Magnus Carlsen took full advantage of an outbreak of quick draws among his rivals to snatch the sole lead with 8/10 after Day 2 of the World Rapid Chess Championship in Moscow. He began with two shaky draws but then beat Laznicka, Zubov and Le Quang Liem to set up a showdown with live rapid no. 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave at the start of Day 3. Maxime is joined by Wang Hao and Jan-Krzysztof Duda just half a point behind, while Mamedyarov, Nepomniachtchi, Nakamura, Aronian, Svidler, Karjakin, Andreikin and Anton are among the players within a point.
You can replay all the games from the World Rapid Championship using the selector below:
And you can also replay the live commentary on Day 2 of the event:
Don’t miss the chance to Go Premium at a 20% discount during the World Rapid and Blitz Championships when you use the voucher code RAPID2019. Among all the benefits, including unlimited access to the highest quality library of chess videos anywhere, you’ll be able to watch Jan Gustasfsson and Peter Svidler’s premium live commentary on Wijk aan Zee next month.
It looked like being a frustrating day for World Champion Magnus Carlsen in Moscow. In the first round he overpressed against Wang Hao and had to defend an ending a pawn down. The second round against Aleksandr Rakhmanov was even tougher, with Magnus on the back foot for the whole game, but again showing that having a mere extra pawn is rarely enough to beat him.
Wins for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (vs. Duda) and Wang Hao (vs. Smirin) had left Magnus a full point off the pace and were drawing attention to his permanent place on board 1, a “privilege” for the benefit of Norwegian TV. On the other hand, those two wins came against the backdrop of 11 draws on the other top boards in Rounds 6 and 7, while in Round 8 we saw lightning fast draws in 17, 10, 12, 14 and 20 moves:
Magnus criticised his rivals on Norwegian TV:
That came after he did indeed seize his chance to win, as did MVL on board 5.
The World Champion’s win was just the kind of minor positional masterpiece he needed to get things going:
The temporary pawn sacrifice 23.c4! suddenly turned up the heat on the Viktor Laznicka’s king. 23…dxc4 24.b3! would have left White with a comfortable positional edge, while 23…d4?! in the game allowed Magnus to launch a pawn storm, which would be the theme of his play on Day 2. 10 moves later there was no stopping them:
Another 10 moves and it was all about the b7-pawn, with Black resigning when the pawn was about to queen, though 43…Rb6! on the penultimate move might have saved Viktor:
In Round 9 Magnus had Black against Alexander Zubov, who he’d lost to with Black a year ago in Round 7 of the 2018 World Rapid Championship. Ultimately this was to be a case of revenge, but not without some dicey moments. 26.Rde4!, solidifying the centre before attacking on the kingside, would have been very strong, while Carlsen’s bold 29…g3!? could also have backfired:
After 30.hxg6! accuracy is demanded by both sides, while in the game after 30.fxg3?! Nc4! 31.Nxc4? Qxg3+ Magnus was already winning.
If that game was shaky, the final round of the day was one of those occasions, rare even for World Champions, when everything goes your way on the chessboard. Peter Leko was already critical of Le Quang Liem’s decision to play the Queen’s Gambit Accepted against Magnus, while the point of no return came as early as move 12:
Exchanging bishops on c2 would have given Black hopes of surviving the opening, but after 12…Qd7? it was simple chess as Magnus went for 13.Bxf5! exf5 14.d5! Nac4 15.Bxb6 Nxb6 16.Qb3 Rad8 17.Rad1 Rfe8 18.Rfe1 g6 and, with a perfect centre, he began flank operations with 19.h4!
That’s the kind of picture it’s hard to improve on, but 9 moves later the central pawns had advanced one square and the h-pawn had reached h6!
The picture was finally “spoilt” by 28…fxe6 29.dxc7 Rc8 30.Rxd7 Re7 31.Rxe7 Qxe7 32.Nd5!, when the prospect of being two pieces down is the least of Black’s worries. Le Quang Liem resigned:
With Wang Hao making his second 12-move draw in a row, this time against MVL, that saw Magnus move into the sole lead before the final day:
It looks ominous…
…but there are still 14 players within a point.
As you can see, a host of star names could feature in the race for the podium, but some of the youngsters on show have stood out. 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja’s wins over Anton Korobov and Sergey Karjakin were a highlight on Day 1, but his high-flying exploits meant he ended up playing a mini super tournament with Korobov, Karjakin and Duda followed by Aronian, Giri and then Peter Svidler, who won their Round 8 clash.
21-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda was the other player who managed to beat Firouzja, and the young Pole didn’t allow a one-move blunder and loss to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the first game of Day 2 to dampen his spirits. He kept on fighting, even in a mathematically lost position against Alexei Shirov!
There was more where that came from, as Duda then went for a bizarre opening with White against Pavel Ponkratov in the last round of the day. The computers considered him more or less lost by move 7, while Ponkratov’s last best chance to pick up a full point came after 35.Rd6?
35…Bxc5+! wins, but it’s not so simple at a glance to spot that 36.Rxc5 can be met by the only winning move 36…Rg2+! and the e-pawn queens and wins the game. Instead after 35…Rxb4 36.Rxb6 Rxf4+ 37.Ke3 Rf1? (37…Rxf5) White was actually losing, with Duda’s ambition finally richly rewarded:
That leaves Duda just half a point off the lead, while the player with the most momentum among the group on 7/10 is Spain’s David Anton, who's on a run of 5.5/6!
You can’t score so well against such strong opposition without getting a little luck along the way, and the final two games were dramatic:
Nikita Vitiugov had been on the ropes, but 48.Nxf4+! here should have secured a draw. Instead after 48.Rxh7?? Rxh3+! it was time to resign.
That may have been strange, but it was nothing compared to the next game. David’s only draw of the day had finished in 12 moves against India’s Ganguly, but his final win against Ganguly’s compatriot Aravindh would last just 13 moves!
At best Black would have ended up just two pieces down.
Finally, by popular demand, we can take a look at 14-year-old International Master and World U14 Champion Aydin Suleymanli from Azerbaijan. His 2086 rapid rating hasn’t caught up with his 2473 classical rating yet, but the youngster is on 50% after beating four GMs so far in Moscow. The two wins on the second day were rollercoasters that featured some memorable moments.
Adhiban seemed to be cruising to a win before he grabbed a pawn with 21.Bxd4?
21…Bd7! trapped the white queen and Aydin didn’t put a foot wrong as he went on to win in 62 moves.
The winning blow against Aleksandr Shimanov in the next game was one you could very easily miss:
31.b6!! axb6 32.Bb5! and the threat of Rd8 leaves Black defenceless.
In the women’s section there are again four leaders after Day 2, but the curiosity is that Romania’s Irina Bulmaga, who scored three draws and beat Humpy Koneru, is the only leader to survive from Day 1! She’s joined by China’s Tan Zhongyi and Lei Tingjie and also Ukraine's Mariya Muzychuk, who won all four games on Day 2. Here was the finish after Natalia Pogonina’s 27…Ne8?
28.Rxa6! Now 28…Rxa6 29.Rxe8 would be mate-in-5, but 28…Nf6 didn’t help due to 29.Raa8! and all Black can do is give up material to delay mate on g8.
Here's a quick preview of the World Blitz Championship on Sunday and Monday, which will feature none other than former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik:
First, though, we have the final day of the World Rapid Championship, and it has the potential to start with a bang, since live rapid no. 1 MVL has White against Carlsen and may be “humanity’s” best chance of stopping Magnus. Don’t miss all the action live here on chess24: World Rapid Chess Championship | Women’s World Rapid Chess Championship
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