World Rapid Chess Championship Day 2: Carlsen and Kosteniuk Surge Ahead
Carlsen takes control of the tournament, finishing day two in sole first place. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

World Rapid Chess Championship Day 2: Carlsen and Kosteniuk Surge Ahead

| 27 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen finished the second day at the World Rapid Championship in sole first place with 7.5/9, notably defeating two young up-and-coming GMs: Alireza Firouzja and Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

Carlsen is pursued by three GMs with 7/9: Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who has produced numerous upsets against established names; Alexander Grischuk, who already made a draw with Carlsen; and Ian Nepomniachtchi, who may have to face the world champion on day three, less than a month after their world championship match.

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk leads the women's event in sole first with 7.5/8, a full point and a half above the rest of the field. She looks to be the likely women's world rapid chess champion.

Both rapid events will continue on Tuesday, December 28, at 6 a.m. Pacific/15:00 Central Europe

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While our thousands-of-years-old game holds many surprises, romance is not always one of them. Amid the excitement and angst before today's first round, two people shared a moment they will never forget.

Also before the day began, commentators GMs Jon Ludvig Hammer and Irina Krush speculated on what viewers may look forward to. The two most high-profile games in the first round were those among the leaders: Duda vs. Nepo and Carlsen vs. GM Baadur Jobava.

Krush observed: "Traditionally, Jobava has been somewhat problematic for Magnus... Jobava has pulled off some surprise results against him." This, indeed, turned out to be the case as the Georgian grandmaster held a draw with the white pieces against the triple-crowned world champion, keeping his nerves together despite the fast time control.

As it turned out, the first fireworks occurred elsewhere. Caruana was the first to win in round six of the open section, finishing his game in under 30 minutes.

Caruana started the day with a barn-burner of a game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

He showcased deep opening preparation as White in the Nimzo-Indian Defense, following theory all the way until move 20. After 20...Re8??, Vidit imploded and resigned before making his 29th move.

Literally one minute later, Nepo won his game against the Polish number one, taking down one of the tournament leaders. Curiously, Duda daring to enter the Russian grandmaster's world championship preparation, opted for the now-topical Anti-Berlin line played with 8... Rb8, a la Carlsen. The former world championship challenger, clearly experienced in this line, conducted a formidable attack and won with the white pieces.

Amusingly, too, Nepo finished his game with almost one minute more on his clock than when he started. Since players gain 10 seconds on every move made, it is possible to finish with more time than the 15-minute start.

Duda, who had a tremendous day one, suffered defeats to both Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen today. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

GM Maxim Matlakov vs. GM Richard Rapport featured a peculiar queen sacrifice by the Hungarian player. Anyone familiar with Rapport's games is almost unsurprised, by this point, with his creative powers. Although the game ended in a draw, it is still worth sharing.

GM Hikaru Nakamura showed some home-cooking as he played a new move in an extremely well-trodden opening. Although he won in round six, he drew in rounds seven and eight, drawing too many games to be at the very top of the leaderboard.

By the end of the round, there were eight players tied with five points. Besides the aforementioned Firouzja and Grischuk, these included GMs Vladimir Fedoseev, Anton Korobov, and Boris Gelfand, who had caught up after trailing by only half a point. The next game, however, would captivate everyone's attention.

The handshake between the world's number one and two. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round seven featured what was, without a doubt, the most highly anticipated pairing in the entire event, if not in all of 21st-century chess. This clash of generations, and clash between the current number one and two in the world, featured a swift attack by the older and more experienced player as the 18-year-old prodigy seemingly crumbled.

Jobava, having the tournament of a lifetime, played against Nepomniachtchi in this round. What an opportunity—to play the world champion and challenger back-to-back! He was able to draw this game as well, which took both himself and his opponent from first into a six-way tie for second place.

Abdusattorov, the 17-year-old phenom, defeated another elite player, GM Levon Aronian. He also beat GM Fabiano Caruana yesterday, proving his promise as a young talent by overwhelming the two established and elite players.

Abdusattorov, at age 17, is a force to be reckoned with in recent events. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other major result was Grischuk's win over Korobov. As Black, he instructively gained space by pushing his h-pawn and subsequently flooding the white kingside with his queen and minor pieces. With this win, Grischuk joined first place, with six points, as Carlsen's only other co-leader.

Grischuk showcased a strong performance today, drawing the world champion. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Rapport won yet another entertaining game against GM Aleksey Dreev, who unfortunately fell victim to some great games by his opponents.

