Korobov Is Surprising Leader After Day 1 of World Rapid Ch.
BySamuel ShanklandDec 27 — 2:00 AM
Image by Maria Emelianova
Korobov, from Ukraine, has a perfect score after Day 1, while Magnus Carlsen, the defending champion, has already lost a game and drawn another.
Monday, Magnus Carlsen of Norway got off to a rocky start as he tries to defend his World Rapid Championship title. But Anton Korobov of Ukraine got to a dream start, winning all his games on Day 1.
He is the sole leader, with Levon Aronian of Armenia just a half point behind. Carlsen is in a large group of players tied for 10th with 3.5 points each, 1.5 points behind Korobov.
The three-day tournament is being held in Doha, Qatar. It will be followed immediately by the World Blitz Championship. Both tournaments have prize funds of $200,000, with $40,000 first prizes.
The games can be followed live for free on this Web site (World Chess). Rounds starts at 3 PM local time (12 PM GMT) each day.
The tournaments have attracted many of the world’s best players and more than a few of them could have a chance at the titles. Still, most eyes were on Carlsen as play got under way.
Surya Shekhar Ganguly, left, and Magnus Carlsen during Round 1. The game ended in a draw.
I worked as a second Carlsen during his successful defense last month of the classical World Championship against Sergey Karjakin of Russia. While Carlsenwon the match, it was a very tough road for him. He seemed to be still suffering the lingering effects of the problems he had in that match as the World Rapid Championship got underway. He started out scoring 0.5 points in his first two games, and he was lucky to even score that as he escaped certain mate in Round 1 against Surya Shekhar Ganguly of India.
Carlsen, Magnus vs. Ganguly, Surya Shekhar
World Rapid |Doha, Qatar |Round 1 |26 Dec 2016 |1/2-1/2
36. Qg6Rxa4?!Black has a huge advantage and should have won easily, but he now missed a forced mate.
( 36... Rg4+!37. Kxg4Qg2+38. Kh5Qf3# )
37. h5Qc4?Letting White off the hook.
( 37... Qe4!This move would have pretty much ended the game right away. The point is that the trick that White uses in the game would not have worked: 38. Rd8+Bxd839. Qe8+Kh7And Qg6 is not possible. )
( 38... Bf839. h6Qh4+40. Kg2Qe4+41. Qxe4Rxe4Black could continue the game in this way, but chances would have been equal. 42. h7+Kxh743. Rxf8Kg644. Ra8White should not lose. )
World Rapid |Doha, Qatar |Round 2 |26 Dec 2016 |1-0
23. Qe1Nb4?A big mistake 24. Bxb4axb425. c5!Carlsen probably
missed this move; Black can no longer play Nc6.
( 25. Qxb4Nc6This move would have justified Black's previous moves as getting a knight to d4 would have provided more than enough compensation for being down a pawn. )
( 25... Rxd126. Qxd1Would not have changed anything. )
( 25... Nc626. cxb6cxb627. Rxc6 )
( 25... b526. Qxb4Nc627. Qxb5Nd428. Qc4Having a knight on d4 is worth being down a pawn, but not two, particularly not if the queens are traded. )
26. cxb6!Well calculated 26... cxb6
( 26... Bxc127. Rxd8!Rxd828. bxc7Rd629. Qxc1And White's would have been decisive. )
27. Rc7Qf628. Qxb4White is up a pawn and has more active pieces. Not even Carlsen could offer much resistance in such a position. 28... Rxd1+29. Nxd1Rd830. Rd7Nc631. Qc4+Kh832. Rxd8+Nxd833. Nc3Nc634. Nd5Qd635. Bg4Nd436. Qc8+Bf837. h4h538. Bd7Kg739. Kh2Kh740. Qe8Kg741. b4b542. Bxb5Nc243. a3Kh644. Qf7Nd445. Nf6Bg746. Qxg7+
Carlsen’s poor start opened the door for other players to take the lead and Korobov took the best advantage of the opportunity.
Anton Korobov, left, playing Yu Yangyi during Round 5. Korobov won.
I really like his style — most of his wins look absolutely effortless, though obviously they require a lot of skill. I was very nearly one of his victim’s during the 2016 Chess Olympiad, but I had a lucky escape. His opponents today were less fortunate, including Alexander Grischuk of Russia and Yu Yangyi of China in Rounds 4 and 5, respectively.
