Throwback Thursday: Vishy Anand wins World Rapid Championship at 48

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/11/2022 – The 2017 World Rapid and Blitz Championship took place on December 26-30 in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. The rapid tournament, which included 134 participants, saw Vishy Anand beating Vladimir Fedoseev in a blitz tiebreak after tying for first place with 10½/15 points. Anand, at 48, outscored his younger opponents, including world champion and rapid-play specialist Magnus Carlsen. | Photo: Official website

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Fighting until the very end

The August 2022 official FIDE ratings list has 52-year-old Indian legend Vishy Anand in twelfth place with a 2756 Elo rating. Year after year, Anand continues to find ways to remain as part of the world elite while facing much younger and motivated opponents. His work ethic and plain talent have kept him succeeding even at the toughest of competition.

At 47, the Tiger from Madras showcased his legendary intuitive play in rapid chess to win the World Rapid Championship in Riyadh. Anand entered the tournament as the twelfth highest-rated player, with the likes of Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk and, of course, Magnus Carlsen ahead of him in the starting rank.

Not for nothing, he was known as ‘the lightning kid’ as he honed his skills in the 1980s. Venkatachalam Saravanan got to know the young Anand in India, and he thus described the then-rising star in a conversation with Sagar Shah:

My first national junior was his next-to-last one, at Nagpur in 1985. At that point, he was already a star. You know, in those days we used to play with Analog clocks, and the time control would be two and a half hours for 40 moves followed by adjournment. Anand would typically take about 5 to 10 minutes for each game, the opponent would take all 2 hours and 30 minutes. We have all heard epithets like this, but Anand’s play at those times actually invited these nicknames [lightning kid and others] for him.

In Riyadh, Anand went through the 15 rounds of the Swiss open undefeated, scoring six wins and nine draws. In round 10, he defeated Magnus Carlsen, who as ever was the clear favourite to take the title. GM Alex Yermolinsky analysed the game.


As it has become the norm in the world rapid championships, the 15 rounds of play take place along three days. Going into the third and final day of competition, Anand stood in shared second place, a half point behind Vladimir Fedoseev.

A win in round 13 was key for the Indian to finish tied for first place. Below we present excerpts from our final-day report with game analyses and a recap of how the fight for first place developed in the capital of Saudi Arabia.

See all ChessBase reports from the 2017 World Rapid & Blitz Championships

Entering the last day of competition, the sole leaders in both the men and women’s events were Vladimir Fedoseev and Ju Wenjun respectively. Whereas Ju Wenjun had completely dominated her rivals from beginning to end in a breathtaking performance that left her untouched and only barely challenged from a distance, the men’s section was much more volatile, and by consequence exciting.

Vladimir Fedoseev had been the unexpected frontrunner throughout the tournament |

Within two rounds, it really looked like the tide had irrevocably shifted and that Magnus Carlsen, whose dominance of Rapid and Blitz throughout the year had been peerless, would now be crowned with the ultimate title and prize. The immensely rich prize fund is well documented, but look at the gorgeous trophies designed and created by luxury brand Asprey, based in London:


The well made short on the creation of the trophies really helps one appreciate how much work went into most details of the tournament

In round 11 most of the top boards drew, while Magnus Carlsen continued his comeback with a clean win over Levan Pantsulaia from Georgia. That now placed the Norwegian within a half-point of the leader, and it was time for them to meet, and encounter many had been looking forward to.

There was no need to crown the podium, with large displays showing the action |

Vladimir Fedoseev 0-1 Magnus Carlsen

[Event "FIDE World Rapid-ch Men 2017"] [Site "Riyadh"] [Date "2017.12.28"] [Round "12"] [White "Fedoseev, Vladimir"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C91"] [WhiteElo "2718"] [BlackElo "2837"] [Annotator "Albert Silver"] [PlyCount "168"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "SAU"] [SourceTitle ""] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. d4 Bg4 10. Be3 exd4 11. cxd4 Na5 12. Nbd2 Nxb3 13. axb3 c5 14. Qc2 Nd7 15. e5 cxd4 16. Bxd4 dxe5 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 18. Bxe5 Re8 19. Bc3 Bf8 20. h3 Bh5 21. Qf5 Bg6 22. Qf4 Rxe1+ 23. Rxe1 Qd7 24. Nf3 f6 25. Bb4 Re8 26. Rxe8 Bxe8 27. Bxf8 Kxf8 28. b4 Qe7 29. Nd4 Kf7 30. Qd2 Qd6 31. Qc3 Bd7 32. Qb3+ Be6 33. Qc3 Bd7 34. Qb3+ Ke7 35. Qc3 Qe5 36. Qd2 g5 37. Ne2 Bc6 38. Nd4 Bd5 39. Qc3 Kf7 40. Qd3 Kf8 41. Qc3 h5 42. f3 h4 43. Kf2 Kf7 44. Qe3 Qxe3+ 45. Kxe3 Ke7 46. Nc2 Bb3 47. Nd4 Bd5 48. Nc2 Ke6 49. Ne1 Bc4 50. f4 Kf5 51. fxg5 fxg5 52. Nf3 Bd5 53. Nd4+ Kf6 54. Nf3 Bb7 55. Kf2 Kf5 56. g3 hxg3+ 57. Kxg3 Bc8 58. Nd2 Bb7 59. Nf3 Bd5 60. Nd2 Bf7 61. Nf3 Be8 62. Nd2 Bf7 63. Nf3 Bh5 64. Nd4+ Ke5 65. Nf3+ Kd5 66. Nxg5 Kc4 67. Ne4 Kxb4 68. Kf4 a5 69. Nd2 a4 70. Ke4 Kc5 71. Ke3 b4 { [#] For seventy moves, Vladimir Fedoseev has held strong and should still be able to draw the game, albeit the situation is tense.} 72. Ne4+ ({White misses a chance for a draw here, and though one could potentially calculate it over the board, this is the sort of position one needs to know.} 72. Nb3+ $1 { The point is that after} axb3 {Black cannot win. The white king will go to c1 and if allowed, even b1 and a1. The white king cannot be kicked out, and the only result here is a repetition or stalemate.}) 72... Kd5 73. Nd2 Bg6 74. Ke2 a3 75. bxa3 bxa3 76. Kd1 a2 77. Nb3 Kc4 78. Na1 Kc3 79. Kc1 Bf5 80. h4 Bg6 81. h5 Bxh5 82. Nc2 Be8 83. Na1 Ba4 84. Nc2 Kb3 0-1

A serious body-blow to Vladimir Fedoseev, who had played a superb tournament so far, and with this loss he relinquished the top spot to Magnus Carlsen. Although Magnus could still be challenged, as he only held a half-point lead over Fedoseev, Anand, Svidler, and Wang Hao, it is probably not unreasonable to say that nearly everyone following it felt that the event was now Carlsen’s, and the real fight over the final three rounds would be for the other podium spots.

After his win in round 12, taking over the lead, the title seemed all but spoken for by Magnus Carlsen |

Round 13 saw further draws on the top boards, which meant that while Carlsen still led alone with 9½/13, the pack right behind with 9.0/13 had grown to eight players. Fedoseev nearly righted the ship in this very next round, when he baited Yu Yangyi which nearly yielded him the victory. He missed his chance though, and the game was drawn.

Vladimir Fedoseev 1/2-1/2 Yu Yangyi

[Event "FIDE World Rapid-ch Men 2017"] [Site "Riyadh"] [Date "2017.12.28"] [Round "13"] [White "Fedoseev, Vladimir"] [Black "Yu, Yangyi"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E04"] [WhiteElo "2718"] [BlackElo "2751"] [Annotator "Albert Silver"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/7p/p3Pppk/8/p4P2/4q1P1/Bp4KP/5Q2 w - - 0 44"] [PlyCount "23"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "SAU"] [SourceTitle ""] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] 44. g4 {White is trying to entice Black to strive for more than the draw.} a3 $2 {And succeeds!} ({Black could draw simply with} 44... Qe4+ 45. Qf3 b1=Q 46. Bxb1 Qxb1 {and Black's a-pawns are balanced by White's e-pawn. The exposed kings also invite a repetition.}) 45. Qf3 Qe1 46. h4 $2 {Missing his chance!} ( 46. g5+ fxg5 47. fxg5+ Kxg5 48. h4+ Kh6 49. Qf4+ Kg7 50. Qf7+ Kh6 51. Qf8+ Kh5 52. Qc5+ Kh6 (52... Kxh4 $2 53. Qf2+ Qxf2+ 54. Kxf2 Kg5 55. e7) 53. e7 {Etc.}) 46... b1=Q 47. g5+ Kg7 48. Bxb1 Qxb1 49. Qc6 Qb2+ 50. Kg3 Qb3+ 51. Kg2 Qb2+ 52. Kg3 Qb3+ 53. Kg2 Qb2+ 54. Kg3 Qb3+ 55. Kg2 1/2-1/2

Joining the others were now Bu Xiangzhi, Grischuk, Nepomniachtchi and Artemiev.

Round 14 was where the foundations were shaken somewhat, to the surprise of not a few. The young Russian Vladislav Artemiev held Magnus Carlsen to a draw with white, and other players within striking distance all drew their respective games, but Vishy Anand pulled off a huge win over Alexander Grischuk.

Vishy Anand's round 14 win over Grischuk was huge in every sense. | Photo:

Vishy Anand 1-0 Alexander Grischuk

[Event "FIDE World Rapid-ch Men 2017"] [Site "Riyadh"] [Date "2017.12.28"] [Round "14"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2782"] [BlackElo "2772"] [Annotator "Albert Silver"] [PlyCount "113"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "SAU"] [SourceTitle ""] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Nbd2 d6 6. c3 O-O 7. O-O a6 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. d4 exd4 10. cxd4 Bb6 11. Qc2 c5 12. d5 Re8 13. b3 Bg4 14. Bb2 Bh5 15. Rae1 {Considering how quickly he played the opening, there is good reason to believe Anand had already studied this position before.} Bg6 {[#]} 16. Bxf6 $1 {An amazing move. In normal circumstances the idea of exchanging off the super strong b2 bishop with the knight on f6 smacks of crazy talk, but Anand's understanding does not fail. In many ways, this brings to mind the famous exchange by Fischer against Petrosian in their 1971 match. The move had baffled many until theoreticians explained that the key was not to look at what piece is being exchanged, but rather what pieces are left on the board! In this case it becomes a battle of two minor pieces to one, since the bishop on b6 is not even a spectator to the conflict.} Qxf6 17. Nc4 Ba7 18. Qd3 h6 19. Re3 Rad8 20. g3 Bh7 21. Rfe1 g5 22. Qe2 Kg7 23. Rd1 Qg6 24. Re1 Qf6 25. Kg2 g4 26. Nh4 Qg5 27. f4 gxf3+ 28. Qxf3 Qf6 29. Qe2 Qg5 30. Rf1 Kg8 31. Nf5 Rxe4 32. Nxh6+ $6 {Objectively, this move is not the absolute best, but since it does win, and there is little chance Anand did not at least know his choice was winning, there is little reason to criticize it.} ({The engines show that best was} 32. h4 $1 Rxe3 33. Ncxe3 Qf6 34. Ng4 $1 {and the queen is lost or Black is mated extra quick.} Qc3 35. Ngxh6+ Kh8 36. Nxf7+ Kg8 37. Ne7+ Kg7 38. Qg4+ Kf8 39. Ne5+ Ke8 (39... Kxe7) 40. Qh5+ Kxe7 41. Qf7#) 32... Qxh6 33. Rxe4 Bxe4+ 34. Qxe4 Kf8 35. Re1 Qf6 36. Re2 Bb6 37. h4 Kg7 38. Rf2 Qg6 39. Rf5 { Threatening Rg5} Kf8 40. h5 Qh7 41. g4 Re8 42. Qf3 Kg8 43. Kh3 Re1 44. Qf4 Kf8 45. Qg5 Qh8 46. Rf3 Qg7 47. Qxg7+ Kxg7 48. g5 Rd1 49. Ne3 Rh1+ 50. Kg4 c4 51. Nf5+ Kf8 52. bxc4 Rg1+ 53. Rg3 Rc1 54. g6 fxg6 55. hxg6 Rxc4+ 56. Kh5 Bd4 57. Rg4 1-0

Suddenly Magnus Carlsen’s victory was not at all clear, and both he and Anand now shared first with 10.0/14, but to muddy the waters even more six more players trailed by half a point. Suddenly the matter of tiebreaks and playoffs were the subject of discussion. The regulations were quite clear and they stated that in the event of a tie for first by two or more players, the two with the best tiebreak (if more than two) would face each other in a blitz playoff. This presented a very serious problem for Magnus Carlsen. Let’s see why:

Suppose both Carlsen and Anand drew their final round games, but are joined by Peter Svidler, who wins his last game. Since the first tiebreak criteria is direct encounter, Carlsen would be out, having lost to Anand, while both Svidler and Anand had not lost a game between the three of them. Thus the playoff would be between Peter Svidler and Anand in such a scenario. Still, this entire situation could be solved easily should Carlsen win his final game. Perfectly possible it needs to be said.

15-year-old FM Andrey Esipenko (2564 FIDE) finished with 7.5/15 and was no doubt the author of the shot of the tournament, if not the year |


Here are the pairings for the final round among those with a chance at gold.

Round 15 pairings

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Carlsen Magnus *) 10  -  9 Grischuk Alexander
Bu Xiangzhi  -  10 Anand Viswanathan
Nepomniachtchi Ian  -  Wang Hao
Fedoseev Vladimir  -  Artemiev Vladislav
Savchenko Boris 9  -  Svidler Peter

If you were expecting a slew of safe draws at the top, think again. Among the five top boards, the only draw was the quick handshake between Bu Xiangzhi and Vishy Anand, while four ended in a decisive result, though none so decisive as the top board.

Magnus Carlsen 0-1 Alexander Grischuk

[Event "FIDE World Rapid-ch Men 2017"] [Site "Riyadh"] [Date "2017.12.28"] [Round "15"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2837"] [BlackElo "2772"] [Annotator "Albert Silver"] [PlyCount "120"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. b3 Bg7 4. Bb2 d6 5. d4 O-O 6. Bg2 Nbd7 7. O-O Re8 8. c4 c6 9. Nc3 e5 10. d5 cxd5 {A King's Indian Fianchetto.} (10... e4 11. dxc6 bxc6 12. Nd4 Bb7 13. Nc2 d5 14. Ne3 Ne5 15. cxd5 cxd5 16. Na4 Rc8 17. Bh3 Rc7 18. Qd2 {1-0 (46) Wang,H (2717)-Movsesian,S (2653) Huaian 2016}) 11. cxd5 e4 $146 ( 11... a6 12. a4 h6 13. Nd2 e4 14. Nc4 Ne5 15. Nxe5 Rxe5 16. Nxe4 Nxe4 17. Bxe5 Nxf2 18. Kxf2 Bxe5 {0-1 (47) Paciencia,E (2432)-Situru, N (2388) Singapore 2006 }) 12. Nd4 e3 13. f4 {A very un-Carlsenlike move. This creates big gaping holes on e4 and g4.} (13. f3 {might not be the most attractive choice, but at least it prevents the knight from taking up residence on g4 without any rent to pay.}) 13... Ng4 14. Nc2 Ndf6 15. Qe1 Bf5 16. Nd4 Be4 17. Nxe4 Nxe4 18. Ne6 fxe6 19. Bxg7 Nd2 20. Bb2 Nxf1 21. Qxf1 e5 22. Qf3 h5 23. h3 $2 (23. Qe4 $1 $11 {remains equal.} Qf6 24. fxe5 Qf2+ 25. Kh1 Qf7 26. Kg1 Qf2+) 23... e4 $17 24. Qf1 Nh6 $1 25. Kh2 Rc8 26. Rc1 Nf5 27. Qe1 $2 Qe7 28. Rc4 Rxc4 $19 29. bxc4 Rc8 30. Qc3 Kh7 31. a4 $2 b6 ({Better was} 31... g5 32. c5 gxf4 33. gxf4 Qh4) 32. Ba1 $2 a6 $2 (32... g5 $19 {is more deadly.} 33. Qc2 Re8) 33. Qb2 $2 g5 $1 { Finally, and thankfully for him, not too late.} 34. Qb1 Rxc4 35. Qb2 Rc8 36. Bxe4 Qxe4 37. Qf6 {[#]} Rg8 $1 38. fxg5 h4 39. Kg1 Qb1+ 40. Kg2 Qe4+ 41. Kg1 hxg3 42. h4 Qb1+ 43. Kg2 Qe4+ 44. Kg1 Qb1+ 45. Kg2 Nxh4+ 46. Kxg3 Qe1+ 47. Kh3 Qh1+ 48. Kg4 Qe4+ 49. Kh5 Qg6+ 50. Kxh4 Qxf6 51. Bxf6 Kg6 52. Kg4 b5 53. axb5 axb5 54. Kf4 Re8 55. Bc3 Rc8 56. Bf6 Rc5 57. Kxe3 Rxd5 58. Ke4 Rd1 59. Kf3 b4 60. e4 Re1 0-1

To say this result was unexpected or a shock is to put it mildly. Even when things were going badly for the world no.1, many expected him to somehow weasel himself out of trouble and save the half-point. It was really only after 34…Rxc4 that it became clear there would be no miracles to save him.

Peter Svidler, who could hope for a chance himself, instead went down badly to Boris Savchenko and was left out, while both Nepomniachtchi and Vladimir Fedoseev won their respective games against Wang Hao and Vladislav Artemiev, leading to a three-way draw.

It was a brilliant effort by Ian Nepomniachtchi, who caught up with the leaders in the very last round | Photo:

Since direct encounters were all draw between the three of them, the next criteria was the average rating of their opponents. This left Nepo out since although he had done wonderfully to reach this point, he had only managed to do so by the very end, while Anand and Fedoseev had led more or less throughout and as a result had faced the toughest players.

The regulations foresaw a tiebreak of two blitz games played at 3 minutes plus two seconds increment, and if that didn’t solve it a final Armageddon game would decide the title.

The final result was a magnificent win by Vishy Anand, winning the first blitz, and acceding a draw in the second despite dominating it. This easily redeemed a spotty result in the latter half of the year, notably a last place in the London Classic, with an emphatic win at the World Rapid, and another world title. It is safe to say that few if any had expected the 48-year-old to still win world titles at this juncture, especially in the fastest time controls, usually the province of the younger players. Bravo!

Vishy Anand shares his delight at becoming the 2017 World Rapid Champion | Source: ChessCast


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.