Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz: Carlsen Wins With Record Score
Carlsen did not need to be perfect in the event's final day, but his three wins were more than enough to secure the first-place prize.

Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz: Carlsen Wins With Record Score

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The Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz has come to a close, with Magnus Carlsen the clear winner scoring 27 points, a full four points ahead of the second-place finisher Hikaru Nakamura. The event also marked an end to Viswanathan Anand's Grand Chess Tour hopes, as a loss to Carlsen eliminated him from next week's London Chess Classic

The final results in Kolkata ensure that Carlsen, Ding Liren, Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will advance to the Grand Chess Tour's semifinal. While Carlsen will be the presumptive favorite to win the tour, a potential match against Ding Liren could have major implications heading into 2020.

Grand Chess Tour 2019 Semifinals
Carlsen will face Vachier-Lagrave in the Grand Chess Tour semifinals, as Ding Liren will take on Levon Aronian. Image: Spectrum Studios

Carlsen's result in the Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz is also significant, as it sets a new points record in any Grand Chess Tour Rapid & Blitz event:

With Carlsen building an insurmountable lead in the event's first four days, much of the focus was on Anand's ability to qualify for the London Chess Classic. Needing only a sixth-place finish in the event to qualify, the former world champion needed to stay ahead of Ian Nepomniachtchi, who was still looking to rebound from a slow start in the event's first day.

Nepomniachtchi had beaten Anand in their two prior games in this event, and he was quick to complete the hat trick, using his space advantage to generate a winning endgame:

Viswanathan Anand Tata Steel 2019
Anand had his chances to reach the semifinals, but his struggles against Nepomniachtchi ultimately cost him his chance to qualify. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Elsewhere, Nakamura was still looking to secure a second-place finish in the event. After opening the day with a draw against Anish Giri, the American grandmaster was able to dispatch the tournament wildcard Pentala Harikrishna:

Hikaru Nakamura Tata Steel 2019
Nakamura's Grand Chess Tour performance in 2019 had its lows, but the American will end the year with a second-place finish and a $25,000 prize. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Carlsen lost two games across the rapid and blitz phases of the event, both against Ding Liren. Today, the world champion lost playing the Stonewall Dutch as Black. While Carlsen's opening choice was an atypical one, his two losses against Ding, the world's third-highest-rated player, will build a lot of anticipation with both players qualifying for the Grand Chess Tour semifinals next week.

Ding Liren Magnus Carlsen 2019 Tata Steel
Ding Liren's recent record against the world champion is a building storyline heading into 2020. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Levon Aronian won both the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz as well as the SuperBet Rapid & Blitz in Romania, but his performance this week in India will worry his fans heading into the London Chess Classic. In his nine games today, the Armenian failed to win a game, posting a minus-five score for the day. 

Levon Aronian Tata Steel 2019
Aronian will need to rebound next week if he hopes to beat Ding Liren in the semifinals. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

After losing to Wesley So in today's third round, Aronian was unable to build momentum and tumbled to a last-place finish.

"In a tournament, you try, but sometimes [in blitz] when you're in bad form and play bad moves, you blunder," said Aronian in a post-game interview yesterday.. "It's just a funk." 

Fortunately for Aronian, his strong performances earlier in the tour ensured his qualification for the London Chess Classic.

Anand's slow start today put him in a must-win situation against Carlsen with two rounds remaining. In yet another rematch of the 2013 and 2014 world chess championships, Carlsen won, though only after Anand failed to find a winning opportunity:

The loss eliminated Anand from Grand Chess Tour contention, as wins by both Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi made it mathematically impossible to secure a finish above sixth place. While Anand will rue the opportunity missed, the game still proved to be the most exciting moment of the day.

The tournament's final decisive game came from Nakamura, as he outplayed Vidit Gujrathi from a seemingly equal position, proving that not all rook endgames are drawn. While the game was largely overshadowed by Carlsen's dominant performance, this game serves as an example of how to play against the isolated queen pawn.

The Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz marks an end to eight players' hopes of winning the 2020 title. When asked about his overall performance in the event, Carlsen commented: "I think with this result, I showed that I'm still the man to beat."

Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz 2019
Aronian, Carlsen and Ding will be back in action on December 2. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Carlsen won $37,500 for first in the event. With the result, Carlsen has now won three different legs of the Grand Chess Tour, as he won in both Cote d'Ivoire and Croatia earlier this year.

Tata Steel Final Standings
With players like Nakamura, Giri and So performing well in this event, qualifying was a tall order for Viswanathan Anand. Image: Spectrum Studios.

Carlsen, Ding, Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave advance to the London Chess Classic, which will start on December 2. Carlsen will be looking for his third Grand Chess Tour title, and each of his opponents will try to win the title for the first time.

2019 Grand Chess Tour Standings
Anand will have to wait until 2020 for another chance to qualify for the London Chess Classic. Karjakin, who did not participate in this event, also narrowly missed his chance to qualify. Image: Spectrum Studios.

All nine rounds available for replay and download:

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