Three elites lead the pack after day 1 of the much-anticipated FIDE World Rapid Chess Championship 2021. Jan-Krzysztof Duda, playing at home, saw his perfect run after four rounds tainted by fellow 4-pointer, Georgian Grandmaster, Baadur Jobava. The slip, on both sides, made the defending champion catch up after a slow start which saw him take home a disappointing draw against Armenian Grandmaster, Samvel Ter-Sahakyan. 4.5/5 remains the best outcome in the tournament after 5 rounds.
Eyes On The Defending Champion
Magnus was made to work hard for his opening win in the r tournament when he went against Merab Gagunashvili. The Georgian Grandmaster succumbed to fatigue and time pressure as he fell to a basic discovered attack in the drawn endgame position. Merab played solidly throughout the game as he had just one inaccurate move in 102 moves. The decisive blunder came at his 103rd move. Carlsen, on the other hand, played like a defending champion with no errors in 104 moves.
His biggest test came against one of Spain’s finest, Alexei Shirov, who had a rapid rating of 2702. Carlsen, who played with the Black pieces, was the first to make a blunder on just the 12th move. He seemed to have lost touch of the Ruy Lopez Opening he played well against in the just-concluded World Chess Championship. Luckily, it wasn’t a fatal mistake, and the game went on without any problems for the Norwegian. The slender advantage for Shirov soon fizzled out, and the position looked largely drawn until Shirov’s decisive blunder came with move 56.Nf5+.
The Spanish top seed resigned at move 57.Ne3 after realizing his mammoth disadvantage in pawn material. Magnus continues his defense of the triple crown in Round 6 of Day 2 against a fellow leader, Baduur Jobava.
How Other Favorites Fared
The American speedster, returning to an OTB tournament for the first time in 2 years, seems to require some time to readapt to the board. His 3.5 points after 5 rounds appear to be underwhelming to his supporters. Hikaru’s first slip came against Dutch second seed, Jorden Van Foreest. The rook endgame always looked drawn as a threefold repetition settled the duel. Greek Grandmaster Stelios Halkias and Ukrainian Grandmaster Andrei Volokotin also snatched half a point from the American. Nakamura continues his title hunt on Day 2 against Russian GM Alexandr Predke.
The rising star’s cunningness on the board robbed Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin of a share of the spoils. A costly blunder with 54…Kc4?? allowed the Iranian-born French player to seize control of the endgame. Nihal, who defended well against Alireza’s brewing attacks, would be disappointed by the outcome of the game. The point is just 1 of 4 points gathered from the first five rounds of the Rapid tournament. The youngster starts his Day 2 adventure against Timur Gareyev, the American GM who nearly upset his compatriot and World Number 2, Fabiano Caruana.
The American top seed trails the leaders by a point and would aim to seal more wins on Day 2 of the tournament. His surprise loss against Uzbekistan GM Nodirbek Abdussatarov dealt a major blow to his title hopes. He faces a stellar test against India’s second seed, GM Vidit Gujrathi, on the first game of Day 2. How do you predict the American to finish in this rapid tournament?
Other favorites like Ian Nepomniachtchi, Anish Giri, and Alexander Grischuk all started with 4 points from Day 1. Daniil Dubov started quite well but lost to the Spanish elite, David Anton. He embarks on a mission to recover from the loss against his namesake from Spain, GM Daniil Yuffa.
Perhaps, the poorest start from the favorites came from Sergey Karjakin, who is currently placed at 135th position after losing to the Czech Republic GM Peter Michalik and Hungarian GM Gergely Kantor. His sole win came against IM Igor Janik from Poland in the 5th round. For round 6, he faces the lowest-ranked player in the tournament, IM Mittal Aditya from India.
Into the women section
Russian GMs Valentina Gunina and Alexandra Kosteniuk go into round 5 of the tournament with perfect 4/4 scores. At least one run is bound to end at the start of Day 2 as both leaders have been paired against each other. The Muzychuk sisters have endured a not-so-bright start by their standards and currently sit outside the Top 20 after 4 rounds.
Polish WFM Pola Parol and Ukrainian WIM Maria Efimenko are still struggling to find their feet in the tournament with no points so far. Stay tuned as we keep you posted on more outcomes from the World Rapid Chess Championship 2021.