Vachier-Lagrave and Assaubayeva are the 2021 World Blitz Champions

by André Schulz
12/31/2021 – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won the world title in blitz chess after beating Jan-Krzysztof Duda in a playoff. Alireza Firouzja scored as many points as MVL and Duda, but had an inferior tiebreak score. The women’s world title went to 17-year-old Kazakh star Bibisara Assaubayeva. | Photos: Rafał Oleksiewicz, Anna Shtourman / FIDE

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MVL’s steady climb

Defending champion Magnus Carlsen was probably not very satisfied with his performance on the first day of the World Blitz Championship. He started off world champion-like, with four wins — but then conceded two defeats. In Round 9 he was once again defeated, by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and in Round 12 he signed his only draw of the day against the young Indian grandmaster Arjun Erigaisi.

With 8½ points, he entered the second day in eighth place, 1½ points behind the leader Levon Aronian — a gap that he could have definitely made up on a good second day.

Almost 180 players took part in the open section of the World Blitz Championship and some of the players who are not world-class in terms of their Elo ratings in classical chess are nevertheless very strong blitzers. This phenomenon is also observed in the opposite direction — Caruana, for example, was ‘only’ 52nd with 7 points after the first day, while Richard Rapport was 53rd with the same number of points.

Fabiano Caruana looks on

The second match day started with a one-hour delay. The reason was a thorough Covid-19 test of all players after Hikaru Nakamura tested positive.

The American grandmaster was seeded second behind Carlsen in the blitz, and he had collected 8½ points — like Carlsen — on the first day of action. Nakamura could no longer finish the tournament. FIDE and the tournament management recommended that all players wear masks even during the games.

Carlsen started the second day with a win over Parham Maghsoodloo, and with this win he jumped to second place as the highest-rated player in a six-player chasing group with 9½ points. But that was the end of the world champion’s recovery. After a draw against Haik Martirosyan, Carlsen lost to Anish Giri and then to Alexander Grischuk.

 

After Black castled long, this sharp position with attacks on both sides had arisen in an Anti-Berlin. There are already open lines in front of the white king, but not yet in front of its black counterpart.

18.Qb3 Rhg8 19.Bg3 [Possible was 19.Rfb1 and after 19...Be6 20.Nc4 Qg7 21.g3 Qg4 White goes for it on the queenside with 22.b6 cxb6 23.axb6, and if Black errs with the natural-looking 23...a6 there is 24.Rxa6 bxa6 25.Qa4 Bxc4 26.Qxc4 with decisive threats.]

19...Ne6 20.Qa4 [20.Nc4!?]

20...Rg4 Threatens h4.

 

21.Nh2 [The best chance was 21.b6 cxb6 22.a6]

21...Rg7 22.Ndf3 [22.b6 is no longer so strong: 22...cxb6 23.a6 c4 24.axb7 a5 25.Nxc4 Nc5 26.Qb5 Bxc4 27.Qxc4 Qf7]

22...Rdg8 23.Nh4 c4 Clears the square for a minor piece.

 

24.dxc4 Nc5 25.Qc2 Qf7 26.b6 cxb6 [26...Bxc4!?]

27.axb6 a6 28.Rfd1 Be7

 

29.Rd5 Another witty exchange sacrifice to clear the f5-square, but the position is lost.

29...Bxd5 30.cxd5 Bd8 31.Nf5 Rg6 32.Nf3 Qd7 33.N3h4 Rg4 34.Nh6 Nxe4 35.Nxg8 Nxg3 36.fxg3 [36.Nxf6 Bxf6 37.fxg3 was a little tougher.]

 

36...Bxb6+ 37.Kh2 Rxg8 38.Rb1 Bc5 39.c4 Qg4 40.Rb3 e4 41.Qb2 White now also comes to the attack, but the weakness of the g3-square finally decides.

41...Bd6 42.Rxb7+

 

42...Ka8 43.Rb3 Bxg3+ A very exciting game! 0–1

After round 16, the defending champion had dropped to 18th place, and with a three-point deficit and five rounds to go, he was virtually out of the race for the title.

Aronian, meanwhile, defended his lead with a win over Bassem Amin, two draws against Erigaisi and Nepomniachtchi and another win over Giri. After 16 rounds, the Armenian, now playing under the US flag, led with 13 points ahead of Daniil Dubov (12), who had fought his way into second place, and Arjun Erigaisi (11½).

The assistant had a better result than the boss — Daniil Dubov and Magnus Carlsen

Rasmus Svane, who had beaten some top players on the first day of play and was temporarily in the top group in the standing table, finished day 1 with a loss against the young Uzbek Javokhir Sindarov and started the second half of the tournament with a defeat against Luca Moroni. Then he regained his composure and collected 3½ points in the next 4 rounds.

