World Rapid - Day 1: Fedoseev, Jobava, and Ju Wenjun

by Alex Yermolinsky
12/27/2017 – The incredibly rich King Salman World Rapid Championship has started with a record prize fund only rivaled by that of the actual world championship. The tournament started with a bang as Magnus Carlsen lost his first round game to Bu Xiangzhi! The early leaders are Fedoseev and Jobava in the Open section with 4½ / 5 and Ju Wenjun in the Women's with 5/5. We bring a huge report with 11 games chosen and analysed by Alex Yermolinsky | Photo:

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Busy 2017 calendar ends on a high note

The King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championship, which has started in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, boasts the highest ever prize fund for any chess event aside of World Championship matches. The winners of both Rapid and Blitz will come away with a quarter of million USD in the open section, and $80,000 in the Women's.

Who is playing, who is not

Players from 55 countries, among them 10 from the World Top 15 as well as 11 out the women’s World Top 15 are competing in this prestigious event.

It is understandable, however that some players, including the U.S. Big Three and the Muzychuk sisters of Ukraine, chose not to take part. Every person decides for themselves, and their reasons are to be respected. I just wonder about the timing, Saudi Arabia seems to be going through some sort of political and social changes, designed to make it more open to Western customs. One sign of it was the lifting of the demand that women participants have their hair covered by scarves while playing. It is replaced by a standard corporate-looking appearance code of suits, collared shirts and dress shoes, which incidentally applies to both sexes. I don't find this a bad idea at all. Chess can only gain from instilling proper fashion sense in their practitioners. As for what's happening outside of the playing venue I couldn't care less. Nobody came to Riyadh for a vacation, it is five days filled with chess and nothing else. [For further discussion and context, see "FIDE's Riyadh Gambit" -Ed.]

Day One

The King Salman World Rapid Championship is a 15-round swiss system tournament for both the Open and the Women’s events, played over three days with five rounds per day.

To the chess. I'd like to respond to a faster rate of play, 15 minutes with a 10-second increment, as opposed to FIDE's standard G/25+10, by introducing more examples, rather than analyzing everything in depth. Too much scrutiny would be unfair to the players.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen is there as the hands-down favorite in both the Rapid and Blitz disciplines, if only because of his large leads in the rating lists. While Carlsen's performances in Classical Chess have been less than stellar this year, his dominance in faster time controls was confirmed during both the Grand Chess Tour over the board, and the Championship played online.

Shockingly, Magnus' campaign in Riyadh started off with a loss to the same guy who knocked him out of the World Cup, and again Carlsen had the white pieces. Bu happened twice!

Bu Xiangzhi managed the rare feat of beating Magnus Carlsen twice in the year | Photo:

Magnus Carlsen 0-1 Bu Xiangzhi (annotated by GM Alex Yermolinsky)
[Event "FIDE World Rapid-ch Men 2017"] [Site "Riyadh"] [Date "2017.12.26"] [Round "1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Bu, Xiangzhi"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A28"] [WhiteElo "2837"] [BlackElo "2730"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r4rk1/1pp2q1p/4bbn1/pP2p1p1/2P1Pp2/P2B1N1P/1B1RQPP1/5RK1 w - - 0 20"] [PlyCount "37"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] {[#] A complex battle is in full swing here. Bu has certainly shown no fear!} 20. Nh2 Rad8 21. Rfd1 Qe7 22. Qh5 {A pretty logical attempt to get a hold of important squares on the K-side.} ({but the restrained} 22. Qe1 b6 23. Be2 Qc5 $11 {may have been better.}) 22... Rd7 23. Ng4 Rfd8 24. Nh6+ {Obviously, Carlsen was driven by the revenge factor.} ({He may have looked at} 24. c5 $5 Bg7 25. c6 bxc6 26. bxc6 Rd6 27. a4 $1 {[#] but likely spotted a great resource } f3 $3 {where all of a sudden Black is going after his queen.} (27... Rxc6 28. Bb5 Rxd2 29. Rxd2 $16) 28. Ba3 (28. g3 Bf7) 28... Nf4 29. Nh6+ Kh8 30. Qxf3 Bxh6 {However, the resulting position is quite acceptable for White, particularly after} 31. Bf1 $1) (24. Nxf6+ Qxf6 25. Bc3 Qe7 26. c5 b6 27. c6 Rd6 {on the other hand, looks pretty dull.}) 24... Kh8 25. Nf5 Qc5 26. Qe2 Nh4 27. Nxh4 gxh4 $15 {White is unable to unload the d-file before the black rooks escape to the g-file.} 28. Qh5 Rg8 29. Bf1 Rdg7 30. Kh1 Qe7 31. Qf3 Rg5 32. a4 Bf7 $1 {Bu discovers a new venue for his attack.} (32... Qf7 33. c5) 33. Rd7 Qe6 {[#]} 34. Qe2 $4 {A very unfortunate square for the white queen.} ({ Best was} 34. Qa3 $1 {to prepare to shut down the a7-g1 diagonal with c4-c5 should black attempt to move his queen there.} Bh5 35. f3 Rg3 36. R7d3 { looks pretty stable, since} Qxc4 $2 {loses to} 37. Rd5 Qc2 38. R5d2) ({Else,} 34. Qd3 Bh5 35. f3 Rg3 36. Qd5 {was good enough to force a spectacular draw:} Qxh3+ 37. gxh3 Bxf3+ 38. Kh2 Rg2+ 39. Bxg2 Rxg2+ 40. Kh1 Rg3+ 41. Kh2) 34... Bh5 35. f3 Rg3 $19 36. Kh2 (36. R7d3 Qb6 37. Kh2 Rxh3+ 38. Kxh3 Qg1 {A very unwelcome guest has come for dinner}) 36... Qb6 37. c5 Qxc5 38. Kh1 {Magnus resigned without waiting for the obvious Rxh3+.} 0-1

Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.


True to himself, Magnus responded in kind by scoring 3½ / 4 in the remaining games of the day. I particularly liked the exclamation point he posted in Round 5 by defeating FIDE World Champion of 2004, Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

Magnus Carlsen struck back with 3½ / 4 and is a clear contender in spite of his shock loss in the first round | Photo:

Magnus Carlsen 1-0 Rustam Kasimdzhanov (annotated by GM Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "FIDE World Rapid-ch Men 2017"] [Site "Riyadh"] [Date "2017.12.26"] [Round "5"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Kasimdzhanov, Rustam"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B47"] [WhiteElo "2837"] [BlackElo "2683"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "49"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. g4 $5 {Was Magnus sending a message to Caruana through Fabiano's own second? "This is what you will see in our match should you win the Candidates".} a6 7. h4 $5 {Very much "in your face" strategy.} b5 (7... Nf6 8. Nxc6 (8. g5 $2 Nxe4 9. Nxe4 Qe5) 8... bxc6 9. g5 Ng8 {I wonder if two tempi is too high a price for getting the b-pawn to come to c6.}) 8. Nxc6 dxc6 {Usually people don't do very well against Magnus Carlsen by trying to stabilize the situation.} (8... Qxc6 $5 9. a3 Nf6 10. Bg2 h5 {is a totally different approach. Regardless of its objective value, practically speaking it represents the right strategy when facing Magnus.}) 9. Qf3 e5 10. g5 Be6 11. Bh3 {Suddenly White's outrageous handling of the opening is making perfect sense now.} Bxh3 12. Rxh3 Bc5 13. Bd2 $14 O-O-O 14. O-O-O (14. a4 $5 b4 15. Na2 a5 16. Nc1 f6 17. Nb3 {looked more to the point.}) 14... f6 15. h5 fxg5 16. Bxg5 Rxd1+ 17. Nxd1 Qd7 18. Qb3 ({ Interesting was} 18. Qc3 Bd4 19. Qa3 {to intefere with Black's development.}) 18... Nf6 19. Rd3 Qg4 $2 {[#]} (19... Qe7 $14) {The black queen's excursion gets a very rough welcome.} 20. Be3 $1 Bxe3+ 21. Nxe3 Qxe4 (21... Qg1+ 22. Rd1 Qxf2 23. h6 $1) 22. Qe6+ Kb8 {[#]} 23. h6 $1 {This great disrupting move makes me think of Garry Kasparov.} Qh1+ 24. Rd1 Qxh6 25. Qxc6 1-0

Another former World Champ (of course, he won it many times and under different systems), Vishy Anand seemed to have enjoyed himself today. His game was flowing naturally, and good things were happening almost by themselves. Of course, there's more than meets the eye, and I would like to present a couple of snippets of Anand's inspired attacks.

