He earned the title on tie-break over Alexander Grischuk and Magnus Carslen.

Vassily Ivanchuk may never win the classical World Chess Championship, but at faster tempos (rapid and blitz), he has now laid claim to both world titles. Wednesday, nine years after he won the Blitz World Championship, Ivanchuk, of Ukraine, added the Rapid World Championship to his collection of achievements.

Ivanchuk edged out Alexander Grischuk of Russia and Magnus Carlsen of Norway, respectively, on tiebreaks as all three players finished with 11 points in the 15-round tournament. 

It was not easy for Ivanchuk. 

He led after Day 2 of the championship, which, along with the Blitz World Championship, is being held in Doha, Qatar. But Ivanchuk got off to a rocky start in Round 11 when he lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia. 

Nepomniachtchi, Ian vs. Ivanchuk, Vassily
World Rapid Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 11 | 28 Dec 2016 | 1-0
43. Bd6 Rb1?! Black had a difficult endgame but without this move it may have been defensible.
43... Rb2+ 44. Ke3 Ke6 It's not that easy for White to break through.  )
44. Rxb1! Bxb1 45. h5 White is basically up two pawns since the pawn on a5 easily holds back the Black pawns on b7 and a6. A passed pawn on the d-file and creating one on the kingside will be enough to win the game.
45... Ke6 46. Bf8
46. Be5 Kf7 47. d5 This was a little easier, but Nepomniachtchi's way works, too.  )
46... Kf7 47. Bc5 Ke6 48. f4 Be4 49. Ke3 Bc6 50. f5+ Kf6 Black has his best defensive setup, but he cannot hold it together. The king is not stable on f6 and once it is driven away, White penetrates decisively with Ke5
51. Kf4 Bg2 52. Bd6 Bh1 53. Be5+
53. Bc7 This looks more natural: Black cannot stop Bd8 followed by Ke5. But the move played by White is good enough.  )
53... Kf7 54. g5! hxg5+ 55. Kxg5 Bf3 56. Bc7
56. Bxg7 Also was good, but Nepomniachtchi's move is simpler.
56... Kxg7 57. h6+ Kh7 58. f6 Bd5 59. Kf5 Kxh6 60. Ke5 The pawns will advance.  )
56... Bg2 57. Bb6 Bf3 58. Bd8 Ke8 59. f6 gxf6+ 60. Bxf6 White's strategy has finally come to fruition. He has two split passed pawns and Black can't stop both of them.
60... Be4 61. Kf4 Bc2 62. Ke5

While Nepomniatchi was grabbing the lead with this win, Carlsen, who had struggled a bit on the first two days, fell further behind by losing to Anton Korobov of Ukraine.

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Korobov, Anton
World Rapid Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 11 | 28 Dec 2016 | 0-1
hxg6 17. Qd7? Unnecessarily complicated.
17. bxa7! Sometimes greed is good! White can castle whenever he wants and still have three connected passed pawns.  )
17... Qxb6! 18. Ng5? This looks decisive, threatening Rh8 followed by Qh3 with mate. But...
18. Qh3 f6! And Black lives. It's possible Carlsen overlooked this move.  )
18. O-O-O! White still has a small advantage.  )
18... Bxg2! Preventing Qh3.
19. O-O-O
19. Rh2 Qxb2! And Black has a big edge.  )
19... Rab8! 20. b3 Qxf2 Black is up material and has a mating attack! A very rapid turnaround.
21. Qg4 Rfc8! 22. Kb1
22. c4 Bxh1 23. Rxh1 Qxa2 and Black should win.  )
22... Rxc3 23. Qb4 Rcc8

Nepomniatchi kept up a fast pace in Rounds 12 and 13, scoring 1.5 points. But Carlsen bounced back after his loss and won both his next games. In Round 14, though still trailing by a point, he faced Nepomniachtchi and beat him, catching him in the standings. 

