Carlsen, MVL Chasing Leaders After World Rapid Chess Championship Day 1
The playing hall in Moscow. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Carlsen, MVL Chasing Leaders After World Rapid Chess Championship Day 1

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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16 | Chess Event Coverage

Five players are in the lead with 4.5/5 after the first day of the world rapid championship in Moscow, but favorites such as Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave or Hikaru Nakamura are not among them. In the women's section the current leaders are also lesser-known players.

The world rapid and blitz championships took off on Thursday in the Grand Sports Arena of the Luzhniki Olympic Complex in Moscow. This giant sports complex was originally built in the 1950s and was used for both the 1980 Olympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

You can follow the games here (women's games here) as part of our live portal. You can watch daily commentary with GMs Yasser Seirawan and Robert Hess at Chess.com/tv. You can find all the information on this event here.


Traditionally, FIDE is holding this double event during the somewhat impractical last week of December, when there will always be players who have to skip because of the Christmas holidays. Also traditionally, the tournament was confirmed rather late so that some missing top players (e.g. Fabiano Caruana, Ding LirenVishy Anand or Wesley So) might have made other plans.

But it's there, and once again bearing the official name "2019 King Salman World Rapid & Blitz Championships" as the sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia is ongoing. That started in 2017, an edition held in Riyadh that led to a scandal when players from certain countries were not getting visas and some players (e.g. Nakamura) declined to participate.

Although the Saudis' financial support didn't stop, the tournament was moved to St. Petersburg last year, and this time the Russian capital is hosting. The venue in Moscow had some early-tournament heating issues today:

World Rapid Blitz Moscow 2019
The playing hall includes lots of screens with live positions. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Just before Christmas, the tournament received widespread news coverage because of the drama surrounding the participant Alireza Firouzja, a story covered here on Chess.com. The short version is that the Iranian Chess Federation withheld its players from participating in Moscow after two grandmasters had played against an Israeli player in a somewhat informal blitz tournament last week. The Iranian government in general doesn't allow its athletes to compete against Israelis in any sport.

Firouzja, who lives in France, decided to ignore the ban and travel to Moscow anyway. It was suggested that he might not represent his country anymore in the near future, and is participating in Moscow under the FIDE flag. So far, he hasn't responded to Chess.com's request for comments.

All this pre-tournament turmoil didn't seem to affect Firouzja much, as the 16-year-old player had an excellent start of 3.5/4 before he was stopped by Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the last round of the day.

Firouzja won a nice game against Anton Korobov, who came straight to Moscow from Barcelona after winning the Sunway Sitges tournament. With a rapid rating of 2818, the Ukrainian is the fourth seed behind Carlsen, MVL and Nakamura.

Alireza Firouzja World Rapid Blitz Moscow 2019
Alireza Firouzja now plays under the FIDE flag and might switch federations soon. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

In his game with Duda, Firouzja was not aware of all the details in the Austrian Attack of the Pirc, and out of the opening he was in trouble. The Polish GM found a clean finish by liquidating to a pawn endgame:

So what about those favorites? Well, both Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave dropped a point (two draws for each) so far, while Nakamura scored slightly worse than that: 3.5/5.

Carlsen won his three white games, but in his two black encounters he was held to a draw by Hrant Melkumyan of Armenia (who also played in Sitges) and Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan. Two of his wins needed a bit of work as well, such as this one—Carlsen himself called it "an objective draw."

Magnus Carlsen World Rapid Blitz Moscow 2019
Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Carlsen said he needed a bit of time to warm up, and that he was satisfied with his score so far.

"I am not supposed to be peaking yet; I am hoping to do that in the next few days," said Carlsen.


Carlsen was interviewed by FIDE after five rounds.

Vachier-Lagrave is back at the chessboard in Russia only days after hearing the final verdict of the Russian Chess Federation, which did not give him the wildcard for the candidates.

MVL started with a draw today, and as a result the Swiss pairing system didn't give him very strong opponents in the next two rounds. After two wins, he then also defeated the Czech number-two Viktor Laznicka:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave World Rapid Blitz Moscow 2019
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Nakamura started with 2.5/3 but then lost to the former world number-two Alexei Shirov, who showed his great endgame technique:

The only player to start with 4/4 was the 51-year-old Ilya Smirin of Israel, who is one of the leaders after drawing with MVL in round five. Here's Smirin's nice win from round four:


Smirin was interviewed by FIDE after five rounds.

Three players are also on 4.5/5: Leinier Dominguez, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Wang Hao

Dominguez ended his day with a spectacular win over Anish Giri. Note the computer defense that was available for the Dutchman:

Mamedyarov, the 2013 world rapid champion, won in round four with a not-too-difficult tactic that still required a bit of calculation:

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov sisters World Rapid Blitz Moscow 2019
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with his sisters Turkan (left) and Zeinab (right) Mamedyarova, who both participate as well. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Wang, one of the eight world-championship candidates next year as the winner in Isle of Man, ground down Shirov in round five in a slightly better endgame:


2019 World Rapid Championship | Round 5 Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 17 GM Wang Hao 2748 4,5 14,0 16,0 2650
2 95 GM Smirin Ilia 2584 4,5 12,5 14,5 2745
3 12 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2752 4,5 12,0 14,0 2631
4 13 GM Duda Jan-Krzysztof 2751 4,5 12,0 14,0 2618
5 9 GM Dominguez Perez Leinier 2755 4,5 11,0 13,0 2646
6 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2886 4,0 13,0 15,0 2637
7 38 GM Guseinov Gadir 2691 4,0 13,0 15,0 2585
8 40 GM Zubov Alexander 2688 4,0 13,0 14,0 2642
9 21 GM Le Quang Liem 2740 4,0 12,5 15,0 2610
10 11 GM Dubov Daniil 2752 4,0 12,0 14,0 2641
11 32 GM Motylev Alexander 2703 4,0 11,5 13,5 2590
12 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2873 4,0 11,5 13,0 2613
13 70 GM Fridman Daniel 2611 3,5 15,0 17,0 2732
14 45 GM Shirov Alexei 2672 3,5 14,0 16,5 2639
15 18 GM Giri Anish 2747 3,5 14,0 16,5 2622
16 89 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2594 3,5 13,5 15,5 2745
17 6 GM Aronian Levon 2784 3,5 13,5 15,5 2649
18 41 GM Ponkratov Pavel 2687 3,5 13,5 15,5 2617
19 60 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco 2636 3,5 13,5 14,5 2666
20 20 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2745 3,5 13,0 16,0 2608
21 5 GM Grischuk Alexander 2808 3,5 13,0 15,5 2625
22 145 IM Vokhidov Shamsiddin 2486 3,5 13,0 15,0 2701
23 64 GM Vitiugov Nikita 2631 3,5 13,0 15,0 2625
24 22 GM Svidler Peter 2738 3,5 13,0 15,0 2568
25 63 GM Melkumyan Hrant 2631 3,5 13,0 14,5 2727
26 83 GM Postny Evgeny 2598 3,5 13,0 14,5 2719
27 56 GM Bocharov Dmitry 2642 3,5 13,0 14,5 2608
28 139 GM Tregubov Pavel V. 2507 3,5 12,5 15,0 2708
29 3 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2819 3,5 12,5 14,0 2635
30 57 GM Predke Alexandr 2637 3,5 12,5 14,0 2504

(Full standings here.)

The situation is a bit similar in the women's section, where just 12 rounds will be played instead of 15. After the four rounds played on the first day, three players still have a perfect score, but none were pre-tournament favorites: IM Meri Arabidze of Georgia, WGM Olga Girya (Russia) and IM Irina Bulmaga (Romania).

Girya defeated two higher-rated opponents: the fifth seed Lei Tingjie of China and the 13th seed Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia. The latter fell victim to a zugzwang trick:


Girya was interviewed by FIDE after four rounds.

Top seed Anna Muzychuk lost as early as round two, when an exchange sacrifice didn't work out:

2019 World Rapid Championship | Round 4 Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 19 IM Arabidze Meri 2416 4,0 8,5 9,5 2239
2 30 WGM Girya Olga 2365 4,0 8,0 9,0 2377
3 24 IM Bulmaga Irina 2383 4,0 7,0 8,0 2300
4 53 IM Kashlinskaya Alina 2293 3,5 8,5 10,0 2294
5 13 GM Koneru Humpy 2438 3,5 8,5 9,5 2300
6 52 IM Charochkina Daria 2296 3,5 8,0 9,5 2466
7 113 WFM Nurgali Nazerke 1993 3,5 8,0 9,5 2361
8 6 GM Tan Zhongyi 2496 3,5 7,5 9,5 2323
9 16 GM Harika Dronavalli 2425 3,5 6,0 6,0 2258
10 91 FM Goltseva Ekaterina 2154 3,0 10,0 12,0 2400
11 47 WIM Dordzhieva Dinara 2310 3,0 9,0 10,0 2435
12 29 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2368 3,0 9,0 9,5 2319
13 9 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2478 3,0 8,5 9,5 2344
14 5 GM Lei Tingjie 2498 3,0 8,5 8,5 2338
15 58 IM Buksa Nataliya 2275 3,0 8,0 8,0 2256
16 27 IM Galliamova Alisa 2378 3,0 7,5 8,5 2314
17 8 IM Abdumalik Zhansaya 2484 3,0 7,5 8,0 2335
18 20 GM Krush Irina 2415 3,0 7,0 8,5 2288
19 31 IM Atalik Ekaterina 2360 3,0 7,0 8,5 2174
20 28 WGM Shuvalova Polina 2370 3,0 7,0 8,0 2243
21 23 GM Batsiashvili Nino 2401 3,0 7,0 8,0 2213
22 1 GM Muzychuk Anna 2592 3,0 6,5 7,0 2322
23 2 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2538 3,0 5,5 6,5 2229
24 7 WGM Pogonina Natalija 2494 3,0 5,0 5,5 2272
25 33 GM Danielian Elina 2356 2,5 9,0 11,0 2447
26 56 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina 2278 2,5 8,5 10,5 2435
27 60 IM Ovod Evgenija 2262 2,5 8,5 10,5 2402
28 82 WIM Sgircea Silvia-Raluca 2178 2,5 8,0 10,0 2415
29 45 WGM Maltsevskaya Aleksandra 2316 2,5 8,0 9,5 2357
30 10 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2455 2,5 8,0 9,5 2302

The world rapid championship, played with 15 minutes and a 10-second increment, continues on December 27 with rounds 6-10, and finishes on December 28 with rounds 11-15. Right after, the world blitz (three minutes plus two-second increment) will be played December 29-30.

Both the world rapid and the world blitz championships have a total prize fund of $350,000 each, with a first prize of $60,000 for each tournament. Both the women's world rapid and the women's world blitz championships have a total prize fund of $150,000 each, with a first prize of $40,000 for each tournament.

Find more information on the world rapid & blitz here.


Chess.com's day one coverage with Yasser Seirawan and Robert Hess.

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