World Rapid day two: Magnus is scary!

by Sagar Shah
12/28/2019 – It's an exhausting format and just about everyone is feeling the heat at the World Rapid Championships 2019. Except one man! Superman in fact! Magnus Carlsen played three fighting games of chess in round eight, nine and ten; won all three of them; and captured the lead at the end of day two. He is now the sole leader, with Wang Hao, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Duda following him. In the women's section, we have Irina Bulmaga, Tan Zhongyi, Lei Tingjie and Mariya Muzychuk in joint lead with 6½/8. A detailed report from Moscow. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Magnus Carlsen unstoppable

Whenever Magnus Carlsen plays an important event, NRK, the Norwegian government-owned radio and television public broadcasting company — the largest media organisation in the Nordic country — covers him. Chess is shown on television and a huge number of people follow what Magnus is up to.

Generally, covering an event of this magnitude with just a two-person team is not easy. However, NRK usually receives the support of the organizers. In the present case, at the World Rapid Championships 2019, Magnus' board is fixed on the podium. It doesn't matter how many points Magnus is on, he will always be on the same board on the stage, as the NRK camera has been fixed and the games are being relayed live back home in Norway.

Team NRK is not huge: it's just two people — a reporter who does interviews with Magnus and speaks to the audience, and a camera man | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The camera being fixed is often irksome for some of the players, because Magnus is always on the top board, no matter how he plays. After seven rounds, Carlsen was on 5 out of 7. He had ended day one with 4/5, half a point behind five leaders, and after two rounds on day two he was behind seven other contestants. That's when Magnus decided to put his foot on the accelerator. He scored three wins out of three rounds and finished the day with another 4/5 score — a total of 8/10 — and is now the sole leader by a half point margin.

Alexander Zhukov, the acting Deputy Chairman of the State Duma (the Russian Parliament) and IOC member, makes the first move in Carlsen v Laznicka | Photo: Lennart Ootes


The way Magnus played after taking on d6 was quite instructive. He fortified his centre with c3, then broke with e4 and overall played a close-to-flawless game. There was one point towards the end when it all seemed over, but it was precisely when Laznicka had his chance.


White can simply take the knight with 42.♘xa6, and 42...♜xb6 doesn't work because 43.♖c8+ is strong. Magnus, instead of taking the knight, played 42.b7+ a7 and now 43.xa6. Laznicka replied with 43...xa6 and after 44.c8 resigned the game. However, if he had played 43...♜b6!, Magnus would have seen almost all of his hard work turn into nothing.


Magnus would do well to now play 44.♖c8, but after 44...♚xa6! the only way for White to keep some advantage is 45.b8=♘+ ♚b7 46.♖xd8 ♜xb4+. White is a piece up, but this is not going to be easy to convert. In fact, the chances of the game ending in a draw are huge!

Carlsen vs Alexander Zubov | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Carlsen's next victim was Alexander Zubov. The Ukrainian GM had played strong guys like Dubov, Le Quang Liem and Wang Hao, and had not lost a single game! Zubov put Carlsen under tremendous pressure. You could literally sense the tension in the room rising when Zubov sacrificed a pawn and then launched an attack on the black king. In his bid to mate the World Champion, the Ukrainian GM left no stone unturned. Carlsen was not happy with his position. On move 29 he pushed his pawn to g3.


This is where the class of a World Champion comes to the fore. If you were among the audience and saw Carlsen at this moment, you would feel that g3 was some kind of desperate ploy — the way in which Magnus made the move, just letting the pawn go. Zubov instantly captured it back, and this is where Carlsen had his move prepared: 30...c4! Suddenly pieces are getting exchanged and the worst is over for Black. If Zubov would have been more careful, in reply to g3 he would have taken with 30.hxg6!, and now Magnus would have been hard pressed to keep his counterplay going. It's these little moments in the game that separate the World Champion from other players.


By now, Carlsen had joined 'MVL', Wang Hao and Le Quang Liem in the leading pack.

The final round of the day — Carlsen against Le Quang Liem | Photo: Lennart Ootes

A few minutes after the final round began Carlsen and his opponent were the only two out of eight players on stage that were playing. All the other three games had ended in short draws. The World Rapid Championship has an unforgiving format. You have to play five rapid games each day, and top players indulge in strategic draws at the right moment in the event to conserve their energy for critical games. But Carlsen doesn't believe in conserving his energy. He believes in giving it his all in every game that he plays. The World Champion represents the sport, and if he is not a fighter, that's not a good sign. I wonder whether Magnus thinks on those lines, or whether he is just always keen for a fight on the chess board. Whatever it is, he never disappoints the spectators. A huge crowd always gathers near Carlsen's board.

Le Quang Liem went for the Queen's Gambit Accepted, and within a few moves was subjected to a position of great passivity. He tried to fight back, but in vain. Magnus had complete control over the position and went on to win in style.