 

26...Bxh3 27.gxh3 Qxh3 28.Bf4 Otherwise Re4–g4 wins.

28...Ne4 29.Bxc7 [29.Qc1 Qg4+–+]

29...Nxd2 30.Rxd2 With three minor pieces for the queen, although the white king is too open. 

30...Re4 31.Bg3 Rae8 32.Nc2 Re2 33.Rxe2 Rxe2 34.Nfd4 Re4 35.Nf3 Qg4 36.Kg2 Re2 37.Ne3 Qe4 38.Nf1

 

38... g5 39.N1h2 g4 40.Nxg4 Qxg4 Two minor pieces for the queen.

 

41.Rd1 Qe4 42.Rd4 Qe6 43.Rf4 Rxb2 44.Nd4 Qd7 45.Nf5 Qe6 46.Rg4+ Kh7 47.Rf4 Rxa2 48.Nd4 Qg6 49.Nf3 f6 50.Nh4 Qf7 51.Nf5 Re2 52.Rg4 Re4 53.Bf4 h5 54.Rh4 Qg6+ 55.Ng3 Kg8 56.Kf3 Rc4 57.Nxh5 Rxc3+ 58.Be3 d4 59.Rxd4 Qxh5+ A minor piece for a queen and two pawns. White gave up. 0–1

After 17 rounds Rasmus Svane had 11 points, the same as Carlsen, but with a worse tiebreak score than the world champion.

In Round 17 there was a change in the lead. Levon Aronian lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who had been slowly but steadily climbing up the table, and in Round 18 Aronian lost to Haik Martirosyan. Dubov now passed Aronian with a win over Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

The results of the following two rounds then ensured maximum tension before the final round. After the 20th round, no fewer than six players were tied at the top with 14 points. Aronian had a razor-thin advantage over Dubov in third place. He was followed by Vladislav Artemiev, Duda, Vachier-Lagrave and Alireza Firouzja. In seventh place was Carlsen , at a half-point distance.

Aronian lost to Firouzja, Duda beat Artemiev, and Vachier-Lagrave defeated the world champion. Dubov and Giri drew.

That left Vachier-Lagrave, Duda and Firouzja tied on a 15/21 score atop the standings table. The rules are already familiar from the World Rapid Chess Championship — Duda and Vachier-Lagrave made it to a playoff thanks to their superior tiebreak scorer. 

Carlsen commented ironically on his Twitter account.

The two regular playoff games ended in draws. Vachier-Lagrave then won the third encounter and with it the world title in blitz chess.


Final standings after 21 rounds

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 15,0 244,0
2 Duda Jan-Krzysztof 15,0 242,0
3 Firouzja Alireza 15,0 237,0
4 Dubov Daniil 14,5 253,5
5 Aronian Levon 14,0 256,0
6 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 14,0 249,5
7 Artemiev Vladislav 14,0 245,0
8 Sindarov Javokhir 13,5 259,0
9 Fedoseev Vladimir 13,5 258,5
10 Oparin Grigoriy 13,5 256,0
11 Martirosyan Haik M. 13,5 252,5
12 Carlsen Magnus 13,5 252,0
13 Kravtsiv Martyn 13,5 250,5
14 Grischuk Alexander 13,5 248,5
15 Kobalia Mikhail 13,5 247,5
16 Giri Anish 13,5 247,5
17 Alekseenko Kirill 13,0 247,0
18 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 13,0 238,5
19 Nihal Sarin 13,0 236,0
20 Sarana Alexey 13,0 234,5
21 Mamedov Rauf 13,0 225,0
22 Dreev Aleksey 13,0 225,0
23 Quparadze Giga 13,0 223,0
24 Erigaisi Arjun 12,5 252,0
25 Nepomniachtchi Ian 12,5 249,0

...179 players


All available games

 

Playoffs

 

Assaubayeva shines among the women

In the Women’s World Blitz Championship, Bibisara Assubayeva entered the second half of the tournament as the sole leader. The women played their tournament over 17 rounds according to the Swiss system.

Assaubayeva increased her lead to 2 points after 14 rounds. In round 15 she lost to Kateryna Lagno. After her victory over Aleksandra Goryachkina, however, the 17-year-old was certain to be the world champion one round before the end. A draw in the final round was enough to win the title with a 1½-point lead!

Bibisara Assaubayeva is the Women’s World Blitz Champion

Alexandra Kosteniuk won silver, and Valentina Gunina took bronze ahead of Polina Shuvalova, who was equal on points with the latter.

