World Rapid: Carlsen On Top, But With A Surprising Name

World Rapid: Carlsen On Top, But With A Surprising Name

| 20 | Chess Event Coverage

Scoring 4.0/5 on the second day as well, Magnus Carlsen can be found at the top of the leaderboard at the World Rapid Championship. One more player is on 8.0/10: Sergei Zhigalko of Belarus.

Photos by Lena Kashirsky, Nailya Bikmurzina & Gregor Anthes.

After a downright disastrous Norway Chess tournament and a decent Sinquefield Cup, the world champion is back at the chess board in Berlin. He has yet to find his top shape.

This week, “world champion” is a title even more valuable than usual. Where it normally refers to classical chess, Magnus Carlsen is defending both his rapid and blitz titles in Germany's capital. His presence is boosting both the number of spectators and the munificence of sponsors.

Agon, the company owned and run by Ilya Merenzon, started a cooperation with sponsors that are directly connected to Carlsen: NRK (Norwegian TV), Isklar (bottled water, also sponsoring Carlsen) and Unibet (who has sponsored Norway Chess as well).

Carlsen interviewed in front of the sponsor board.

NRK is at the same time a media partner; again they are providing daily coverage live on national TV. Carlsen is the only player who has a dedicated board on stage, because it would be too much hassle to move the big cameras around all the time.

After two of the three playing days in the rapid tournament, which is attended by a few hundred spectators, Carlsen has “earned” his fixed top board. 4.0/5 on Sunday wasn't enough to keep pace with Sergey Karjakin, but repeating the same score on Monday did the trick.

But, as said, Carlsen cannot be happy with his play so far.

Carlsen is playing on a dedicated board throughout the tournament.

Especially in round six the Norwegian was very lucky to escape with a draw against Daniil Dubov of Russia, who outplayed him with the black pieces but then failed to deliver the knockout blow:

Carlsen and Dubov draw their game.

Radek Wojtaszek was close to a draw when he got himself checkmated by the world champion, who then defeated Gadir Guseinov convincingly using the London System. Carlsen drew his game with Ian Nepomniachtchi, and then managed to win a roughly equal ending against Teimour Radjabov:

How did the world champ prepare for Berlin? Well, he played yet another variant, one that doesn't really have an official world title attached to it. Blindfold chess.

About a month ago Carlsen played a blindfold simul in California, and last week he did another one in Vienna. There, NRK's Mads Støstad interviewed Carlsen and got some revealing quotes.

  • “I think it came more naturally to me to have that killer instinct a couple of years ago.”
  • “I’m trying to find it back. To find back the Magnus who’s tough as nails, who even at times is an ***hole. But who also plays better.”
  • “Motivation is something that comes and goes. I think that’s hard to avoid.”
  • “[The busy playing schedule] keeps me on my toes. It might not be optimal for the results in each tournament or each game, but it forces me to stay focused.”

Carlsen wants back his killer instinct.

Carlsen is tied for first place with a surprising name. On the day when Alexander Lukashenko was extending his reign even further, another Belarussian was grabbing the headlines: Sergei Zhigalko. The biggest wins so far for him are against Boris Gelfand in round seven and against Nepomniachtchi in round 10.

After play ended on Monday a press conference was held with three players who had been invited in advance: Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi and Radjabov. As it turned out, all of them had lost their round-10 game! 

Nepomniachtchi didn't mince words when describing his: “It could easily win the prize for the worst game I ever played.”


Ex-FIDE president Fridrik Olafsson is one of the spectators in Berlin.

The World Cup rush kept Karjakin's motor running for one more day in Berlin, but it had to end somewhere. After his 4.5/5, he added only two points to his score on Sunday with two draws, a win and losses to Radjabov and Igor Kovalenko.

Surprisingly, with five rounds to go a number of top favorites are already out of contention for first place. Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk are all on a disappointing 5.5/10. It's strange to see these big names playing “somewhere in the crowd!”

Vishy Anand checking out Boris Gelfand's board, with Maxim Dlugy and Eltaj Safarli next to him.

Here's how Aronian went down against Vladimir Onischuk in round 10:


Sporting a new hairdo and celebrating his 32nd birthday: Ruslan Ponomariov.

Speaking of marathon games, what about the following. The poor white queen had to fight against three minor pieces (two of them knights would could attack her without risking their own lives!) .


Rounds 11-15 will be played on Monday, and afterward there will be a award ceremony in the playing hall. Besides a $200,000 prize fund (a $40,000 first prize), three shiny medals are at stake.


2015 World Rapid Championship | Round 10 Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Name Fed Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 Rp
1 1 Carlsen Magnus NOR 2847 8 2696 55 2912
2 34 Zhigalko Sergei BLR 2698 8 2674 53 2900
3 39 Kovalenko Igor LAT 2687 7,5 2676 53 2854
4 7 Kramnik Vladimir RUS 2798 7,5 2665 53,5 2850
5 3 Ivanchuk Vassily UKR 2835 7,5 2655 52,5 2836
6 92 Khismatullin Denis RUS 2574 7 2755 53 2861
7 36 Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2694 7 2740 62,5 2867
8 8 Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2789 7 2697 57 2830
9 50 Mamedov Rauf AZE 2667 7 2693 50,5 2822
10 89 Bocharov Dmitry RUS 2577 7 2689 54,5 2814
11 16 Radjabov Teimour AZE 2741 7 2680 55,5 2817
12 12 Gelfand Boris ISR 2751 7 2658 59 2799
13 9 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2784 7 2638 58,5 2777
14 13 Dominguez Perez Leinier CUB 2749 7 2636 50 2775
15 53 Malakhov Vladimir RUS 2662 6,5 2753 59 2835
16 71 Kasimdzhanov Rustam UZB 2619 6,5 2745 52,5 2814
17 49 Dubov Daniil RUS 2667 6,5 2728 53,5 2815
18 5 Karjakin Sergey RUS 2805 6,5 2699 57 2797
19 38 Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2692 6,5 2692 52 2785
20 54 Onischuk Alexander USA 2662 6,5 2685 55,5 2773
21 73 Perunovic Milos SRB 2617 6,5 2674 50,5 2747
22 27 Wojtaszek Radoslaw POL 2711 6,5 2655 53,5 2753
23 11 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2756 6,5 2651 51,5 2754
24 20 Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2731 6,5 2649 54,5 2748
25 24 Riazantsev Alexander RUS 2716 6,5 2636 50,5 2737
26 18 Bacrot Etienne FRA 2733 6,5 2624 54 2725
27 19 Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2733 6,5 2621 52,5 2724
28 35 Savchenko Boris RUS 2696 6,5 2600 49 2700
29 63 Socko Bartosz POL 2639 6 2748 54,5 2789
30 68 Ponkratov Pavel RUS 2629 6 2736 52 2773

(Full standings here.)

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