Grischuk, Alexander vs. Korobov, Anton
World Rapid |Doha, Qatar |Round 4 |26 Dec 2016 |0-1
Ng415. Nbd4?This is a very natural move but it allows Korobov to seize the initiative.
( 15. e3!This move was necessary. It looks risky since the bishop on f4 is short on squares, but Black cannot take advantage of it. White would have been a bit better. )
15... g5!White's pieces have serious coordination problems; the bishop on e3 is forced to defend the knight on d4. 16. Be3Qf6!Putting more pressure on d4. Black is now threatening Nxe3 followed by g4. 17. Rcd1Nxe3!18. fxe3White's pawn structure is in shambles. The computer evaluates the chances as equal because of the weakness of the f5 square, but prefer Black's position.
( 18. Qxe3Rfe8And White will lose material. For example: 19. Qd3a5!The threat of Ba6 causes problems for White. )
18... Rad819. Qa4a620. Nd2
( 20. Nh4This move would have been better, but I still would prefer to play Black. )
20... Qe521. Nxe4dxe422. Rf5?The last mistake by White.
( 22. Qb3And White still has only a slightly worse position. )
22... Rxd4!Korobov has a good tactical eye. Black immediately wins material. 23. exd4Qxf524. dxc5Qxc5+25. Kh1Bc6Black is up a pawn up and went on to win with no particular difficulty. 26. Qb3Kg727. e3Bb528. Rd5Qc1+29. Rd1Qc430. Qa3Rd831. Rg1Qc532. Qxc5bxc533. Bxe4Re834. Bd5Rxe335. Rc1Re536. Bf3f537. Kg1Kf638. h3Bd339. Kf2c440. Rc3Ra541. a3Rb542. Ke3Ke5
World Rapid |Doha, Qatar |Round 5 |26 Dec 2016 |1-0
b518. h4!Fearless and strong. White prepares a kingside assault. 18... h619. g4!Black can hold the balance with precise play, but it's very difficult in a rapid game. 19... Nf8?!It's very natural to bring the knight to g6 to defend the kingside, but black will not have time for this.
( 19... c4!20. bxc4Nc521. Qc2Qd7 )
20. g5!hxg521. hxg5Bb222. Be5!Black is in trouble. 22... Ba3This puts the bishop on a bad square but the alternative was not much better.
( 22... Bxe523. Nxe5Black's pieces are dreadfully passive and there is no good way to improve their positioning. )
23. Nh4!Preventing Ng6 and preparing Nf5. White's attack develops at a remarkable pace. 23... Bb424. Re3Qd725. Nf5Black cannot hold his position together. The rest of the game was easy for Korobov. 25... c426. bxc4bxc427. Qc2Bc528. Bxg7Bxe329. fxe3Ng630. Bc3Nh431. Nh6+Kf832. Qh7Ke733. Bf6+Kd634. Nxf7+Kc535. Bd4+Kb536. Rb1+Ka537. Bc3+Ka638. Qh6+
One nice thing about opens is that you can see how very strong grandmasters fare against their truly elite counterparts. The big boys usually come out on top, but there are plenty of exceptions and rapid time controls only make this more likely.
Nils Grandelius during his Round 1 game against Sergey Karjakin. Grandelius won.
I was particularly impressed with the resourcefulness of Nils Grandelius of Sweden against Karjakin in Round 1. Grandelius also worked on the team assisting Carlsen during his title match, so I find it amusing that he was able to win his first game against Karjakin since that match when it took our boss until Game 10 to do the same thing!
Grandelius, Nils vs. Karjakin, Sergey
World Rapid |Doha, Qatar |Round 1 |26 Dec 2016 |1-0
78. d6White had been slowly outplayed in this game, but Black still needed to play precisely to finish White off. 78... Be8?
( 78... Rb7!This move would have led to an overwhelming edge. 79. d7And White could not guard the pawn. ...Ke780. Nxa4Ra7! )
79. Bg4!And just like that, Black is losing as d7 cannot be stopped. 79... a380. d7Bxd781. Nxd7+Kg782. Nc5a283. Kd2Ra384. Kc2Nb585. Kb2Rg386. Kxa2Rxg2+87. Kb3f388. Rf1Nd4+89. Kc4f290. Ne6+
There are still 10 rounds to go before a champion is crowned. That is a lot of chess, so it is very likely that the standings will change considerably before it is over.
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.
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