GM Magnus Carlsen won the SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz in Zagreb, Croatia, on Sunday. After the rapid segment, the world champion was in second place behind Dutch GM Jorden van Foreest, but scoring 11.5/18 in the blitz was enough to finish in sole first place in the tournament, which is part of the Grand Chess Tour.
When announcing that he wouldn’t defend his world title, Carlsen emphasized that he isn’t retiring. In fact, he mentioned a busy schedule ahead: the Grand Chess Tour event in Croatia, then the Olympiad, followed by the FTX Crypto Cup in Miami and the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis.
He won the first of these events, and his tweet afterward had a vibe of “silencing the critics.”
There is a lot of smart people in Chess. They’ll figure it out at some point. I am sure.#aliveandkicking pic.twitter.com/CsVnZHDNg4
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) July 24, 2022
As always, the first three days consist of rapid chess (25+10 games), and it was Van Foreest who did surprisingly well. The Dutch number-two scored 6/9 (or rather, 12/18 as rapid games counted double) in this very strong field, finishing this part just ahead of Carlsen and GM Wesley So.
|1||Jorden van Foreest||2678||2884||*||0||0||2||1||2||2||2||1||2||12|
At this point, Van Foreest had already scored five victories which were three more than he had managed over 27 games in the same event in 2021. Beating GM Alireza Firouzja in the ninth round was key, but also impressive was his win against Candidates winner GM Ian Nepomniachtchi:
Also noteworthy is Van Foreest’s game with local hero GM Ivan Saric, who played a rook maneuver that this author is quite familiar with. In this lesson I show how I used the same maneuver twice in one game to score a nice win, while also mentioning the classic Pillsbury-Lasker game (which, by the way, Van Foreest didn’t know about!).
Meanwhile, Carlsen had a slow start in the rapid games, scoring just one win, against a rather rusty GM Veselin Topalov, in the first seven rounds, and the world champion also suffered a loss to GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov where he lost on time in a difficult and perhaps lost position:
Although Nepomniachtchi and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored half a point more than the world champion over 18 rounds of blitz, Carlsen’s victory was nonetheless quite convincing, and he scored 11.5/18. Added to his 11 points from the rapid, he was the best player overall with 22.5/27.
His best day was Saturday when he made 7/9 in the first half of the blitz (5+2 games) and took the lead in the standings. However, with lots of messy games, the always honest Carlsen noted: “Today I probably scored a little more than I should have.”
On Sunday, after 25 of the 27 rounds, Carlsen had already reached those 22.5 points. At that point, Vachier-Lagrave and So were tied for second place with 20.5 points and because they drew quickly in the penultimate round, Carlsen won the tournament with a round to spare—losing his last two games didn’t matter.
After not wanting to play Nepomniachtchi in the next title match, Carlsen drew with him in the rapid and then won both their games in the blitz. Here’s the first:
If Firouzja had won the Candidates, the future of the chess world might have looked quite different. In Zagreb, the French-Iranian GM tied with Carlsen after drawing the rapid game, lost the first blitz game, and then took revenge on Sunday in the second. The final phase was very exciting: