Reports Dec 27, 2019 | 11:27 AMby Colin McGourty

World Rapid 1: Duda halts Firouzja charge

Jan-Krzysztof Duda joined Wang Hao, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ilia Smirin and Leinier Dominguez in the lead on 4.5/5 after Day 1 of the World Rapid Championship in Moscow after taking down Alireza Firouzja in Round 5. Before that the 16-year-old Iranian, now playing under the FIDE flag, had beaten Anton Korobov and Sergey Karjakin in consecutive rounds. Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are among the nine players just half a point off the lead, with Magnus describing the score as, “what I need”.

Polish GMs Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Mateusz Bartel take on Russian GMs Maxim Vavulin and Sergey Karjakin in Round 1 | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

You can replay all the games from the World Rapid Championship using the selector below:

And here’s the live commentary on Day 1:

A shaky start

The Luzhniki Football Stadium in Moscow is a spectacular venue for the World Rapid and Blitz Championships, but the first day got off to a bumpy start. Valentina Gunina described it as “simply a nightmare” that the playing hall was so cold, which was compounded, especially for the female participants, by the strict dress code. That issue brought a personal apology from the FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich:

The other issue that FIDE didn’t seem to apologise for publicly was more of a problem for spectators – for the first couple of rounds the digital boards and the PGN files they produced were so mixed up that it was all but impossible to follow the games. These things happen at the start of big, complicated events, however, and by Round 3 everything was working properly, with the moves of the games later recovered except for some from the women’s section.

Magnus Carlsen said he got "what I need" from Day 1 | photo: David Llada, official website

Top seed Magnus Carlsen, meanwhile, started at the top of his game even before a pawn had been pushed:

Azamat Bagatov is the camera-shy Kazakh producer in Sascha Baron Cohen’s mockumentary Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan:

Magnus has struggled against lesser-known opponents in previous World Rapid Championships, but this time the first game couldn’t have gone better. It was Azamat who tempted fate by playing Carlsen’s own pet weapon, the Qd6 Scandinavian, and the Norwegian’s future opponents will probably pay close attention to how White scored a crushing win:


Black is just one move away from completing development, but Carlsen’s 19.f5! put an end to that dream: 19…exf5 20.Bc7! Qc8 21.Qd6! There was to be no castling, and when Utegaliyev put his knight on e4 to try and block the e-file Magnus was simply able to sacrifice a rook for it to blow the position apart. It was game over in 26 moves.

It wouldn’t all be plain sailing for Magnus, however. Against both Hrant Melkumyan and Rauf Mamedov he played f6 in dubious circumstances and was in some trouble. He later summed up:

I think there were a couple of black games against Melkumyan and Mamedov in which I was a bit worse, and then there was this endgame against Savchenko which was an objective draw, and I managed to get two draws and a win out of those three, and obviously that was huge for me. It’s what contributed to me having a good score.

Magnus described being on 4/5, half a point behind the leaders, as “what I need”. Also in that position is 2nd seed and world no. 1 on the live rapid rating list Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, though the French no. 1 scraped a draw against Spanish IM Renier Castellanos in the first round and won what was close to a lost position against Spanish GM Alvar Alonso in Round 3.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian face up to life without the Candidates | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

There was nothing shaky about the first game of defending champion Daniil Dubov, whose 5-time World Chess Problem Solving Champion opponent Kacper Piorun couldn’t resist allowing an exquisite mate-in-3:


42.Qg7+! Bxg7 43.fxg7+ Kg8 44.Nh6#  

It won't be easy for Daniil Dubov to defend his title, but he got off to a good start | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

A couple of starts by other players deserve a mention, including Peter Svidler smuggling this “photo” in as his official ID:

And smuggling his knight from e6 to d3, with a brief moment of horror as it stopped on c5:


On d3 the knight cemented the position and Peter went on to win, but 44…Qxh4!! here would have taken full advantage of the weak back rank, with Qxf2! an amusing follow-up wherever the rook goes. White would have been busted, but instead 44...Qf5? followed, and that was the last of many misses for Sethuraman in the game.

And then there was Alexander Grischuk, who like Svidler, Levon Aronian and many more top players ended the first day on 3.5/5. He couldn’t quite convert an extra pawn against his 19-year-old compatriot Alexey Sarana, but he certainly won the post-mortem:

And once again, no interviewer is safe in his presence!

Alireza Firouzja is in a hurry

16-year-old 2700 club member Alireza Firouzja | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

16-year-old Alireza Firouzja could have been forgiven for feeling very nervous as he began his first tournament playing under the FIDE flag. GM Ian Rogers filled in some of the gaps in the story of Alireza leaving the Iranian Chess Federation:

And his compatriot and two-time silver medalist in the 2018 Women's World Rapid and Blitz Sarasadat Khademalsharieh offered her support:

On the chessboard, however, Alireza needs little support. After a tough draw against Swiss GM Noel Studer on board 69 in Round 1 he put his foot on the gas. In Round 3 he took down the recent Sunway Sitges winner Anton Korobov in style:


27.Nxh5! gxh5 28.Rxg8+ Kxg8 29.Qg3+ Kh8 30.Nf6! and he picked up the d7-bishop after 30…Qf8. One of the points is that 30…Nxf6? loses to 31.exf6 and White is not just attacking the c7-rook and the e7-queen but also threatening checkmate on g7.

In the very next round Alireza managed to grind out a hugely impressive technical win against Sergey Karjakin, one of those players who is always capable of winning rapid and blitz events. Who could stop him now?

Five leaders

The answer turned out to be 21-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who showed no fear as he began their Round 5 game by playing the Pirc/Modern Defence usually played in must-win games. Firouzja ended up sacrificing two pawns and then his queen, but two can play at that game!


Duda would have been completely winning if he just moved his queen, but thought “why not?” as he gave up his queen with 28…Qxf3! instead. He was two pawns up, and 29.Rxe7+ Kf8 30.gxf3 Kxe7 31.Rxd3 Rd6! forced a won pawn ending and ended the game:

Alexei Shirov impressively took down Hikaru Nakamura in a minor piece ending in Round 4, but fell to Wang Hao in Round 5, with the Chinese star once again showing that it’s no accident he managed to qualify for the Candidates Tournament as he moved to 4.5/5.

It wasn't exactly smooth, but Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is perfectly placed after Day 1 | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was lost in both his Round 1 (Robert Ruck) and Round 2 (Evgeny Alekseev) games, but managed to score 1.5/2 anyway and reach 4.5/5 without playing any absolutely top class opposition. Leinier Dominguez was much more convincing as he was unfortunate to draw his first game before grabbing four wins in a row against players who included Nikita Vitiugov and Anish Giri.

The final member of the leading pack is 51-year-old Israeli GM Ilia Smirin, who claimed the scalps of Maxim Matlakov, Bartosz Socko and Gadir Guseinov as he achieved the only 4/4 start. In a tough position Gadir had grabbed the b2-pawn…


27.Bxg6! was the winning move, since 27…hxg6 28.Rxh8+ Bxh8 29.Bh6+ wins the queen.

Ilia Smirin could join fellow 50+ year olds Vishy Anand, Boris Gelfand and Vassily Ivanchuk to make a very formidable team! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

He drew against MVL in Round 5 and when asked how it felt to face “young lions” afterwards Smirin commented that he’d been watching a lot of wildlife TV recently and, “lions sometimes got beaten by other animals, by their prey, so I hope to do it as well!”

Olga Girya is one of three players still perfect in Moscow | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Meanwhile in the women’s section 4 out of 12 rounds have been played, with Meri Arabidze, Olga Girya and Irina Bulmaga the only players with a perfect 4/4. It’s been a difficult start for the top seeds, with favourite Anna Muzychuk losing to Monika Socko in Round 2, while 2nd seed Alexandra Kosteniuk was beaten by Baira Kovanova in the first round of the day. You can replay and follow the games using the selector below:

We still have 10 rounds to go in the open section, with Carlsen-Wang Hao, Smirin-Dominguez and Mamedyarov-Duda set to shake up the leading pack in Round 6. 

There's commentary in five languages, including Sergey Shipov in Russian | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Don’t miss all the action live here on chess24: World Rapid Chess Championship | Women’s World Rapid Chess Championship

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