Opening of the World Rapid and Blitz

by Sagar Shah
12/26/2019 – The "King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championship" 2019 is here! It is one of the most exciting events of the year with the participation of almost all the top players in the world including World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen will be looking to win the title in both rapid and blitz and become triple crown champion again. The opening ceremony was held on December 25th at the Russian Chess Museum on the Gogolevsky Boulevard in Moscow. IM SAGAR SHAH and AMRUTA MOKAL were present at the venue and bring you first-hand impressions from the place. We also have some very interesting interviews with Carlsen, Wang Hao, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, Anton Korobov and Peter Leko.

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Closing out 2019

The year is coming to an end and, for a chess fan, there is no better way to see it through than watching the fast-paced thrilling action from the World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2019. The first round of the rapid section will begin from the 26th of December 2019. On Christmas Day, the opening ceremony was held at the famous Russian Chess Museum on the Gogolevsky Boulevard. How did it all pan out? Here's a short video that gives you the feel of what took place:

Opening Ceremony of World Rapid and Blitz 2019

It was one of those opening ceremonies where the organizers hoped that only the invited players would turn up as the space at the Russian Chess Museum wasn't enough to accommodate all the players.

But the turnout was big. There were basically two rooms on the first floor of the Russian Chess Museum. One where the actual opening ceremony took place and another one where the press conferences happened and the players could follow the opening ceremony through closed-circuit television. Magnus Carlsen, Anna Muzychuk, Hikaru Nakamura and Kateryna Lagno, the top four seeds in four events (open and women rapid and blitz) were the only top players apart from the media and the FIDE officials in the main opening ceremony hall. The rest of the players were socializing in the other room, talking to each other, exchanging ideas, doing interviews and enjoying the delicious food!

Anna Muzychuk, the top seed in the world rapid women's section, drew the white colour | Photo: Amruta Mokal

World no.1 in Blitz, Hikaru Nakamura, drew white | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Defending World Blitz Champion Kateryna Lagno drew white | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Magnus talks about upcoming Candidates and the favourites according to him

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, President of Saudi Chess Federation Rami Altassan and Executive director of the Russian Chess Federation Mark Glukhovsky | Photo: Amruta Mokal

An Indian and two Iranians: Humpy (right) with Atousa Pourkashiyan and Sarasadat Khademalsharieh | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The festive decoration of the opening ceremony | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Ian Nepomniachtchi interviewed after successfully making it to the Candidates 2020 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vidit Gujrathi with father Santosh | Photo: Amruta Mokal

MVL speaks to the FIDE press officer Milan Dinic as Ace photographer David Llada looks on | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The French GM's manager has made an appeal to the Russian Chess Federation to consider the spot of wild card given to Alekseenko.

Alekseenko, on the other hand, looked calm and composed | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Wang talks about Candidates 2020, his relationship with Ding Liren and more

Alireza Firouzja not playing for Iran

Although Firouzja's rating is in 2600 zone for both rapid and blitz it wouldn't be wrong to say that he is one of the contenders for a podium finish at this year's world rapid and blitz. There's a reasonable chance he might meet one or more Israeli players like Boris Gelfand, Evgeny Postny, Ilya Smirin or Alexander Huzman. He has therefore decided not to play under the Iranian flag and instead with the FIDE flag beside his name. It's quite a big loss for Iran, but it seems like this was the only option Firouzja had at his disposal if he wants to play freely.

The number one player of Iran, Alireza Firouzja will play under the FIDE flag instead of Iran

Players who have represented Iran have always faced a problem when pitted against an Israeli opponent. We saw this happening at the World Juniors, where facing the Israeli opponents was so stressful that both Aryan Gholami and Amin Tatatabaei not only had to give walkovers but also had to withdraw their names from the event. Such walkovers are detrimental for any ambitious player, especially Alireza Firouzja who is one of the biggest talents in the world of chess right now.

Iran's no.1 woman player, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh talks about Firouzja's decision

A grandmaster with an Elo of 1799?

One player that no one would like to face at the World Rapid Championships 2019 is D. Gukesh! The second youngest GM in the world currently has an Elo of just 1799 in rapid! Even if a top player beats him, they would get about one or two Elo rating points. While this tournament is like Christmas party for Gukesh. It will be interesting to see as to how many Elo points he collects during the tournament!

How come a player with such a low rating is admitted to the tournament? Well, in the open section the rating cut off is 2550 and above. As Gukesh's classical rating meets this criteria, that is good enough.

Kramnik coming back from retirement!

One of the biggest excitements for chess fans in this year's World Blitz championships is the comeback of Vladimir Kramnik. The 14th World Champion is going to come out of retirement for a couple of days to play at the blitz event. We were curious to know how Vladimir would be preparing for this event. Would he be playing just for fun, as he had mentioned in his press release or has he been working hard to be in the best possible shape?

We decided to ask this question to his old friend and rival Peter Leko:

Peter Leko on the favourites and Kramnik's mindset



Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest chess news outlet in the country.


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PhishMaster PhishMaster 12/27/2019 12:08
How long before Alireza Firouzja is playing for the U.S.? :)

And lajosarpad is right: The situation has nothing to do with FIDE, but with their federations being intolerant, and forbidding them to play Israelis.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/27/2019 11:43
Well done, Firouzja, you are the only Iranian player who can really represent Iran's chess at this event. Good luck.

@o4cv you misunderstand the situation. Iran's players are not allowed by their federation/state to play with Israeli players, because antisemitism is a state policy in the Islamic Republic of Iran, so these talented players are forced by their Islamic state to chicken out from their games with Israelis. FIDE only acts according to the rules.
o4cv o4cv 12/27/2019 03:35
meanwhile two saudi arabian players forfeited their game against israelis:
Round 1 GM Smirin Ilia 2584 0 + - - 0 CM Al Ghamdi Ahmed M 2106
Round 3 GM Baron Tal 2455 0 + - - 0 CM Al Thebaiti Ahmed M 1841

and continued rest of their games. it seems fide only has problem with iranian.
Green22 Green22 12/26/2019 03:45
Alireza Firouzja good for him! a major talent and Iran still living in the stone ages. What is wrong with these idiotic laws and stance against Israel? How about let the kid play and enjoy life and stop the fighting.

Another instance from the madness in Iran

"In October, Iran was banned indefinitely from international judo by the sport’s world body until it could guarantee that its athletes would be allowed to face Israelis. The move came after an Iranian judoka said he was pressured to drop out of bouts to avoid facing an Israeli athlete."