishop.
And just like that, Ivanchuk was World Rapid Champion! He put his success down to luck, which had a grain of truth to it, but of course no-one has ever won such an event without luck, while sheer talent and, surprisingly, excellent time management, played a huge role:
Plus, of course, an undying love of chess. Who else would take a great interest in the second last game of the day to finish just after winning the title?
Garry Kasparov was among those singing the praises of Ivanchuk:
The mathematical tiebreakers were somewhat arbitrary, but Ivanchuk played both Grischuk and Carlsen and would have won their mini-league, while he would also be first on another tiebreaker...
The final standings at the top looked as follows:
Although Grischuk and Carlsen missed out on the gold medal the top three money prizes are shared, meaning they each take home $32,667. Alexander had a fine and stable final day, missing wins against Dominguez and Ivanchuk and then scoring deserved wins against Amonatov, MVL and Nepomniachtchi. He even analysed in style…
It was a little different for Magnus.
Magnus Carlsen noted afterwards that he’d begun each day of the rapid championship badly, losing in the second round on the first and second days and then losing in the first round of the final day. Anton Korobov had been contemplating resignation after his opening, but 18.Ng5? was a spectacular move with a fatal flaw:
White’s big idea is Rh8+, Qh3+ and mate on h7, while there are variations on that scheme depending on what Black does. What Magnus seemed to have missed, though, was that 18…Bxg2! covers the critical h3-square. The mating threat is stymied, so attention swiftly turned to the hapless white king. Carlsen stumbled on for only five more moves before admitting defeat.
As on the other days, though, the World Champion came storming back, this time with four wins, against Vidit, Riazantsev, Nepomniachtchi and Mamedyarov. Nothing they tried seemed to help.
It was the old Magnus, making something out of nothing to win a pawn, for instance, against Riazantsev, with 54…f4! then breaking down Riazantsev’s attempted fortress:
Magnus also talked to Peter Doggers after the event was over, offering generous praise to Ivanchuk:
Levan Pantsulaia’s astonishing start, beating Carlsen, Jakovenko, Artemiev and Nakamura and drawing Nepomniachtchi, Tomashevsky and MVL, was too good to last. He went on to lose five games in a row, draw the last two and end in 61st place.
For others that pattern was reversed. 21-year-old Spanish player David Anton was in 68th place after 9 rounds, not far off his expected 62nd place.
As a former Spanish Blitz Champion his aspirations were no doubt higher, but who could have predicted he’d end with six wins in a row to finish in the tie for 4th place with Mamedyarov, Yu Yangyi and Nepomniachtchi?
The undoubted fan favourite, though, was the unrated Mohamed Ali Dima from Djibouti. In an event where unless you were a national champion you needed to be rated 2500 or above, he may have been a little out of his depth, with the first game a sign of things to come.
Our hero had Black... The underdog didn’t spoil what became the event’s only perfect result, with the 15th loss also ending in mate. He probably can't wait for the blitz!
In contrast to all the drama in the open section, Anna Muzychuk never lost control.
She came into the final day with a 1.5 point lead, comfortably drew her three games with the white pieces and then came out on top in the one potential stumbling block with Black against Valentina Gunina:
27.Nd5!? was a typical attempt to sow chaos by Valentina, but Anna took the knight, defused the danger and went on to score a smooth win.
Alexandra Kosteniuk took clear silver a point behind on 8.5/12, and noted on Twitter that this was her 3rd time as runner-up in the World Rapid Championship (!), while Nana Dzagnidze took bronze with 8/12.
So only two days now remain of chess action in Doha, but half the prize fund, a whopping $240,000 is still up for grabs. The open section will see no less than 21 rounds of fast and furious 3 minutes + 2-second increment blitz.
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