May 2019 update
Even after a highly successful run in classical chess this year, playing a different format brings some uncertainty. Finding the right balance between strategic plans requiring deep calculations and intuitive play, is particularly challenging in Rapid chess. My last Rapid performance, in the World Rapid Championship in St.Petersburg in December, was not optimal despite a reasonable score.
All the more, I was delighted to be able to play quite well in the Rapid portion in Abidjan. The great score 7.5/9 gave me a healthy lead before the Blitz, although my play had varied somewhat more than the score would indicate. I’m very satisfied with the games against Nepomniatchchi and Karjakin. Against So and Nakamura I made a tactical mistake and against Ding a strategic mistake at critical moments. Overall I played quite decently.
In Rapid & Blitz, multiple games a day do not allow you to recover overnight from a bad game as in classical chess. Looking back at GCT and World Championships in Rapid & Blitz I’m generally doing well overall if I’m in good shape four out of five days. Sometimes three is enough. It was a very unpleasant the way neither my calculation nor my intuition worked on the first day of Blitz, and squandering a great position to lose in the end against Vachier-Lagrave (who kept his cool admirably) didn’t particularly help.
Fortunately the results were nowhere near catastrophic, and I had a healthy lead overall also going into the last day. Another early loss against Vachier-Lagrave, when I botched a very comfortable position by bringing the knight to d3, having missed Ne1 after Rb1 Rd2 Rxb3 from afar, forced me to look back over my shoulder. Later my form gradually improved, and I ended on a high note beating Nakamura with black from an equal ending in the last round.
I finished clear first with 26.5/36 ahead of Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave in shared 2nd with 23 point in my first elite event as World Champion in Africa, and I’d like to thank the GCT and local organizers for this great opportunity and for a well-organized event. And, it was great to see so much passion for chess in the parallel events and among organizers and spectators!
The Rapid section started at 5pm and one day we went to the beach by nearby city Grand-Bassam. The waves were surprisingly big. We were told it is a typical phenomenon in this part of Africa despite little wind, and we enjoyed the combination of beautiful beaches and a challenging swim.
The day after returning from Abidjan I played a 15-board simul for my main sponsor Simonsen Vogt Wiig in Bergen. They had managed to bring together an impressive field of interesting opponents, and I thoroughly enjoyed the event!
Tomorrow I’m traveling to Denmark for a simul and a short Rapid match against Danish Vice-Champion Jonas Bjerre in Copenhagen. Amazingly it is the first time I’m playing chess in Denmark in more than a decade.
Next weekend I’m going to Scotland for the first time ever to participate in the Lindores Abbey Chess Stars Tournament where I’ll play Liren Ding, Viswanatand Anand and probably Karjakin in a two-day rapid event.