World Rapid: Carlsen among 5-player leading group

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/26/2023 – Five players ended day 1 of the World Rapid Championship sharing first place with 4½/5 points. Magnus Carlsen, who assessed his play on the first day as “so-so”, heads the leading pack, which also includes Yu Yangyi, Vidit Gujrathi, Arjun Erigaisi and Ivan Cheparinov. In the women’s section, Zhu Jiner and Nurgyul Salimova are sharing first place with perfect 4/4 scores. | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

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Equal playing conditions?

Drama seems to have become an integral part of the chess world, and the start of the World Rapid Championship in Samarkand was no exception. Second seed Ian Nepomniachtchi — who had a slow start in the tournament (3 out of 5) — shared the following post on X:

Norwegian journalist Tarjei J. Svensen noted that, indeed, a private lounge has been provided to Magnus Carlsen since 2016 in every World Rapid and Blitz Championship, as the world number one tends to be constantly in the spotlight, getting frequent requests to give interviews.

Nepo’s fellow elite GMs Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, notwithstanding, agreed that all participants should have the same playing conditions.

Svensen later informed the English-speaking chess world that Henrik Carlsen, Magnus’ dad, had clarified to Norway’s TV2 that his son does not have access to a laptop in between games.

Daniil Dubov

2018 world rapid champion Daniil Dubov — a former second of Magnus Carlsen’s | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

Notwithstanding the playing conditions, Carlsen, a 4-time world rapid champion, is now one of five players sharing the lead with 4½ points. Yu Yangyi (15th seed), Vidit Gujrathi (18th), Arjun Erigaisi (26th) and Ivan Cheparinov (43rd) are tied for first with the defending champion.

Cheparinov, the lowest-rated player in the leading pack, got to play a fantastic combination to beat Richard Rapport in round 5.

24.Re8 is the only winning move in this double-edged position — but what a move! 24...Nxe8 fails to 25.f8Q+, while Rapport’s 24...Rxe8 was followed by the great-looking 25.Qxf6+, and Black resigned.

The idea is that after 25...Rxf6, White can underpromote with 26.fxe8N+ — with a royal fork!

World Rapid Chess Championship 2023

The spacious playing hall in Samarkand | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

The massive event, with 202 players in the open section, has 12 players standing a half point behind the leaders. Vachier-Lagrave, Daniil Dubov and Rauf Mamedov are the highest-rated players in this group, while Indian GM Bharath Subramaniyam (aged 16) is the biggest underdog among the chasers.

Joining Nepo in the group with 3/5 points are four more players belonging to the top-10 in the starting rank: Fabiano Caruana, Peter Svidler, Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Vladislav Artemiev.

Fabiano Caruaa, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: FIDE / Anastasia Korolkova

Standings after round 5

Rk. SNo Name Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4 
1 Carlsen, Magnus 4,5 13
2 Erigaisi, Arjun 4,5 13
3 Cheparinov, Ivan 4,5 12,5
4 Yu, Yangyi 4,5 12,5
5 Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 4,5 12
6 Bharath, Subramaniyam H 4 15
7 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 4 14
8 Dubov, Daniil 4 14
9 Anton Guijarro, David 4 13
10 Shimanov, Aleksandr 4 13
11 Gareyev, Timur 4 12,5
12 Shevchenko, Kirill 4 12
13 Xu, Xiangyu 4 12
14 Mamedov, Rauf 4 12
15 Holt, Conrad 4 11
16 Chanda, Sandipan 4 10,5
17 Ponkratov, Pavel 4 10
18 Rapport, Richard 3,5 15
19 Chigaev, Maksim 3,5 14,5
20 Nihal, Sarin 3,5 13,5
21 Narayanan, S L 3,5 13,5
22 Lazavik, Denis 3,5 13,5
23 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 3,5 13
24 Nesterov, Arseniy 3,5 13
25 Makhnev, Denis 3,5 13

...202 players

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Two players still perfect in the women’s section

Four rounds (out of 11) were played on Tuesday in the women’s section. The top seeds in this category struggled even more than in the open. In fact, none of the top-10 in the starting rank are currently among the eight players with 3½ points or more in the standings.

However, two already well-known names are sharing first place: 21-year-old Chinese GM Zhu Jiner (11th seed) and 20-year-old Bulgarian IM Nurgyul Salimova (21st), who qualified to the 2024 Women’s Candidates Tournament thanks to a remarkable performance at the demanding FIDE World Cup earlier this year.

Zhu will get the white pieces in the clash of co-leaders in round 5.

Zhu Jiner

Zhu Jiner | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

Nurgyul Salimova

Nurgyul Salimova | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

Six players stand a half point behind Zhu and Salimova, while the 16-player group with 3/4 points includes Mongolian WGM Turmunkh Munkhzul, an underdog who also had a strong performance in the 2022 edition.

In round 2, Munkhzul was completely lost against 8th seed Humpy Koneru, but the latter made a couple of mistakes that allowed a quick checkmating counterattack.

A number of moves win for White here — 54.c7, 54.d7 or even 54.Re2. After 54.Be4+ Kh8, on the other hand, engines evaluate the position as drawn, since Black can get a perpetual check via 55.Bg2 Nxg2 56.Qxg3 Qxg3 57.d7, and White will not manage to promote either of her passed pawns.

However, after failing to find the winning combination, things went from bad to worse for Humpy, who played 55.c7 instead of 55.Bg2 — and suddenly, Black can checkmate the white king in three moves.

Resignation came after 55...Rh3+ Qh2 56.Qa1+. Never give up, especially in rapid or blitz!

Humpy Koneru, Turmunkh Munkhzul

Humpy Koneru and Turmunkh Munkhzul | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 4

Rk. SNo Name Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4 
1 Salimova, Nurgyul 4 8,5
2 Zhu, Jiner 4 7,5
3 Bodnaruk, Anastasia 3,5 8
4 Tokhirjonova, Gulrukhbegim 3,5 7
5 Omonova, Umida 3,5 7
6 Vaishali, Rameshbabu 3,5 7
7 Zhai, Mo 3,5 7
8 Mammadzada, Gunay 3,5 6,5
9 Munkhzul, Turmunkh 3 10
10 Guichard, Pauline 3 9,5
11 Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 3 9,5
12 Kiolbasa, Oliwia 3 9
13 Muzychuk, Anna 3 8,5
14 Kamalidenova, Meruert 3 8
15 Koneru, Humpy 3 7,5
16 Tsolakidou, Stavroula 3 7
17 Gunina, Valentina 3 7
18 Pourkashiyan, Atousa 3 7
19 Padmini, Rout 3 6,5
20 Lagno, Kateryna 3 6,5
21 Charochkina, Daria 3 6,5
22 Stefanova, Antoaneta 3 6,5
23 Narva, Mai 3 6
24 Balajayeva, Khanim 3 5,5
25 Shuvalova, Polina 2,5 9

...117 players

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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.