Marta Michna was happy to play again in her country of birth


Final standings after 17 rounds

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Assaubayeva Bibisara 14,0 170,0
2 Kosteniuk Alexandra 12,5 157,5
3 Gunina Valentina 12,0 173,0
4 Shuvalova Polina 12,0 167,5
5 Koneru Humpy 11,5 168,5
6 Buksa Nataliya 11,5 167,5
7 Dzagnidze Nana 11,5 156,5
8 Goryachkina Aleksandra 11,0 166,5
9 Muzychuk Anna 11,0 161,0
10 Lagno Kateryna 11,0 156,5
11 Stefanova Antoaneta 11,0 152,0
12 Paehtz Elisabeth 11,0 148,5
13 Girya Olga 11,0 144,5
14 Vaishali R 10,5 168,5
15 Mamedjarova Zeinab 10,5 155,5
16 Gaponenko Inna 10,5 149,0
17 Bodnaruk Anastasia 10,5 147,0
18 Kulon Klaudia 10,5 145,5
19 Zatonskih Anna 10,5 144,0
20 Abdumalik Zhansaya 10,0 170,0
21 Salimova Nurgyul 10,0 159,5
22 Socko Monika 10,0 159,0
23 Muzychuk Mariya 10,0 155,5
24 Injac Teodora 10,0 147,5
25 Muetsch Annmarie 10,0 144,5

...105 players


All available games

 

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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Aighearach Aighearach 1/4/2022 11:05
In the Buchholtz System, if it is a round-robin tournament then of course rating doesn't matter, but in a Swiss, the higher rated half play lower-rated opponents, and so their opponents end up with worse scores and they naturally get lower Buchholz scores.

This is simple, obvious, and well known.

The wikipedia page even says, "The major criticism of this system is that tie-break scores can be distorted by the set of opponents that each player plays (especially in early rounds)"
Green22 Green22 1/2/2022 12:03
@AlexeyIgorevichRatchkov

oooohh triggered much do you need a hug loser!? sure didn't sound like sarcasm to me BTW
Minnesota Fats Minnesota Fats 1/1/2022 06:42
My mathematic skills tell me tie breaks always favour the weaker player;

but i would like to know more about the Buchholtz rules more...is this something Einstein like?
Stupido Stupido 1/1/2022 04:11
@Aighearach - The tiebreak rules used Buchholtz as the main method, which is not rating-related.
Aighearach Aighearach 1/1/2022 10:19
Carlsen-Giri 19...Ne6 should be 19...Be6
Aighearach Aighearach 1/1/2022 10:18
It's silly to call being the lowest-rated of the tied players "leading the field." That's how the tiebreaks work; the lowest rated players have the highest tie-break scores. It's just nonsense to think those numbers are so meaningful as to determine the winner. If you really want to have tiebreakers, why use these silly numbers borrowed from scholastic team chess? Why not select an evaluation engine, and rank the players by their cumulative average centipawn loss scores from each game? The players with the least centipawn loss compared to the computer are the ones who played the best in the tournament, regardless of who their opponents were.
AlexeyIgorevichRatchkov AlexeyIgorevichRatchkov 12/31/2021 09:20
@Green22 the only dbag I see here is you.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 12/31/2021 06:41
@Jacob woge, @Stupido - completely agree.

@Theochessman - that only begs the question. 21 rounds should be enough for a field this size. If it was 22...the top boards could have draw and others half a point behind could have won actually increasing the people 'tied' for first! Besides, pairings for a round 22 could be, lets say, 1 vs 3, 2 vs 4 (have been half a point behind)...4 could win and 1 and 3 draw...and all you have done is created a new tie...but with the original #2 out of the mix. Also, some will have already played and only 'lucky guy' might be paired with someone much further down.

The 'playoffs' listed below are convoluted and unnecessary. And notice how the only participants who ever 'complain' are the losers? Do they ever 'complain' going into the tourney? One might call it a moral weakness to do so AFTER you participated and fell short.
odeshog odeshog 12/31/2021 06:34
@Green22 Ever heard of sarcasm? In case you need it spelled out for ya he's criticizing the tie-break rules
Green22 Green22 12/31/2021 06:11
Carlsen acting like a baby baby LOL what a putz! who even says this and why?

"Good outcome for the public though, pretty sure no chess fan wanted to see Alireza in the playoffs anyway. Good luck to Duda and MVL!"

--no chess fan wanted to see Alireza in the playoffs anyway.