Carlsen versus Le Quang Liem — enjoy the game along with the expressions of the players

Wang Hao began the day with 4½/5, drew a fighting game against Carlsen and then beat Ilya Smirin. In the last three rounds, he made three quick draws against Mamedyarov, Nepomniactchi and Vachier-Lagrave, and is now on 7½/10.

Wang Hao | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The best result for 'MVL' was his win over Mamedyarov. The Frenchman takes on Carlsen in the first round of day three — a mouth-watering duel awaits us.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The last player on 7½/10 is Jan-Krzysztof Duda. He was completely lost in his game against Alexei Shirov. It was mate in seven when Shirov hallucinated.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda | Photo: Lennart Ootes


The fastest way to win here is 30...♛g4+! If 31.♔h1, then 31...♜g6 wins. If 31.♔f1, then 31...♛h3+ followed by ...♜g6 wins. 30...♛g4+ is not the most human move, but it is the fastest way to win. Shirov chose to check with his rook, 30...g6+, in the above position, which is also winning. However, after 31.f1 h1+ 32.e2 e6+ 33.d3, it was now important to play 33...♛f3+, when Black wins the queen at the very least. However, Shirov went 33...d6+ and after 34.c3 he realized much to his surprise that he was just lost. His queen is under attack and there is no way to recover the material, as 34...f3+ is met with 35.e3.


Standings after round 10 (top 15)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Carlsen Magnus 8,0
2 Wang Hao 7,5
3 Duda Jan-Krzysztof 7,5
4 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 7,5
5 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 7,0
6 Nepomniachtchi Ian 7,0
7 Le Quang Liem 7,0
8 Dominguez Perez Leinier 7,0
9 Guseinov Gadir 7,0
10 Nakamura Hikaru 7,0
11 Aronian Levon 7,0
12 Svidler Peter 7,0
13 Karjakin Sergey 7,0
14 Andreikin Dmitry 7,0
15 Anton Guijarro David 7,0

...207 players

Four-way tie at the top in the women's section

Playing fantastic chess at the event is Irina Bulmaga. She scored 2½/4 in day two, with three draws and an all-important win over Koneru Humpy.

Irina Bulmaga | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Lie Tingjie beat three strong opponents on day two — Polina Shuvalova, Nino Batsiashvili and Meri Arabidze.

Lie Tingjie | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Tan Zhongyi is the other Chinese player in the lead with 6½/8 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Coming from a score of 2½/4 on day one, Mariya Muzychuk scored four wins in four rounds and joined the leaders.

Mariya Muzychuk | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The women's event is slated for an exciting finish as, along with these four leaders, you also have six other players who are just half a point behind.

Standings after round 8 (top 15)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Bulmaga Irina 6,5
2 Tan Zhongyi 6,5
3 Lei Tingjie 6,5
4 Muzychuk Mariya 6,5
5 Koneru Humpy 6,0
6 Girya Olga 6,0
7 Lagno Kateryna 6,0
8 Harika Dronavalli 6,0
9 Atalik Ekaterina 6,0
10 Muzychuk Anna 6,0
11 Arabidze Meri 5,5
12 Charochkina Daria 5,5
13 Danielian Elina 5,5
14 Pogonina Natalija 5,5
15 Dzagnidze Nana 5,5

...122 players

Photo gallery

Day two was opened by the well-known footballer Dmitry Bulykin | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Dmitry Bulykin is a good friend of FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and enjoys chess. We also saw him at the Batumi Olympiad in 2018. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and President of Saudi Chess Association, Rami Altassan, unveiled the spectacular trophies | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The trophies are crafted in sterling silver and then gilt using gold coating. They are 35cm high and weigh approximately 1.5 kg each. It took approximately 150 hours for each of the trophies to be made. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The journalists are treated to a beautiful view of the Luzhniki football ground. However, the view is quite short-lived, as it gets dark very early in Moscow! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

GM Vladimir Kramnik visited the tournament hall and spoke to us about his preparation, no-castling chess and upcoming projects! Vladimir said that if his opponents are ready, he is keen to try out no-castle chess in the World Blitz Championship!

Legendary photographer Boris Dolmatovsky presents a book to Levon Aronian as a gift | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Take a note of this youngster: Aydin Suleymanli. He is just 14 years old, has a rapid rating of 2086 and is performing at an Elo of 2652. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

After NRK finishes the interview and before Carlsen rushes to the VIP room, there is a little window for these fans to get autographs from the World Champion | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The Chess Robot by Konstantin Kosteniuk (Alexandra's father) plays with a Santa cap on! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Irina Krush reading "Bounce - The Myth of Talent & The Power of Practice" | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The World Rapid and Blitz Championships has managed to create huge interest among kids | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The tournament is being handled by a team of competent arbiters — IA Panagiotis Nikolopoulos with Anastasia Sorokina | Photo: Lennart Ootes


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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