Reports Jun 17, 2014 | 11:44 AMby Colin McGourty

Rapid Day 1: Caruana, Karjakin and Nepo lead

The World Rapid Championship started on the 16th June with 113 participants from 46 countries. At the end of the first of three days’ play Russians Ian Nepomniachtchi and Sergey Karjakin were joined in an early tournament lead on 4.5/5 by Italy’s Fabiano Caruana. The first day was marked by upsets, and we include analysis of two shock first round defeats for Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander Morozevich.  

Report based on the official website's Day 1 report

Round-up of the day's action

No Norway Chess hangover for Sergey Karjakin! He's already among the leaders of the Rapid World Championship | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, official website

After three rounds four grandmasters – Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin, Jobava Baadur and Viktor Laznicka – were leading the field with 3/3. Just as last year Nepomniachtchi then became the only player to reach a perfect score of 4/4, after defeating Viktor Laznicka, but his sole reign didn’t last long as he drew his Round 5 game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to let Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruano catch him again.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen conceded two draws against Gadir Guseinov and Evgeny Tomashevsky, but won his three remaining games to lie only half a point behind the leaders. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Le Quang Liem and Sergei Movsesian are also on 4/5.

Judit Polgar had a very impressive start with 3.5/4, including wins against GMs Rauf Mamedov and Pentala Harikrishna. She shared second place after 4 rounds but was knocked down to 10th place after losing to Sergey Karjakin.

Standings after 5 rounds

Rg.SnrNameFEDEloPkt. Wtg1  Wtg2 Rp
111Nepomniachtchi IanRUS27684.5269413.03046
22Caruana FabianoITA28404.5267913.03039
38Karjakin SergeyRUS27814.5266912.03028
414Vachier-Lagrave MaximeFRA27494.0269114.02917
54Carlsen MagnusNOR28274.0268213.02914
636Fressinet LaurentFRA26814.0267010.52803
718Le Quang LiemVIE27244.0264911.52867
828Movsesian SergeiARM26964.0260510.02803
933Jobava BaadurGEO26883.5276413.52861
1056Polgar JuditHUN26563.5272613.02749
1173Riazantsev AlexanderRUS25973.5270511.52769
1243Van Wely LoekNED26743.5269015.02782
1331Tomashevsky EvgenyRUS26933.5268314.02803
1438Laznicka ViktorCZE26793.5268314.02700
1560Georgiev KirilBUL26423.5266610.02687
166Svidler PeterRUS27873.5266111.02804
179Anand ViswanathanIND27703.5265411.02797
1826Ragger MarkusAUT27013.5265310.52785
193Grischuk AlexanderRUS28283.5264511.02781
2013Radjabov TeimourAZE27503.526219.52746
2132Bacrot EtienneFRA26923.5262010.52734
2215Morozevich AlexanderRUS27323.526209.02743
2340Efimenko ZaharUKR26773.526028.02714

Let’s take a look at the action round-by-round:

Round 1

This was where the surprises began, with top players such as Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian losing to lower-rated opponents.

25-year-old Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli of Venezuela (2652) beat Hikaru Nakamura (2841) in 49 moves of an English Opening. chess24's IM Pepe Cuenca takes a look at the game:

The whole chess world knows how strong “Itu” is in speed chess, and in this game he managed to beat no lesser player than the no. 1 ranked rapid player in the world, America’s Hikaru Nakamura.

1. ♘f3 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 ♘f6 4. ♘c3 a6 5. ♕c2 g6 6. d4 ♗g7 7. b3 The first surprise by Itu. This move has barely been played at an elite level. In 2010 Iturrizaga chose Bd3 in a game that ended in a draw:

7. ♗d3 0-0 8. 0-0 ♗g4 9. ♘e5 e6 10. ♘xg4 ♘xg4 11. h3 ♘f6 12. b3 ♘bd7 13. ♗b2 ♖e8 14. ♖ad1 ♕a5 15. ♖fe1 c5 16. ♕d2 dxc4 17. bxc4 cxd4 18. exd4 ♘b6 19. ♘e4 ♕xd2 20. ♘xd2 ♖ad8 21. ♗a1 ♘h5 22. c5 ♘a4 23. ♘b3 e5 24. ♗e4 1/2-1/2 Iturrizaga Bonelli,E (2599)-Fargere,F (2489), Marrakesh 2010

7... dxc4 Black temporarily cedes the centre in order to hit back in the near future.