Anand attacks

My Career Vol. 1

The first DVD with videos from Anand's chess career reflects the very beginning of that career and goes as far as 1999. It starts with his memories of how he first learned chess and shows his first great games (including those from the 1984 WCh for juniors). The high point of his early developmental phase was the winning of the 1987 WCh for juniors. After that, things continue in quick succession: the first victories over Kasparov, WCh candidate in both the FIDE and PCA cycles and the high point of the WCh match against Kasparov in 1995.
Running time: 3:48 hours


Not all favorites started the tournament well. It's unusual, to say the least, to see Aronian and Mamedyarov with only one win apiece, but it pales in comparison to Vachier-Lagrave's three (!) losses that left him with only 2 / 5.

It was a tough first day at the office for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (right) | Photo:

On the other hand, Svidler and Grischuk looked very poised. Both Russians got to 4 / 5 without much trouble. A quick draw they made in Round 4 was expected, as tougher battles are still ahead.

Alexander Grischuk is an automatic favorite thanks to his extreemly strong track record in rapid and blitz | Photo: official site

The leaders

In the end Day One belonged to Vladimir Fedoseev and Baadur Jobava who finished at 4½ / 5 and will be facing each other in Round 6.

Fedoseev is making a habit of starting with four wins. He did it at the Russian Superfinal, only to butcher the tournament due to his uncompromising (read, foolish) attempts to win every game when an occasional draw wouldn't hurt his tournament standings.

Vladimir apologized to his ever-growing army of fans, and promised to do better next time. It's not like finishing equal 3-4 in the Russian Championship is a disaster, anyway, but seemingly the bar has been set much higher. The question is how Fedoseev plans to improve. “Remember, the car has more than just an accelerator pedal” was the advice from one of his supporters. I suspect the reply would be, “ah, are there two accelerator pedals?”

Everything went Fedoseev's way today. See for yourself.

Fedoseev on fire

This all-star field and rapid time controls ensure non-stop action and fun for chess fans around the world | Photo:

Power Play 2 - Attacking the king

Checkmate ends the game – that’s an undeniable fact. Yet one sometimes gains the impression that players who gleefully and unashamedly play for the attack are treated as a joke by their colleagues. Launching a successful attack is a skillful business that often demands great creativity. And like most themes in chess, this is a skill that can be honed and polished.


Baadur Jobava doesn't like to be upstaged when it comes to uncompromising play. We all remember how he crashed and burned in his only appearance at the high stage of the Grand Chess Tour in Leuven last summer. The thing with guys like Jobava is that they never learn. And why should he? Watch him win.

Jubilant Jobava

Granted, Lady Luck smiled broadly on both leaders in Day One. They will be facing a tough test as the tournament rolls along. With 30 players positioned within one point of first place we should expect a very tight race.

Ju Wenjun was supreme in the Women's section with a perfect 5.0/5 start | Photo: official site

