Carlsen, Koneru Win World Rapid Chess Championships
Magnus Carlsen won back his world rapid title on Saturday. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen, Koneru Win World Rapid Chess Championships

| 45 | Chess Event Coverage

After getting the titles in 2014 and 2015, Magnus Carlsen won the world rapid championship for the third time in his career on Saturday in Moscow. Playing under the FIDE flag, Alireza Firouzja sensationally clinched the silver medal while Hikaru Nakamura took bronze.

Humpy Koneru won the women's title after beating Lei Tingjie of China in a blitz playoff. Turkey's Ekaterina Atalik won the bronze medal.

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 You can find all the information on this event here.

The final day of rapid in Moscow started with the clash between Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the top two players in the world in the FIDE rapid rating list. The game definitely did not disappoint, and both players had their chances. 

Vacher-Lagrave vs. Carlsen 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
Vachier-Lagrave and Carlsen start their third day. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Whereas MVL's advantage was modest but lasted for a while, Carlsen was briefly very close to victory.

"I had a great position against Magnus, but then I let him back into the game, and after a couple of moves I was under pressure," said Vachier-Lagrave. "I managed to hold, but I was not very optimistic during the game. It was a bit of a miracle to make a draw."

FIDE's interview with Vachier-Lagrave.

Carlsen moved to 8.5/11 and kept the sole lead as the two other players on 7.5 points, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Wang Hao, lost their games to Hikaru Nakamura and Leinier Dominguez respectively. Nakamura joined the group of players trailing Carlsen by half a point after Duda unnecessarily gave up his queen:

Nakamura Duda 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
A long lens to catch Nakamura vs. Duda. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Meanwhile, extra entertainment was provided on Twitter:

In the next two rounds the world champion further increased his lead as he defeated two players in a row: Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Against Aronian, Carlsen had to win the game twice. After spoiling a winning position and allowing his opponent to come back into the game, Aronian blundered a queen.

Carlsen later said it was his only difficult game of the day. "I did feel that I was probably winning anyway, but it had gotten out of hand. After such a tough game there's no better [move] than to capture the opponent's queen for nothing."

Aronian Carlsen queen blunder 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
Aronian resigns vs. Carlsen... Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Aronian Carlsen queen blunder 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
... after blundering his queen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/ 

Because all other key games (Nakamura-MVL, Grischuk-Dominguez, Wang-Korobov and Nepomniachtchi-Dubov) ended in draws, Carlsen increased his lead to a point.

His win against Mamedyarov was completely different and much more like his earlier win against Le Quang Liem. From a middlegame position that was perhaps only slightly unpleasant for Black—an isolated queen's pawn after White had played the classical minority attack—Mamedyarov made the dubious choice to sacrifice that pawn right away and never got back into the game:

Magnus Carlsen 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
A powerful win for Carlsen vs. Mamedyarov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Yet again the five other top boards all ended in draws, so Carlsen was now 1.5 points ahead of the field with two rounds to go. In the chasing group, besides well-known heavyweights Dominguez, Vachier-Lagrave, Nakamura and Vladislav Artemiev, was also 51-year-old Ilia Smirin, who delivered checkmate against Sergey Karjakin:

After a "grandmaster draw" with Dominguez, who didn't budge and kept equality throughout, Carlsen was still leading by a point going into the final round as both Artemiev and Nakamura had won their games.

The reigning European champion in standard chess defeated Vachier-Lagrave, who must have had a moment of chess blindness after the opening as his queen sacrifice was not correct:

Spectators 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
When the entry is free, an event in Russia where chess is relatively popular guarantees lots of spectators. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura did what he had to do and defeated Smirin to keep chances of victory as well.

Therefore, Carlsen had to play either Artemiev or Nakamura in the final round and needed only a draw to clinch the title. When the pairings came out, the opponent was Nakamura just like in the last round last year when the game ended in stalemate after 58 moves.

This time it didn't last that long, as Nakamura repeated their game from St. Louis earlier this year for 16 moves and then soon offered a draw. A smiling Carlsen didn't hesitate to grab his opponent's hand and with it, his third rapid title.

Nakamura Carlsen 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
Carlsen walks away with a smile when the tournament victory suddenly came easier than expected. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen remained undefeated throughout the 15 rounds and won the $60,000 first prize. He is currently holding all three titles (standard, rapid and blitz) and will try to keep his blitz title in the coming two days when a special participant will be added to the field: Vladimir Kramnik.

FIDE's interview with Kramnik on Friday.

Getting going took some time during the first two days but a strong finish made all the difference for Carlsen, who said he was very happy with his performance.

The job is half done for me. I want to win the blitz as well, so there is no time to rest on laurels.
—Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen speaking to the media.

In the evening the world champion went on to enjoy one of his favorite hobbies: playing football. In the interview after the last round, he wasn't so sure yet:

"Maybe I will play football but most of all, the job is half done for me. I want to win the blitz as well so there is no time to rest on laurels. If I do play football, it will be because I think it's a good idea to unwind that way before the blitz."

He did unwind with, among others, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich:

Although Carlsen's win was the biggest news of the day, Firouzja's success story came close. The background is known: after a clash with the Iranian Chess Federation, the 16-year-old super-talent is now considering a change in federations, and in Moscow he decided to play under the FIDE flag.

After a good first day (3.5/5) and a decent second day (2.5), Firouzja had a fantastic final day when he scored 4.5/5. He defeated Ernesto Inarkiev and Le Quang Liem and then drew with Dmitry Andreikin before beating both Wang and Mamedyarov.

Alireza Firouzja silver 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
Alireza Firouzja is the real deal. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

This author was particularly impressed with his win against world championship candidate Wang. These g3-King's Indians are incredibly hard to play, and slowly outplaying such a strong grandmaster is just superb.