8. bxc4 c5 9. d5 b5 A very interesting move, leading to Benko Gambit like positions. The difference is the absence of pawns on d6 and b2.

10. ♗b2 0-0 11. cxb5 axb5 12. ♗xb5 ♘a6

12... ♗f5 seems stronger, exploiting the fact that 13. e4  doesn’t work due to (13. ♕d2 ♘e4 14. ♘xe4 ♗xb2 15. ♕xb2 ♗xe4 16. 0-0 ♗xf3 17. gxf3 ♕xd5 when Black’s position is quite healthy ; 13. ♕c1 ♘xd5 and Black is no worse.) 13... ♘xe4!

13. 0-0 White prefers to complete his development and return the pawn.

13. e4

13... ♘b4 14. ♕e2 ♘bxd5 15. ♖fd1 ♘xc3 Black needs to get rid of the pin as soon as possible, as otherwise he’ll have problems on the d-file.

16. ♗xc3 ♕c7 17. a4 ♗b7 18. ♖ac1 It’s difficult to resist the temptation to attack the c5-pawn with the rook. In this case it would have been interesting to exploit the fact that the bishop is on b7 by pushing the pawn directly with

18. a5 ♘g4 19. ♗xg7 ♗xf3 20. ♕xf3 ♕xh2+ 21. ♔f1 ♕h4 22. g3 ♕h5 23. ♕d5 ♕h3+ 24. ♕g2 ♕xg2+ 25. ♔xg2 ♔xg7+/= with a slight edge.

18... ♖fc8 19. ♕c4 ♗xf3 20. gxf3 Black should take on f3. White was already threatening moves like Be5.

20... e6 21. ♗d4

21. a5 seems stronger. 21... ♘d5 22. ♗e1!+/= or Bd2 - it’s correct not to exchange on g7 and instead maintain the bishop pair. 

21... ♘d5 22. ♕xc5 ♕d8 23. ♕a3 Black has managed to create counterplay.

23... ♕g5+ 24. ♔h1 ♕h5 25. ♗e2 ♗f8 The first error. Better was

25... ♖xc1 26. ♕xc1 (26. ♖xc1? ♗xd4 27. exd4 ♕h4! with a black edge) 26... ♕h4!= 27. ♗xg7 ♔xg7 28. ♕b2+ ♕f6 and Black seems to hold the position.

26. ♖xc8! ♖xc8 27. ♕b2 ♕h4 28. ♔g2 ♕g5+ 29. ♔h1 ♕h4 30. ♗a6 Logical, but not the best move. 

30. ♗f1 ♕h5 31. ♗g2 and White retains a small edge while the g2-bishop lets its monarch breathe a little more easily.

A bad start for Nakamura, who fell to rapid specialist Iturrizaga | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, official website

30... ♗d6

30... ♕h3! was the better option for Naka. 31. ♕e2 ♖c7 32. f4 ♘b4 Looking to enter on c2. 33. ♗d3 ♘xd3 34. ♕xd3 ♕f3+ 35. ♔g1 ♕g4+ 36. ♔f1=

31. ♔g2

31. f4! Maybe Itu saw some ghosts with 31... ♘xf4 but it doesn’t work due to 32. ♗h8! ♗f8 33. exf4+−

31... ♕xh2+ 32. ♔f1 ♖b8 33. ♗b5 h5 34. ♔e2 ♕g2 35. ♗h8 ♗f8 36. ♗e5 ♖a8? Black should look to invade on the c-file with

36... ♖c8

a) 37. a5 ♕g5 38. a6 ♗a3 39. ♕xa3 ♕xe5 40. ♔e1 (40. a7? ♘c3+ 41. ♔e1 ♕xb5!∓ ) 40... ♘xe3 41. fxe3 ♕xb5=

b) 37. ♖c1

37. ♗c6! The Venezuelan eliminates one of Black’s most dangerous pieces (the knight) and tries to make his passed pawn count.

