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World Rapid 2021 Day 1: Extreme Chess!

by Sagar Shah - 27/12/2021

The World Rapid and Blitz 2021 kicked off on 26th of December at the Narodowy stadium in Warsaw, Poland with a total of 279 players - 176 in the open and 103 in women. At the end of day one we have three leaders in the open section - Carlsen, Jobava and Duda on 4.5/5, and in the women' section we have Kosteniuk and Gunina on a 100% score. For Indians the best performers of the day were Vaishali, who beat Kashlinskaya and Mariya Muzychuk and Harsha Bharathakoti who scored 3.5/5 only losing to World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Thumbnal image by Lennart Ootes.

Three-way lead for Carlsen, Duda and Jobava

Report from Warsaw by Sagar Shah and pictures by Amruta Mokal


To me it is quite clear why people love the rapid format of chess. There is something for everyone in here! If you are a hard core chess fan, you can see some amazing preparation, great tactics and endgame grinds. If you are a casual viewer, you are simply going to enjoy the huge number of blunders taking place in every round. Just to give you an idea, let's have a look at a couple of games.

Fresh from the World Championship Match 2021, Nepo started off with 2.0/2 and then faced Vidit Gujrathi in round 3

Once you have played the World Championship Match, your preparation is altogether at a different level. That's what Nepo showed in his game against Vidit.


Vidit Gujrathi vs Ian Nepomniachtchi

This is move 23 and Nepo plays a classy idea. He gets his queen off the f6 square and is now ready to push with f6 and then win the e4 pawn in more favourable circumstances

When it comes to the Ragozin opening, Vidit is one of the leading experts from both colours. In the above opening, he already had a game until move 19 against Anton Guijarro with black! Nepo improved on Vidit's play and went on to beat the top Indian GM.

Nepo has come to the event with great determination. He ended day one with 4.0/5 with three wins and two draws.

Just when this high class chess is making all chess amateurs crawl back in their seats, something much more exciting (at least visually) is happening on another board!

If there was an award for a swindle of the day, it would go to Anish Giri

Anish was playing against the young German talent Rasmus Svane. After drifting into an inferior position, Anish was down two pawns in the endgame. It looked quite terrible for the Dutch no.1 when something unbelievable happened.


Rasmus Svane vs Anish Giri

It's true that winning this position is not the easiest task in the world, yet with careful play, White should be able to win this without too many difficulties. Being the last game of the round and already going on since an hour, Svane lost his focus and played Kh5?? Anish jumped at the opportunity with both his hands, played Qh2+ slammed the clock and retreated in his chair in relief! Kg5 is met with Qh6, which not only loses the queen, but is also checkmate!

We were able to catch this moment on camera!

Magnus Carlsen ended day one of the World Rapid 2021 with 4.5/5

While the level of play fluctuated for almost all players, World Champion Magnus Carlsen was rock solid. He ground out several wins in the endgame, the most amazing one was against Merab Gagunashvili in the first round where both sides had equal material - a rook, minor piece and a pawn. Magnus first got the game into a rook + bishop vs rook endgame and then put so much pressure on his opponent that he collapsed. This is what Magnus does really well.

The final part of the Magnus Carlsen vs Merab Gagunashvili endgame

Magnus not only won hearts over the board, but also off it. In round 3 the pairing was put up and it looked something like this:

Magnus's name was put up on the 11th board, which would be normal. But NRK has an agreement with FIDE that Magnus has to be on board no.1. That's where the top Norwegian Broadcasting company has all of its cameras.

This is how the pairings usually come out. No matter what the score is Magnus is always on board no.1

The arbiters had made this error and so they shifted all the players one board backwards and asked Magnus to come to board no.1. But Magnus declined, saying that everything has been set up, all the players are in place and let's do this (him being on board no.1) from next round onwards.

The entire episode captured on the camera

Although Jan Krzysztof Duda is playing on his home turf, he is not letting the pressure affect him. He is one of the three leaders along with Carlsen and Jobava on 4.5/5

Duda is a big superstar in his country and the people have high hopes from him to do what Rubinstein couldn't a century ago!

Duda seemed very sharp on day one showcasing nice understanding of material imbalances. Each of his games had a sacrifice. Sometimes a pawn, sometimes an exchange and sometimes even a piece! Check out this crazy game against Baadur Jobava.

The game between Duda and Jobava ended in a draw. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

It has been well-known to everyone in the chess community how good Baadur Jobava is as a chess player when he is sufficiently motivated. It seems like Baadur seems to be in top form at the World Rapid Championship as he leads the event along with Carlsen and Duda on 4.5/5.

A definite talent to watch out for is 2009 born Ihor Samunenkov. Ihor is just 12 years old (born in 2009) and has already beaten two GMs in this event - Samy Shoker and Vadim Zviagintsev. He also drew with Aleksey Dreev taking his score to 50% on day one.

The young super talents of Indian chess - Nihal Sarin, Arjun Erigaisi and Raunak Sadhwani with the well-known Polish trainer, who works with Vishy Anand, Grzegorz Gajewski 

A lot is expected from the Indian youngsters and they are showing flashes of brilliance in this event. Nihal Sarin drew with Shirov and Fedoseev and then went on to beat Ponkratov and Antipov. In a very close game with Alireza Firouzja, Nihal succumbed in the endgame and lost the battle.

Alireza Firouzja vs Nihal Sarin, the battle of super talents

Arjun Erigaisi, fresh from his successes at Tata Steel Chess India, started with a bang by beating Ponkratov and Petrosian. He was also doing very welll against Boris Gelfand but drew that game. With 2.5/3 it seemed like Arjun was going to play against the best players in the event, but two losses in rounds 4 and 5 put brakes to his ambitions. Arjun lost to Korobov and Predke. Raunak Sadhwani is also on 2.5/5 with a win over Heimann and three draws against Howell, Dreev and Demchenko.

The best performing Indian on day one of the rapid was Harsha Bharathakoti, who got to play against Magnus Carlsen as well in round 4

Harsha beat Mamedov, Kovalev and Onyschuk to reach 3.0/3. In the fourth game he lost a tense encounter against Magnus Carlsen. "It was an amazing experience to play against the World Champion", said Harsha. "I felt that my position was fine, but Magnus was so accurate." In the last round Harsha did get a better position against Movsesian but agreed to a draw as he was running out of energy.

GM Vidit Gujrathi is also on 3.5/5. With wins over Shant Sargsyan, Dziuba and draw against MVL, Vidit seems to be in excellent form. His big test comes against Fabiano Caruana in round 6!

S.L. Narayanan has been super solid at the event with 1 win and 4 draws! He is on 3.0/5

Playing uncompromising chess is Gukesh. He has three wins and two losses in five rounds. His wins came against strong GMs like Denis Kadric, Ghaem Maghami and Alan Pichot

Harikrishna is yet to fire in this event. He is on 2.0/5

National Champion Mitrabha Guha showing his class and has reached 2.5/5

Standings in Open after round 5

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 
GMDuda Jan-KrzysztofPOL28014,513,015,026280,0
GMCarlsen MagnusNOR28424,512,013,526090,0
GMJobava BaadurGEO26794,511,513,525600,0
GMNepomniachtchi IanCFR27984,014,517,026180,0
GMAbdusattorov NodirbekUZB25934,014,516,026740,0
GMGrischuk AlexanderCFR27634,014,016,525750,0
GMGareyev TimurUSA25784,014,015,026570,0
GMAnton Guijarro DavidESP26274,013,515,523540,0
GMNiemann Hans MokeUSA23274,013,016,026330,0
GMGelfand BorisISR26484,013,013,526110,0
GMGiri AnishNED27674,012,514,526190,0
GMKorobov AntonUKR26894,012,014,525740,0
GMFirouzja AlirezaFRA26564,011,513,025180,0
GMCheparinov IvanBUL26214,011,012,525540,0
GMFedoseev VladimirCFR26924,011,012,525390,0
GMPetrosian Tigran L.ARM26214,010,012,024990,0
GMHarsha BharathakotiIND24843,513,515,527220,0
GMShirov AlexeiESP27023,513,515,026170,0
GMRapport RichardHUN27503,513,015,025510,0
GMCaruana FabianoUSA27703,513,014,525770,0

Women's section

Alexandra Kosteniuk leads in the women's section with 4.0/4 along with...

...Valentina Gunina

India's R.Vaishali is showing that she is one of the best players out there. She beat two world class players Kashlinskaya and Mariya Muzychuk. The latter is a former World Champion

Vaishali beat Mariya Muzychuk with a tremendous game. Usually, the youngster from Tamil Nadu loves to attack. But this time it was the endgame where Vaishali showed her brilliance. She brought her king into the game and making used of the weakened dark squares, scored a full point! It's a game from which you can learn a lot.

