Reports Jun 18, 2014 | 8:34 AMby Colin McGourty

Rapid Day 2: Carlsen surges into lead

However much anyone talks about the unpredictability of rapid chess, or the Swiss format giving a chance for unexpected names to shine, the cream still rises to the top! With one day of the World Rapid Championship in Dubai remaining world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen has taken the sole lead on 8/10, while world no. 2 Levon Aronian's four wins moved him into clear second place on 7.5/10. Former speed chess World Champions Viswanathan Anand and Alexander Grischuk remain unbeaten in the group of players another half point behind.

Levon Aronian started the World Rapid Championship with a loss, but his 4.5/5 was the performance of Day Two | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, official website 

After the first day of the Rapid World Championship in Dubai we had three leaders, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana, but between them they only managed two wins on the second day of the event, leaving the door wide open for the chasing pack. Guys like Carlsen and Aronian don’t need to be asked twice – in fact, while Fabiano Caruana was talking about simply playing the event for fun (let's only half-believe him!) Carlsen’s approach is no doubt closer to that of the top tennis players. In an interview published on the same day in the Guardian John McEnroe talked about Andy Murray’s Wimbledon chances:

I won the US Open in 1979. When I lost to Borg at Wimbledon [in 1980] I looked at this guy – he had won it four times in a row, and that made it five – and I thought: ‘How the hell does this guy want it so bad?’ It taught me something. And Murray’s been taught by these experts, like Nadal and Federer. They just find something in the well. They want it more than you thought was possible.

Of course it’s not only deadly serious competition, as the official website’s video of the breaks between the games shows:

Vijay Kumar’s video also gives a wonderful impression of the atmosphere during the tournament:

So then, let’s get to the chess action! Many thanks to IM Lawrence Trent, who although not commentating on the event for chess24 picked out many of the highlights below:

Round 6

There was unfinished business from Stavanger... which remained unfinished! | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, official website

Tuesday started in spectacular fashion with only 6 draws in the top 30 match-ups. One of those was between Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen, but it was anything but quiet!

Magnus followed up the typical Sicilian exchange sac with a temporary piece sac – 17…Rxc3 18.bxc3 Nxf3 19.Nxf3 Nxe4 20.Qd3 Nxc3+ 21.Kc1 Bxh6+. When the dust had settled the Norwegian had winning chances, but the game ended in a 58-move draw.

Meanwhile Fabiano Caruana seized the lead by defeating joint leader Ian Nepomniachtchi, who has just played 65.c5:

Caruana sealed the win with 65..e4! The point is that 66.cxd6 is met by Qh1 mate. After 66.Bxe4 Qg4+ the game was over.

Loek van Wely had the last (and perhaps even the first!) laugh against Peter Svidler | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, official website

Other notable games included a fine crush for Morozevich against Polgar and a neat trick from Anand to claim a full point against Efimenko. Peter Svidler, meanwhile, posted an early contender for blunder of the day with 31…Qc5? against Loek van Wely:

The Dutchman spotted 32.Rxd3 and duly won.

Round 7

There was fine sacrificial chess in Caruana-Karjakin, Anand-Movsesian and Tomashevsky-Radjabov, but all the games ended drawn, as did World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s encounter with his second Laurent Fressinet - something they have a history of!

The round lasted almost 1.5 hours due to another draw and the perils of increments! The official commentator was struggling:

The players also had to keep themselves amused:

Round 8

This was the round when the leaders or wannabe leaders began to make their move. Levon Aronian, Peter Svidler and Magnus Carlsen all won their final three games starting from this point.

Carlsen was already outplaying Yuriy Kryvoruchko before 28.Nd2

…but 28…Nxd5! emphasised how desperate White’s position was. One of the fiercest battles of the round was between two Russians, Alexander Grischuk and Evgeny Tomashevsky:

Here Grischuk played 12.Nxe5! dxe5 13.Bxc5 and although that was very far from the end of the story he went on to grind out a win. At the end of the day both Tomashevsky and Grischuk would be in contention one point back on 7/10, with speed-specialist Grischuk another of the rare unbeaten players.

Of course the game didn't pass without a time trouble scramble for Grischuk, who was playing on his increment at the end

Round 9

The big match-up of Round 9 saw Levon Aronian defeat Sergey Karjakin in the line of the Berlin Defence with which Carlsen had lost to Caruana in Shamkir. Karjakin’s pawn sacrifice ultimately proved too ambitious.

Carlsen, meanwhile, was in the groove against another Armenian, as he positionally outplayed Sergei Movsesian:

He finished with the pretty Nd1-e3-f1-g3 knight manoeuvre to win the h5-pawn and the game. Carlsen joined Caruana in the lead as the Italian could only draw against Grischuk.

Vishy Anand, meanwhile, claimed his second win of the day as his Indian compatriot Pentala Harikrishna badly underestimated the white a-pawn’s march up the board.

35.Qxf8+ was a cute way to transpose into a technically winning endgame (after 35…Kxf8 36.a8=Q+ Qxa8 37.Rxa8+).

Vishy has quietly been keeping within striking distance of the leaders - here during his win against Zahar Efimenko | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, official website

Round 10

It really doesn’t get much better than this, as the top four games in Round 10 featured no less than seven of the world’s top eight players on the live ratings! All eyes were on the clash between the joint leaders, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, and Spanish IM David Martinez has analysed that crucial encounter for us:

1. d4 d6 2. e4 ♘f6 3. ♘c3 e5 4. ♘f3 ♘bd7 The Philidor is one of those defences that occur at an elite level more in rapid games than in classical chess. It cedes some space to White but Black's rearguard is comfortable with no weaknesses.

5. ♗c4 ♗e7 6. 0-0 exd4 Black usually prefers to maintain the tension with c6, but Caruana's choise is also, of course, playable.

