World Rapid Chess Championship Day 3: Abdusattorov and Kosteniuk Crowned World Rapid Champions


After many twists and turns on day three of the World Rapid Chess Championship, 17-year-old Uzbek GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov won the event with 9.5/13 in the Swiss event, after winning the second tiebreak blitz game against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.  Notably defeating GM Magnus Carlsen in the first round of the day, at 17-years-old, he is the youngest world rapid champion to date. Nepomniachtchi finished in second and Carlsen finished in third, despite each having 9.5 points as well, based on tiebreak scores.

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk won the women’s world rapid title convincingly with 9/11, making most of her gains on day two, where she gained a 1.5-point lead ahead of the rest of the field. IM Bibisara Assaubayeva, who is also 17 years old, finished in second and GM Valentina Gunina finished in third.

The World Blitz Chess Championship will begin on Wednesday, December 29, at 6 a.m. Pacific/15:00 Central Europe

How to watch the 2021 FIDE World Rapid & Blitz Championship live

Going into the first round of the day, round 10, GM Carlsen was only a half-point above his competition, allowing plenty of room for others to catch up if he so much as drew his game. Unlike his counterpart in the women’s section, Kosteniuk, the world champion had not broken away from the rest—and as we now know, at the end of the day, he never would.

Abdusattorov surely had no idea the fortune that awaited him today. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The top boards at the start of the day featured Carlsen vs. Abdusattorov, Grischuk vs. Nepomniachtchi, and Nakamura vs. Firouzja. Commentator GM Irina Krush had high expectations for the board-one matchup, listing Abdusattorov’s upset his wins against elite players by this point: GMs Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Boris Gelfand before this game.

The tense game ended with the young Uzbek prodigy applying pressure until the very end. Just when Carlsen seemed to achieve an equal queen-endgame, and was defending with remarkable technique, he chose the wrong plan on move 81 when he instead had a perpetual check in hand.

Nepomniachtchi won a methodical queen and rook endgame against Grischuk, a big win against one of the three players a half-point behind Carlsen before the round’s start. Meanwhile, the game between Nakamura and Firouzja was simply off the rails as Firouzja offered a knight sacrifice for many moves. While the Iranian-born grandmaster seized a winning advantage convincingly, Nakamura showed yet again how elusive a win can be against him, even for the world’s number-two.

A surprising bit of opening preparation by GM Jorden Van Foreest, one of Carlsen’s seconds in the recent world championship match, featured creative play, perhaps causing onlookers to wonder if Carlsen also had prepared Scotch lines with the white pieces. Aronian, however, kept his cool, dispelled the attack, and won the game.

Going into round 11, two players led the tournament: Abdusattorov and Nepomniachtchi, on 8/10 points. They were trailed by Carlsen and Caruana, each with 7.5. Of course, excitement was through the roof as this round saw the pairing between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi, only 18 days after their match in Dubai.

Carlsen (right) and Nepo (left) shake hands for the first time at the board in almost three weeks. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The two heavyweights agreed to a draw in what commentator GM Jon Ludvig Hammer called “the most convincing performance” against the world champion in the entire tournament. After repeating the Catalan opening from their match encounter, Carlsen missed only one opportunity on move 15, where Na4 would have given him an advantage. But besides that, it was a game so clean it could have easily been mistaken for a classical game.

Duda vs. Caruana ended in a high-class draw, displaying the high quality of chess these grandmasters are capable of even in shorter time controls. Meanwhile, Abdusattorov saved a game where he was dead-lost more than once. and held onto the lead. Like Nakamura did in his game against Firouzja, the youngster proved impossible to beat in this tournament, no matter how bad some of his positions were, as we will see again and again throughout subsequent rounds.

Enigmatically, after firmly outplaying the world’s number-two, GM Ivan Cheparinov agreed to a draw with Firouzja in an objectively winning position. After he defeated GM Anish Giri on the previous day, spectators would have been dazzled with another remarkable victory.

GM D Gukesh, the Indian prodigy who earned his GM title at age 12,  jumped into a tie for second-place after defeating GM Baadur Jobava, who was performing exceptionally in this tournament. He converted an unusual endgame with an extra rook against four connected passed-pawns.

This round also featured some strong endgame technique by elite grandmasters, even despite the short time control. Grischuk converted a model game using the bishop-pair advantage. Meanwhile, Anish Giri nicely demonstrated the power of a passed rook pawn against a knight

Going into round 12, Abdusattorov and Nepomniachtchi remained in the lead with 8.5/11; behind them were Carlsen, Grischuk, Nakamura, Aronian, Caruana, and Gukesh.

