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.
Vassily Ivanchuk resigning to Ian Nepomniachtchi in Round 11. Ivanchuk would bounce back to win the tournament, while Nepomniachtchi would collapse down the stretch.
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. Bd6Rb1?!Black had a difficult endgame but without this move it may have been defensible.
( 43... Rb2+44. Ke3Ke6It's not that easy for White to break through. )
44. Rxb1!Bxb145. h5White 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... Ke646. Bf8
( 46. Be5Kf747. d5This was a little easier, but Nepomniachtchi's way works, too. )
46... Kf747. Bc5Ke648. f4Be449. Ke3Bc650. f5+Kf6Black 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. Kf4Bg252. Bd6Bh153. Be5+
( 53. Bc7This looks more natural: Black cannot stop Bd8 followed by Ke5. But the move played by White is good enough. )
53... Kf754. g5!hxg5+55. Kxg5Bf356. Bc7
( 56. Bxg7Also was good, but Nepomniachtchi's move is simpler. 56... Kxg757. h6+Kh758. f6Bd559. Kf5Kxh660. Ke5The pawns will advance. )
56... Bg257. Bb6Bf358. Bd8Ke859. f6gxf6+60. Bxf6White's strategy has finally come to fruition. He has two split passed pawns and Black can't stop both of them. 60... Be461. Kf4Bc262. Ke5
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.
Ian Nepomniachtchi's expression in his Round 14 game against Magnus Carlsen said it all.
Nepomniachtchi, Ian vs. Carlsen, Magnus
World Rapid Championship |Doha, Qatar |Round 14 |28 Dec 2016 |0-1
g525. Nh2?I don't envy White's position, but this looks like
( 25. Rxe8+Rxe826. Re1 )
25... Bxh2+!Simple and strong. 26. Kxh2Kg7Black'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. Kg1Rxe1+28. Rxe1Rb8!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. Qd3Rb230. a5h631. Bc1Ra232. Bd2Qb7!Now the queen occupies the b-file and White cannot contest it. 33. Re8A desperate attempt at counterplay but the position was already pretty much beyond hope.
( 33. Rb1?Rxd2 )
33... Qb2!34. Be1Nf4Black's positional dominance now nets him a pawn. 35. Qa6Qxd436. Qc8Ng6!Safety first. The Black king has no issues now. 37. Qxc6
( 37. Rg8+Kh7No more checks )
37... Ra138. Qe4Qxc5The dust has settled and Black has an extra pawn and his king is safer. Black should have no trouble winning the game. 39. Kh2h540. Qe3Qc641. Bc3Ra442. f3Ra243. Kh1Rc244. Be1Qb545. Bg3h446. Bh2Qb1+!A very nice finish.
( 46... Qf1+47. Qg1And White could still fight on. )
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. Bf4The 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. Qg5Qe1+!The point 33. Kh2Qxf2Now 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... Kf7The engine recommends this move, but it still looks like a nightmare for Black. )
33. Qd8+Kf734. f3White's king is now totally safe. 34... Qc5+35. Kh2h5?This move loses immediately, but the position may not have been defensible.
Magnus Carlsen watching the Round 15 game between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexander Grischuk. Grischuk's win gave him the silver on tiebreak and relegated Carlsen to the bronze.
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. Qb3Bf6?!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... Nxf520. exf5Be7This 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... Qc521. g3Rb8This allows Ng4 but what else?
( 21... g622. h5!Making some space for the bishop does not work either. )
22. Ng4!Now Black has problems with his dark-squared bishop. 22... Rfc823. Rd2!Simple and strong. White keeps everything protected before doing anything else. 23... a524. Qf3!Black cannot prevent a disaster on f6. 24... Nc625. Nxf6+gxf626. Qxf6Grischuk easily went on without much trouble. 26... Nb427. c3Qc628. Bg2Nxa229. Qxd6Nxc3+30. bxc3Qxc331. Qd3Qb4+32. Rb2Qa433. Qe3Rd834. Bf3h635. Qxh6Rd336. Qg5+Kf837. Qxe5Rbd838. Qc5+Kg839. Qg5+Kf840. Rc1Qd441. Be2Qxe442. Bxd3Rxd343. Qf4Qg644. h5Qh745. Ka2Qxh546. Qb8+Kg747. Qxb5Rd548. Qc4a449. Qc3+Kh750. 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.
Comparing fashion tips? Levon Aronian and Viswanathan Anand.
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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