December, 13 2023
2023 World Blitz Chess Champions: Magnus Carlsen and Valentina Gunina
The 2023 World Blitz Chess Championships concluded in a thrilling climax, with Magnus Carlsen capturing his seventh World Blitz title, marking his 17th World Crown. In the Women’s tournament, Valentina Gunina was unstoppable as she claimed her second Blitz title.
Carlsen finished the Open Blitz with 16 points scored in 21 games. Daniil Dubov came in second, just half a point behind Carlsen. Vladislav Artemiev – the leader of day one and led for most of the second day of the Blitz – finished third on 15 points.
Valentina Gunina dominated the Women’s Blitz tournament, netting 14 points out of 17 games. The former World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk won second place (13.5), while China’s Zhu Jiner was third (12.5).
In the press conference after the games, the fatigue was evident for both winners.
“Honestly, I just feel very tired at the moment,” Carlsen said, adding that “the feeling of happiness will come later”. Valentina Gunina – who could not hold her emotions back after she won her last game in the Blitz – agreed with Carlsen.
This triumph marks a double-double for Carlsen, mirroring his feat in the previous edition of the WRB in 2022 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where he also claimed victory in both categories.
“I am very satisfied with the performance and especially the results,” Carlsen added.
The awards ceremony was held at the prestigious Silk Road Samarkand hotel complex.
Magnus Carlsen, visibly fatigued from an intense five-day competition comprising 34 gruelling games, got up to the stage, his trademark devilish smile on display, and received both championship cups—his record fifth victory in the World Rapid and a historic seventh triumph in the Blitz.
Here follows a closer look at how the final day of the World Blitz Chess Championships unfolded.
The Open Blitz
The day started with round 13, which proved to be ominous for the defending Champion, Magnus Carlsen, as he lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Playing the Sicilian, Carlsen allowed his opponent to win a pawn. The Norwegian tried to complicate things by pushing his knight towards White’s ranks, but the 2021 World Blitz Champion, MVL, responded with a timely exchange sacrifice to enter a comfortable, dominating position and cruised to victory, advancing on the queenside. This would be Carlsen’s only defeat in the Blitz.
But Carlsen then made a strong comeback, winning six games in a row. Despite winning the tournament, Carlsen emerged as the leader only in round 18. Until then, the leader was Vladislav Artemiev, who dominated from day one.
Artemiev made just one slip in the whole tournament – on the second day, in round 18, losing to Serbian GM Aleksandar Indjic (who is a surprise of the tournament, defeating top GMs and finishing in ninth place, ahead of Duda, Rapport, Caruana, Yu and many other well-known players!). However, that loss allowed Carlsen to take the lead, and Artemiev just couldn’t catch up, making one victory and two draws in the final rounds.
Daniil Dubov, who finished in second place, with just half a point behind Carlsen, must be wondering: was his “dance with the knights” in the game against Nepomniachtchi on day one (which was ruled by the arbiters as prearranged) worth the half a point that was deducted, as he only needed (that) half a point to share first place and go into tiebreaks with Carlsen? Despite this incident from day one, Dubov continued strongly on day two and deservedly won second place.
The final standings of the Open World Blitz can be found HERE.
The Women’s Blitz
The Women’s Blitz saw two leading players follow one another step in step after every round of day two until the very end.
Yesterday’s tournament leader, Valentina Gunina, started the day 1.5 points ahead of the rest. She continued her dominant play and maintained the top position until the end of the tournament, losing just one game – to Zhu Jiner, who finished third.
In the critical game of round 16, Gunina defeated the Women’s World Champion in classical chess, Ju Wenjun and entered the final round as the sole leader, with half a point of advantage. In round 17, Gunina was playing as White against Anna Muzychuk, the two-time Women’s World Blitz champion. In the Gruenfeld, Gunina emerged better from the opening and commanded the position throughout, finishing with a victory which also secured her first place.
This is the second Blitz crown for Gunina, who first won it in 2012.
In every round, Gunina was closely followed by former Women’s World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. With three draws and five victories on the second day, Kosteniuk finished in second place with 13.5 points. She did her best to catch up with the leader. However, the advantage Gunina had (including the victory over Kosteniuk in their direct duel on day one) turned out to be too far to reach.
China’s Zhu Jiner finished third, with 12.5 points, winning seven out of eight games on the second day of the Blitz.
The 2021 and 2022 Women’s World Blitz Champion, Bibisara Assaubayeva, finished in sixth place, leading the group of nine players with 11 points.
The final standings of the Women’s World Blitz can be found HERE.
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 for this year was one million US dollars, with $700,000 for the Open and $300,000 for the Women’s tournaments.
The event took place from December 25 to December 30 at the Samarkand Congress Center.
Written by Milan Dinic
Photos: Anastasia Korolkova, Lennart Ootes, Maria Emelianova