With the recurring Mainz Rapid and Amber Rapid & Blindfold events last decade, and recently the annual Rapid & Blitz World Championship, faster time controls have gained a more important place in the world of chess in this century. That is very much to my liking. Faster time controls are exhilarating, emotional and intense for players and spectators, and it favors the stronger players more than in classical chess. I hope that the trend will continue, and I already look forward to the next fast play events.
Most of the World elite have been in Doha the last week. The format was the same as in recent years with 15 games of Rapid and 21 games of Blitz in the Open segment.
I arrived in Doha 4 days prior to the Rapid and felt that I had adjusted reasonably well to the time zone, but for some reason my head did not work properly for the first two games each day. I scored a miserable 2.5/6 in these games and the excellent 8.5/9 in the latter three!
The first round (lucky) draw against Ganguly and the loss against Pansulaia in round two was of course not the start I had hoped for or expected. With three consecutive wins I was still in contention after day one but trailing early leader Korobov (5/5) by 1.5 points. Despite an excellent score against Ivanchuk early in my career, I have had problems with him in recent years and this event was no exception. He played better than I did and beat me convincingly. With two wins, including a nice win as black against Grischuk, and one draw, I ended day two at 7/10. Based on my winning scores in the 2014 and 2015 World Championship Rapid events, 11/15, or at least 11,5/15 would likely be enough for 1st.
With 5 players on 10/14 I had to win the last round due to worse tie-break (average rating of opponents), and I did in a slightly messy game against Mamedyarov. It was not enough. Both Ivanchuk and Grischuk won as well and Ivanchuk took gold, Grischuk silver and I came third on tie-break. I think it is my first significant loss on tiebreak for nearly ten years, but still a disappointment, especially since my play varied far too much. Impressive performance of Ivanchuk. Together with Anand, he was part of the chess elite when I was born!
Overall it was a great event, and with the Blitz coming up, I was eager to strike back. More shortly.
Magnus Carlsen, Doha, December 31st, 2016