Standings after five rounds (open)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Fedoseev Vladimir 4,5 0,0
2 Jobava Baadur 4,5 0,0
3 Grischuk Alexander 4,0 0,0
4 Ponkratov Pavel 4,0 0,0
5 Svidler Peter 4,0 0,0
6 Kravtsiv Martyn 4,0 0,0
7 Kuzubov Yuriy 4,0 0,0
8 Fressinet Laurent 4,0 0,0
9 Anand Viswanathan 4,0 0,0
10 Rapport Richard 4,0 0,0
11 Cheparinov Ivan 4,0 0,0
12 Bu Xiangzhi 3,5 0,0
13 Bosiocic Marin 3,5 0,0
14 Carlsen Magnus 3,5 0,0
15 Ni Hua 3,5 0,0
16 Wang Hao 3,5 0,0
17 Quparadze Giga 3,5 0,0
18 Van Foreest Jorden 3,5 0,0
19 Leko Peter 3,5 0,0
20 Wang Yue 3,5 0,0
21 Ding Liren 3,5 0,0
22 McShane Luke J 3,5 0,0
23 Safarli Eltaj 3,5 0,0
24 Alekseev Evgeny 3,5 0,0
25 Movsesian Sergei 3,5 0,0

Complete standings

Standings after five rounds (women)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Ju Wenjun 5,0 0,0
2 Khotenashvili Bela 4,0 0,0
3 Pham Le Thao Nguyen 4,0 0,0
4 Padmini Rout 4,0 0,0
5 Tan Zhongyi 4,0 0,0
6 Harika Dronavalli 4,0 0,0
7 Paehtz Elisabeth 4,0 0,0
8 Guo Qi 4,0 0,0
9 Goryachkina Aleksandra 4,0 0,0
10 Mamedjarova Turkan 3,5 0,0
11 Lei Tingjie 3,5 0,0
12 Gunina Valentina 3,5 0,0
13 Kosteniuk Alexandra 3,5 0,0
14 Sebag Marie 3,5 0,0
15 Zozulia Anna 3,5 0,0
16 Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim 3,5 0,0
17 Stefanova Antoaneta 3,5 0,0
18 Danielian Elina 3,5 0,0
19 Girya Olga 3,5 0,0
20 Huang Qian 3,5 0,0

Complete standings

All games



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.
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Arminio12 Arminio12 1/3/2018 11:33
Mr Yermolinsky, you're missing the point entirely. Nobody is condemning anyone for participating in the Riyadh tournaments, or for working in the Gulf countries for that matter. At least I don’t recall having blamed anyone for not refusing to participate, so if you do think I did, kindly show me where. What I did do was react to your, in my view, outrageous idea that Saudi-Arabia’s dress code rules could teach chess practitioners some more “fashion sense”. How cynical can you be? Secondly, I reacted to your “I couldn’t care less” argument. Actually, whether you, personally, in such cases stayed in your hotel or not, is irrelevant. We aren’t talking about you here, but about women who could not go out (the way you could) if they wanted to. Easy for you to say what they should and should not do, and what they (but not you) should put up with. Oh well, women deciding for themselves and that sort of thing, can’t really have that, can we?

You, on the other hand, are implying that those that did not go and those that sympathize with their decision should be blamed, because after all, human rights issues, “particularly (as) defined by the Western media outlets”, are plain silly: you “couldn’t care less” about them, as you put it. It is a remarkable point of view, particularly for a Russian who came to live in the US and who fully enjoys all the rights a country like the US and many western counrtries guarantee and many other countries, including Russia and Saudi-Arabia, to mention just two of them, do not. By the way, just how silly is it, in your opinion, that the Israeli players, who quite probably would have been content with just “five days filled with chess and nothing else”, were not allowed in?

As some other readers suggested, stick to chess: I’ve never complained about that or found a reason to do so. Apart from that - your reaction is quite telling in this respect - it appears you have nothing to offer.
tlago tlago 12/31/2017 11:37
as usual things got even worse, "silly "human rights" issues", luckily there are chessplayers who do care.

go analyze chess games
acepoint acepoint 12/30/2017 06:32
»do not care at all for your silly "human rights" issues«