7. ♕xd4 ♘b6 8. ♗b3 0-0 9. a4 a5 When I saw this apparently natural move I thought once again of the way a5-pawns have a tendency to drop off against Carlsen! 

10. ♗f4 ♗g4 11. ♕d3 By playing a5 Black has weakened the b5-square, and that's where Magnus' knight on f3 is headed.

11... ♘fd7 12. ♘d4 ♗f6 13. ♘db5 ♘c5 14. ♕g3 ♘xb3 15. cxb3 ♗e6 Caruana also has his trumps - the bishop pair and the doubled b-pawns he's inflicted on White. His position continues to remain very healthy.

16. ♖ac1 ♘d7 Aiming for the c5-square, but 16...Re8, for example, was more flexible, not permitting the knight to jump to d5.

17. ♘d5 ♗xd5 18. exd5 ♖c8

18... ♘c5 must have been Fabiano's idea when he played 16...Nd7, but here he got worried - and with good reason! Lines like

a) 19. ♘xc7 falls just short. 19... ♗h4! The only way to distract the queen. (19... ♕xc7 20. ♗xd6 ) 20. ♕h3 ♗xf2+ 21. ♖xf2 ♕xc7 and Black holds.

b) 19. ♖xc5 dxc5 20. ♘xc7 ♖c8 21. d6 can hardly qualify as "pleasant" for Black.

19. ♗d2 ♗e5

19... b6 defends the pawn, but after 20. ♘a7 ♖a8 21. ♘c6 White is in full control.

20. ♕h3 This leads to a slightly better ending, although with precise play Black should hold.

20. f4 was the correct option, since after 20... ♗xb2 21. ♖c2 ♗f6 22. ♗xa5 the pressure on c7 is going to be permanent. Trying to shield it by bringing the knight to c5 would run into b4.

20... c6! 21. dxc6 ♖xc6 22. ♗xa5 The classic extra pawn that Magnus snaps off on a5 in order to win with the a-pawn...

22... ♕xa5 23. ♕xd7 ♖xc1 24. ♖xc1 ♕d2! Activity.

25. ♖f1 ♕xb2? The white b-pawns are of less value than Black's b-pawn, especially since the a-pawn is now going to be unstoppable!

25... ♕d5 , centralising the queen, defending b7 and putting pressure on b2 would have maintained good drawing chances.

26. ♕xb7 ♕xb3 27. a5 There goes the pawn on its mission to decide the game!

27... d5 28. ♕c6 ♖b8 29. ♖c1! g6 30. a6! ♕a2

30... ♕xb5 would be met by 31. a7 ♕xc6 32. axb8Q+ ♗xb8 33. ♖xc6 , reaching a classic ending that many fans may doubt is winnable. The d5-pawn will fall very quickly, however, since the bishop has no square from which to hold it, and the ending will later be won by brining the king closer... to hit f7! If the pawns advance there will be more weak squares for the king to attack. 33... ♗a7 34. ♖a6 ♗c5 (34... ♗d4 35. ♖d6 ) 35. ♖a5 is an example of how d5 isn't going to last long.

31. a7 ♖f8 32. g3 Preventing back-rank mates before the heavy pieces get down to work.

32... d4 33. ♕b7 ♔g7 34. ♖c8 ♖xc8 35. ♕xc8 ♕b1+ 36. ♔g2 ♕e4+ 37. ♔h3 ♕d3 38. a8Q A good positional display from the World Champion that took him into the sole lead at the end of the second day of the Rapid World Championship.


The other decisive game saw Levon Aronian defeat Hikaru Nakamura, with the American lamenting a false step in the opening:

That shouldn't detract, however, from the Armenian's fine endgame play, as he neatly judged he could afford to enter an opposite-coloured bishops ending.

So at the end of day 2 there are very familiar names at the top, though you wouldn’t completely rule out anyone down to 6.5/10:

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2 Rp
14Carlsen MagnusNOR28278.0271354.52946
27Aronian LevonARM27857.5268751.02862
311Nepomniachtchi IanRUS27687.0275455.52890
42Caruana FabianoITA28407.0273559.52876
531Tomashevsky EvgenyRUS26937.0270654.52838
63Grischuk AlexanderRUS28287.0270055.02838
745Yu YangyiCHN26687.0268752.02807
89Anand ViswanathanIND27707.0268453.02827
96Svidler PeterRUS27877.0266253.02804
108Karjakin SergeyRUS27816.5274161.02840
1149Nguyen Ngoc Truong SonVIE26606.5273154.02799
1233Jobava BaadurGEO26886.5272252.52810
131Nakamura HikaruUSA28416.5269954.52792
1428Movsesian SergeiARM26966.5269655.52776
1515Morozevich AlexanderRUS27326.5268548.52775
1613Radjabov TeimourAZE27506.5265751.02751

Magnus Carlsen is in the driving seat and for good measure now tops the live rapid ratings (former no. 1 Nakamura has fallen to no. 4), but there's still a lot to play for. 

A glum-looking Carlsen after Karjakin took the 2012 World Rapid Championship | photo:

As evidence that anything can happen take the World Rapid Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan two years ago. Magnus Carlsen ended the second day by beating his closest rival Sergey Karjakin to lead by 1.5 points with only five rounds to go. It was still a 1.5 point gap with four rounds to go, but then defeats to Ivanchuk and Grischuk and a 4.5/5 finish for Karjakin saw the Russian take the title, with Carlsen lucky to hold on to silver (as I reported back then).

The third and final day in Dubai opens with a bang as Magnus Carlsen has the black pieces against second-placed Levon Aronian! You should be able to watch the official website’s livestream below:

The games start at 13:00 CET.

See also:

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