Shakhriyard Mamedyarov trailed Ian Nepomniachtchi by 2.5 points entering the last day; that is, with five rounds to go, and besides that he lost in their individual game, which meant that if the two of them tied for first Nepomniachtchi would win the title of World Rapid Champion on tiebreak. With Nepomniachtchi "on fire" with 9/10 after the first two days, the idea that Mamedyarov could win seemed almost absurd...but win he did.
Whatever Nepomniachtchi had going those first days disappeared on Saturday. He drew his first two games with difficulty, while Mamedyarov won his first two to close to within a point and a half. Mamedyarov won his third game too, and in the meantime Nepomniachtchi lost with the white pieces to Alexander Grischuk. That put Mamedyarov just half a point back and Grischuk a point behind. In the penultimate round Nepomniachtchi drew - again with difficulty - while Mamedyarov won with Black against his countryman Gadir Guseinov and Grischuk beat Francisco Vallejo Pons. Mamedyarov's win was odd, as Guseinov self-destructed in a draw rook ending, succumbing perhaps to the deadly combination of too much ambition and too little time on the clock.
Going into the last round then, Nepomniachtchi and Mamedyarov were tied for first, with Nepo having in effect draw (or tie) odds, with Grischuk half a point back. If they finished in a three-way tie it would have been Grischuk who would triumph on tiebreaks, so amazingly there was still everything to play for. Nepomniachtchi had White against Alexander Riazantsev, but didn't gain an advantage and Black obtained a fairly easy draw. Grischuk couldn't win with Black against Nikita Vitiugov either, but Mamedyarov broke through once again, finishing the day 5/5 by defeating Ernesto Inarkiev.
That was a great result by Mamedyarov, and a startling collapse by Nepomniachtchi, though again in keeping with the recent trend of tournament leaders falling to pieces on the last day: Carlsen, Kramnik, Moiseenko, Kamsky, etc.
1. Mamedyarov 11.5/15
2. Nepomniachtchi 11
3. Grischuk 10.5
4. Le Quang Liem 10
5-14. Various players with 9
The World Blitz Championship starts tomorrow at the same site with (at least approximately if not exactly) the same cast of characters.