World Blitz Ch: Carlsen and Lagno prevail

by Antonio Pereira
12/31/2018 – Nothing could stop Magnus Carlsen on Sunday, as he obtained six more wins to get first place at the World Blitz Championship after finishing with an undefeated 17/21 score. Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Hikaru Nakamura completed the podium. Meanwhile, in the women's section, day-one leader Kateryna Lagno also stayed on top throughout the day and was awarded the gold medal in the end. Sarasadat Khademalsharieh finished second — like in the Rapid — and Lei Tingjie took home the bronze. | Photos: Maria Emelianova / Lennart Ootes / Official site

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Stable and strong

Quicker time controls tend to provoke more mistakes, making it much more difficult to avoid losing...especially during a 21-round tournament. This weekend, Magnus Carlsen and Kateryna Lagno demonstrated that there are exceptions to every rule, including this one. During their +13 and +10 dazzling performances they did not resign or get checkmated even once. Carlsen defended the title he had won last year (with 16/21) and repeated the 17/21 score that gave him the title in 2014 — four years ago, he did lose one game, however. Lagno, on the other hand, obtained her second gold medal in this event, as she had also won the 2010 edition.

Rapid and blitz champions

Carlsen joins Dubov as the World Blitz and Rapid Champions, with Lagno (right) and Ju (not shown) the women's champions, while Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (left) was the top performer in the combined events, along with Magnus | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In the open section, Carlsen was paired in round thirteen — the first one on Sunday — against his former nemesis (the Norwegian could not defeat him in classical chess for quite a while) and Twitter-rant enemy Anish Giri. Magnus showed great preparation with the white pieces and obtained an advantageous position out of the opening. The final mistake by Giri came on move 23:


The Dutchman erred with 23...Qd6 and resigned after 24.Qe4 Rd8, as 25.Rb8+ is a deadly and unavoidable threat — a sample line is 25...Kd7 26.Qa4+ Rc6 27.Bxc6 Qxc6 28.Rb7+ Ke8 29.Qxc6+, losing the queen.

Anish finished the tournament on 13½/21, a result he was not expecting in his least favourite format. He also congratulated 'team Magnus' on their triple victory:

Alexader Zhukov, First Deputy Chairman of Duma, made the honorary first move | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In an interview afterwards, Magnus singled out his win over Mamedyarov in round nineteen as a key moment in his run for first. By that time, Jan-Krzysztof Duda was a point behind the leader and it looked like his great momentum could easily allow him to catch up with the Norwegian. Against Shak, however, Magnus was a pawn up in a queen endgame — in blitz, it is hard to be precise and avoid all potential perpetual checks, but on move 59 Mamedyarov erred decisively:


The 59...Qc5+ check forced the exchange of queens and Carlsen won the game.

Shak finished on 13½/21 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

As mentioned, Duda was the player that kept the champion alert on Sunday. The Polish grandmaster had finished the first day of blitz with three straight wins and continued his run with four consecutive victories on day two. The guy that stopped him was Sergey Karjakin, who had a clear advantage with White in their game of round seventeen:


Sergey's three connected passed pawns should be enough to win, as 47.b5 was called for in the diagram position. Instead, Karjakin played 47.Qd4 and gave Duda more defensive resources in a seemingly hopeless position. The 20-year-old Polish grandmaster ended up getting the half point after 79 moves.

It was a great final day for Duda | Photo: Maria Emelianova

The difficult opponents kept on coming for Jan-Krzysztof — he had already played Magnus on day one, however — as he was paired against Hikaru Nakamura in the next round. Playing Black from a second game in a row, Duda could not avoid a defeat this time:


It was necessary to include 25...Qe7 to avoid the further weakening of the black king after the knight takes the bishop on e6. Instead, 25.Bd4 followed and Hikaru took full advantage of this strategic mistake with 26.Qh4 h5 27.Nxe6 fxe6 28.Qg5 Kf7 29.Be4 Rg8 30.Rd3, when all the white pieces are in attacking positions. On move 51, resignation finally arrived.

Nakamura is number three in the blitz ratings list | Photo: Lennart Ootes

After that bad two-game run, Duda went on to win his remaining three encounters to finish the tournament on 16½/21, a score that would have been enough to get clear first in last year's edition. His great performance increased his blitz rating no less than 123 points, allowing him to climb to seventh place in the live list. 

Meanwhile, Nakamura had an undefeated final day in Saint Petersburg and obtained another bronze medal — he also finished third in the rapid. It was yet another stable and strong performance in rapid and blitz by the American.


Time to celebrate | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Final standings - Open section (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Carlsen Magnus 17,0 2962
2 Duda Jan-Krzysztof 16,5 2930
3 Nakamura Hikaru 14,5 2845
4 Aronian Levon 14,0 2833
5 Svidler Peter 14,0 2831
6 Nepomniachtchi Ian 14,0 2817
7 Karjakin Sergey 14,0 2800
8 Andreikin Dmitry 13,5 2799
9 Artemiev Vladislav 13,5 2796
10 Giri Anish 13,5 2779
11 Nihal Sarin 13,5 2777
12 Matlakov Maxim 13,5 2760
13 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 13,5 2754
14 Vitiugov Nikita 13,5 2743
15 Dubov Daniil 13,5 2706
16 Fedoseev Vladimir 13,5 2674
17 Korobov Anton 13,0 2743
18 Gelfand Boris 13,0 2728
19 Dreev Aleksey 13,0 2703
20 Adly Ahmed 13,0 2702
21 Jakovenko Dmitry 13,0 2700
22 Grischuk Alexander 13,0 2699
23 Zubov Alexander 13,0 2698
24 Zhigalko Sergei 13,0 2696
25 Sjugirov Sanan 13,0 2679

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Lagno tops the women's section

The women's tournament was slightly shorter, as nine rounds were played on Saturday and eight on Sunday for a total of seventeen games. Kateryna Lagno climbed from board two to board one in round four and never allowed the lead to slip away from her hands. She started day two with a draw against co-leader Khademalsharieh, but then went on to defeat Tan Zhongyi and Ju Wenjun in consecutive white games. Ju blundered and found it necessary to give up her queen:


The Chinese mistakenly played 21...c6, which allowed White to go 22.Bc5 Bd6 23.Rd1, when Black's best alternative is to continue with 23...Bxc5 giving way to 24.Rxd8. Kateryna took full advantage of the material gain and won the game in 33 moves.

An incredible tournament for Kateryna | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The big sensation in Saint Petersburg was Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, the 21-year-old Iranian who got silver in both events — she eventually received a trophy as the best performer in the two tournaments combined (Magnus was the other winner). On day two of the blitz, she only lost against Lei Tingjie, who finished in clear third despite losing her last game. In round thirteen, Sarasadat defeated Alisa Galliamova with a devastating attack:


The black king is doomed. The game finished with 23...Qc7 24.Qh6+ Ke8 25.Qh8+ Bf8 26.Rxe6+ and the Russian resigned with mate-in-five on the board.

The young Iranian has reasons to smile | Photo: Maria Emelianova

Final standings - Women's section (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Lagno Kateryna 13,5 2616
2 Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 13,0 2562
3 Lei Tingjie 12,5 2558
4 Gunina Valentina 12,0 2490
5 Tan Zhongyi 11,5 2479
6 Goryachkina Aleksandra 11,5 2463
7 Ushenina Anna 11,5 2442
8 Garifullina Leya 11,0 2519
9 Ju Wenjun 11,0 2500
10 Mamedjarova Zeinab 11,0 2494
11 Gaponenko Inna 11,0 2480
12 Muzychuk Anna 11,0 2413
13 Stefanova Antoaneta 11,0 2398
14 Paehtz Elisabeth 11,0 2393
15 Munkhzul Turmunkh 11,0 2390
16 Bodnaruk Anastasia 10,5 2501
17 Arabidze Meri 10,5 2447
18 Galliamova Alisa 10,5 2403
19 Shuvalova Polina 10,5 2402
20 Kosteniuk Alexandra 10,5 2393
21 Harika Dronavalli 10,5 2391
22 Girya Olga 10,5 2356
23 Mammadova Gulnar 10,5 2339
24 Koneru Humpy 10,0 2415
25 Mammadzada Gunay 10,0 2388

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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