Nepo vs. Nakamura ended in an uneventful 14-move draw in a Berlin. Meanwhile, Carlsen managed to convert, in textbook fashion, a difficult rook vs. bishop endgame with one pawn for each side. His deep exhale in the video-clip below shows just how much of an emotional toll these long squeezes can cause, even after winning.

Grischuk vs. Caruana featured a queen sacrifice by Black, but one that only lead to an equal position. The decisive blow came after Grischuk erred with 28. Kxf2??, allowing Black to break through. With this win, Caruana entered a tie for first for the first time since round two.

Caruana (right) unleashed a ravaging attack against Grischuk (left) in their game. Photo: Anna Shtourman/FIDE.

Gukesh vs. Abdusattorov was an insane game that ended in a comical draw, as sometimes happens in these extremely sharp positions. The Uzbek GM showed, once again, that he can be as slippery as soap when it comes to beating him.

The leaderboard going into the last round was what Hammer referred to as a “traffic-jam” of players. Four players were in first with 9/12: Abdusattorov, Nepo, Carlsen, and Caruana; they were followed by Nakamura, Gukesh, and Duda, half a point behind.

The premier game was between Nakamura and Carlsen, who have been rivals both over-the-board and online for many years now. Impressively, Nakamura had not lost a single game in the entire 13-round tournament, including this one against the world’s number one.

Both Carlsen (left) and Nakamura (right) must have been disappointed with this draw. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

They made a professional and correct draw in a Queen’s Gambit Declined; it was so solidly played, in fact, that the commentators speculated as to whether both players knew they were in a must-win situation.

All the top-board games—Caruana vs. Nepo and Abdusattorov vs. Duda—ended in draws, actually, which is not so unusual in the final rounds of these elite events, when the competition only gets increasingly harder. Abdusattorrov was once again in trouble in his game, but the win slipped away from his opponent as easily as it came.

Carlsen, during his must-win game against Nakamura, checks on how Abdusattorov is doing in his game against Duda. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Although it did not affect standings at the top, GM Sergey Karjakin won against Firouzja in an impressive two rooks vs knight and rook endgame with zero pawns after 83 moves.

Karjakin (left) produced a marvelous win over the world’s number-two. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After the round, even though four players were tied for first with 9.5/13, only the two with the highest tiebreaks would participate in the playoff match. These two players were decided based on the Buchholz tiebreak system, which gives a higher score to players based on their opponents’ scored points. Thus, this left Carlsen locked out of the playoff match and, after his last-round draw, he would certainly not be the world rapid champion this year.

While this controversy extended on social media platforms before, during, and long after the playoff games actually occurred, people outside of the tournament had relevant memories and opinions to share.

Still, revising a tiebreak clause in the middle of an event with very little time is difficult for organizers, and they ultimately stuck to the system they agreed upon before the event. The final blitz playoff games were to be played between the players with the highest tiebreak scores: Abdusattorov and Nepomniachtchi. Irina Krush observed an even score between them in games; out of six blitz games, there were four decisive games and two draws. Thus, she called the players “closely matched.”

The blitz playoff between Abdusattorov (left) and Nepo (right). Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The first game saw a draw in a complicated knight endgame where Nepo ultimately sacrificed his knight to liquidate White’s remaining pawns.

In the second game, however, Nodirbek played confidently against one of the world’s greatest speed-chess players. Having a time-advantage for most of the game, but ultimately slipping into a crazy under-10-second time-scramble, he emerged victorious out of a four-rook endgame.

The players shake hands after a nerve-racking blitz-game. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Abdusattorov pocketed $60,000 for finishing in first, Nepo $50,000, and Carlsen $40,000. Although Caruana finished the 13-round Swiss event with 9.5 points like the others, the tiebreak system puts him at 4th place, where he will win $30,000.

Curiously, the new world rapid champion is not on this list; he is number 45 with an updated rating of 2671!

The world’s top ten rapid players by rating. Photo:

2021 World Rapid Championship | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed

Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 59 GM Abdusattorov Nodirbek 2593 9,5 103,0 109,0 2674
2 4 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2798 9,5 100,5 107,5 2699
3 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2842 9,5 97,0 103,0 2691
4 6 GM Caruana Fabiano 2770 9,5 95,0 100,0 2649
5 3 GM Duda Jan-Krzysztof 2801 9,0 98,0 103,0 2679
6 14 GM Aronian Levon 2728 9,0 96,0 100,0 2544
7 2 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2836 9,0 95,5 102,0 2650
8 15 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2727 9,0 92,0 98,0 2588
9 174 GM Gukesh D 2050 9,0 91,0 95,0 2619
10 10 GM Rapport Richard 2750 9,0 88,0 94,0 2592
11 9 GM Karjakin Sergey 2757 9,0 78,5 82,5 2519
12 69 GM Van Foreest Jorden 2563 8,5 98,0 103,5 2715
13 8 GM Grischuk Alexander 2763 8,5 97,5 102,5 2655
14 21 GM Fedoseev Vladimir 2692 8,5 94,0 98,5 2639
15 173 IM Mitrabha Guha 2107 8,5 90,0 95,5 2622
16 12 GM Dubov Daniil 2735 8,5 90,0 95,5 2561
17 5 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2773 8,5 86,0 92,0 2562
18 13 GM Salem A.R. Saleh 2729 8,5 85,0 90,5 2556
19 26 GM Sarana Alexey 2680 8,5 84,0 89,0 2537
20 33 GM Firouzja Alireza 2656 8,0 97,5 102,5 2626

(Full final standings here.)

All World Rapid Championship Games 

The women’s event was much less hotly contested than the open because the leader was so far ahead the rest of the pack. Not giving up even a single loss in the third and final day, she left no hope for anyone to usurp the lead.

The first round of the day saw a face-off between the reigning women’s world rapid champion, GM Humpy Koneru, and the leader of the tournament, Alexandra Kosteniuk. Koneru had a few opportunities to win, especially with a chance to win a free pawn on moves 34 and 35, but the game ultimately petered out.

With a draw against one of her greatest remaining rivals, Kosteniuk looked to be in great shape to win the world title. 

In the next round, The sole leader made a draw with IM Assaubayeva Bibisara in a game that offered neither side any serious winning chances. Meanwhile, GM Kateryna Lagno, a pre-tournament favorite and reigning women’s blitz champion, converted an opposite-colored bishop endgame nicely.

Round 11 in the women’s section featured a funny opening remark by our commentary team, which made the chat go wild, during the game between Lagno (left) and Kosteniuk (right):After a  surprising, 26-move gift of a draw, where many pieces still remained on the board, Kosteniuk won the world rapid title!

The teenage IM Assaubayeva won her last-round game against established GM Nana Dzagnidze in only 34 moves. After the Georgian miscalculated, playing 16…Bxd4, the rest of the game played like clockwork for the young lady. 

Assaubayeva had a great tournament, finishing in second place after a dazzlying attack. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

While the last round of the open section was underway, Kosteniuk shared some thoughts about the tournament in a press conference.

She also said: “I haven’t lost a single game throughout the tournament, and of course, it helps a lot. When you lose, you have to find the balance, fight back. I was lucky not to lose any.”

Kostenuik is all smiles after a stellar performance over three days. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Kosteniuk will pocket $40,000, Assaubayeva $30,000, and Gunina $20,000. In addition, the new women’s world rapid champion made great gains in her rapid rating after a tremendous performance while many of her nearest competitors suffered losses.

The top 10 women in the world by rapid rating. Photo:

2021 Women’s World Rapid Championship | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed

Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 3 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2515 9,0 69,0 73,5 2377
2 19 IM Assaubayeva Bibisara 2369 8,5 65,0 69,5 2263
3 5 GM Gunina Valentina 2499 8,0 72,5 78,0 2374
4 1 GM Lagno Kateryna 2545 8,0 68,5 73,5 2299
5 78 WIM Serikbay Assel 2023 7,5 72,0 77,0 2399
6 7 GM Koneru Humpy 2483 7,5 68,0 71,0 2281
7 9 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2471 7,5 67,5 72,0 2307
8 20 IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2367 7,5 63,0 67,5 2232
9 11 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2443 7,5 62,5 65,5 2291
10 30 WGM Michna Marta 2291 7,5 61,5 65,5 2146
11 10 GM Abdumalik Zhansaya 2449 7,5 60,5 64,0 2236
12 15 IM Mammadova Gulnar 2388 7,5 60,0 65,0 2246
13 6 GM Muzychuk Anna 2497 7,5 58,5 63,0 2198
14 49 IM Vaishali R 2201 7,0 69,0 72,5 2407
15 4 GM Muzychuk Mariya 2501 7,0 68,5 73,5 2310
16 2 GM Goryachkina Aleksandra 2521 7,0 63,5 68,0 2225
17 41 IM Nomin-Erdene Davaademberel 2235 7,0 63,0 67,0 2253
18 22 IM Gaponenko Inna 2348 7,0 61,0 65,5 2240
19 23 WGM Berend Elvira 2344 7,0 55,5 58,5 2102
20 18 IM Kashlinskaya Alina 2377 7,0 53,5 57,5 2107

(Full final standings here.)

All Women’s World Rapid Championship Games

Find more information on the world rapid and blitz here.

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