Karjakin wins the Astana World Rapid Chess Championship

7/8/2012 – After two days of play and ten games Magnus Carlsen looked like the dead-cert winner. But then the Norwegian ace lost two in a row, allowing his "prodigy twin" Sergey Karjakin to catch and then overtake him. Serge won four in a row and in the last round required only a draw to win the title outright. He was a full point ahead of Carlsen, and two ahead of the third-placed Veselin Topalov. Exciting chess.

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World blitz and rapid chess championship

The Official World Blitz and Rapid Chess Championships are being held from July 1-11, 2012, in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan. It is worth noting that the Rapid Chess Championship is a first in the history of FIDE! The top ten players of the current FIDE rating list have the right to take part in the championships. The total prize fund is US $400,000.

The qualifiers held prior to the finals saw chess players from all over the world getting a chance to advance to the main event. Alexey Dreev, Igor Kurnosov and Vladislav Tkachiev won places, Murtas Kazhgaleyev and Anuar Ismagambetov were nominations by the host nation.

Third day

Magnus Carlsen, who had dominated the Rapid on days one and two, started the third day with a win over the lowest seed. It took him 51 moves and didn't bode well for what was to come. In round twelve the top seed lost, with the white pieces (yes, Virginia, that is indeed possible!), against Vassily Ivanchuk, who outplayed the Norwegian in a Nimzo-Indian and forced him to resign four before a forced mate. In round 13 Magnus chose the Berlin Defence against Alexander Grischuk and lost for a second time (yes, Virginia, that too is possible and does not contravene the laws of nature). Carlsen drew the final two game, against Radjabov and Topalov to finish with 10.5 out of 15 with a 2854 performance.

Magnus Carlsen ran out of steam on the third day of play?

While all this was happening Sergey Karjakin, like Carlsen a former chess prodigy, was on a rampage. He won is first four games, against Ivanchuk, Radjabov, Kazhgaleyev and Svidler, with white, black, white and black. Already a full point in the lead he only needed to draw against Kurnosov to win the event – which he did, to the delight of his fans.

The winner: Sergey Karjakin (archive photo)

So it was Karjakin at 11.5/15 (and a 2917 performance), Carlsen in second a point behind, and Veselin Topalov sharing 3-4 with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, both at 9.5/15. The Bulgarian former FIDE world champion could have finished equal second with Magnus Carlsen if he hadn't botched up the following game in astonishing fashion:

[Event "World Rapid Final"] [Site "Astana KAZ"] [Date "2012.07.08"] [Round "12"] [White "Tkachiev, V."] [Black "Topalov, V."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C01"] [WhiteElo "2644"] [BlackElo "2752"] [PlyCount "162"] [EventDate "2012.07.01"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bd3 Bd6 6. O-O O-O 7. Bg5 Bg4 8. Nbd2 Re8 9. c3 Nbd7 10. Qc2 h6 11. Bh4 c6 12. Rae1 Qc7 13. Bg3 Nh5 14. Bh7+ Kf8 15. Bxd6+ Qxd6 16. Bf5 Bxf5 17. Qxf5 g6 18. Qb1 Nhf6 19. g3 a5 20. a4 Rxe1 21. Rxe1 Re8 22. Rxe8+ Nxe8 23. Qd1 Qe6 24. Nb3 b6 25. Nc1 Nd6 26. Nd3 Kg7 27. Nfe5 Nxe5 28. Nxe5 Nf5 29. Qg4 c5 30. h4 cxd4 31. cxd4 h5 32. Qf4 f6 33. Nf3 Qd6 34. Qxd6 Nxd6 35. Kf1 Kf7 36. Ke2 Ke6 37. b3 Kf5 38. Nd2 Kg4 39. Nb1 $2 Nf5 40. Nc3 Nxd4+ 41. Kf1 Nxb3 42. Nxd5 Kf3 43. Nxb6 Nd2+ 44. Kg1 Ne4 45. Nc4 Nxf2 46. Kh2 Ng4+ 47. Kg1 Kxg3 48. Nxa5 Ne5 49. Nb7 Kxh4 {As a result of the misstep on move 39 Black is left with three passed pawns vs one distant one of White, which can easily be stopped with the black knight while the three pawns are pushed towards promotion. It's clear that Black will win, or if he is very unlucky, have to settle for a draw.} 50. a5 Nc6 51. Kf2 g5 52. a6 g4 53. Nd8 Na7 54. Ne6 g3+ 55. Kf3 Kh3 56. Nf4+ Kh2 57. Ng2 Nc6 58. Nh4 Kh3 59. Ng2 h4 60. Ne3 f5 61. Ng2 {It's not working out for Black, the game seems to be headed for a draw after all.} Na7 62. Ne3 Nb5 63. Ng2 Nd4+ 64. Ke3 Nb5 65. Kf3 Nc7 66. a7 Na8 67. Ne3 f4 68. Ng2 {The tail ender in this event seems to have found a way to hold against the three passers.} Kh2 $2 {What on earth?} 69. Nxh4 Nc7 70. Ng2 Kh3 71. Nxf4+ Kh2 72. Ng2 Kh3 73. Ne3 Na8 74. Ke4 Nc7 75. Kd3 Kh2 $4 { This is the move that reverses tables completely.} 76. Kc4 Kg1 77. Nf5 Kf2 78. Nxg3 Kxg3 79. Kc5 Kf4 80. Kc6 Na8 81. Kb7 {Would you have believed this final outcome was in the realm of the possible? Sic transit gloria mundi.} Kf5 1-0

