The Defending Champion was the undeniable star of Day 2 of the World Rapid Chess Championship as he won 2 games and drew 2 in four rounds to become the sole leader of the tournament. Unlike Day 1, Day 2 was bound to feature clashes between the in-form players of the tournament.
The Champ’s Dominance
The Carlsen-Alireza clash in the previous edition of the World Rapid Chess Championship saw controversy on the board. The controversy was centered around a lost position for Magnus, but the Norwegian won on time after Alireza flagged. This time, the victory was a convincing one as Alireza failed to put up a challenge to Magnus.
World Number 2 replied with the Caro-Kann Defense to Carlsen’s 1.e4, the rest of the opening moves were played efficiently by both sides. Alireza tried to handicap the queenside of the Norwegian early on in the game with a bishop, but Carlsen maneuvered his way around the threatened diagonal.
Alireza’s attempt to seize control of the kingside fell through just as it seemed as though Carlsen granted him access by opening up the f file. But Alireza’s kingside was a mere illusion as his wasted tempo with 23…Rg3 gave Carlsen the upper hand he needed. The tables turned when Carlsen took control of the kingside thanks to a strong outpost Knight on e4.
The Knight would go on to wreak havoc on Black’s kingside. Leading him to resign after 53.Ng5.
Recall that Magnus recently made a statement that indicated his preference for playing the Alireza in a World Championship match.
Check out final moments of the game in the link below;
Vendetta Of The FIDE World Cup
Carlsen’s hunt for his first World Cup title was halted by Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the semifinals of the 2021 edition. It wouldn’t be the first time Duda would stand in the way of the World Champion as the Pole also ended Magnus Carlsen’s unbeaten streak in classical. It would only make sense for Carlsen to mean business at the sight of Duda, and he took revenge in this tournament. Note that Magnus preferred a clean victory as he opted for the arbiter not to start Duda’s clock regardless of his opponent’s late arrival.
The win against Duda came at the final round of the day to strike a blow to Duda’s hopes of adding the Rapid Chess Championship to his World Cup triumph. In the game, Duda went with a rather unusual opening with the Nimzowitsch variation of the Sicilian Defense. Regardless of Carlsen’s early promise, Duda took the play to Magnus by embedding the queen on Magnus’s half of the board with move 15…Qe4.
Both Queens were off by move 22, and Magnus used a knight-rook collaboration to play against Duda’s two rooks. But it wasn’t without a sound endgame plan as he had strongly connected pawns of just two islands. At the start of the endgame, Duda was already in Zietnot, and Magnus forced a blunder off him at move 41. The Champ’s tactical prowess shone brightest in a one-sided endgame that gave the Pole no chance.
Duda finished the day in fifth place with 6.5 points out of 9 rounds.
How other favorites fared
Ian Nepo’s Fury
The Russian seems to have come into this Rapid Chess tournament with a fiery rage fueled by disappointment. His fine victory against Duda where he sacrificed a rook proved his thirst for redemption. The essence of the rook sac was to deflect the queen from the 7th rank and expose a weakness on the f pawn. Three moves after the sac, Duda resigned to the overwhelming attack. Nepo still had 15 minutes on the clock at the time of resignation.
In summary, Nepo’s 8 average centipawn loss performance reflected a game he had total control over from start to finish. Ian 7 points out of 9 place him in joint second, half a point behind Magnus Carlsen. He resumes his charge for the title against compatriot Alexander Grischuk in Round 10.
3.5 out of a possible 4 points elevated Karjakin back on track in the tournament. He triumphed against comparatively soft opposition to go 2 points behind the sole leader. His chances of winning the tournament might be extremely slim, but he would prefer to finish as high as possible. The former World Chess Championship Challenger goes up against David Anton in the next round.
Hikaru is one of six players in this rapid chess tournament yet to taste defeat. That unbeaten streak will be put to test in the next round when he plays against the relentless super prodigy, Alireza Firouzja. Despite his unbeaten run, the American who came into the Rapid chess tournament as the second seed has lost 12 Elo due to his five draws so far. His next match will likely decide, among two red hot favorites, who finishes on the podium.
The Surprise Package
No one expected Uzbekistan Grandmaster Abdusattorov Nodirbek to be among the contenders for the title. He is currently charging his way through strong opposition to challenge Magnus’s rapid title. The 17-year old has fallen only to Ukrainian Anton Korobov but has conquered the likes of Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, and Boris Gelfand, who might’ve underestimated his capabilities. He faces his biggest test so far in Magnus Carlsen in Round 10.
Into The Women Section
Alexandra Kosteniuk appears to be running away with the rapid chess title as the Russian Grandmaster now has a near-perfect 7.5 points out of 8 in the tournament. She faces a decisive test against defending champion Humpy Koneru in the 9th round.
The Muzychuk sisters both added 3 points to their tally to take them higher up the standings after 8 rounds. Aleksandra Goryachkina has struggled to live up to expectations in the Rapid chess tournament as she sits at 27th, 2.5 points behind the sole leader.
Kateryna Lagno Blew Out Her Candles in Style
The Birthday girl marked her birthday without a loss on Day 2 as she looks to take home the title. She currently sits at 5th and will face a firm test against her compatriot IM Polina Shuvalona.
Love In The Air
To round up an eventful day 2, an arbiter popped the question to his girlfriend, a move Levy Rozman would be proud of. She confirmed a union by accepting his proposal.
More action is in store for the World Rapid Chess Championships 2021. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates!