Having won the title at the King Salman World Rapid Championship, Viswanathan Anand continued his phenomenal run in Riyadh by winning bronze in the blitz leg of the event. Anand scored 14.5 points out of the 21 games he played in the tournament and was tied for second with Grand Master Sergey Karjakin, but due to an inferior tiebreak score, was awarded the third place. The winner of the event was the reigning classical world champion, Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen was way ahead of the field and had won the event with a round to spare having scored 16/21.
By the end of the first day, Anand and Carlsen had scored 7/11 and were nowhere near the tournament leader Karjakin, who was two points ahead at 9/11. In the final round of the first day, Anand suffered his first loss of the event to Ian Nepomniachtchi. Carlsen also suffered a similar fate after over-pressing against Yu Yangyi in an equal position.Viswanathan Anand after winning gold in the rapid category and bronze in the blitz category of the World Rapid and Blitz. Twitter /@vishy64thekingViswanathan Anand after winning gold in the rapid category and bronze in the blitz category of the World Rapid and Blitz. Twitter /@vishy64thekingFor Carlsen, the blitz tournament had begun with quite a shocker. In his first round game against Ernesto Inarkiev, the latter had made an illegal move on the 27th turn when he forgot to defend his king from a check by Carlsen’s rook and gave a check of his own instead. Both players were down to their last seconds at this point and, in the heat of the battle, Carlsen did not notice that black’s king was in check. After Carlsen defended the check on his own king, Inarkiev claimed a win based on Carlsen’s illegal move. Quite shocked, Carlsen initially accepted this result but was suggested to talk to the chief arbiter about it. The chief arbiter then overruled the original decision and asked players to resume the game before the first illegal move was played. Inarkiev wasn’t happy with this decision and refused to play on. Carlsen was thus declared the winner.But the entire fiasco had clearly taken a toll on Carlsen who lost his next game to Grand Master Sanan Sjugirov in a very uncharacteristic manner. On his 30th move, Carlsen overlooked a simple tactic that lost a piece. He limped on for quite a few moves after this but the result of the game was never in doubt.Anand, on the other hand, began solidly and wasn’t taking much risk. Until the 10th round, he had won four and drawn six of his games. But in the final round of the day against Nepomniachtchi, things went south very quickly for him. Nepomniachtchi had essayed the English Opening with the white pieces and had established a strong queenside pawn majority, coming out of the opening phase of the game. Anand too had his trumps in the position and it was all balanced in the opinion of the computers when Anand blundered and lost an exchange. Just two moves later, the newly-crowned World Rapid champion resigned.
On the second day, both Anand and Carlsen made strong comebacks. While Anand gathered three points out of his first four games on day two, scoring two wins and two draws, Carlsen kicked off with four back-to-back wins. Especially important among these was Carlsen’s win against Karjakin in the 15th round. Karjakin was leading the tournament until that juncture by a half-point margin and Carlsen, with his win, had pushed himself to the top spot.As for Anand, he was much lower on the leaderboard on the 16th spot. In round 16, Anand defeated Vladmir Fedoseev for the third time in a blitz game in Riyadh (the first two being his two wins in the play-offs for the World Rapid title) and made huge leaps up the leaderboard in the succeeding rounds.The problem, however, was that Carlsen had also continued his thrusts forward energetically and had made it extremely difficult for anyone to catch up with him. By the 19th round, Anand was 1.5 points behind Carlsen and catching up with him seemed highly unlikely with only two rounds to go.In the meantime, Karjakin, who had scored two wins after his loss to Carlsen in the 16th round, had slowed down, drawing two consecutive games against Anand and Yu Yangyi.Round 19 also witnessed another appeal. This time, it was in the game between Alexander Grischuk and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. At some point in the game, Grischuk had stopped the clock and claimed a draw by threefold repetition.
The arbiter, however, said he did not see it and play resumed. After an 87-move-long struggle, Mamedyarov was finally able to force a resignation.But when Grischuk checked again after the game, he found that there was not a threefold but a fourfold repetition in the game! He immediately informed the chief arbiter and the game was declared a draw. And this time, Mamedyarov appealed against the arbiter’s decision claiming that the game was over and the scoresheets were signed. The appeals committee, however, rejected this appeal stating that once a correct claim is made, the game ends there; all that happens afterwards is irrelevant.
Rounds resumed after a delay due to this appeal. Anand had reached the joint-third spot by this point and was half-a-point behind Karjakin, who was second on the standings. In the penultimate round, Anand had the black pieces against Wang Hao and went for the Berlin Defence.