FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships 2023

December, 13 2023

The World Blitz Chess Championship started in Samarkand

The World Blitz Chess Championship kicked off with steam in Samarkand, with 12 rounds played in the Open and nine rounds in the Women’s tournament. Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi were penalized for a prearranged draw in round eleven

After 12 rounds in the Open, six players are in the lead, with Vladislav Artemiev topping first place. With eight victories and one draw, Valentina Gunina is the sole leader in the Women’s Blitz, a point and a half ahead of a group of five players sharing 2-6th place.

There was a delay in publishing the results of round 12 and pairings for round 13 for the Open tournament, following a dispute over a game between Grandmasters Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi from round 11.

The disputed game between Dubov and Nepomniachtchi and FIDE’s decision

In round 11, Daniil Dubov was playing as White against Ian Nepomniachtchi. The game in question lasted 13 moves: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.Nd4 Nd5 3.Nb3 Nb6 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.Ne4 Ne5 6.Ng5 Ng4 7.Nf3 Nf6 8.Ng1 Ng8 9.Nc5 Nc4 10.Na4 Na5 11.Nc3 Nc6 12.Nb1 Nb8 13.Nf3, and they agreed on a draw in the following position:

The arbiters analyzed the moves, and, after round 12, the Chief Arbiter of the tournament, Ivan Syrovy, made the decision to reduce the points both players scored in the game. Reasoning his decision, Chief Arbiter Syrovy said: “In my eyes both players are responsible for it, I consider they prearranged the result of the game. My opinion is based on the moves they played”.

Grandmasters Ian Nepomniachtchi and Daniil Dubov objected to the decision, prompting a referral to the Appeals Committee.

A video which was published on Twitter appears to suggest the two grandmasters discussing the prearranged draw.

Late in the evening of December 29th to 30th, local time in Samarkand, the Appeals Committee unanimously voted (3/3) to reject Ian Nepomniachtchi’s appeal and uphold the decision made by the arbiter, Ivan Syrovy. The full text of the decision is here.

Before the above case, there was an appeal after the sixth round by American Andrew Hong who lost to Yu Yangyi from China. Hong lost on time but claimed that the clock was not working properly when he pressed it. The Appeals Committee examined the clock and did not find any evidence of malfunctioning. The Committee ruled that GM Hong “did try to push the clock, but failed to do it properly and [the] clock’s position remained unchanged” and his appeal was rejected. This appeal delayed round seven for an hour.

Here follows a report from the first day of the Blitz.

The Open Blitz

The first day of the Blitz in the Open tournament saw Vladislav Artemiev emerge as the main contender for the top place. He became the sole leader after defeating R Pragnanandhaa in round six. Round seven saw Artemiev having a tranquil draw with Magnus Carlsen, who trailed by half a point due to a draw in round two against the 300-points-lower-rated Jakhongir Vakhidov from Uzbekistan. A quick draw with Dubov followed in round eight. Subsequently, in round nine, Artemiev engaged in a gruelling battle against Ian Nepomniachtchi, resulting in yet another split point. At this juncture, Carlsen and Dubov caught up with Artemiev, all three sharing the lead with 7.5 points each. Then tragedy struck – Artemiev erred in the opening as Black against Sarin and was forced to defend a bad position, which he ultimately lost. In round 11, however, he made a comeback against Sjugirov to emerge as first among the tournament leaders again. In round twelve, Artemiev decided to slow down and made a quick draw with Erigaisi.

Artemiev is currently leading a group of six players with nine points, which includes defending Blitz Champion Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave, and Indians Sarin, Erigaisi, and Alexander Riazantsev.

Dubov and Nepomniachtchi have 8.5 points, following the decision of FIDE to strip each of them of half a point from the game they drew.

Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen registered six draws and seven wins on the first day. In round 12, he faced Ian Nepomniachtchi, whom he defeated twice in the match for the World Champion title. Despite an intense game with both sides transitioning to an endgame while in time trouble, a crucial imprecision by Carlsen provided Nepomniachtchi with a significant opportunity, which he missed, resulting in an immediate draw.

Anish Giri, aiming to secure a place in the 2024 Candidates, started strongly in the Blitz after a slow start in the Rapid. With five points after six rounds, he was among the second tier of players, trailing the leader by just one point. However, from round nine onwards, Giri encountered setbacks. His loss as White to Dubov in round nine due to a misplay in the middlegame significantly weakened his position. Although he had an advantage against Pragnanandhaa in round 10, he allowed it to slip into a draw. Rounds 11 and 12 ended in draws with Murzin and a loss to Aleksandr Shimanov, respectively, marking Giri’s second loss of the day with the white pieces.

The Women’s Blitz

Valentina Gunina, a one-time gold and two-time silver medalist in the World Blitz, made an impressive start in the Women’s tournament. Leading with 8.5/9 after day one, she replicated her previous performance from the Almaty 2022 World Blitz by securing the top spot on day one yet again.

Gunina started with a remarkable streak of seven consecutive victories (including against the reigning Women’s Blitz Champion, Bibisara Assaubayeva) and became the sole leader from round six. Her first draw came in round eight with India’s Harika Dronavalli. At this stage, Anastasia Bodnaruk, fresh off her Women’s Rapid win, ascended to second place, trailing by just half a point with 7/8. Challenged in the final round of the day, Gunina clinched a decisive victory against Bodnaruk with the black pieces, finishing the day with 8.5/9, a point and a half ahead of her closest competition.

Reflecting on her performance at the end of the first day, Gunina remarked: “I feel tired, but I [would] feel more tired not playing chess.” She pointed out that last year in the World Blitz, she was also the leader after day one but then lost four games in a row on the second day. “One day, you can play great; the other day, you can lose everything”.

Asked whether having good time control is her main weapon for staying on top, Gunina replied with a puzzling smile: “Let me tell you tomorrow” [when the Blitz Championship finishes].

The start of the Women’s Blitz saw an excellent comeback for the former Women’s World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, who finished the Women’s Rapid with just 6/11, midway through the standings. With five victories, she emerged as the leader in round five. However, Kosteniuk picked up just two points in the remaining four rounds of the day, having lost to Gunina (in round six, a direct encounter for the top position) and in round eight (to Bodnaruk).

With seven points, Kosteniuk leads a group of five players chasing Gunina: Dronavalli, Bodnaruk, Garifullina and another former Women’s World Blitz Champion, Kateryna Lagno. Kateryna started the World Blitz with a draw and then stumbled in round five against Polina Shuvalova and made another draw in round seven.

The defending Women’s Blitz Champion, Bibisara Assaubayeva, completed the first day with 6/9. She lost two consecutive games – to Gunina in round four and Bodnaruk in round five. Towards the end of the day, Assaubayeva lost speed – she drew with Divya and allowed Goryachkina to save a significantly worse position. 

About the event:

The World Rapid and Blitz is one of the most exciting and most watched chess events in the world, attracting the strongest Grandmasters.

The prize fund totals one million US dollars, with $700,000 for the Open and $300,000 for the Women’s tournaments.

The event is taking place from December 25 to December 30, at the Samarkand Congress Center.

Written by Milan Dinic

Photos: Anastasia Korolkova, Lennart Ootes, Maria Emelianova