Recapping The 2016 World Rapid and Blitz Championship

As the year 2016 drew to a close, several of the world’s chess elite descended upon Doha, Qatar to compete in the World Rapid & Blitz Championship.

Making his first appearance in a competitive tournament after retaining his World Championship Title in November was Magnus Carlsen, who seemed eager and determined to earn back his “Triple Crown.” Other prominent names in the event included World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin himself who gave Carlsen a valiant fight, 5-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand, and Hikaru Nakamura, who turned out to be the only American there. All these players are invitees for the 2017 Grand Chess Tour.

The event began with the rapid tournament being played out first. Upsets were plentiful in the first round itself as both Magnus and Nakamura were held to draws on boards 1 and 2, while Karjakin lost his game to the Swedish GM Nils Grandelius. Things didn’t improve for Magnus in the second round, as he was convincingly beaten by the Georgian GM Levan Pantsulaia.

Levan Pantsulaia - Magnus Carlsen || Credit: Anastasiya Karlovich, Doha Chess 2016

Nils Grandelius - Sergei Karjakin || Credit: Anastasiya Karlovich, Doha Chess 2016

R1 Surya Shekhar Ganguly - Magnus Carlsen || Credit: Anastasiya Karlovich, Doha Chess 2016

But one thing about Magnus is that when he loses, he returns to put together a streak of victories. This time was no different as he ripped-off 4 wins in a row, before suffering another loss. This time the loss was at the hands of Ukranian legend Vassily Ivanchuk, who displayed a remarkable control of nerves, something he has struggled with in the past, during the tournament. Magnus then scored another 2.5/3 before losing, for the third and final time in the rapid tournament to Ukranian GM Anton Korobov. Carlsen closed out the tournament with 4 wins in a row but ultimately came third on tiebreaks. The Russian GM Alexander Grischuk took silver.

Ivanchuk, who had a dominating performance, beating marquee players like Magnus and Anand along the way, won the tournament with a better tie-break. A very deserving 2016 World Rapid Chess Champion.

Vasilly Ivanchuk || Credit: Anastasiya Karlovich, Doha Chess 2016

Vishy Anand || Credit: Anastasiya Karlovich, Doha Chess 2016

Americans didn't have much to cheer for, unfortunately, as Nakamura was unable to find his rhythm and finished a disappointing 28th.

Hikaru Nakamura || Credit: Maria Emelianova, Doha Chess 2016

There was still a lot to play for, though, as the event advanced into the most exciting part of the Championship - the Blitz tournament!

Carlsen and Karjakin stole the show on the first day of Blitz, as they both racked up the wins and found themselves tied for first with 10/12. Karjakin was able to exact some mini-revenge on Carlsen, as he beat Carlsen in their match-up in in round 5. They both continued to outpace the competition on the second day as well, with Carlsen reaching 16/20 and Karjakin 15.5 /20, with a round to spare. At this point, Karjakin had better tiebreaks, however, and so if he won and Carlsen drew, he would win the tournament. Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for Magnus, that is exactly how things transpired, and so Karjakin became the 2016 World Blitz Champion. Congrats to him – a nice way to finish off the year!

Carlsen-Karjakin || Credit: Maria Emelianova, Doha Chess 2016

Credit: Maria Emelianova, Doha Chess 2016

The 20-year old Russian GM Daniil Dubov took bronze on tiebreaks, while Nakamura had to settle for fourth, and the 2015 World Blitz Champion Grischuk for fifth.

Much to the shock and amazement of everyone in the chess world, Magnus failed to win either the Rapid or Blitz. It just goes to show how tough the competition can be, that even the World Chess Champion can find it hard to win. Still, the power of Magnus was quite evident as he was the only player who tied for first in both the Rapid and Blitz, a testament to the consistency of his performance, which led to him earning the biggest payday at the event.

Even when Magnus loses, he wins!

Hope to see him in the 2017 Grand Chess Tour!

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