World Rapid 2015: Magnus Carlsen retains his title

by Albert Silver
10/13/2015 – It was an exciting finish to the World Rapid championship, with many thrilling battles. For some, the event never really took off, while others rose and fell, but Magnus Carlsen gave a vintage performance as he scored a 11.5/15, a full point ahead of the field, and taking the no.1 spot to boot. In second was Ian Nepomniachtchi, and third was Dominguez. Report and analysis.

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The final day of the World Rapid was thrilling to watch, though it soon became apparent that
the fight would mostly be for second and third places

Norwegian TV has been a strong promoter of the game, backing their World Champion. Here
they interview the former Norwegian number one, Simen Agdestein.

Round eleven started with Belerus Sergei Zhigalko, who was the surprise co-leader with Magnus
Carlsen at 8.0/10. Magnus Carlsen gave a strong showing with both flair and opportunism.

Sergei Zhigalko - Magnus Carlsen (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Rapid-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.12"] [Round "11.1"] [White "Zhigalko, Sergei"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C88"] [WhiteElo "2656"] [BlackElo "2850"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r2k1/5pp1/7p/1Q6/3qP3/P2p3P/1P4P1/3R3K w - - 0 35"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] [EventCountry "GER"] {Black is a pawn down but the quality of his pawn is much superior to the opponent's extra pawns. Yet with accurate play, this should be equal. The fact that Zhigalko has very little time does not help him.} 35. Qb4 Qe3 36. Qa5 Rd4 37. Qd2 (37. Qf5 $1 {with the threat of Qc8-f5 perpetual would have been quite strong.} g6 38. Qf3 Qe2 39. b4 $11) 37... Qxe4 {Now the material is equal and Black is clearly better.} 38. Re1 Qd5 39. Re3 Kh7 $1 {A good idea. Magnus Carlsen has seen that he can set up a pin with Qg5 here. But first he needed to discount Re8+.} 40. b4 Qg5 $1 41. Kg1 Rd6 (41... Qxe3+ {doesn't really work yet.} 42. Qxe3 d2 43. Qxd4 $18) 42. a4 $2 {[#]} (42. Kf2 {would have saved the game for the time being but Black is clearly better.} f5 $19) 42... Qxe3+ $1 { A cute little tactic which was not hard to see but Zhigalko had just 10 seconds left.} 43. Qxe3 d2 44. Qe4+ g6 {A fine game by the World Champion who moves into the sole lead.} 0-1

Sergei Zhigalko faded on the last day, though he still finished with a near 2800 performance

Though Vladimir Kramnik was in contention after day two with 7.5/10, five straight draws
at the end (against the eventual top-scorers tis true) cooled down his run

Igor Kovalenko had astounded with his flair and imagination, but ran into a player whose
middle names are "flair and imagination": Vassily Ivanchuk

