Magnus Carlsen is not as fast as before: who were the brand-new world champions of Rapid and Blitz chess

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Warsaw (Poland), 12/30/2021.- Magnus Carlsen (R) of Norway in a match against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (L) of France during the 2021 Rapid & Blitz World Championships in Warsaw, Poland, December 30, 2021. (EFE / EPA / LESZEK SZYMANSKI)
Warsaw (Poland), 12/30/2021.- Magnus Carlsen (R) of Norway in a match against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (L) of France during the 2021 Rapid & Blitz World Championships in Warsaw, Poland, December 30, 2021. (EFE / EPA / LESZEK SZYMANSKI)

Last night in Warsaw, at the Polish National Football Stadium, the award ceremony was held and closing of the world championships under the Blitz mode (3-minute games, with an additional 2 seconds per move, for each competitor), and Rapid (15 minutes plus 10 seconds), which organized, since last 26, the International Chess Federation (FIDE, according to its French acronym). The last two official competitions of the 2021 season had as winners a young Uzbek, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, aged 17 and No. 132 in the world ranking, and the French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, aged 31 and No. 12, those who were rewarded with a check for $ 60,000 each.

Surprisingly the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, world champion of classical chess, with eight years of reign, and No. 1 in the world, for a decade, did not shine as he usually does habitually and was unable to repeat the successes of 2014 and 2019 when he held the crown of King in all three specialties. The outcome had its nuances.

Undoubtedly, the presence of the world champion graced the list of 180 participants from the 45 nations that took part in the two competitions that, as a result of the advances of COVID-19, had some absences, mainly from China, whose athletes gave up on the invitation due to the sanitary protocol to remain in quarantine for 14 days. However, the main and best chess players of the elite gave the present. Although Carlsen, having completed 9 of the 13 rounds of the Rapido tournament, led the event with a half unit advantage, on the tenth day his rival was the young Uzbek, Nodirbek Abdusattorov (Abdu, as his colleagues call him), 17, who inflicted a heavy defeat on him; He took away the undefeated and the privileged position that he did not abandon until the end of the competition. He totaled 9.5 points, the product of 7 wins, 5 draws and a loss.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov (UZB) chess champion in Blitz mode (Photo by Foto Olimpik / NurPhoto)
Nodirbek Abdusattorov (UZB) chess champion in Blitz mode (Photo by Foto Olimpik / NurPhoto)

Chess is known to be a game of strategy, with a lot of calculation and logic, and where decision-making is constant and against the clock. Experience, intuition, self-esteem and talent make the difference between teachers. But the arrival of computers, powerful chess programs and the most advanced ones based on Artificial Intelligence have modified the patterns of the game. Today there is no doubt that an algorithm is the best chess player in the world; man was defeated by machine. But now the teachers learn from them, the youngest addicted to the advances of technology use novel plays, unprecedented plans that until a few years ago no one would have dared to use. After 15 centuries of documented chess history, the new programs (Stockfish or Alpha Zero) bring new moves to the game by modifying the traditional schemes, learned by heart for years by many chess players.

Perhaps, that the young “Abdu” has defeated the world champion in a quick game should not be so surprising if we take into account that a couple of weeks ago he had triumphed in two tournaments in Barcelona: Llobregat in Castelldefels and Sunway in Sitges. But his final victory becomes more important because in the tiebreaker for the first place, he faced the Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, current world runner-up, who also managed to beat him by 1.5 to 0.5 after two games.

“I played the tournament with the feeling that I could win it,” said Abdusattorov, who was an U8 world champion and at age 13 became the second-youngest chess player to achieve the grandmaster title. while he carried in his hand the check, equivalent to 20 years of average salary in his country, Uzbekistan.

The French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, flamboyant champion of Rapid chess (EFE / EPA / LESZEK SZYMANSKI POLAND OUT)
The French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, flamboyant champion of Rapid chess (EFE / EPA / LESZEK SZYMANSKI POLAND OUT)

However, the joy of the winner contrasted with the faces of several teachers, including Carlsen. The fact is that, although FIDE had reported the tournament’s play and tiebreaker system, several expressed their dissatisfaction with the new resolution. Four players had finished in the forefront, Abdu, Nepo, Carlsen and Caruana, all with 9.5 points, but the regulation established that only two, those with the best average (the calculation is based on the score obtained by their rivals at end of the tournament), they would face a tiebreaker. Thus Carlsen and Caruana, No. 1 and 3 in the world, were excluded from the fight for first and second place.

“This is a completely idiotic rule; Either all the players with the same number of points play a playoff, or no one does, ”Carlsen said.

The words of the champion were accompanied by the English David Howell, who said: “The tiebreakers are defined on a chessboard and not with a calculator.” The Russian Karjakin, despite having some differences with the world champion, did not let go of his hand, and said on his Twitter account: “This time I agree with the world champion.” Also in that social network, the North American Nakamura did not keep anything: “The change from 15 wheels to 13 in a World Cup, was already something strange, but the tiebreaker rules are truly ridiculous.”

Almost without rest, the fast tournament ended on the 28th, the next day it started the Blitz. It was evident that the new world champion, Nodirbek Abdusattorov decided to take a break, and therefore only added a little more than 50% of the points in dispute. Instead, the world No. 1, Magnus Carlsen, seemed set to take his revenge and go for the last title at stake, and although he had an overwhelming start of 4 consecutive victories, perhaps his mind took its toll on wear and tear and his frustrations and closed his performance with a poor work: 13.5 points out of 21 possible, and an aggregate, a significant number of defeats: six. Although the Blitz and Classic modes (thought chess) are different, Carlsen currently holds the record of 125 games, between July 2018 and October 2020, without having received any defeat. Six falls seems like too much on a champion’s résumé.

Alan Pichot and Florencia Fernández, the Argentines who participated in the Absolute (men and women) chess competition
Alan Pichot and Florencia Fernández, the Argentines who participated in the Absolute (men and women) chess competition

At the end of the test, only three names shared the vanguard position: the Polish, Jan Duda, the French Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and the Iranian Alireza Firouzja (a chess player who plays with the French flag, since he decided to change federation due to the fact that in their country they prevent their athletes from facing Israelis in international competitions).

Again using the controversial tiebreaker system, only the French and the Pole were selected to play in the final. After three games, Maxime Vachier Lagrave managed to win by 2 to 1, and thus became the new world champion of Blitz chess.

At the same time, the Quick and Blitz competitions were held, in the female category; there the Russian triumphed Alexandra Kosteniuk and a kazaka prodigy, Bibisara Assaubayeva (He also took the silver medal in rapid chess), only 17 years old and also belonging to the generation of new talents for machine products.

Only two Argentines took part in the competition, In the Absolute (men and women) was the N ° 1 of the country, Alan Pichot who finished 73rd in the Rapido, and 64th in the Blitz, among 180 players, and the former national champion, Florence Fernandez, which was ranked 73rd and 45th, respectively, out of 103 participants.

Chess closed its international season, different kings hold their mandates, in principle insured; machines no longer compete with humans.

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