Being the quick format of chess, you can expect plenty of thrills and spills, with most of the top players competing in the event - the notable exception being the three top American players, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Capuana and Wesley So,who instead have opted to take part in the - sadly clashing - 2nd Millionaire Chess Open in Las Vegas.
This makes Carlsen not only the top seed but also the big favourite in a 158-player field that includes (In rapid rating order) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Ian Nepomniatchtchi (Russia), Vasily Ivanchk (Ukraine), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Vishy Anand (India), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan), David Navara (Czech Rep.) and Sergey Karjakin (Russia).
One of Carlsen’s illustrious predecessors, Garry Kasparov, commented last year that the amazing feat was like someone winning tennis grand slams on clay, grass and hard court - but after two days of the rapid tournament, Carlsen is on a similar trajectory to win the rapid event, which concludes today, before Tuesday’s blitz championship gets underway.
The rapid is a three-day event, played in a giant Swiss system, and consists of 15 rounds, with five games per day,. After two rounds, Carlsen finds himself in the joint lead on 8/10 with the unheard of Belorussian Sergei Zhigalko - a player whom Carlsen last played in 2003 in the World Youth Championships. The two now meet again in round eleven, this time as joint leaders, and you can watch a livestream broadcast with expert grandmaster commentary at the official site by clicking here.
Magnus Carlsen - Teimour Radjabov
FIDE World Rapid, (10)
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 The London System is the ideal opening for those who do not wish to get heavily involved in a sharp theoretical duel nor to explore tons of theory, but prefer to complete their development in a solid, non-confrontational way. The set-up of d4, Nf3, Bf4, e3, h3 and c3 can indeed be frustrating to play against - and this is just the sort of game Magnus likes. 3...Bg7 4.e3 d6 5.h3 0-0 6.Be2 Nfd7 Radjabov is aiming for the quick ...e5, so Carlsen opts instead of the usual c3 here to develop his knight on the more active c3 square. 7.Bh2 e5 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.0-0 Re8 10.Re1 a6 11.a4 b6 12.Bc4 Bb7 13.Bd5 This causes Black to play an inconvenient reply, though there's nothing in the position for Carlsen to write home about. 13...Rb8 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.Qe2 Qe7 16.Rad1 Nc5 17.Qc4 This has become Carlsen's trademark in chess: a little niggle here, a little there, and pretty soon he has something from nothing to work with. 17...a5 18.Nb5 Nd8 19.Bxb7 Ndxb7 20.Na7! The threat of White taking the knight outpost on c6 forces Radjabov to seek the exchange of queens to ease the pressure. 20...Qe6 21.Qxe6 Rxe6 22.b3 f6 And just when you think Black can trap the wandering wayward knight with 22...c6? 23.Nd4! (taking full advantage of the xray attack on the rook on b8 from the hidden bishop on h2) would win for White. 23.Nb5 c6 24.Nc3 It was around here you could tell on the live coverage that Radjabov was just beginning to feel a little uneasy about the position. Not that he had anything to worry about; it was just the psychological fear of the legendary 'Carlsen grind' coming into play. 24...Nd6 25.Nd2 Bf8 Here, Radjabov is being over-cautious - he should have just 'gone for it' with 25...b5!? 26.axb5 cxb5 27.Ra1 as he had the nice little trick 27...Rc8! and it is extremely difficult to see how White can make anything of this, especially with the pressure down the c-file. 26.f3 Ree8 Again being far too cautious. 27.Bg3 The bishop is coming back into the game via g3-f2 as White will play e4. 27...Kf7 28.Bf2 Red8 29.Kf1 Na6 30.Ke2 Be7 31.e4 Nb4 32.Rc1 Ke6 If anything, Black is very, very slightly better here - only trouble is, your opponent is Magnus Carlsen, and you have spent a lot of time on your clock in the last ten or so moves. 33.Nd1 Bf8 34.Be3 Stopping Black from playing ...Bh6. As it stands, Carlsen now has a good bishop and Radjabov still has to find a way into the game for his, so he prevents his opponent (after a possible ...Bh6) from swapping the bishops with Be3. 34...Rd7 35.c3 Na6 36.Nb2 With the knight heading to the excellent outpost on c4, Radjabov finally cracks by playing ...b5 - though by now it is too late. 36...b5 37.Ra1 Nb7 38.b4! Fully exploiting the unprotected knight on a6, as either pawn exchange now leaves White with a good position. 38...Nc7 39.Rec1 Kf7?! Perhaps the easier option now would have been to liquidate the queenside pawns, even although White's pieces suddenly become very active: 39...axb4! 40.cxb4 Bxb4 41.Rxc6+ Ke7 42.Nb3 Nd8 43.Rc2 bxa4 44.Nxa4 and Black looks solid here; hard to see how he can lose this now with only the kingside pawns on the board. 40.axb5 Nxb5 41.bxa5 Ba3 42.Rxa3! (See Diagram) A good calculated call, as Radjabov was beginning to come under time pressure - and this certainly made him think even more now. But the exchange sacrifice is more than justified, as White already has a pawn, excellent outposts for his minor pieces, and the a-pawn is running far down the board. And then there's the little matter of the digital clock metaphorically ticking away. 42...Nxa3 43.a6 Nd6 44.Nd3 Ndc4 45.Nxc4 Nxc4 46.Bc5 White would like to play 46.Nc5 but it loses on the spot to 46...Rb2. 46...Rbd8 47.Rd1 Ra8 48.Ra1 Rad8 49.Nb4! Now the a-pawn is fully supported by the rook on a1 alon with the minor pieces, and he's also threatening c6. 49...Rd2+ 50.Kf1 Rd1+ 51.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 52.Ke2 Ra1 53.a7 Ke6 54.Nxc6 Nd6 55.Kd3 Nc8? Time played a major factor in this error. What had to be played was 55...Kd7! 56.Nb4 Nb5 57.Nd5 Ke6! and Black will soon take off the dangerous a-pawn. 56.Kc4 Kd7 57.Kb5 Radjabov's face on the live coverage summed it all up: It suddenly began to dawn on him that White isn't losing the powerful pawn on a7. 57...Kc7 58.Na5! Nice. Preventing the black king from getting to b7 and also cutting off the rook from preventing the pawn from queening. Black has to lose a piece and with it, the game. 58...Rb1+ 59.Kc4 Nxa7 60.Bxa7 Ra1 61.Kb5 Rb1+ 62.Ka6 Rb2 63.c4 Rxg2 64.Bb6+ Kc8 65.c5 Rf2 66.c6 Rxf3 67.Nc4 Rd3 68.Kb5 f5 69.Kc5 Threatening Nd6+ followed by c7+. 69...Rc3 70.Kd5 1-0 There's a nice little finesse that would have quickly won: 70…fxe4 71.Nd6+ Kb8 72.Ba7+! Ka8 (If 72...Kxa7 73.Nb5+ wins with ease.) 73.Bc5! shielding the pawn that now cannot be stopped from queening and mating.