Igor Kovalenko - Vassily Ivanchuk (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Rapid-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.12"] [Round "11.2"] [White "Kovalenko, Igor"] [Black "Ivanchuk, Vassily"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A46"] [WhiteElo "2700"] [BlackElo "2726"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] [EventCountry "GER"] {Vasily Ivanchuk shows in this game how to play with the black pieces against the Colle Zukertort system.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 b6 4. Bd3 Bb7 5. O-O Be7 6. c4 O-O 7. Nc3 d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. b3 Nbd7 {This is the basic development setup for Black. The knight on f6 and bishop on b7 stand in such fashion that they control the e4 square. And now the rook comes to e8 and the other knight to f8.} 10. Bb2 a6 11. Ne5 Re8 12. f4 c5 13. Rf3 cxd4 $1 {Taking this pawn ensures that White can never open up his bishop on b2 with dxc5.} 14. exd4 b5 15. Rh3 Nf8 $1 {This knight on f8 defends the h7 point and the other knight is ready to jump into e4.} 16. Ne2 Ne4 17. Ng3 f6 18. Ng4 Qd7 {Black has excellent co-ordination and White's opening has not been successful at all.} 19. Nh5 Ng6 20. Bxe4 dxe4 21. Ne3 Bd6 22. Qf1 Rac8 23. Rd1 Rf8 24. Qf2 Rf7 25. f5 Ne7 26. Rf1 Nd5 27. Nxd5 Bxd5 {Black has the bishop pair and the bishop on b2 is very passive.} 28. Bc1 e3 $6 (28... Bf8 29. Be3 Rc3 $15) 29. Bxe3 (29. Rxe3 {was better.}) 29... Be4 30. Qh4 (30. Ng3 Rc2 $17) 30... Bxf5 31. Rhf3 Bd3 32. Rc1 Rxc1+ 33. Bxc1 Qc6 34. Bf4 Be2 35. Rf2 Bxh5 36. Qxh5 Re7 (36... Bxf4 37. Rxf4 Qc1+ 38. Rf1 Qe3+ 39. Kh1 Qxd4 $17 {was an option.}) 37. Bxd6 Qxd6 { Black has a nagging edge. The d4 pawn is weak and the White king will be in trouble.} 38. Qd1 Re4 39. Rd2 Qe6 40. Qf3 Re3 {White queen cannot leave the control of the e3 square as Re1 followed by Qe3 would be mate.} 41. Qf4 g5 42. d5 (42. Qb8+ Kg7 43. Qc7+ Kg6 44. h4 {was better but White should be losing here too.}) 42... Qe8 $1 43. Qd4 Re1+ 44. Kf2 Re4 $1 {The Ukrainian was very quick to execute this idea. Rf4 is simply a deadly check.} 45. Qc3 Rf4+ 46. Kg3 Qe1+ {A great game by Ivanchuk who never really gave a chance to his opponent.} 0-1

My name is Chucky. Ivan Chucky.

Still, flair and imagination are hardly qualities lacking in the world no. 1, even if they manifest
in more subtle shades than most, and Magnus Carlsen showed his competitive self

Magnus Carlsen - Vassily Ivanchuk (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Rapid 2015"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "2015.10.12"] [Round "12.1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Ivanchuk, Vassily"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2850"] [BlackElo "2726"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "7k/7P/2p2rpR/3pp1p1/p5P1/P1P1KP2/2P5/8 w - - 0 40"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2015.10.10"] [EventType "rapid"] {Let's join this endgame at this point. Prior to this Ivanchuk was having a small edge but he didn't play so well and now Carlsen is at least equal. That's the thing with Magnus, once he sees the flow shifting he doesn't agree to a draw but goes for the full point.} 40. c4 $5 {An ambitious decision which does not change the evaluation of the position but gives Black some concrete problems to solve.} dxc4 41. Ke4 Rf4+ (41... Re6 42. Rh3 Re7 43. c3 Re6 44. Rh6 {would lead to some sort of a zugzwang that looks pretty dangerous if you do not have an engine evaluation to help you.}) 42. Kxe5 {The pawn exchanges begin now and very soon we are left with very little material on the board.} Rxf3 43. Rxg6 Kxh7 44. Rxc6 Rc3 (44... Rxa3 45. Rxc4 {is not very comfortable for Black.}) 45. Kd5 Rxa3 46. Rxc4 Ra1 47. Kc5 Kg6 {Ivanchuk has played well and the game is still very much equal.} 48. Kb4 Kf6 49. Re4 Ra2 50. c3 Rc2 51. Rc4 Ra2 52. Kb5 a3 53. Kb4 Ke5 54. Kb3 Ra1 55. Ra4 Rc1 56. Rxa3 Kf4 57. Ra4+ Kf3 {Black has lost a pawn but his king has been activated and the c4 pawn cannot be pushed as the guy on g4 will fall.} 58. Rd4 Ke3 59. Kb4 Rf1 60. Kc5 Rf4 $6 {Now it is easier to play as White.} (60... Rc1 61. c4 Rh1 62. Rd5 Kf4 63. Rd4+ Ke3 64. Kd5 Rh8 65. Re4+ Kf3 {is a very curious position where White will lose his g-pawn and it will be a draw.}) 61. Kd5 Kf3 (61... Rf8 { Retaining the rooks would have given Black excellent drawing chances.}) 62. Rxf4+ $1 gxf4 63. g5 Ke3 64. g6 f3 65. g7 f2 66. g8=Q f1=Q {This queen endgame is very difficult to defend in a practical game especially with very little time on clock.} 67. Qe6+ Kd2 68. c4 Kc3 69. Qe3+ Kb4 70. Qb6+ Kc3 71. Qd4+ Kb3 72. c5 Qf7+ 73. Kc6 Qe6+ 74. Kb7 Qe7+ 75. Kb6 Qe6+ 76. c6 {One might say this is a premature resignation but the position is simply lost and Ivanchuk did not want to try testing Carlsen's immaculate technique.} 1-0