Nepomniachtchi, Ian vs. Carlsen, Magnus
World Rapid Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 14 | 28 Dec 2016 | 0-1
g5 25. Nh2? I don't envy White's position, but this looks like strategic suicide.
25. Rxe8+ Rxe8 26. Re1  )
25... Bxh2+! Simple and strong.
26. Kxh2 Kg7 Black's knight on d5 is infinitely stronger than the White bishop on d2. White's queenside/center pawn majority is firmly blockaded and will remain so forever, while Black is free to advance his kingside pawns. Among top players, Black should probably win.
27. Kg1 Rxe1+ 28. Rxe1 Rb8! Black occupies the most important file. Note that he has a ton of squares to invade with his rook, while there is not much that the White rook can do on the e-file.
29. Qd3 Rb2 30. a5 h6 31. Bc1 Ra2 32. Bd2 Qb7! Now the queen occupies the b-file and White cannot contest it.
33. Re8 A desperate attempt at counterplay but the position was already pretty much beyond hope.
33. Rb1? Rxd2  )
33... Qb2! 34. Be1 Nf4 Black's positional dominance now nets him a pawn.
35. Qa6 Qxd4 36. Qc8 Ng6! Safety first. The Black king has no issues now.
37. Qxc6
37. Rg8+ Kh7 No more checks  )
37... Ra1 38. Qe4 Qxc5 The dust has settled and Black has an extra pawn and his king is safer. Black should have no trouble winning the game.
39. Kh2 h5 40. Qe3 Qc6 41. Bc3 Ra4 42. f3 Ra2 43. Kh1 Rc2 44. Be1 Qb5 45. Bg3 h4 46. Bh2 Qb1+! A very nice finish.
46... Qf1+ 47. Qg1 And White could still fight on.  )
47. Bg1
47. Qe1 Rc1  )
47. Qg1 Rc1  )
47... Qf1 And Qxg2 cannot be stopped.

Heading into the last round, the title was up for grabs as there were five players tied for the lead. But Ivanchuk had the best tiebreaks, so if he won, he would clinch first place. He did what he had to do, beating Hrant Melkumyan, an Armenian grandmaster.

Ivanchuk, Vassily vs. Melkumyan, Hrant
World Rapid Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 15 | 28 Dec 2016 | 1-0
31. Bf4 The computer evaluates chances as about equal, but in over-the-board play, this position is very unpleasant for Black. The a-pawn will never be a threat with opposite-colored bishops on the board, but Black will never be able to stop worrying about his king. White can push forever, and it did not even take that long before Black's position began to crumble.
31... Qc6
31... Qe4! This was the only way to play for a draw, but it is very hard to find during the game.
32. Qg5 Qe1+! The point
33. Kh2 Qxf2 Now White's king is just as exposed as Black's, and he should be able to force a draw.  )
32. Qg5! Of course, White does not want to exchange queens.
32... h6? A bad move, but the position was already very difficult.
32... Kf7 The engine recommends this move, but it still looks like a nightmare for Black.  )
33. Qd8+ Kf7 34. f3 White's king is now totally safe.
34... Qc5+ 35. Kh2 h5? This move loses immediately, but the position may not have been defensible.
35... Qe7 36. Qxa5  )
36. Bd6! Qc8 37. Qe7+ Kg8 38. Be5 And Black is mated.

Grischuk, after being near the top of the leaderboard throughout the tournament but never truly getting there until the end, took second by beating Nepomniachtchi. It must have been a heartbreaking finish for Nepomniachtchi, who led with two games to go and lost them both.

Grischuk, Alexander vs. Nepomniachtchi, Ian
World Rapid Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 15 | 28 Dec 2016 | 1-0
19. Qb3 Bf6?! Black's position was worse no matter what, but now he is left with a dreadful structure that typically arises out of the Sveshnikov Variation of the Sicilian Defense.
19... Nxf5 20. exf5 Be7 This is not pleasant for Black but at least he has lured the pawn on e4 to f5.  )
20. Ne3! Black's pieces are badly coordinated, passively placed, and his light squares are extremely vulnerable.
20... Qc5 21. g3 Rb8 This allows Ng4 but what else?
21... g6 22. h5! Making some space for the bishop does not work either.  )
22. Ng4! Now Black has problems with his dark-squared bishop.
22... Rfc8 23. Rd2! Simple and strong. White keeps everything protected before doing anything else.
23... a5 24. Qf3! Black cannot prevent a disaster on f6.
24... Nc6 25. Nxf6+ gxf6 26. Qxf6 Grischuk easily went on without much trouble.
26... Nb4 27. c3 Qc6 28. Bg2 Nxa2 29. Qxd6 Nxc3+ 30. bxc3 Qxc3 31. Qd3 Qb4+ 32. Rb2 Qa4 33. Qe3 Rd8 34. Bf3 h6 35. Qxh6 Rd3 36. Qg5+ Kf8 37. Qxe5 Rbd8 38. Qc5+ Kg8 39. Qg5+ Kf8 40. Rc1 Qd4 41. Be2 Qxe4 42. Bxd3 Rxd3 43. Qf4 Qg6 44. h5 Qh7 45. Ka2 Qxh5 46. Qb8+ Kg7 47. Qxb5 Rd5 48. Qc4 a4 49. Qc3+ Kh7 50. Rb8

I was very happy to see Ivanchuk win the title because I think that he is one of the greatest chess players of all time. That he never won the classical World Championship I attribute to poor nerves as opposed to inferior playing ability. But in this tournament, he held himself together very well, particularly by winning his final two games. He absolutely deserves to be champion. 


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.