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Reports Dec 28, 2021 | 10:31 AMby Colin McGourty

World Rapid Day 2: Magnus beats Firouzja & Duda

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen goes into the final day of the World Rapid Chess Championship in Warsaw in the sole lead after defeating his young rivals Alireza Firouzja and Jan-Krzysztof Duda to reach 7.5/9. 17-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov beat Levon Aronian, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Boris Gelfand to join Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexander Grischuk in 2nd place, while Alexandra Kosteniuk is the runaway leader in the women’s section with a stunning 7.5/8. 

Magnus Carlsen got the better of Alireza Firouzja again | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

You can replay all the games from the open section of the FIDE World Rapid Chess Championship using the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko. 

When Magnus Carlsen name-dropped Alireza Firouzja while explaining that only playing a member of a younger generation would motivate him to play another World Chess Championship match, many pointed out that 23-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda is also qualified for next year’s Candidates Tournament. It was noteworthy, therefore, that Magnus beat both of his most likely young challengers on Day 2 of the World Rapid Championship in Warsaw. 

The day began, however, with a clash against an older player, the ferociously talented Baadur Jobava. For a while it seemed Magnus might take over and win with the black pieces, but in fact he got into some trouble, admitting to his opponent afterwards that he’d missed 35.Rg7!

Magnus had to choose between positions a pawn down, but ultimately held a draw in 68 moves.

How many pieces can you hold in one hand!? | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

That left us with an 8-way tie for first place, and when 18-year-old Alireza Firouzja comprehensively defeated Timur Gareyev it set up the most anticipated clash of the tournament — world no. 1 Carlsen vs. new world no. 2 Firouzja. Magnus gave his opponent an almost 1-minute head start on the clock! 

Our commentators noted, however, that if Magnus is going to rack up a big score against his young apprentice, now is the time to do it — while Alireza is still playing somewhat shaky openings such as his habitual Caro-Kann. It was soon a case of Magnus gaining an opening advantage, and though you could perhaps criticise him for playing a little too conservatively at times, his solid approach worked just as well as it had against another tactical genius, Ian Nepomniachtchi, in Dubai.

He's behind you! | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Alireza missed some chances to equalise, and then 38…Kg8? condemned him to defeat. 

39.Ng4!, threatening forks on h6, f6 and e5, was impossible to meet, and after 39…Kg7 40.f6+! Kh8 41.Nxh6 Rh7 42.Ng4 only a huge blunder could have let Alireza back into the game. Magnus instead kept an iron control of the position and went on to win in 53 moves. 

Magnus took being interviewed by Norwegian TV in his stride afterwards.

Alexander Grischuk lived a little dangerously as he joined Magnus on an unbeaten +5 with victory over Anton Korobov, so that the two leaders faced each other in Round 8. Magnus was taking few risks…

…but during the game he came under by far the most pressure he’d been in all day, when he stumbled into 24.Ba6!

Magnus had noted in Dubai that sometimes when your position is otherwise healthy you can get away with blundering. 

Here it felt unlikely that Magnus had intended to give up the exchange, but after 24…Rcd8!? 25.Bc7 Bf7 26.Bxd8 it was far from easy for Alexander to convert his material advantage, especially given his inevitable time trouble. Magnus might even have taken over at times, before the game ended drawn in 70 moves, with Alexander’s extra two pawns merely a nominal advantage.

Another player right in contention for medals in the World Rapid Championship is World Championship Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. He admitted he’d lived dangerously in scoring 1.5/2 against Boris Gelfand and Timur Gareyev, but his defeat of Polish no. 1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda was spectacular. 

Duda’s decision to repeat Carlsen’s 8…Rb8 Anti-Marshall line from the match in Dubai felt ill-advised…

Sure enough, Ian demonstrated what he can do if his opponent goes astray, and 30.Rb6!! was a crowning moment of the game.

30…Qa8 31.Nh6+! Kg7 32.Qxf7+ Kxh6 33.Rb7! and Duda resigned, but taking the proffered piece was no better. 30…Qxb6 31.Nh6+ Kg7 32.Qxf7+ Kh6 33.Qxf8+ is also hopeless, with the e6-rook set to fall and the weak black king making the rest easy for a player of Ian’s calibre.

Magnus Carlsen has made a habit of beating Jan-Krzysztof Duda since losing the game that mattered most in the World Cup | photo: Adam Nurkiewicz, chess24

It’s huge credit to Duda, however, that he managed to put that tough loss behind him and bounce back with wins over the Armenian duo of Robert Hovhannisyan and Sergei Movsesian to go into the final round of the day tied for 1st place with Magnus and Grischuk. 

It meant we got another big showdown, Carlsen-Duda, and Magnus showed some real magnanimity as for once it was his opponent who was late to the board. 

The noble gesture wasn’t punished, with the game following a similar script to Carlsen-Firouzja. Magnus gained a big early advantage against his opponent’s offbeat opening, but Duda came very close to equalising fully. In the end we got a roughly equal endgame, but one where Magnus could press both on the board and the clock. 

