Glorious opening ceremony at World Rapid and Blitz 2022

by Sagar Shah
12/26/2022 – The World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2022 kick off in Almaty, Kazakhstan on the 26th of December 2022. On 25th of December, one day before the start of the event, there was an opening ceremony held at the venue. The first thing you notice when you enter the premises of the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace is how massive it is and how spacious it is going to be for the players. Next you get to see the Kazakh culture in the opening ceremony and the love for chess that the country possesses. Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal have filed a large pictorial report from Almaty.

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A grand opening ceremony in Almaty

By Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal from Kazakhstan

A very important question for all players is whether they should attend the opening ceremony or not. If there is a choice, most of them prefer not to because they can relax in their rooms, prepare, unwind and get ready for a grueling 5-day event. And those players are right in their own way. However, those who did attend the opening ceremony at the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace in Almaty, which is also the venue of the World Rapid and Blitz 2022, took back with them some wonderful memories. The dance and music performances were excellent, the speeches were short and the number of local fans who turned up were huge in numbers. It goes to show how popular chess is in Kazakhstan. Top four seeds in each category - Rapid and Blitz in open and women, did turn up - Carlsen, Nakamura, Lagno and Kosteniuk. The 15 minutes that Magnus spent with the crowd were truly heart-warming. If you are not yet updated with the players list, you must definitely check out this curtain raiser article.

The day started with a technical meeting | Photo: Amruta Mokal

All the important points were shown on the screen | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Coming in like a boss! The biggest attraction of the tournament - Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Amruta Mokal

GM Darmen Sadvakasov interacts with Magnus Carlsen. Darmen is the tournament director of the World Rapid and Blitz 2022. He is 5-time Kazakh champion and also a former World Junior Champion.  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A unique way to choose the colour. Two Kazakh style vessels containing one white king and one black king in each one is brought towards Magnus | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Magnus chooses the black king and hence in the world rapid 2022 he will get the black pieces in game 1 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A shapan is brought for Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A staple article of Kazakh clothing is the chapan or shapan, a long, loose robe. Unlike other clothing, it is not gender-specific and is worn by men and women. Chapans are made from various fabrics and are available in a range of colors (most often monochrome or dark). They are lined with a layer of wool or cotton.

Magnus is ready to wear it! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It seems to fit him pretty well! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

You also have to wear the hat! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

And now he looks like a Kazakh local! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Hikaru is given a traditional Kazakh fur hat also known as Tymaq  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The top seed in the women's blitz Kateryna Lagno draws the white king | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The top seed in women's blitz Alexandra Kosteniuk draws the black king | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The special box for all the VIPs | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Dauren Abayev, the minister of culture and sports was present at the opening ceremony | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Erbolat Dosaev, currently the Akim (Mayor) of Almaty graced the occasion. He has been the deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan as well as the minister of finance for the country. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

FIDE President Arkadij Dvorkovich talks how the Football world cup just ended and it is now time for the chess extravaganza of World Rapid and Blitz to begin!  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Small kids performed admirably at the opening ceremony | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The smiling kids lit up the entire event! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The local dances were filled with energy and colour | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The atmosphere was filled with energy  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A well-known Kazakh local music band performed as the final act of the opening ceremony | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A talented Indian youngster playing the World Rapid and Blitz for the first time in his life - Pranav V. | Photo: Sagar Shah

The opening ceremony gives a chance for players of different countries to meet and mingle with each other | Photo: Sagar Shah

Three top women players - Humpy, Saduakassova and Gunina | Photo: Sagar Shah

The FIDE delegate to the event is GM Pavel Tregubov | Photo: Sagar Shah

Always doing a wonderful job behind the camera is Amruta Mokal | Photo: Sagar Shah  

A day before the games

On 25th of December, the Christmas Day before things start to get intense at the World Rapid and Blitz, we all decided to go for a nice lunch.

On the streets of Almaty - Padmini Rout, Anish Giri, Vidit Gujrathi and Sagar Shah

The super seven!

The only waiter at the restaurant who could speak English

Anish Giri gets his copy of ChessPa in the Chess Adventure Park for his 1.5-year-old son Michael

How to follow the tournament?

You can follow the LIVE commentary on FIDE's YouTube channel.

It starts at 3 p.m. local time, which is 2.30 p.m. IST

Starting rank for women's event:

No.     Name FideID FED Rtg
1   GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 4128125 FID 2537
2   GM Lagno Kateryna 14109336 FID 2531
3   GM Tan Zhongyi 8603642 CHN 2502
4   GM Goryachkina Aleksandra 4147103 FID 2484
5   GM Dzagnidze Nana 13601903 GEO 2475
6   GM Harika Dronavalli 5015197 IND 2475
7   GM Koneru Humpy 5008123 IND 2468
8   GM Abdumalik Zhansaya 13703544 KAZ 2448
9   IM Saduakassova Dinara 13700090 KAZ 2435
10   IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 12512214 IRI 2411

Starting rank for the open event:

No. Name Rtg
1 Nakamura Hikaru 2909
2 Caruana Fabiano 2847
3 Carlsen Magnus 2830
4 Yu Yangyi 2807
5 Artemiev Vladislav 2803
6 Dubov Daniil 2792
7 Giri Anish 2792
8 Nepomniachtchi Ian 2782
9 Duda Jan-Krzysztof 2773
10 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2771

Video Gallery:

Start the videos and click on Maximize or YouTube to get them in full resolution.

The entire opening ceremony

The way in which Magnus Carlsen spent time with the fans after the opening ceremony was truly inspiring

Who are the Kazakh chess fans supporting for this event?

The way Carlsen and Nakamura were called up on stage was very cool to watch!

Zhansaya Abdumalik the top Kazakh female player and also the president of Kazakh chess association and the deputy mayor of Almaty speaks about the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd.

He is one of the strongest youngsters in the world of chess. Alexey Sarana speaks about how it is a confusing time for chess players - whether to focus on classical, rapid or blitz.


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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