World Rapid 2019 Day one: The difficulty of keeping up!

by Sagar Shah
12/27/2019 – The World Rapid Championships 2019 kicked off with some exciting chess on day one. In the open section we have five leaders — Smirin, Mamedyarov, Duda, Dominguez and Wang Hao on 4½/5. They are followed by a group of seven players on 4 points, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen. In the women's section, we have three leaders — Olga Girya, Meri Arabidze and Irina Bulmaga. We bring you a detailed report from Moscow with interviews, photos, game analyses and more.

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Chess all around

I have been to some of the most important events in the world of chess — World Youth, World Juniors, Candidates, the Olympiad, super tournaments, etc. However, as a journalist I have never felt so lost as I felt at the first day of the World Rapid Championships 2019! It was the first time I was witnessing this event in person. In a day, you have five rounds in the open section and four rounds in the women's section. That's a total of 750 games! As I walked inside the playing hall, I could see hundreds of different openings, so many tactical ideas being executed, theoretical endgames being played, some perfectly well, while many being botched up! An absolute constant was the sound of chess clocks being pressed by hundreds of players every second. I never felt overwhelmed by chess to the extent I felt today!

The playing venue of the World Rapid and Blitz 2019 at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In the open section, there were five rounds of rapid with a time control of 15 minutes plus 10-second increments. As per the schedule, the gap between two rounds was one hour fifteen minutes. However, almost every round went past the schedule. Sometimes a player would be trying hard in a queen vs queen and pawn endgame, or sometimes in a rook and knight vs rook endgame! Day one proceedings were supposed to end by around 9 p.m., but it went all the way until ten and beyond. As one of the players pointed out, "What is extremely tiring for me are not five rounds in a day, but the wait in between the rounds!" Here is how the players spent their free time:

Taking some rest to ensure that you are fresh for the game | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Eating food to stay energized for the game | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Relaxing by checking the mobile phones! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Reading some book! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Giving autographs! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Preparing for your next round opponent! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

On the first day, after five rounds, we have five players on 4½/5 points — Wang Hao, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Jan Krzysztof Duda and Lenier Dominguez leading the event is not such a big surprise. However, the one player who has stunned everyone with his play is Israeli GM Ilya Smirin.

Blitz chess is a young man's game, but Smirin, who is 51 years old, beat Maxim Matlakov, Bartosz Socko and Gadir Guseinov | Photo: Lennart Ootes


In an all-important round five clash between Anish Giri and Leinier Dominguez, it was the latter who came out on top | Photo: Amruta Mokal


Giri just took the rook on f5, which led to a lost position. Instead, he should have found the powerful strike 27...♜xa2!! The point is very nice. After 28.♔xa2 gxf5 29.♕xf5 ♜a8+ 30.♔b1 now Black has a powerful move...


After White takes on e4, Black sacrifices his rook on a1 and after ♔xa1, you have ...♛a3+ coming up, thanks to the bishop on g7. And it is all over!


Carlsen did not have the smoothest of days at the office, but he managed to score 4/5, with two draws against Hrant Melkumyan and Rauf Mamedov | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Against Melkumyan, Carlsen was just worse after he made an inexplicable mistake when he pushed his pawn to f6. The World Champion wasn't punished for this error and was let off the hook rather easily.


Aronian and his Armenian friends have a nice time analysing Melkumyan vs Carlsen game where the World Champion lost a pawn and was on the verge of losing

The way in which Magnus won this endgame is almost magical, but it was only because of Savchenko's mistake in the endgame. Can you find where the Russian GM went wrong?


Alireza Firouzja has the eyes of the entire world on him after he decided to play under the FIDE flag instead of Iran — the youngster did not disappoint. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Alireza Firouzja drew his first round game, but then came back with three back-to-back wins. Especially impressive was his win over Sergey Karjakin with the black pieces in round four. 


In the fifth and the final round of the day Firouzja, did not play the opening so well and landed in a worse position against Jan-Krzysztof Duda.


Andrey Tsvetkov, talented Russian youngster, is doing well with 3½/5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Also on 3½/5 and gaining a good number of Elo points is Nihal Sarin | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Gukesh, who has an Elo of just 1799, wasn't able to make much of an impact on day one — he scored two draws apart from the first round bye and is on 2/5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Standings after round 5 (top 15)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Wang Hao 4,5 14,0
2 Smirin Ilia 4,5 12,5
3 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 4,5 12,0
4 Duda Jan-Krzysztof 4,5 12,0
5 Dominguez Perez Leinier 4,5 11,0
6 Carlsen Magnus 4,0 13,0
7 Guseinov Gadir 4,0 13,0
8 Zubov Alexander 4,0 13,0
9 Le Quang Liem 4,0 12,5
10 Dubov Daniil 4,0 12,0
11 Motylev Alexander 4,0 11,5
12 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 4,0 11,5
13 Fridman Daniel 3,5 15,0
14 Shirov Alexei 3,5 14,0
15 Giri Anish 3,5 14,0

...207 players

Olga Girya leads in the women's section with 4 out of 4 — she is joined at the top by Meri Arabidze and Irina Bulmaga | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Olga Girya speaks about her games and how she managed to reach 4/4

Standings after round 4 (top 15)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Arabidze Meri 4,0 8,5
2 Girya Olga 4,0 8,0
3 Bulmaga Irina 4,0 7,0
4 Kashlinskaya Alina 3,5 8,5
5 Koneru Humpy 3,5 8,5
6 Charochkina Daria 3,5 8,0
7 Nurgali Nazerke 3,5 8,0
8 Tan Zhongyi 3,5 7,5
9 Harika Dronavalli 3,5 6,0
10 Goltseva Ekaterina 3,0 10,0
11 Dordzhieva Dinara 3,0 9,0
12 Munguntuul Batkhuyag 3,0 9,0
13 Dzagnidze Nana 3,0 8,5
14 Lei Tingjie 3,0 8,5
15 Buksa Nataliya 3,0 8,0

...122 players

Rami Altassan, the president of the Saudi Arabian Chess Association, makes the opening move of the event | Photo: Amruta Mokal

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich made the opening move in the women's section | Photo: Lennart Ootes

ChessBase Products on sale at the venue! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

If you are at the venue, you can enjoy the Russian commentary by GM Sergey Shipov for free! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Some of the most experienced photographers in the world of chess! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Sometimes a lone king is enough! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The ChessRobot is quite a big attraction at the venue, as it can play against three opponents simultaneously! It has been developed by Konstantin Kosteniuk, father of Alexandra. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

On a parting note, we would like to leave you with the video analysis by Daniil Dubov. He shows us one of his finest victories, his win against Rasmus Svane. This video shows why the defending World Rapid Champion is such a genius!


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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