In a second day of total domination, WR Chess won all four matches and are the only team with a perfect 100 per cent score
With a total of 16 matchpoints, WR Chess maintains a three-matchpoint lead over the second-placed Freedom team. Following closely are three teams tied at 11 matchpoints: MGD1, Ashdod Elit Chess Club, and Six-pack. The current standings suggest that WR Chess, holding a three-matchpoint lead over Freedom and a five-matchpoint lead over the third-placed teams, could potentially secure victory before all rounds are completed.
Today’s direct duel between the frontrunners WR Chess and Freedom ended with a crushing 5-1 victory for the squad captained by GM Jan Gustafsson. WR Chess also defeated third-placed Team MGD1 – by 3.5-2.5 in Round 6. Given that Freedom and MGD1 were closest to catching up with WR Chess, the outcome of their direct duels will certainly have an impact on the final standings, even if WR slip on day three.
The key performers in the WR Chess team are Ian Nepomniachtchi and Jan-Krzysztof Duda who are on 5.5 out of six games they have played. Additionally, WR Group's CEO Wadim Rosenstein, who also sponsors the event, contributed significantly to the team's success, winning five out of eight games as an amateur board.
After a crushing loss in round five, team Freedom rebounded, winning the remaining three matches of the day and solidifying their hold on the second place. Daniil Dubov is the top performer in the team, with 5.5 out of eight.
Team MGD1 experienced mixed results, finishing the day in shared third place after losing two out of four matches. With other teams closely trailing, MGD1 will need to maintain their momentum to secure a top-three finish.
Rounds five to eight: A closer look
The frontrunners from day one – WG Chess and Freedom met in round five, at the start of the second day of the championship. In a tense match, the tournament leaders WG Chess dominated the top-rated tournament team captained by Emil Sutovsky. Apart from Anand and Dubov who drew their games, all other Freedom boards lost. This was a significant milestone for WG Chess having scored a confident victory over their main competitor in the event.
The Indian team of MGD1 – who started the day in second place – had a narrow victory over ASV AlphaEchecs Linz (3.5-2.5), with Nihal Sarin losing to Alexander Grischuk after ending a piece down. In another slim victory, team Armenia prevailed over Columbus Energy Kings Of Chess from Kraków with 3.5-2.5. While there were no major surprises, among the top players, Fabiano Caruana found himself in serious trouble against Egypt’s Ahmed Adly but managed to win.
In Round 6, Team Freedom bounced back, scoring a convincing victory over the team of the Berlin Chess Federation, with 5.5-0.5. In that match, Freedom’s Polina Shuvalova won in great style against the top German women's player Elisabeth Paehtz, sacrificing the same knight twice. WR Chess continued their winning streak, but this time only with a minimum margin – 3.5-2.5 – beating the very strong majority-Indian squad of Team MGD1, thus eliminating another contender for the top place.
The Chess Pensioners suffered a humiliating defeat in the round, losing 5:1 to Kompetenzakademie Allstars. Apart from Dominguez holding compatriot Caruana to a draw, Pensioners’ Peter Svidelr lost to Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik was beaten by Gukesh D. In a huge upset of the round, Egyptian GM Ahmed Adly (rated 2557) lost to more than 200 points lower-rated German FM Bennet Hagner, after misplaying in the middlegame. Following Round 6, the team of Germany and Friends sprung to second place, after winning two rounds – against Ashdod Elit Chess Club (in round five) and the very strong team of Armenia (in round six).
In Round 7, Freedom defeated ASV AlphaEchecs Linz while Team MGD1 outplayed the squad of Armenia. Both Freedom and MGD1 had an equal number of points and were sharing second place. WR Chess continued its impressive run, beating Germany and Friends by 4-2, and maintaining their 100% score in match victories. Despite the loss, Germany and Friends were fourth in the rankings. In this round, 2641-rated GM Pavel Eljanov lost to 200 points lower-rated Alexander Krastev.
In the final round of the day, WR Chess secured another convincing victory, defeated Kompetenzakademie Allstars (featuring superstars such as Caruana, Aronian and Gukesh) by 5.5:0.5 and finishing the second day in a row winning all of their matches. Freedom was better than Germany and Friends (4.5-1.5), managing to clinch second place and pushing the German team out of the top three. Team MGD1 slipped in the final round of the day against Ashdod Elit Chess Club. With all first five boards drawing their games, the balance shifted on the amateur board where Peter Anand (rated 1901) lost to 1600-player Daniel Blonder. The defeat relegated MGD1 from second to third place.
Standings after Day 2 (top 10):
Here follows a closer look at some of the games from the first day of the FIDE World Rapid Team Championship:
Fabiano Caruana (who is playing for the Kompetenzakademie Allstars team, alongside heavyweights Levon Aronian and Gukesh D), had another tricky start. After yesterday’s surprising draw in the first round with a significantly lower-rated player, today he was on the brink of losing with the white pieces to the well-known Egyptian GM Ahmed Adly.
The position is complicated but roughly even. Black’s queen is trapped in the centre and the king still hasn’t been moved to his castle. According to the computer, White has several interesting options maintaining the balance – 20.gxh4, Qe3 and Ne3 – to name a few.
Caruana decided to take on e4 and immediately entered an inferior position: 21.Bxe4? Bxe4 22.Nd2 Bc2 23.exd5. The best continuation for Black was to castle long with the idea of meeting 24.dxe7 with cold-blooded 24…Rde8! and Black wins an exchange by Bd3.
Now, however, Adly misplayed with 23…e5? letting a substantial part of his advantage slip away.
24.Re3 0-0-0 And now another mistake by Caruana 25.Ne4?
According to the engines, the best way to play for both sides was: 25...Qxd5 26.Qa5 b6 27.Qxa7 Qb7 28.Qxb7+ Kxb7 29.f4 gxf3 30.Rfxf3 Bxe4 31.Rxe4 hxg3 with Black winning.
However, at this point, Adly not only dropped his advantage but misplayed so badly that turned his position from won to lost.
Caruana leapt at the opportunity with 26.Qa5! Kb8 27.Qc7+ Ka8 28.Nc5 Ba6 29.Nxa6 Qb6 If 29…bxa6 30.Rb1 and the black king is in a mating net.
30.Qxb6 axb6 31.Nc7+ and White is a piece up and completely winning. 1-0
A lucky break for Caruana at the start of the second day in Dusseldorf.
One of the most beautiful victories of the day was scored in round six by Freedom’s Polina Shuvalova who defeated top German woman player, Elisabeth Paehtz with a knight sacrifice.
Both sides made errors by the point when this position was reached, but Black (Paehtz) just moved her pawn to f6, which turned out to be fatal as it triggered a fierce attack-sacrifice combination.
Black can’t take the “free” knight as after 23…Kxf7 24.e6+ Bxe6 25.Qxc7 and Black will lose her queen.
23…f5 was offering some hope for Black, but Paehtz played 23…fxe5 and now White was completely winning.
24.Nxe5 Be6 and now 25.Nxg6! Another sacrifice of the same knight.
25…Qxf4 26.Bxf4 Rb2 27.Nxh8 Bc8 28.Re7 Kxh8 29.Bh6 Ba6 30.Rce1 Rg8 31.Bf4 White is knitting a mating net around the black king which Paehtz could only stop by surrendering, which she did on move 36. 1-0
Round 7 saw another major upset where a notably lower-rated player defeated a strong GM. Pavel Eljanov (playing for the Ashdod Elit Chess Club) - who has won two team gold medals and one individual silver medal at the Chess Olympiads for Ukraine – lost to German IM Alexander Krastev rated 2460 (who is playing for Schachverein Hemer).
In an endgame where Black (Eljanov) was dominating, he misplayed allowing White first to equalise and then get into a winning position.
The position is even. White has an extra pawn but should be careful as the dark squares around his king are weak. With this in mind, 38.Qd5 offering the queen exchange was an optimal move for White. Krastev, however, completely ignored Black’s threats.
38.Bd5?? Bd6 Threatening checkmate. White is lost.
39.Kg1 f5 40.Rf3
Black is completely winning. After 40…Bc5, followed by Qa1+ or immediate 40…Qa1+ White’s king has no real protection. Instead of this, Eljanov went for a weaker move 40…Qh2+ 41.Kf1 Rb8 42.Bb7 Black now blundered with 42…Be5?? and the position is even.
43.exf5 exf5 44.d4 Bg3 45.Rxf5 Now both kings are exposed.
45…Qh1+ 46.Ke2 Qb1 47.Rf7 Rg8 48.Qf5 Qxf5 49.Rxf5
White now has the upper hand, with two extra pawns and is winning. Krastev struggled to convert but, eventually, came up with the right plan. He advanced his central pawn, king and rook before sacrificing a rook for a bishop and ending up completely winning. 1-0
In the final round of the day, the team WR Chess delivered a heavy blow to Kompetenzakademie Allstars, solidifying first place. Allstars’ Levon Aronian lost an even position after misplaying against Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The position is around even. Black has a very strong pawn on a2 and is threatening with 35…Bxc5+ followed by Rxc6. White has to think about how to proceed and the engines suggested 35.Bf3 as the most accurate.
Levon opted for more active but erroneous move that allowed Ian to deliver on his main threat.
35.Bb5?? Bxc5+ 36.Bxc5 Ra5! 37.Bd4 Rxb5 and now Nepomniachtchi has removed all potential problems with the c-pawn, while a2-passer is rock solid. Despite the material equilibrium Black is winning as White’s pawns are too exposed. Nepomniachtchi had no problem in converting his advantage into a victory. 0-1
Written by Milan Dinic
Photos: Mark Livshitz and Niki Riga
About the event
The World Rapid Team Championship is taking place between the 26th and the 28th August.
The event consists of 12 rounds played under the Swiss System. The first named team in a pairing shall have the white pieces on the odd-numbered boards and the black pieces on the even-numbered boards.
The time control will be 15 minutes, with a 10-second increment from move one.
The scoring will be based on matchpoints: a win scores two points, a draw scores one point and a loss means zero points.
The team with the highest number of matchpoints in the relevant final standings shall be declared World Rapid Team Champion.
The tournament will feature a 250,000 Euro prize fund.
Event website: worldrapidteams2023.fide.com/
You can follow the event live on FIDE’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/watch?v=25bPhnrg9wc&ab_channel=FIDEchess