Anand Wins the 2017 World Rapid Championship
Thursday, December 28, 2017 at 5:09PM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2017 World Rapid & Blitz Championships, Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Fedoseev

Well done, Viswanathan Anand! His success was a bit surprising, in that he took short draws in four of the five games. But it all worked out: he won the right game, got into a playoff, and emerged victorious.

Along the way there were many challenges. First and foremost, there's the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, who quickly earned board 1 rather than receiving it as an endowed chair. He won in round 11, and then faced then-leader Vladimir Fedoseev. The game seemed headed for a draw for a very long time, but Carlsen worked his endgame magic and amazingly found himself in clear first. He was still in clear first after a draw in round 13, but after drawing in round 14 he entered the last round tied for first with Anand.

Carlsen's last-round opponent was Alexander Grischuk, who started the day with three straight wins. That put him in a big tie for second when facing Anand in round 14, but Anand won a very good game to put an end to Grischuk's chances for first place. But Grischuk bounced back with an excellent win - with Black - against Carlsen to knock the latter out of first and off the medal stand. The most surprising aspect of Carlsen's performance is that he was absolutely brutal on his opponents when playing Black: an undefeated 6-1 score. But with White his performance was absymal (by his standards): 4-4, including three losses.

What about Fedoseev? He started the day in first by half a point, but after a draw and the loss to Carlsen he was half a point behind. He drew in rounds 13 and 14, and bounced back into a tie for first by beating fellow Russian youngster Vladislav Artemiev in the final round to tie Anand for first.

But wait, there's more: Ian Nepomniachtchi. Nepo started the day a point and a half behind Fedoseev, but won in round 11 (against Yuriy Kuzubov), drew Anand in round 12, beat Aleksandr Rakhmanov in round 13, drew Peter Svidler in round 14, and beat Wang Hao in round 15. The result was that he joined the three-way tie for first at 10.5/15.

Svidler could have joined them with a win over Boris Savchenko, but he lost that game. Bu Xiangzhi could have made it to 10.5 instead of Anand if he had beaten him, but despite having the white pieces he was content to draw in just 11 moves. Surprising, but overall he had a great tournament - don't forget that he defeated Carlsen in round 1.

The tie for first was settled like this: the players with the best tiebreak scores would play a two-game blitz match (3'+2"), with an Armageddon game if necessary. Not surprisingly, given Nepomniachtchi's comeback on the last day, he had the worst tiebreakers and received the bronze medal. So it was Anand-Fedoseev, and the former world champion won convincingly in the first game. In the second game, Anand was better throughout and often winning (despite an impressively tricky idea by Fedoseev midway through the game) but allowed Fedoseev a draw in the end. (The arbiter misunderstood both the position and Fedoseev's handshake offer and marked it as 0-1, but the correct result is up on the official site.) Thus Anand won the playoff and the title. (I don't know if Carlsen was given the gold medal on Norwegian TV, but for the rest of the world Anand was the victor.)

Here are the final standings for the top three score groups:

A selection of games from the final day, here.

Finally, while I didn't bother to cover it, the concurrent women's world rapid championship was won by Ju Wenjun with an impressive 11.5/15, half a point clear of her countrywoman Lei Tingjie. Elisabeth Paehtz was the surprise bronze medalist, clear third another half a point behind.

The blitz tournament starts tomorrow, and the only thing we can count on is that Magnus Carlsen will be on board 1. (I wonder if that will continue even after Fabiano Caruana or Wesley So defeats him in next year's classical world championship.)

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