Magnificent Magnus Wins Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz

In the end, the only thing that could stop Magnus Carlsen was a tummy bug.

courtesy STLCC; note that Nakamura scored 12 in the Blitz and not 11.

Carlsen shattered his own single-event Grand Chess Tour point record, scoring 7.5/9 in the Rapid and 12/18 in the Blitz to win the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz (Nov 22-26, Kolkata, India) with 27 points. (The previous record, per Tarjei Svensen, was 26.5, set at the Abidjan event earlier this year.) Hikaru Nakamura finished second at 23 points, a full 4 points behind the World Champion.

Carlsen’s commanding victory could perhaps have been bigger, were he not hobbled by a stomach ailment at the start of Tuesday’s fifth and final round of play. After three quick draws, he recovered sufficiently to score 5.5/9 on the day’s play, second only to Nakamura, who scored 6.5/9.

Rapid

Carlsen utterly dominated the Rapid games, trouncing the field and giving himself a powerful lead heading into the Blitz. His game with Anand was perhaps the best game of the event, a hugely complex battle where Anand sacrificed an exchange, only to have Carlsen navigate the complications more successfully.

photo Lennart Ootes

photo Lennart Ootes

It was only in his game with Vidit that Carlsen was in any trouble whatsoever. After essaying a line in the Tarrasch thought to be imprecise (5. … Nf6?!), he held things together and drew with excellent technique.

Hikaru Nakamura was the only other player to have a positive score in the Rapid, ending at +2 (5.5/9). The other American in the field, Wesley So, was among three players to finish the Rapid with an even score.

Blitz

Carlsen and Nakamura shared top honors in the Blitz, with both players scoring 12/18 over the two days of play. Only Nakamura went undefeated in the Blitz, as Carlsen lost twice to Ding Liren. Ding’s dancing king made a great impression in their first game, as the king’s evacuation to the queenside left space for Ding’s heavy pieces to spring to life.

Viswanathan Anand struggled in the Blitz, dashing any hopes of his qualifying for the GCT Finals next month, but he did have the move of the tournament in his game against Wesley So.

The Finals

courtesy STLCC

With his victory in Kolkata, Carlsen takes home 13 GCT points and $37,500. Just as importantly, he seems to have regained a bit of his swagger after his dramatic loss to Wesley So in the World Fischer Random Championship.

The lineup for the GCT Finals, to be held as part of the London Chess Classic, is also set.

courtesy STLCC

Carlsen is joined by Levon Aronian, Ding Liren, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Viswanathan Anand missed out on qualifying by a single GCT point. Anand gave it his all on the final day of play, but suffered some tough luck, including flagging in a won position against Giri in round 15.

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