I wonder whether you would had spoken the same way if the iron curtain still exists and you are on the wrong side of it. Just a polite suggestion: concentrate on analysing games, this is at least something I enjoyed much in past.
AlexYermo AlexYermo 12/30/2017 03:04
Grandstanding the word. to describe the outrage over my comments. I wonder how you go through your daily life holding everything and everybody else to such high standards.
There must be hundreds of U.S. citizens living and working in the Gulf countries, most of them for oil companies. Should they all be condemned because they a) give support to a "bad" country and b) by helping to destroy the planet in the process?
"Prison" of a hotel?
I have played many tournaments where I never left the hotel. Reasons could be different, two long games a day being the most common one. It could be the weather, it could be an adverse environment. Do you think many players take an evening stroll in downtown Philadelphia during World Opens?
By and large, chessplayers do not care at all for your silly "human rights" issues, particularly when such are solely defined by the Western media outlets.
As for the reader I lost, good riddance. He didn't seem to care for the chess part of my writings anyway if he could be turned away so easily. I analyze dozens of games daily for my reports, and not a single comment on the games makes it to this discussion?
BKnight2003 BKnight2003 12/28/2017 06:11
Wake up, people, the players are there WORKING, trying to make a living for them and their families. If you would turn down a JOB in a country which policy you disagree with, ok, but no one can be blamed for accepting that job.
Pionki Pionki 12/28/2017 10:41
Good on you, Bu. Svidler's "one win in a row" stands no longer.
tlago tlago 12/27/2017 09:09
up to this day i was quite a fan of Alex Yermolinsky's somewhat old-fashioned but witty "every russian school boy knows" style.

but this article was quite an eyeopener. just as Arminio12 i could hardly believe my eyes reading about "couldnt care less..."

will never read or listen to any word of this man.
acepoint acepoint 12/27/2017 12:48
@Macauley thanks, I thought he was only responsible for annotating the games.
macauley macauley 12/27/2017 12:42
@acepoint - It was not on purpose. Just an oversight, now fixed. The author was also mentioned in the intro paragraph: Alex Yermolinsky.
acepoint acepoint 12/27/2017 12:36
I wonder whether it is on purpose that there is no author named for this article. Apart from that ... what @Arminio12 says ...
Arminio12 Arminio12 12/27/2017 12:01
I'm not sure I can believe my eyes when I read this:

“I don't find this a bad idea at all. Chess can only gain from instilling proper fashion sense in their practitioners.”


“As for what's happening outside of the playing venue I couldn't care less. Nobody came to Riyadh for a vacation, it is five days filled with chess and nothing else.”

Clearly, one of the very last countries that has any right to teach chessplayers any “fashion sense” whatsoever is Saudi-Arabia. Having good manners and dressing properly accordingly in a chess tournament has nothing to do with being imposed a dress code that actually signifies a basic disrepect for fundamental human rights. And maybe you “couldn't care less” about what is happening outside the playing venue, but if playing a tournament, as it is no vacation, implies that you should be confined to the tournament quarters because your basic human rights are not respected or guaranteed if you leave your venue prison, there is something very seriously wrong in my opinion: so, I do care.

Your suggestion, finally, that we should turn a blind eye to this sort of thing because the country seems to go through some changes “to make it more open to Western customs” is (IMHO) a very poor excuse indeed. Clearly, there’s a lot of window-dressing going on. No matter how spectacular you think it is that women participants do not need to have their hairs covered during games, at the same time players of (political adversaries) Israël and Iran are denied participation. Perhaps I might remind you of the FIDE motto: GENS UNA SUMUS …
Derek McGill Derek McGill 12/27/2017 11:35
"As for what's happening outside of the playing venue I couldn't care less." This sums up the lack of morals in FIDE.
FlannDefence FlannDefence 12/27/2017 08:48
Well said, Hikaru Nakamura. I wondered why the current women's champion decided to 'stay away', and why her reasons, whatever they might be, should be respected, but I don't think this is explained in the article.

No matter, it's all over the newspapers. Apparently she has some problem with being treated like a 'secondary person'. Now why did you not say so in the article, rather than focus on the organisers' absurd modification of their dress code? What about the players from other countries who where refused entry or dissuaded by the lack of an encouraging welcome?

Frankly, this article reeked of apology for Saudi Arabia, glossing over some of the reasons why the event should not have been played there.

I will not be watching it. I feel that all participants should assess their ethical senses and consider the big issues that the article ignored, especially the horrors being visited on Yemen while they play games of chess.