After a tough day at the office for everyone, all it took was a moment’s loss of focus.

40…f5! was the “cemento” required, while after 40…Ke7!? 41.f5! R4g7? White was suddenly winning. 42.f6+! was working, but so was the path Magnus chose with 42.Rd5 Kf6 43.Rxd6+ Kxf5 44.Rxb6! and the passed pawns on the queenside soon proved decisive.

With four rounds to go Magnus is exactly where he’d want to be — in the sole lead — but the pairings to start the final day show that Magnus hasn’t yet exhausted his young challengers. He begins with the black pieces against 17-year-old Uzbek prodigy Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who here at chess24 we’ve been following since he was beating grandmasters as a 9-year-old.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov looks ready to push for the very top | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Nodirbek began Day 2 by suffering a first defeat when he was outplayed by Anton Korobov, but he hit back in stunning fashion.

First he punished some overly-creative play by Levon Aronian, then he struck with a nice tactic in a seemingly quiet position against Radek Wojtaszek. 38…Rb3? was a game-losing mistake.

39.Ne7+! leaves no way even to limit the damage, with play continuing 39…Nxe7 40.Bxf7+ Kh7 41.Bxe6, and not only is White temporarily two pawns up, but his bishops are monsters. 

There was then a 36-year age gap in the final game of the day, with 53-year-old Boris Gelfand on a brilliant run.

It could have been even better, since as Nepomniachtchi pointed out, his 14.Na4? had been “an awful move” and after 14…Qa5! 15.Nc3 White was in trouble.

Nepo described the position after 15…0-0-0! as “very dynamic”, and White could easily lose within a few moves. Instead after 15…Rd8?! 16.Re3 0-0 17.Rd3 a draw was agreed. 

That meant Boris preserved some energy going into the final game of the day, but it proved in vain, since after 31…Kg7, in the kind of technical position you would expect him to hold, the Israeli grandmaster blundered. 

32.e4? Rd2! 33.Ra1 (it’s too late to save the game) 33…Rcc2 34.Rf1 Re2! and, with Nodirbek about to pick up another pawn, Boris resigned

Nodirbek is joined half a point behind Magnus by the formidable forces of Grischuk and Nepomniachtchi, while there are also monsters lurking on 6.5/9.

For instance, Hikaru Nakamura is on an unbeaten +4 and had evidence to back up his claim in a post-day press conference that online chess and over-the-board chess vary less than people tend to think.

He also noted of the Grand Prix wildcard for himself and Daniil Dubov, “I don’t see any reason why Esipenko is more deserving than either of us”. 

Then there’s Fabiano Caruana, who lost to Abdusattorov, but has won five games, with his victory over David Anton in the final round of the day keeping him right in contention. Fabiano had set a trap with 23.Qe3! and was surprised to see David fall for it with 23…Kb8?

24.Qf4+! threatens Nf3, winning the queen on h4, and there’s no defence, with the game continuing 24…e5 25.dxe5 Be6 26.Rf6 Rxh7 27.Nf3! Qxf6 28.exf6+ Rc7 and the rest was easy. 

We also have Jobava, Duda and Firouzja on 6.5/9, where they’re joined by Jorden van Foreest (can he repeat what Dubov did in 2018 and win the World Rapid after working for Magnus for the first time?) and dark horses Ivan Cheparinov (who beat Aronian and inflicted a first loss on Giri), Robert Hovhannisyan and Bassem Amin. 

Some star names have struggled, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, for instance, a further point back and essentially now warming up for the blitz. Maxime has also highlighted some organisational issues. 

Perhaps the major organisational problem when it comes to following the event online has been the erratic broadcast of the games, particularly for the women’s event, when many of the games, especially from the early rounds, were corrupt.

Alexandra Kosteniuk has dropped just half a point so far in Warsaw | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

What is certain, however, is that Alexandra Kosteniuk is the runaway leader of the Women’s World Rapid Championship, with a 1.5-point lead over a 6-player chasing pack.

The key game so far has perhaps been the opening clash of Day 2, when Alexandra met her compatriot Valentina Gunina, with both players on 4/4. Valentina soon built up an enormous advantage. 

White has given up just one pawn to get this position, and here moves such as 28.Bxe6 or 28.Nxg6 should convert with little trouble. Instead Valentina went for the unnecessary 28.Rxg6?, and after 28…fxg6 29.Nf7?! Kh7 Black was even better, though there were more twists and turns before Alexandra eventually went on to win. 

Humpy Koneru is the reigning Women's Rapid Champion and could set a cat among the pigeon's if she beats Kosteniuk in the first round of the final day | photo: Anna Shtourman, FIDE

Chess power couple Kateryna Lagno and Alexander Grischuk are both just off the lead | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Gunina would then lose to Kateryna Lagno, who was celebrating her birthday, with Kateryna one of the players on 6 points who might be able to pounce if Alexandra stumbles. 

Don’t miss all the action live here on chess24 from 15:00 CET/09:00 ET: Rapid OpenRapid Women  

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