By round eight, only Carlsen and Grischuk had six points, trailed by six other GMs who had 5.5/7. Their game, which featured some intricate mind-games in the opening phase, ended in a complicated draw. Most of the top boards, actually, ended in draws as well, allowing Duda to sneak back into a tie for first with 6.5 after his round-eight win.

Grischuk was able to hold the world champion to a draw. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

One game that did not affect the top standings, but was still interesting, was between GM Daniil Dubov and GM Hans Niemann, the rising American chess star who has broken 2600 less than a year after earning his GM title. The Russian GM and renowned openings expert, playing with the black pieces, sacrificed an exchange on move 23 and his knights flooded into the light squares on f3 and g4 with debilitating effect on the white army.

Dubov deep in thought. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana, who had a score of 5/7, concocted an incredibly creative queen sacrifice in an attempt to win. Unfortunately, despite earning the proverbial style points (which do not translate to real points), it did not pan out well. Fortunately for him, Caruana managed to secure a draw by the end of the game.

Meanwhile, Abdusattorov delivered yet another upset against GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek in round eight, and GM Timur Gareyev received a shocking gift from Korobov, a very strong rapid player. The world's record-holder for most simultaneous blindfold games suddenly leapfrogged to second-place with this win. After white played 30.Qf4, he found the winning move as Black in the following diagram.

Three players led the tournament by the last round: Duda, Grischuk, and Carlsen (in tiebreak order). Grischuk was paired against Jobava, who has had a spectacular tournament, but more attention was devoted by commentators to the titanic pairing of Carlsen and Duda. In a show of sportsmanship, the world champion did not start his opponent's clock until his younger opponent arrived at the board.

After trading his rook for a knight and two pawns in the middlegame, Carlsen ultimately won a tricky rook endgame which he, as usual, made look trivial.

Other notable games from this round include Nakamura's win over Fedoseev, where he masterfully converted a queen and knight vs queen endgame on an incredibly open board. Nepomniachtchi defeated Gareyev in a back-and-forth game that ended with two rooks and a bishop (for the Russian) overpowering a queen and a bishop.

Gareyev (left) and Nepo (right) discuss their game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

GM Ivan Cheparinov beat GM Anish Giri in, frankly, steamroller fashion with the white pieces in the Slav Defense. Meanwhile, Grischuk and Jobava agreed to a draw in this funny-looking position.

It should be also mentioned that GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave voiced concerns over conditions at the event after the round was over. In addition to the below tweet, he also mentioned in a later tweet, that "150 players had to wait an extra 30 minutes for transportation at the end of the day, then had to fit inside the single bus that was provided."

2021 World Rapid Championship | Round 9 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2842 7,5 46,0 49,5 2667
2 59 GM Abdusattorov Nodirbek 2593 7,0 48,5 53,0 2688
3 8 GM Grischuk Alexander 2763 7,0 48,5 52,5 2641
4 4 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2798 7,0 47,5 52,0 2647
5 3 GM Duda Jan-Krzysztof 2801 6,5 49,0 52,5 2679
6 27 GM Jobava Baadur 2679 6,5 48,5 52,5 2667
7 69 GM Van Foreest Jorden 2563 6,5 45,5 49,0 2726
8 33 GM Firouzja Alireza 2656 6,5 45,0 49,0 2570
9 2 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2836 6,5 44,5 48,5 2611
10 6 GM Caruana Fabiano 2770 6,5 44,0 48,0 2602
11 47 GM Cheparinov Ivan 2621 6,5 42,0 44,5 2600
12 54 GM Hovhannisyan Robert 2613 6,5 41,5 45,0 2587
13 52 GM Amin Bassem 2614 6,5 37,5 40,5 2458
14 62 GM Gareyev Timur 2578 6,0 49,5 51,5 2678
15 35 GM Gelfand Boris 2648 6,0 45,0 48,0 2616
16 154 GM Niemann Hans Moke 2327 6,0 44,5 49,0 2660
17 42 GM Volokitin Andrei 2631 6,0 44,5 48,0 2673
18 14 GM Aronian Levon 2728 6,0 44,5 47,0 2545
19 38 GM Alekseenko Kirill 2637 6,0 42,0 45,0 2568
20 21 GM Fedoseev Vladimir 2692 6,0 41,0 44,5 2618

(Full final standings here.)

All World Rapid Championship Games