What a d-bag! I don't feel bad he lost.
Somewhat Experienced Somewhat Experienced 12/31/2021 04:49
What a wuss chubby Nepo is!
Theochessman Theochessman 12/31/2021 04:40
Maybe having more rounds would cure this 4 players tied for first place effect?
Jacob woge Jacob woge 12/31/2021 04:24
Since these are open events, they should just use tiebreakers without adding playoffs.“
Fully agree.
Stupido Stupido 12/31/2021 03:41
Since these are open events, they should just use tiebreakers without adding playoffs. Tiebreakers will most of the time favor the players who were in front of the field, playing the toughest opponents and working harder. In super strong closed tournaments a playoff makes more sense.
sebtak sebtak 12/31/2021 03:05
I'm not sure at all you need to have all tied play in the playoff, but if you want to organise one, a neat way is simply to pair them as in the world cup. With n players, rank them in tie-break order, fill with "no players" until the next power of 2 and there you go. For with 6 players for instance, round up to 8. Left half 1 vs 8 =1; 4 vs 5; right half 2 vs 7 = 2; 3 vs 6. Easy. First 4 vs 5 and 3 vs 6 play (at the same time), then the winners play against 1 and 2, then again the winners play the final.

However, I'm not sure at all this is warranted. If anything it means even less risk taking between tied players before the last round. But perhaps not splitting money equally between ties is the real incentive for less risk taking at the last round. Another thing to bear in mind is if indeed all ties after the rapid had played a play-off some would still have complained that it took too long and put them at a disadvantage for the blitz.

A more important question is why the tie-break for rapid is a blitz? Surely, they could have played 5 rounds on day 1 and day 2 and only 3 on day 3 to leave some time for a (potential/likely) playoff on day 3. Then play rapid playoff. If need be (i.e. a full playoff with all tied), then why not a rapid armageddon? Say White with 15 vs 10 no increment (before move 40 or 60) has to win, better seeded player to choose his colour.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/31/2021 12:22
The world champion did not dominate the rapid and blitz world championships. It happens. He is still the best player in the world. Why does he have to be such a bad loser? He is a great winner, but one has to be able to handle a loss/lack of win well, especially if he is a world champion. Congratulations to the winners!

@Arthur Nugent hahaha, funny comment.
Theochessman Theochessman 12/31/2021 12:10
uh oh....poor Magnus... :/
Is the DrDrunkenstein taking its toll?
Stupido Stupido 12/31/2021 12:09
The playoff rule is stupid but it is worth noting that both Abdusattarov and Vachier-Lagrave had the best tiebreak score and both beat Carlsen. They fully deserve their titles.
MauvaisFou MauvaisFou 12/31/2021 11:41
WILD KID : I would rather say 1 plays n, 2 plays n-1, etc. But what about with 9 players ?
1 gets a bye, then 5 players, 1 gets a bye, then 3 players, 1 gets a bye and plays only the final ?
Patchess76 Patchess76 12/31/2021 09:50
Bravo Maxime! Ta persévérance est récompensée.
WildKid WildKid 12/31/2021 08:09
Leavenfish: 'can you sensibly have a '3 man playoff' anyway?'Possible rules for an n person playoff: 1. If n is even, #1 (best tiebreak score) plays #2, #3 plays #4, etc. If n is odd, #1 gets a bye, #2 plays #3, etc. Now we're down to n/2 or (n plus 1)/2 players, repeat the procedure till you're down to one player. For example, with 6 players, 1 beats 2, 3 beats 4, 6 beats 5. So 3 plays and beats 6, 1 plays 3 and the winner is the champion, after 3 rounds. A 15 way tie (unlikely of course) could be settled in 4 rounds. Each individual match has expeditious rules such as 'sudden death' followed by Armageddon in the case of 3 draws.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 12/31/2021 06:18
@Arthur .... better than being 'sick with covid, omicron...'
arthur nugent arthur nugent 12/31/2021 06:02
I'm sick of hearing about covid,omicron and rapid and blitz!
saturn23 saturn23 12/31/2021 03:53
Carlsen still doesn't get it. In a tournament with almost 200 players you can't find a good and fair tiebreak system. The reason is that many players may finish in the first place with the same number of points. Then you have two options: either include all of them in yet another (tiebreak) tournament or adopt an elimination system, like the world cup.

In a tiebreak tournament where each player will play all other players, each player might need to play a large number of games. For example in a 10-way tie, each player has to play 9 games. Not to mention that a few players could again finish in the first place in this tiebreak tournament and you will need another tiebreak system!

In an elimination system, each player will still need to play quite a few blitz games and also Armageddon games. In the case of the 10-way tie, a played might need to play 8 blitz games and up to 4 Armageddon games in order to win the tiebreak.

As you can see, there's no good tiebreak system because (in theory) players might need to play a large number of tiebreak games.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 12/31/2021 02:26
Indeed. More Passive/Agressiveness from Magnus. I guess when you don't have 'motivation', you have to have....'something' but this is not particularly becoming. Really, can you sensibly have a '3 man playoff' anyway?
gwrtheyrn gwrtheyrn 12/31/2021 02:00
The World Champion has seemed a little irritable in the past few days. I, at any rate, am fine with seeing a playoff between MVL and Duda, both of whom are usually superb performers. Probably Firouzja will have top tie-breakers many times in his career.
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