Daniil Dubov had a great start, even threatening Magnus Carlsen in the world champion's
only genuine danger, but three losses in the final four rounds cost him dearly

Ian Nepomniachtchi's prayers were indeed answered as he took second place for a fantastic
result. His final result of 10.5/15 was good for a 2849 FIDE Rapid performance.

Ian Nepomniachtchi - Boris Savchenko (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Rapid-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.12"] [Round "13.3"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Savchenko, Boris"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B27"] [WhiteElo "2705"] [BlackElo "2567"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r1k1nr/pp3pbp/1qn1p1p1/1B1pP3/3P4/Q6P/PP3PP1/RNB2RK1 w k - 0 12"] [PlyCount "23"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] [EventCountry "GER"] {Before the start of this round Nepomniachtchi was in the second position. In this position he could take on c6 but then the position would just be equal. Instead he plays in the romantic style and gives up his central pawns.} 12. Nc3 $5 Qxd4 13. Be3 Qxe5 14. Bc5 {Even though objectively Black is fine and maybe even slightly better, it is extrmely difficult to find the right path in the rapid format.} a6 15. Rfe1 Qg5 16. Bxc6+ Rxc6 17. Rad1 Ne7 {Black has played excellently. Not only is he two pawns up but he is all ready to 0-0 his king to safety.} 18. Qb4 a5 $2 (18... Rxc5 19. Qxc5 O-O $17 {would have been a very favourable position for Black.}) 19. Qxb7 $1 {So did White blunder his bishop on c5?} Rxc5 {[#]} 20. Ne4 $1 {Of course Nepomniachtchi had seen this cute trick!} Qh4 (20... dxe4 21. Qd7+ Kf8 22. Qd8#) 21. g3 Qxh3 22. Nxc5 {Black cannot even 0-0 and is completely lost.} Nf5 23. Qd7+ {With this win Nepomniachtchi takes the sole second position.} 1-0

33-year-old Dmitry Bocharov, rated only 2577 FIDE Rapid, had a superlative result, with
10.0/15, and a 2819 performance, finishing in a superb 5th place.

The kibitizing area was filled with fans to follow the live commentary and the games

Viswanathan Anand - Mateusz Bartel (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Rapid-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.12"] [Round "13.20"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "Bartel, Mateusz"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C07"] [WhiteElo "2803"] [BlackElo "2622"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r3k2r/p2q3p/3b1p2/2pp4/Q4Bn1/5N2/PP3PPP/R4RK1 w kq - 0 17"] [PlyCount "29"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] [EventCountry "GER"] {Black's last move was c6-c5. But with his king in the centre and White fully developed, this is not a position that you would like to have against Vishy Anand.} 17. Rfe1+ Be7 18. Rxe7+ $1 {This sacrifice is as natural as a baby's smile for Anand, although it must be said he took 4 minutes to execute it. Maybe the younger Anand would not have taken so much time.} Kxe7 19. Re1+ Ne5 20. Qc2 (20. Qa6 Qe6 21. Qa5 Qc6 22. Bxe5 fxe5 23. Nxe5 $18 {was the faster way to finish off the opponent.}) 20... Rhe8 21. Bxe5 (21. Qxh7+ Kd8 $17) 21... fxe5 22. Nxe5 Kd6 {Maybe this is something that Vishy missed. The queen cannot be taken because of the mate on the back rank but his compensation is not at all in doubt.} 23. f4 Qg7 24. b4 $1 {Another nice move trying to get to the black king.} c4 25. Qc3 Qc7 26. Kh1 Rac8 27. Rd1 Qb6 28. Qxc4 $1 {Anand is in his element here.} Rxc4 29. Nxc4+ Kc6 30. Nxb6 axb6 31. Kg1 $16 {White is clearly better in this endgame and went on to win this game. It was good to see Vishy showing some sparkling chess for which he is so well known.} 1-0