37... ♖a5 38. ♗xd5 exd5 39. ♕b6 ♕g5? The decisive error. The only way to hold was  

39... ♖xa4 40. ♕f6 ♖a2+ 41. ♗b2 (41. ♔d3 ♖a3+ 42. ♔e2 ♖a2+ ) 41... ♖xb2+ 42. ♕xb2+− and White has a good advantage, but he’d still have to do some work to convert it into a win and would need to keep an eye on Black’s passed h-pawn.

40. ♗f4! ♕f5 41. ♕xa5 The rest is easy. A good victory for Iturrizaga against one of the world’s best players.

41... ♕c2+ 42. ♕d2 ♕xa4 43. ♕xd5 h4 44. ♕d7 ♕c4+ 45. ♕d3 ♕e6 46. ♗d6 ♗g7 47. ♕e4 ♕a2+ 48. ♔f1 ♕b3 49. ♕d3


World no. 2 Levon Aronian also suffered an upset in round 1 at the hands of Indian GM Surya Ganguly, who essayed the Evans Gambit and won a rook and pawn endgame in a marathon 69 moves. Both Nakamura and Aronian finished the first day on +1.

Another top GM to fall was Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, who blundered in a winning position against Amin Bassem of Egypt in 43 moves.

Alexander Morozevich of Russia was yet another big name to lose in the first round, as he surrendered to David Anton Guijarro of Spain. David's coach IM David Martinez takes a look at that game for chess24:

1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 e6 3. d3 The King's Indian Attack is a good idea for a rapid game as the opening is easy for White to play but still gives attacking options. The idea is to fianchetto the light-squared bishop, close (or at least control) the centre, switch the b1-knight to the kingside... and attack! All of this - plus a lot more nuances - has been covered by David in his Spanish chess24 series on the King's Indian Attack.

3... b6 4. ♘bd2 ♗b7 5. g3 d6 6. ♗g2 ♗e7 7. 0-0 ♘f6 8. ♖e1 0-0 9. c3 Beginning to expand in the centre.

9... ♘c6 10. a3 Necessary to stop the black knight jumping to b4 after a central advance.

10... b5 11. d4 cxd4 12. cxd4 a5 13. b3! With this pawn push David ensures that the queenside will be closed.

13... d5 Starting a plan to bring the f6-knight to c4.

14. e5 ♘d7 15. ♘f1 a4 16. b4 ♘b6 17. h4 David, meanwhile, follows the normal plan of bringing his knight to g4. The h-pawn can also serve as a battering ram to break through Black's king position.

17... ♘c4 18. ♘1h2 ♗c8 Overprotecting e6 to support a central break.

19. ♘g4 f5 20. exf6 gxf6 In order to open up the centre Morozevich has greatly weakened his kingside.

21. ♗h6 ♖f7 22. ♘e3! The knight has already served its purpose on the kingside - creating a weakness - and heads for new targets.

22... ♘d6

22... ♘xa3 would have been an interesting sacrifice. After 23. ♖xa3 ♗xb4 24. ♖a1 ♗xe1 25. ♘xe1 Black can continue with 25... a3 and these pawns mean that White can't feel so free to act on the kingside. However, if the pawns are blocked successfully then in the long run they'll be weak.

23. ♖c1 ♗d7 24. ♗h3 Aiming at the new weakness - e6.

24... ♖c8 25. ♗g4 Threatening to win the exchange with Bh5.

25... ♗f8 26. ♗xf8 ♖xf8 27. ♘g2! The knight's journey continues - it's now heading for f4.

27... f5 28. ♗h3 ♘c4 29. ♘f4 ♕f6 30. ♖c3 The idea is to double on the e-file.

30... ♖ce8 31. ♗f1 In order to double the knight first has to be eliminated!

31... ♔h8 32. ♗xc4 dxc4 33. ♖ce3 With very logical play David has managed to positionally crush Morozevich, who has no counterplay at all.

33... ♖g8 34. ♔h2 White already has various winning moves, but David, knowing he has all the time in the world, improves his position before swinging into action.

34... ♘e7 35. ♖xe6 Here we go!

35... ♗xe6 36. ♖xe6 ♕f8 37. d5 Preparing to invade with the queen.

37... ♕g7 38. ♕e2 Black is left with almost no moves.

38... c3 39. d6 c2 40. ♕xc2 ♘g6 41. ♖xe8 ♖xe8 42. ♘h5 The d-pawn and the weakness of the black king position, especially on the dark squares, decide the game.

42... ♕a1 43. d7 ♖f8 44. ♕c7 ♕b2 45. ♔g2 f4 46. d8Q fxg3 47. ♕d4+ A magnificent game from David Antón. Both the quality of his play and the strength of his opponent make it a model game for the King's Indian Attack.


Round 2

Mamedyarov had started the tournament like a juggernaut and used the Trompowsky to trap Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia in only 24 moves. Thirteen players reached 2/2. Among them was Sergey Karjakin, who employed the Nimzo-Indian Defence and pried open the castled king of Swiss Vadim Milov with a bishop sacrifice on move 25 to force resignation seven moves later.

Chinese GM Yu Yangyi crushed Peter Svidler’s Sicilian Defence in 33 moves with a kingside pawn storm followed by a bishop sacrifice.

Top woman player GM Judit Polgar of Hungary beat Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan to tie for the lead.

Round 3

Former Dubai Open Champion Baadur Jobava halted the advance of defending champion Mamedyarov in the third round. In a queen’s pawn game Jobava used a kingside pawn storm and won his opponent’s queen with a knight fork on the 27th move, to force resignation 7 moves later.

Jobava was one of only four players to move to a perfect 3/3.

Sergey Karjakin gained revenge for his countryman Svidler by winning a minor piece endgame against Yu Yangyi in 72 moves. Nepomniachtchi used the Sicilian Najdorf to win a piece and the game against Arkadij Naditsch of Germany in 37 moves.

The final player in the share of the lead was Victor Laznicka of the Czech Republic, who crushed the Dutch Defence of Francisco Vallejo Pons in 48 moves.

Round 4

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Magnus Carlsen and Peter Heine-Nielsen during a break from the action | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, official website

Nepomniachtchi grabbed the sole lead on a perfect four points after beating Viktor Laznicka in the English Opening, where he won an endgame in 50 moves.

Karjakin drew with Jobava, with those players caught by Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Judit Polgar on 3.5/4.

Round 5

In the last round of the day Karjakin beat Judit Polgar in 62 moves, while Caruana made short work of Jobava in only 26 moves. They caught Nepomniachtchi to form a leading trio on 4.5/5.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen lies half a point back with the French duo of Vachier-Lagrave and Laurent Fressinet as well as Le Quang Liem and Sergei Movsesian.

Nepomniachtchi interview 

One of the leaders, Ian Nepomniachtchi, felt it was much too early to make predictions, as he told Anastasiya Karlovich:

The tournament is going fine despite the fact that I missed the opening ceremony because my flight was delayed. It didn’t hurt me too much, it seems. Right now I have a very good result, only half a point lost, but some experience from last year tells me that it’s not about how good you are after the first day or the second day – you should play equally strong every day. Probably the whole fight will be in the next two days. Nothing is clear right now.

He'd recently tweeted about his flight with Fly Emirates:

And he added: "somehow it took me 7 hours to realise that I’m still in Moscow!"

He wasn't overly impressed with his play, commenting:

I didn’t spend any time in the opening – my opponents played slowly and partially badly, so I was trying to win with some extra time on my clock… I had to make myself spend more time.

Ian Nepomniachtchi meets Fabiano Caruana in the sixth round at the start of the second day of the FIDE World Rapid Championship. Sergey Karjakin is also going to have a tough start as his next opponent will be Magnus Carlsen. Can Carlsen gain “revenge” for being pushed into second place at the Norway Chess tournament?

See also:

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