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2021 World Championship Magic

The 2021 World Championships for rapidplay and blitz have just ended and they were incredibly exciting, sometimes for the wrong reasons.

As reported widely, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (also known as MVL) finished first in the World Blitz Chess Championship with 15 points, after defeating GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda in their third blitz playoff game. Duda finished in second and GM Alireza Firouzja finished in third, each with 15/21. With the same controversial system as the rapid event in place, Firouzja did not play in the playoff games due to tiebreaks. In the Women's section 17-year-old Kazakh IM Bibisara Assaubayeva ended strongly to finish first with 14/17, with an entire round to spare. She won in Poland 10 years ago so this is a happy hunting ground for her. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk is the new women's world rapidplay champion and finished in second with 12.5/17 and GM Valentina Gunina finished in third with 12 points. IM Polina Shuvalova, who also finished with 12 points but had the inferior tiebreak.

The tie-break issues will rumble on for a few years and it seems staggering to me that the best players (ie Magnus and Alireza) did not get to compete in the play-off deciders. Of course, everyone knew the rules before the start of play and, maybe, the issues were raised but the reality of 4-way ties at the end was a strange way to finish. In my mind this was odd and I hope we see a better system in the future where all those tied for 1st on points will be allowed to play for first overall. I know that tie-breaks have always been a part of chess but the world was different then.

Hope to see more games in the future. The Candidates will be soon. Can't wait.

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