The top Cuban player Leinier Dominguez put in a star result and was 4th

Leinier Dominguez - Sergei Zhigalko (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Rapid-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.12"] [Round "14.4"] [White "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"] [Black "Zhigalko, Sergei"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B33"] [WhiteElo "2732"] [BlackElo "2656"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] [EventCountry "GER"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 Bg5 12. Nc2 Ne7 13. h4 Bh6 14. Ncb4 O-O 15. a4 bxa4 16. Qxa4 a5 17. Bb5 Nxd5 18. Nxd5 Be6 19. Bc6 Rb8 20. b4 axb4 21. cxb4 Kh8 22. b5 Bxd5 23. Bxd5 Qb6 {We have reached quite a popular position in the Sveshnikov Variation where there have been many games and Zhigalko himself has had two draws against Azarov and Papp. But here Dominguez comes up with a novelty.} 24. Rh3 Qxb5 {Zhigalko took full seven minutes to get acquainted with the subtleties of the position.} (24... f5 {Maybe a move like this made more sense than taking the b5 pawn.}) 25. Qxb5 Rxb5 {This is a very instructive position. White is a pawn down but is slightly better because his bishop on d5 is a complete monster while the bishop on h6 is not doing much.} 26. g4 f6 27. Ra7 Rc8 28. Be6 (28. Rc3 Rbc5 29. Rxc5 dxc5 30. Ke2 {Followed by Kd3 is also a pleasant position for White but nothing special.}) 28... Rc1+ 29. Ke2 Rb2+ 30. Kf3 Rb8 31. Kg2 Rc2 32. Rb3 Rf8 33. Kf3 (33. Rbb7 Be3 {looks unplesant but White has a very strong move in} 34. Rf7 $3 Rb8 35. Rab7 $18) 33... Rd2 34. Rbb7 {As you can see, the White rooks have broken through and the extra pawn makes no sense at all.} Rc2 35. Rf7 Re8 36. Bd5 Rc3+ 37. Kg2 Rcc8 38. g5 $1 fxg5 39. hxg5 Bxg5 40. Rxg7 Re7 41. Rgxe7 {A beautiful game by Dominguez who very aptly showed how initiative and activity is more important than material in opposite coloured bishop positions.} 1-0

It was not his event as Levon Aronian struggled

The Azeri Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played well and strong, but was unable to break out