One of India's biggest medal contenders Harika Dronavali couldn't make it to Poland

Humpy has been undefeated until now and is on 2.5/4

National Champion Vantika Agrawal has also played really well on day one and is on 2.5/4

50% score for Padmini Rout

Standings in Women after Round 4

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 
GMGunina ValentinaCFR24994,08,510,522770,0
GMKosteniuk AlexandraCFR25154,08,09,023180,0
GMDzagnidze NanaGEO24713,58,510,021900,0
IMVaishali RIND22013,57,58,024190,0
IMBuksa NataliyaUKR22373,56,56,522180,0
IMBodnaruk AnastasiaCFR22753,56,06,521560,0
IMShuvalova PolinaCFR24003,09,511,523260,0
WGMMamedjarova TurkanAZE22393,09,011,020480,0
WIMPavlidou EkateriniGRE21103,08,59,524200,0
IMOvod EvgenijaCFR22353,08,010,024810,0
IMZatonskih AnnaUSA23273,08,09,022540,0
GMLagno KaterynaCFR25453,07,59,522210,0
GMBatsiashvili NinoGEO23803,07,59,022200,0
IMGaponenko InnaUKR23483,07,58,523010,0
IMBivol AlinaCFR22523,07,58,022040,0
WIMSerikbay AsselKAZ20233,07,08,523710,0
IMMammadova GulnarAZE23883,07,08,521670,0
IMPaehtz ElisabethGER23673,07,07,522350,0
IMEfroimski MarselISR21953,07,07,521250,0
IMAtalik EkaterinaTUR24193,06,58,021590,0

Performance of Indian players

18GMHarikrishna Pentala2705IND0½½102,0130Open
44GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi2629IND1101½3,524Open
107GMNihal Sarin2500IND½½1103,041Open
110GMHarsha Bharathakoti2484IND1110½3,517Open
113GMPuranik Abhimanyu2472IND½0½½12,584Open
119GMSadhwani Raunak2454IND½01½½2,579Open
141GMErigaisi Arjun2397IND11½002,571Open
165IMSankalp Gupta2266IND½0½001,0167Open
173IMMitrabha Guha2107IND0101½2,592Open
174GMGukesh D2050IND101013,058Open
176IMAditya Mittal1488IND100½12,590Open
7GMKoneru Humpy2483IND½½1½2,535Women
8GMHarika Dronavalli2475IND000000000000,0102Women
25IMPadmini Rout2337IND½10½2,056Women
49IMVaishali R2201IND1½113,54Women
98WGMVantika Agrawal1729IND101½2,529Women


Photo Gallery

The beautiful playing hall

It's not very often that you can have all the players within four walls!

The press conference with World Champion Magnus Carlsen, FIDE President Arkadij Dvorkovich and Polish Chess Federation president Radoslaw Jedynak
Press conference with some interesting Q&A by the journalists
The Opening Ceremony of the event

FIDE did a commendable job of making this event happen at such a short notice

In great form and scoring 4.0/5 on day one is 2012 World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand

The one game that Magnus Carlsen did not play on board no.1

Whose hair is longer? Timur Gareyev vs Richard Rapport!

Always carefully watching over his son - Henrik Carlsen!

When the two seconds of Magnus Carlsen faced each other - Dubov and Jorden van Foreest. Anish and Levon have a nice time with them!
When players as creative as Dubov and Jorden face off against each other, it leads to extremely exciting games!

Hikaru Nakamura scored a solid 3.5/5 on day one

It's interesting that these are not fans or spectators, they are the players who have completed their games and are watching Magnus' technique against Merab Gagunashvili

Former World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova

The three musketeers - Socko, Salem and Rinat

Arbiter Olexandr Prohorov on the ball helping the players

The future of USA chess (Hans Niemann) with the present (Fabiano Caruana)

The press officer of the event Anastasia Karlovich

FIDE's managing director Dana Reizniece-Ozola

Alireza Firouzja with his father Hamidreza

Videos on ChessBase India Channel:

We have a lot videos from day one of the World Rapid and Blitz on our YouTube channel. These videos are brought to you in partnership with ChessNFT for this event. ChessNFT is FIDE's official platform for NFTs. You can check it out here.

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