The final round against Mamedyarov was a big one too obviously with a spot on the podium at stake. It was a Caro-Kann that also turned into a kind of King's Indian, if you will, and in the final phase the Iranian teenager was tactically sharper than his opponent:

Firouzja Mamedyarov 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
Firouzja playing Mamedyarov in the final round. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

As Nakamura got bronze, Artemiev was the last player to finish on 10.5 points but just missed on the medals. Last year's winner Daniil Dubov ended fairly well again in the group with 10/15.

A nice finish was in the Duda-Gadir Guseinov game in the penultimate round where a knight promotion was the winning move both in the game and in a variation:

Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Another game that caught our eye was, in fact, a quick draw but not a boring one. On the contrary, it was the result of a pretty combination by Aronian that forced a repetition:

2019 World Rapid Championship | Final Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2886 11,5 128,5 136,0 2719
2 69 GM Firouzja Alireza 2614 10,5 130,0 137,0 2706
3 3 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2819 10,5 125,5 131,5 2698
4 8 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2756 10,5 120,5 126,0 2653
5 6 GM Aronian Levon 2784 10,0 130,5 136,5 2684
6 9 GM Dominguez Perez Leinier 2755 10,0 128,5 135,5 2719
7 13 GM Duda Jan-Krzysztof 2751 10,0 128,5 135,0 2693
8 11 GM Dubov Daniil 2752 10,0 122,5 129,5 2681
9 4 GM Korobov Anton 2818 10,0 114,5 120,0 2629
10 30 GM Anton Guijarro David 2709 10,0 114,5 120,0 2613
11 19 GM Yu Yangyi 2747 10,0 114,5 119,5 2602
12 12 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2752 9,5 133,5 139,5 2713
13 21 GM Le Quang Liem 2740 9,5 127,0 134,5 2659
14 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2873 9,5 127,0 132,5 2705
15 95 GM Smirin Ilia 2584 9,5 126,5 133,5 2743
16 18 GM Giri Anish 2747 9,5 126,5 132,0 2643
17 63 GM Melkumyan Hrant 2631 9,5 126,0 133,0 2685
18 22 GM Svidler Peter 2738 9,5 126,0 133,0 2656
19 41 GM Ponkratov Pavel 2687 9,5 124,0 131,0 2651
20 32 GM Motylev Alexander 2703 9,5 123,0 130,0 2635

(Full final standings here.)

The women's section saw an amazing comeback by the 32-year-old Koneru from Gudivada, India, and at the same time a dramatic finish for the 22-year-old grandmaster Lei from Chongqing, China.

A round before the end, Lei was in the sole lead, half a point ahead of her compatriot Tan Zhongyi, followed by several players, including Koneru, a point behind.

Lei lost the 12th and final round to Atalik from a drawn rook-endgame:

Lei Tingjie 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
Lei Tingjie got incredibly close to the world title today. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

By defeating Tan in a topsy-turvy, Koneru managed to tie with Lei, together with Atalik. A playoff was going to decide the medals!

2019 World Rapid Championship | Final Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Fed Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 13 GM Koneru Humpy 2438 9,0 1 86,0 90,5 2405
2 5 GM Lei Tingjie 2498 9,0 2 87,5 91,5 2414
3 31 IM Atalik Ekaterina 2360 9,0 0 83,0 88,0 2374
4 30 WGM Girya Olga 2365 8,5 0 88,0 92,5 2463
5 6 GM Tan Zhongyi 2496 8,5 0 86,5 92,0 2382
6 1 GM Muzychuk Anna 2592 8,5 0 83,5 88,5 2378
7 4 GM Muzychuk Mariya 2518 8,5 0 82,0 87,5 2350
8 7 WGM Pogonina Natalija 2494 8,5 0 78,5 82,5 2361
9 24 IM Bulmaga Irina 2383 8,0 0 88,5 93,5 2408
10 53 IM Kashlinskaya Alina 2293 8,0 0 81,5 86,5 2390
11 3 GM Lagno Kateryna 2533 8,0 0 81,5 86,0 2375
12 33 GM Danielian Elina 2356 8,0 0 80,5 86,0 2333
13 16 GM Harika Dronavalli 2425 8,0 0 80,0 85,0 2395
14 10 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2455 8,0 0 77,5 82,5 2334
15 28 WGM Shuvalova Polina 2370 8,0 0 74,0 79,0 2289
16 2 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2538 8,0 0 73,5 78,5 2296
17 37 WGM Voit Daria 2344 8,0 0 72,5 77,0 2301
18 19 IM Arabidze Meri 2416 7,5 0 81,0 85,0 2388
19 62 WGM Kovanova Baira 2258 7,5 0 79,5 83,0 2380
20 14 GM Gunina Valentina 2434 7,5 0 78,5 83,5 2322

(Full final standings here.)

According to the regulations, the two top finishers on tiebreak play a match for the title. The time control is three minutes and an increment of two seconds.

Because Lei started with a win with the black pieces as her opponent was too slow and lost on time, the Chinese GM was again very close to clinching the title. However, Koneru then won game two on demand to take the playoff to armageddon (five vs. four with draw odds for Black). She got a completely winning position but allowed a perpetual check because it was enough.

 Humpy Koneru Lei Tingjie 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship
Humpy Koneru gets the desired draw in the armageddon. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Here are the three playoff games:

FIDE's interview with Koneru.

The world rapid and blitz championship are taking place in the Grand Sports Arena of the Luzhniki Olympic Complex in Moscow. On Sunday the world blitz championship will start with a time control of three minutes plus a two-second increment. Over two days 21 rounds will be played.

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

Find more information on the world rapid and blitz here.'s day three coverage with Yasser Seirawan and Robert Hess.

Previous reports:

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