Our hero of the day, Sergey Karjakin, started with a 75-mover against his compatriot Vassily Ivanchuk, who pressed so hard for a win (in an essentially drawn position) that he forgot about the clock and overstepped the time. Incidentally Vasl went on the defeat Carlsen in the very next round – talk about a nerves-of-steel comeback. In the next round Serge defeated local wildcard Murtas Kazhgaleyev, almost 200 points below him on the rating scale, with ruthless efficience after the Kazakh GM committed a minor infringement on move 39:

[Event "World Rapid Final"] [Site "Astana KAZ"] [Date "2012.07.08"] [Round "13"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Kazhgaleyev, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C41"] [WhiteElo "2779"] [BlackElo "2589"] [PlyCount "105"] [EventDate "2012.07.01"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. a4 c6 8. Ba2 a5 9. h3 exd4 10. Nxd4 Re8 11. Re1 Bf8 12. Bf4 Ne5 13. Qd2 Ng6 14. Bh2 Qb6 15. Bb3 Bd7 16. Rad1 Rad8 17. Kh1 Bc8 18. Re3 Qb4 19. Nf3 Be6 20. Bxe6 fxe6 21. Ne1 d5 22. Nd3 Qb6 23. exd5 exd5 24. Rxe8 Rxe8 25. Re1 Qd8 26. f3 Bd6 27. Rxe8+ Nxe8 28. Ne2 Bxh2 29. Kxh2 Nf6 30. Qe3 h6 31. Qe6+ Kh7 32. b3 Qc7+ 33. f4 Nf8 34. Qf5+ Kg8 35. Nd4 Qe7 36. Qc8 Ne4 37. Ne5 Qf6 38. g3 Nd6 39. Qa8 Kh7 $2 {[#] Can you tell why this move throws away a game that was headed for a draw?} 40. Qxa5 Ng6 41. Ndf3 Qf5 42. Qd2 Ne4 43. Qe3 Nxe5 44. Nxe5 g5 45. Nd3 h5 46. Kg2 g4 47. h4 Kg8 48. Qa7 Nf6 49. Qb8+ Kg7 50. Qxb7+ Kh6 51. Qe7 d4 52. Qe5 Qg6 53. Qg5+ 1-0

In the penultimate round Karjakin, playing black, forced Peter Svidler to resign after 44 move. That gave him at least joint victory, which he turn into an unshared title with a draw against Kurnosov, as we said above. The second place was decided in the following encounter:

[Event "World Rapid Final"] [Site "Astana KAZ"] [Date "2012.07.08"] [Round "15"] [White "Topalov, V."] [Black "Carlsen, M."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D15"] [WhiteElo "2752"] [BlackElo "2837"] [PlyCount "108"] [EventDate "2012.07.01"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3 a6 5. e3 Bf5 6. Bd3 e6 7. Bxf5 exf5 8. Qb3 Ra7 9. Bd2 dxc4 10. Qxc4 Bd6 11. O-O O-O 12. Qd3 g6 13. e4 fxe4 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. Qxe4 Nd7 16. Bg5 Qa5 17. Rfe1 Raa8 18. h3 Nb6 19. Bh6 Rfd8 20. Ne5 Qd5 21. Qh4 Re8 22. Qf6 Bf8 23. Bxf8 Rxf8 24. Ng4 h5 25. Ne5 Qd8 26. Qf4 Kg7 27. Re4 Nd5 28. Qf3 Qd6 29. Rae1 Rad8 30. a3 Qc7 31. Nd3 Rd6 32. Nc5 a5 33. Qg3 Rfd8 34. Re5 b6 35. Ne4 R6d7 36. Ng5 Qd6 37. Ne4 Qc7 38. Qf3 c5 39. Ng3 {Magnus has been fishing around for a way to decide this essentially equal game in his favour, and blunders:} h4 $4 40. Nh5+ gxh5 41. Qxh5 $4 ({Topalov had a forced mate against the Norwegian, but did not see it:} 41. Rg5+ Kf8 42. Qxh5 {and Black can only delay the mate by a few suicidal moves.}) 41... Rd6 42. Rg5+ Rg6 43. Rxd5 Qc6 44. Qxg6+ Qxg6 45. Rxd8 c4 46. d5 Qc2 47. d6 Qd2 48. Re4 Qxb2 49. Rxc4 Qa1+ 50. Kh2 Qe5+ 51. Kg1 Qe1+ 52. Kh2 Qe5+ 53. f4 Qe3 54. d7 Qg3+ 1/2-1/2

Final standings (after fifteen rounds of play)

Of the 120 games played on all three days 42 were drawn (=35%). White won 47 games (=39.2%) and Black 31 (=25.8%). The shortest game was a 20-move win, and just two games were drawn in less than 25 moves. It was indeed an exciting, well-fought event.

Curious about the shortest game? Well, here it is:

[Event "World Rapid Final"] [Site "Astana KAZ"] [Date "2012.07.08"] [Round "14"] [White "Grischuk, A."] [Black "Topalov, V."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B30"] [WhiteElo "2763"] [BlackElo "2752"] [PlyCount "40"] [EventDate "2012.07.01"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. Bxc6 bxc6 5. b3 d5 6. Nc3 Ne7 7. O-O Ng6 8. Re1 f6 9. Ba3 e5 10. Na4 Nf4 11. Bxc5 Bxc5 12. Nxc5 O-O 13. d4 Bg4 14. h3 Bh5 15. Nd3 Nxh3+ 16. gxh3 f5 17. exd5 e4 18. Nde5 exf3 19. Qd2 $4 {[#]} Qh4 20. Qd3 Qg5+ 0-1

Remaining program

July 9, Mon. 15:00 World Blitz Chess Championship rounds 1 – 15
July 10, Tues. 15:00 World Blitz rounds 16–30; closing ceremony
July 11, Wed.   Departure of participants

World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championship

The World Rapid Chess Championship will be played in three days as a round-robin event with five rounds per day. Time controls are 15 minutes for all moves plus 10 seconds increment per move. The World Blitz is a sixteen-player double round robin with 15 rounds per day. The time control is three minutes + two seconds increment per move. These are the participants

Rapid Chess Championship   Blitz Chess Championship
Magnus Carlsen 2837   Magnus Carlsen 2835
Teimour Radjabov 2788   Teimour Radjabov 2784
Sergey Karjakin 2779   Sergey Karjakin 2779
Alexander Morozevich 2770   Alexander Morozevich 2769
Vassily Ivanchuk 2769   Vassily Ivanchuk 2764
Alexander Grischuk 2763   Alexander Grischuk 2761
Veselin Topalov 2752   Veselin Topalov 2752
Peter Svidler 2749   Peter Svidler 2741
Boris Gelfand 2738   Boris Gelfand 2727
Viktor Bologan 2732   Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2726
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2726   Dmitry Andreikin 2700
Alexey Dreev 2677   Le Quang Liem 2693
Igor Kurnosov 2663   Nikolai Chadaev 2605
Vladislav Tkachiev 2644   Darmen Sadvakasov 2629
Murtas Kazhgaleyev 2589   Rinat Jumabayev 2556
Anuar Ismagambetov 2471   Pavel Kotsur 2548

Tiebreak rules for first place: (a) results between the players involved; (b) number of wins; (c) Sonneborn-Berger score; (d) Sudden death game: 5 min vs 4 min.

Videos of the second day in Astana (Russian, with English subtitles)

Magnus Carlsen talks about the game he won against Sergey Karjakin in round ten


The games of the Finals will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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