It took him four days to find his best form, but on Saturday it was there. Magnus Carlsen won the World Blitz Chess Championship with a round to spare. Carlsen scored eight wins and two draws on day two, 16/21 in total and takes home $200,000 ($250,000 minus FIDE's 20 percent). Nana Dzagnidze won the women's tournament with 16.5/21 and earned $64,000 ($80,000 minus FIDE's 20 percent).
"Extremely happy" were Carlsen's first words after he reclaimed the world blitz title that he won three years ago in Dubai. He had lost it to Alexander Grischuk a year later in Berlin, and saw Sergey Karjakin winning gold on tiebreak last year in Doha.
"Yesterday was a very difficult day for me but today everything went beyond expectation. It means a lot, especially after I lost the last round in the rapid from a leading position. Then it makes a whole difference for me when I look back upon these tournaments and this year, so it's a massive win."
Don't forget that Carlsen's next blitz event is just around the corner: on 3 January 2018, he will be playing the Chess.com Speed Chess Championship final against Hikaru Nakamura, who boycotted the tournaments in Saudi Arabia.
Carlsen speaking to FIDE's Nastja Karlovich.
The blitz championship was a Swiss tournament over 21 rounds. After day one, when 11 rounds were played, Sergey Karjakin was leading with 9/11 followed by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who was on 8.5/11. Six players followed, who were on 8 points, but Carlsen was not one of them. On a disappointing first day, he had scored only 7/11.
But on Saturday, it was a world of difference. Where the rest of the field looked like steam locomotives, Carlsen was a high-speed train that went twice as fast through the landscape. Whereas several colleagues drew one game after another, he won his first three games (Grischuk, Harikrishna, Mamedyarov) and narrowed the gap with Karjakin to only half a point.
Then the two faced each other. A (crushing) fourth win for Carlsen suddenly made clear who was the real favorite for tournament victory.
Carlsen vs Karjakin, a turning point for the championship. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The question 'will he make another comeback?' very quickly turned into: 'who is going to stop him?' Well, it was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who held Carlsen to a draw (even having a slight edge perhaps), but then the speed train went full speed again.
Carlsen won another four games in a row, in rounds 17-20, and by then he was on 15.5/20, and nobody could catch him anymore. After a quick draw with Levon Aronian in the final round, the Norwegian had closed a relatively bad year on a high note.
The way he won most games today was vintage Carlsen: never play for a draw, ever. Maybe spare energy for a round? No way. Try to win, if there's still a tiny chance. Just keep on trying to find moves that pose problems.
Three examples. Ding Liren, who lost heavily to Carlsen in November in St. Louis, still probably wasn't expecting to lose this one.
Against the Russian rising star Vladislav Artemiev he didn't have much, but also here Carlsen just kept on creating little threats.
In the case of Anton Korobov, the win was all based on a critical choice for the Ukrainian, who went for the wrong pawn. Should Carlsen get credit for this? Well, yes, if you take into account that, as in many games, he reached this position with much more time on the clock.
Anton Korobov realizing he is not going to hold the knight ending. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
At the closing ceremony, Carlsen was standing in between the two opponents he faced in classical world championships: Karjakin (silver) and Anand (bronze).
Karjakin came second after scoring 5.5/10 today, but still won't be too disappointed. He won a very expensive final round game as Black against Grischuk where he ended up winning a lost position.
Viswanathan Anand ended up being the most successful player in Riyadh, with a gold medal in the rapid and then a bronze one in the blitz. The Indian was as fortunate as Karjakin in the final round because MVL also blundered material:
MVL vs Anand, with Leko and Ivanchuk watching. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Levon Aronian ended up sharing fourth place, which was a fantastic result taking into account that the Armenian player was in 68th place after the first day, having scored only 5.5/11. But his achievement on the second day was almost as big as Carlsen's: 8.5/10.
Here's how he defeated Karjakin in the penultimate round.
Aronian suddenly emerged at the top, and defeated Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
A total of eight Chinese players participated, and it was Wang Hao who was most successful. He tied with Aronian, and won what was probably his biggest prize ever: $36,000 ($45,000 minus FIDE's 20 percent). One of his victims was his compatriot Li Chao.
The tournament saw another incident on the second day, in the game Grischuk-Mamedyarov. The Russian GM was an exchange down, but at some point stopped the clock, and claimed a draw by threefold repetition. The board arbiter didn't see a threefold, and ordered the players to continue the game.
Grischuk ended up losing, and then checked again. To his great surprise, he saw that not a threefold, but a fourfold repetition had occurred! After telling the chief arbiter, the game was declared a draw.
Mamedyarov appealed against the chief arbiter's decision, arguing that he had already won the game and the forms were signed. This caused another delay for the last round, but eventually, his appeal was rejected by the Appeals Committee, who probably reasoned that once a correct claim has been made, this ends the game and everything that happens afterward is irrelevant.
Mamedyarov protesting to the chief arbiter. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
2017 World Blitz Championship | Final Standings (13 points and up)
|23||Petrosian Tigran L.||2705||13,5||0||2710||251||10||2803||57,2||$22,416.67|
|11||Le Quang Liem||2771||13||0||2654||232||11||2731||-21||$7,214|
(*Minus FIDE's 20 percent; full standings here.)
Nana Dzagnidze ended up winning the women's section after scoring an excellent 8/10 on the final day. Here's how she beat rapid champion Ju Wenjun, who was just as successful as Anand as she also won bronze in the blitz.
Dzagnidze vs Ju Wenjun. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Dzagnidze speaking to FIDE's Nastja Karlovich.
Pia Cramling couldn't keep up her great form and scored only 4/10 today. At some point the energy was just gone; she lost her last three games.
Second came Valentina Gunina and shared third and fourth were Ju Wenjun (bronze) and Kateryna Lagno. Gunina had an amazing finish of five straight wins which secured a cheque of $40,000—especially for women's standards in chess, a huge prize.
A nice payday for Gunina. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
2017 Women's World Blitz Championship | Final Standings (12.5 points and up)
|19||17||GM||Hoang Thanh Trang||2422||12,5||0||2307||216||10||$1950|
(*Minus FIDE's 20 percent; full standings here.)
Games via TWIC.
Anand talking to Petrosian, surrounded by Vidit, Sethuraman, and Adhiban. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Yes, the Indian legend can be really funny too. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The trophies for the winners (open and women) of the two tournaments. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Wonder how these trophies were made? Here's how.
Ju Wenjun, winner of the World Rapid. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Anand receiving his gold medal for the rapid tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Nana Dzagnidze with the blitz trophy. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Carlsen and his rivals in the classical world championship matches. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Carlsen with the winner's trophy and flowers. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The winners of the rapid and blitz events together with FIDE's Georgios Makropoulos and athlete & businessman Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The World Blitz Championship took place December 29-30. It was a 21-round Swiss with a prize fund of $750,000 for the open section and $250,000 for the women's section.
- Karjakin Leads World Blitz Halfway; Carlsen 2 Points Behind
- Anand Beats Fedoseev In Playoff, Wins World Rapid
- Fedoseev, Ju Lead World Rapid After Day 2
- World Rapid Championship Takes Off Without Israeli Players
- FIDE's 3-Year Contract With Saudi Arabia Potentially Void
- FIDE Criticized For Hosting World Rapid, Blitz In Saudi Arabia