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Magnus Carlsen (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "World Rapid-ch 2015"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "2015.10.12"] [Round "15.1"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E21"] [WhiteElo "2736"] [BlackElo "2850"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/p4pp1/qp3n1p/3p4/P2P4/1P3P2/2QB2PP/2R3K1 b - - 0 25"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] [EventCountry "GER"] {This was the crucial last round. Mamedyarov has a very tiny edge here. If he could somehow convert this into a win then Magnus would be in trouble as Nepomniachtchi could catch him. Maybe it was the nervousness of the world title that caused Magnus to play quite weirdly from this point onwards.} 25... Nd7 26. Qc6 Nf6 27. Qc2 Qb7 28. Qf5 Qe7 29. h3 Qe2 30. Qc2 Qa6 {We have reached the same position and White has got the h3 move for free.} 31. Bf4 Qb7 32. Kh2 Qe7 33. Qf5 {Rc7 is threatened. At this point it seemed like Magnus was in real trouble. As Alexander Grischuk who came to the commentary room said, "You cannot just waste 5-6 moves and then be alright!".} Rd8 34. Bc7 $6 ( 34. Rc7 Rd7 35. Rc6 {Keeping all the threats in the position would have been very strong. Bxh6 is not so easy to parry now.} Nh7 36. Rc8+ Nf8 37. Bxh6 gxh6 38. Qg4+ $1 Kh7 39. Rxf8 $18 {And White has a winning position.}) 34... Qd7 { Now everything is fine.} (34... Rd7 35. Be5 {was what Mamedyarov might have expected.}) 35. Qxd7 Rxd7 36. Be5 Nh7 37. Rc8+ Nf8 {White has a definite edge here but the position is just to static to make use of the better placed pieces. Meanwhile Black has the clear cut idea with f6, Kf7 and Ne6.} 38. Kg3 ( 38. f4 f6 39. Bb8 Kf7 40. f5 $16 {was the most accurate way to play not giving the e6 square for the knight. Mamedyarov would have found this in a classical game but to do that with very less time on the clock is not at all easy.}) 38... f6 $1 $11 39. Bb8 Kf7 40. Kf2 Ne6 $11 {Now it's easy for Black to defend. } 41. Ke3 Ke7 42. f4 Rb7 43. Rg8 Kf7 44. Rh8 Rd7 45. Rc8 g6 46. g4 Re7 47. Bd6 Re8 48. Rxe8 Kxe8 49. f5 gxf5 50. gxf5 Ng5 51. h4 Ne4 52. Bb8 a6 53. h5 Kf7 54. Bf4 Kg7 {Congratulations to the World Champion Magnus Carlsen who successfully defended his World Rapid title.} 1/2-1/2

It was a vintage result by the World Champion who won a clear point ahead of the field. Not
only did he defend his title, but by gaining 26 Elo, his next rating of 2873 will make him no.1

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Final standings after fifteen rounds

Rk SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts  TB  Perf rtg+/-
1 1 GM Carlsen Magnus NOR 2847 11,5 2723 2917 26,0
2 8 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2789 10,5 2712 2849 24,4
3 16 GM Radjabov Teimour AZE 2741 10,5 2681 2822 32,2
4 13 GM Dominguez Perez Leinier CUB 2749 10,5 2673 2813 26,0
5 89 GM Bocharov Dmitry RUS 2577 10,0 2712 2819 96,6
6 7 GM Kramnik Vladimir RUS 2798 10,0 2696 2813 6,4
7 38 GM Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2692 10,0 2696 2809 47,2
8 3 GM Ivanchuk Vassily UKR 2835 10,0 2690 2804 -10,0
9 39 GM Kovalenko Igor LAT 2687 10,0 2686 2800 45,6
10 9 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2784 10,0 2676 2791 3,4
11 11 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2756 10,0 2673 2792 13,8
12 19 GM Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2733 10,0 2648 2767 12,8
13 92 GM Khismatullin Denis RUS 2574 9,5 2737 2805 93,6
14 71 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam UZB 2619 9,5 2735 2803 77,0
15 53 GM Malakhov Vladimir RUS 2662 9,5 2733 2811 62,0
16 36 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2694 9,5 2722 2804 46,2
17 51 GM Korobov Anton UKR 2664 9,5 2706 2781 50,2
18 34 GM Zhigalko Sergei BLR 2698 9,5 2698 2782 35,2
19 5 GM Karjakin Sergey RUS 2805 9,5 2678 2767 -13,0
20 66 GM Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2631 9,5 2672 2748 49,0

Click for complete standings

Photos by Gregor Anthes, Nailya Bikmurzina, and Daniel McMahon for official site


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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Captain Picard Captain Picard 10/15/2015 12:15
brabo_hf brabo_hf 10/14/2015 05:38
The theme in Dominguez - Zhigalko is very well known. Check my blogarticle
I also want to add that besides 24...f5 black has probably the even more straightforward 24...Bd2. That is not so difficult if you know the theory after 24. Bc6 Be3! with an instant draw.
thlai80 thlai80 10/14/2015 05:03
After 10 games, it seems the only guy who could somehow dethrone Carlsen was Ivanchuk who was on a roll. If only their game was Ivanchuk having white, it would have been a better challenge to Carlsen than Ivanchuk employing Petroff as black. Ivanchuk could theoretically been the champion had he beaten Carlsen. Alas, Planet Ivanchuk is too unstable.