The Champions Showdown: The Rapid Leaders Keep Their Leads to the End
Monday, February 25, 2019 at 11:45PM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2019 Champions Showdown, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Richard Rapport, Veselin Topalov, Wesley So

The Champions Showdown was a fun event with lots of decisive results. The play was entertaining and the openings were lively. It was everything a fan could hope for - except for the almost complete lack of drama. Some of the blitz matches were close, taken just as blitz matches, but with the exception of a brief flurry near the end of the match between Veselin Topalov and Leinier Dominguez, there was hardly a stich of doubt about who would win what match shortly after the start of the blitz portion.

The match between Fabiano Caruana and Pentala Harikrishna was exceptionally lopsided, with Caruana keeping his foot on the gas throughout the first day. Caruana stumbled a bit on day 2, but still won the blitz portion 17.5-6.5 and won overall with an enormous 35.5-12.5 victory.

Hikaru Nakamura's lead over Jan-Krzysztof Duda was only 14-10 after the rapid games, but when he began the blitz with a 5.5-1.5 run it was pretty clear that the player who has generally been considered the best player in the world, barring only Magnus Carlsen, was going to stroll to victory. He won the blitz 15.5-8.5 and finished a 29.5-18.5 winner overall.

Wesley So led David Navara by a very comfortable 16-8 margin after the rapid games, and led the blitz portion past the halfway point of that part of the competition. Navara went on a nice run to almost win the blitz, but So won the last two games to tie the blitz 12-12 and take the match with an overall score of 28-20.

Veselin Topalov led Leinier Dominguez 15-9 after the rapid games, and went +1 in day 1 of the blitz (6.5-5.5). But then Dominguez caught fire. After a draw to open day 2 he won, drew, won twice more, drew again and scored another win. That brought the score to 23-20 in Topalov's favor, and when Topalov won game 44 he was just a draw away from sealing match victory. Dominguez won game 45, but Topalov drew game 46 and the last two games as well to sneak home with a 25.5-22.5 victory despite losing the blitz by a 13.5-10.5 score.

Finally, Richard Rapport entered the rapid with a crushing 18-6 lead over Sam Shankland. Shankland was much more competitive in the blitz, but Rapport won that as well, 13.5-10.5 to win the match 31.5-16.5.

A good time was had by all, especially since the winners made $36,000 each and the losers were consoled with $24,000 checks. Not bad for a week's work!

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