Carlsen, Wei Lead Ivory Coast Rapid & Blitz After Day 1
Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi analyze an intricate endgame. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Carlsen, Wei Lead Ivory Coast Rapid & Blitz After Day 1

Alessandro_Parodi
Alessandro_Parodi
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26 | Chess Event Coverage

As the tournament name suggests, the race is to the swift at the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz. One day into the rapid section of the tournament, Magnus Carlsen and Wei Yi share the lead with two wins and one draw. The tournament is being held in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast's largest city. 

The world champion started off with an incredible performance against rapid specialists Wesley So, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Hikaru Nakamura, the latter now alone in third place. Wei instead faced relatively weaker competition, yet he conquered an outstanding upset against fellow Chinese GM Ding Liren.

A great day for Wei Yi. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
A great day for Wei Yi. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Sergey Karjakin, Veselin Topalov and Bassem Amin complete the list of participants at the African tournament, which constitutes the first leg of this year’s Grand Chess Tour.

Fabiano Caruana, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri and Viswanathan Anand will play other events of the tour to compete for the big prize of $150,000 up for grabs at the London Chess Classic at the end of November.

Carlsen dominates with any time control:

A playful Nepomniachtchi at the beginning of a dramatic game. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
A playful Nepomniachtchi at the beginning of a dramatic game. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Carlsen’s "inhuman" performance at the latest classical tournaments in Shamkir and Baden-Baden puzzled commentators and chess fanatics across the globe. At the end of Grenke Chess Classic, the Norwegian pointed out that rapid is a different story, proven by his lower comfort with a rapid time control.

Well, it turns out it isn’t! Carlsen set the pace for the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz, outmatching his strongest rivals in speed chess.

His game against Nepomniachtchi in round two speaks for itself.

Nakamura on the world champion’s heels:

Nakamura: "Now I just have to beat the weaker guys." | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Only Nakamura could stop the world champion, who beat So in round one. Nakamura went for a perpetual check in a game where he was never worse. He is now on plus-one, ahead of what should be an easier day tomorrow.

“I played Magnus, now I just have to beat the weaker guys,” he commented.

His first game against Vachier-Lagrave was a great demonstration of his exceptional endgame technique in time trouble and a repeat of Chess.com’s Team Chess Battle in March.

Wei has the better of dramatic Chinese derby:

19-year-old sensation Wei Yi defeated China's #1 Ding Liren. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
The 19-year-old sensation Wei Yi defeated China's #1, Ding Liren. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Carlsen’s triumphant wins over the strongest rapid competitors may be surprising, but the news of the day is Wei’s ascent towards the lead of the event. The strongest teen in the world, Wei shocked Chinese fans by defeating the world number-three Ding when he set in motion a crushing queenside majority.

China’s number-one Ding is back on an even score and he approaches three unpleasing pairings for the second day of the tournament: So, Nepomniachtchi and Nakamura.

The Grand Chess Tour wildcard Wei, however happy about his performance, didn’t seem impressed with his play, as he admitted: “I feel I’m very lucky. In the second game, the position wasn’t good for me.”

His game with the African champion Bassem, another wildcard in the tournament, was incredibly sharp and favored the Chinese player's daring spirit.

A harsh start for Bassem:

Bassem had his baptism by fire in Abidjan. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
Bassem had his baptism by fire in Abidjan. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Bassem’s first tournament in the elite circuit began with a false start. Despite his solid play and outstanding calculation, the Egyptian misplayed three imbalanced positions and slipped into time trouble.

His solid and prophylactic approach to the game might not be super-GM proof, as demonstrated by unforgiving attacks carried out by the Chinese duo Ding-Wei. Increasing the African champion’s negative streak for the day, So made himself comfortable seizing the bishop pair and converted a superior endgame.

Vachier-Lagrave didn't manage to hold an inferior endgame against Nakamura. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
Vachier-Lagrave couldn't hold an inferior endgame against Nakamura. | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Nepomniachtchi and Vachier-Lagrave, two of the most acclaimed speed players alive, struggled to hit the mark in the first day of the rapid tournament. After a spectacular—but theoretical—draw in the Sicilian Najdorf during the Russian derby against Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi fell under the Carlsen train and later spoiled a promising advantage against Topalov.

Vachier-Lagrave also had a slow-motion start and could only achieve two draws after the initial false step with Nakamura.

Karjakin and Topalov are both on half-score with three draws. The Bulgarian’s attacking style couldn’t grant him more than some momentum against So, who forced a repetition in an equal position, and almost made him lose against Nepomniachtchi.

How could Nepomniachtchi win? | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com
Was there a win for Nepomniachtchi? | Photo: Alessandro Parodi/Chess.com.

Round four starts tomorrow at 5 p.m. local time (GMT), which is 19:00 CEST, 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific. You can follow all the games live here as part of our live portal.

Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.
Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Here’s the full schedule of the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz:

  • Wednesday, May 8 – Rapid Rounds 1-3 from 5 p.m. GMT (19:00 CEST, 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific.
  • Thursday, May 9 – Rapid Rounds 4-6 from 5 p.m. GMT (19:00 CEST, 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific)
  • Friday, May 10 – Rapid Rounds 7-9 from 5 p.m. GMT (19:00 CEST, 1 p.m. Eastern and 10 a.m. Pacific)
  • Saturday, May 11 – Blitz Rounds 1-9 from 2 p.m. GMT (16:00 CEST, 10 a.m. Eastern and 7 a.m. Pacific)
  • Sunday, May 12 – Blitz Rounds 10-18 from 2 p.m. GMT. (16:00 CEST, 10 a.m. Eastern and 7 a.m. Pacific) Playoffs and prize giving from 6.30 p.m. GMT (20:30 CEST, 14.30 a.m. Eastern and 11.30 a.m. Pacific)

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