Vishy Anand said the “feeling is like floating” after winning the World Rapid Championship at the age of 48. He tied with Ian Nepomniachtchi and Vladimir Fedoseev, who also took home a career-best $150,000, but eased to a 1.5:0.5 victory in the tiebreak against Fedoseev. Magnus Carlsen could have won it all, but went down in flames to Alexander Grischuk, while Wang Hao, Artemiev and Svidler also suffered hugely expensive defeats. Ju Wenjun took women’s gold and $80,000, while Lei Tingjie ($40,000) and Elisabeth Paehtz ($25,000) completed a surprise podium.
The final day’s play in the Rapid World Championship in Riyadh was absolutely enthralling to watch, with multiple storylines keeping us guessing right until the end. You can replay all the games using the selector below – click a result to open the game with computer analysis, or hover over a player’s name to see all his or her results:
Relive the day with the live commentary from Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Keti Tsatsalashvili:
Vladimir Fedoseev has shown himself to be a hugely talented chess player in 2017, but playing solidly when out in front is a skill he’s yet to learn. He went into the final day’s play in the World Rapid Championship with a half-point lead, but in the first game of the day got hit by a piece sacrifice on g5 by Rauf Mamedov. Initially he reacted well, but when his king found its way to g4 the guillotine was surely about to fall:
Rauf still couldn’t believe he hadn’t won the game afterwards:
In fact, though, Fedoseev not only escaped but was gifted a gilt-edged chance to score an incredible win:
White is threatening a perpetual check, which is what happened in the game, but if, in the 34 seconds he spent here, 46…Qxf3!! had crossed Fedoseev’s mind for an instant, he would have taken the full point and, all other things being equal, the $250,000 first prize overall.
Georgia’s Levan Pantsulaia had beaten star names MVL, Artemiev, Ponomariov and Ding Liren in Riyadh, but with a full night to prepare Magnus wasn’t another to be taken by surprise and convincingly won with Black in the first game of the day.
We then got the one we’d been waiting for, Fedoseev-Carlsen, with Magnus summoning all his wizardry to squeeze a win out of slightest of endgame advantages:
Magnus explained afterwards that he saw no risk and felt his opponent might be nervous given the tournament situation, and summed up:
Eventually he cracked, which is unfortunate for him, but it often happens when you’re nervous and down to your last few seconds.
Suddenly Magnus was out in front by half a point with just three rounds to go, but he was somewhat frustrated by extremely solid displays from Wang Hao and Vladislav Artemiev in the next two rounds. That left a chance for someone to catch him, and cometh the hour, cometh the man…
Vishy Anand had already played a starring role in our first two reports, with the fantastic attacking win over Peter Leko, the beautiful mate against Luke McShane and the victory over Magnus Carlsen all catching the eye. What the veteran had also done, though, was to conserve his energy and pick his fights, having no problem with taking some easy draws. He followed that same strategy to perfection on the final day, taking no risks and drawing Svidler in 14 moves, Wang Hao in 23 and Vladimir Onischuk in 33. He followed that, though, with a minor masterpiece against Alexander Grischuk, who commented, “Immediately after the opening I’m just completely lost”. The problem was his dark-squared bishop that was completely excluded from the game on move 12. Although Vishy had some even better options he stuck to that strategic theme and had kept the bishop locked up until move 50:
Grischuk’s attempt to finally free the cleric with 50…c4 only accelerated the end, with the value of that win soaring as all the remaining top eight boards saw draws.
Vishy had caught Magnus in first place going into the final round, where he had Black against Bu Xiangzhi. His Chinese opponent wasn’t aggressively inclined, so Vishy was happy to take an 11-move draw, guaranteeing a very healthy pay cheque but also giving Magnus a chance – if the World Champion could also beat Grischuk with the white pieces he’d take sole first place and the $250,000 prize.
It wasn’t clear who you should feel most sorry for when the last round pairings came out – Grischuk, who had just lost to Anand and got paired against another World Champion, or Carlsen, who would no doubt have preferred a less experienced player who might have been overawed by the situation. Alexander explained afterwards that he’d come down with a flu and fever after the first day, but felt he was back in form when he won the first three games of the day, even if the third against Eltaj Safarli almost killed him!
Such a game with a high temperature it takes one year of life from you, and after such a game you’re not supposed to play for three years!
Instead there were 30 minutes before that game against Anand, which Grischuk described as leaving him “very much upset”. He found the perfect antidote, though, as Magnus’ ambition got the better of him and the World Champion found himself much worse, with White, after 12 moves when a black pawn had made it to e3. Carlsen found inventive ways to complicate the position, but Grischuk found the path to victory on move 33:
33…g5! Grischuk: “It looks like he’s attacking but in fact I start a decisive attack”.
Watch the interview with Grischuk below:
Grischuk and Carlsen would eventually finish in shared 4th place and earn $32,833.33 along with Bu Xiangzhi, Boris Savchenko, Rauf Mamedov and Gadir Guseinov, after a bloodbath of a final round saw two more players rise above them onto the podium.
The draw for Anand and loss for Carlsen opened up a huge chance for the other five players on 9.5 points, and despite what was at stake – in the end the difference between a win and a loss turned out to be $141,333 - there was no holding back.
Ian Nepomniachtchi won a pawn against Wang Hao with a straightforward combination, but seemed destined to fall short when his Chinese opponent erected a great wall. All that was required, though, was a spark of genius… and some cooperation from Wang Hao:
46.Rxc5! bxc5 47.b6! cxb6 48.Rb1 and White had broken through and went on to win. If Wang Hao had replied 46…dxc5!, though, it seems the game would only have ended in a draw.
Fedoseev might have had another painful end to a fine tournament, but instead he got the better of his young compatriot Vladislav Artemiev, who suffered a rush of blood to his head:
40…Nxg4? 41.fxg4 Rxe2+ 42.Rxe2 was a pretty combination with an enormous hole in it. Had Artemiev forgotten the c1-rook was defended by the queen, or that after 42…Qxg4+ there was 43.Kf1 and the e2-rook was also immune to capture? In any case, there was no attack, and soon it was Artemiev who had to resign with mate about to land on the board. If Artemiev had won the game he’d have taken $150,000 for shared first – after losing he took $8,666.67 for shared 10-18th position.
The last casualty of the final round was Peter Svidler, who was better early on with Black and would also have joined the tie for 1st place with a win. The inventive Boris Savchenko managed to whip up what looked like huge tactical threats, though, and in the rapid game Svidler failed to find the correct way to refute them. Instead he ended up dropping an exchange and finally the game, and while Savchenko didn’t have the points to tie for first place his $32,833.33 for 4-9th place might easily be a career best result.
For Vladimir Fedoseev and Ian Nepomniachtchi it was also a career best $150,000, but there was still the matter of which medals the players would receive. It turned out that on tiebreaks Ian Nepomniachtchi was 3rd and took bronze, while Vishy Anand and Vladimir Fedoseev would continue the fight in two blitz games and possibly Armageddon.
Vishy drew on all his experience to overpower Fedoseev, with the final position of the first game every bit as convincing as the win over Grischuk. White is only a pawn up, but Black’s pawns are shattered and the c8-bishop is a cripple:
Fedoseev’s coach Alexander Khalifman penned a book series, “Opening for White According to Anand”, but he had no quick solution to the problem of beating Anand on demand with the white pieces, and all Fedoseev’s aggression was quickly swatted away in the second game. It could easily have been won by Black, but Vishy was fine with the draw that confirmed his title.
You might say since the money was shared it wasn’t so important, but it’s enough to watch the restrained first-pump afterwards to know what it meant!
And Vishy tweeted:
He commented in his post-game interview:
I’m just unbelievably happy. This was so unexpected. I mean, I won many, many World Rapid titles, but recently I had the feeling it was slipping away, and honestly I just came here hoping for a good performance. I was not even thinking that I could win – it’s such a pleasant surprise!
Watch the full interview:
Of course praise flooded in!
The women’s event wasn’t quite so dramatic as China’s Ju Wenjun led from start to finish, remained unbeaten and with two wins on the final day clinched gold and $80,000 with 11.5/15.
Lei Tingjie missed a good chance to tie for first in the final round but could only draw against Nana Dzagnidze and take $40,000, while 11th seed Elisabeth Paehtz took bronze and $25,000. We haven’t had the time and space to cover the women’s event properly, but it’s hard to resist giving one never-say-die position from Day 2 now that everything worked out so well for Elisabeth:
Nino Batsiashvili is winning – in fact it’s mate-in-19 after 69…Kg5 – but instead she played 69…Kg6?? and after Paehtz picked up the free piece with 70.Qxg4+ the German IM went on to win the game and eventually the medal!
The full standings at the top were as follows:
That’s far from all from Riyadh, since the players now do it all again! There’s the same prize fund available for the World Blitz Championship, though this time everything speeds up to 3 minutes plus a 2-second increment, with 21 rounds split over two days: Open | Women
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