World Rapid and Blitz 2016 Doha
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.
In round 11 against Korobov I got an excellent position from the opening, but hallucinated and went for a non-existing mate with Qd7 and Ng5 having missed Bxg2. Suddenly black was just winning. This should just not happen in Rapid.
I’m quite proud of winning the last four rounds, especially the black games against Riazantsev and Nepomniachtchi.
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.