World Blitz: The dance of the knights

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/30/2023 – There was no shortage of controversy on day 1 of the World Blitz Championships in Samarkand. A dispute regarding an alleged clock malfunction delayed the start of round 7 by close to an hour, while a 13-move draw — featuring only knight moves — between Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi resulted in both players losing a half point as their encounter, according to the Chief Arbiter, would “bring the game of chess into disrepute”. Meanwhile, Valentina Gunina got a 1½-point lead in the women’s tournament after finishing day 1 with an astonishing 8½/9 score. | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

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Dubov 0 - 0 Nepomniachtchi

Six players are sharing the lead after 12 rounds in the open section of the World Blitz Championships: Magnus Carlsen, Vladislav Artemiev, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Arjun Erigaisi, Nihal Sarin and Alexander Riazantsev. The players in the leading group each scored 9 points, with Artemiev having the strongest start in Samarkand — the 25-year-old GM won his first six games on Friday.

Two more players — Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi — appeared as co-leaders on the Chess-Results website for a few hours, but then saw their scores being lowered by a half point once the Appeals Committee upheld the decision taken by the Chief Arbiter earlier in the day.

Dubov and Nepomniachtchi had played the following (knight) moves before agreeing to a draw in round 11: 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 ½ - ½

Nepo later posted a YouTube link to Sergei Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights. X’s user Normchess clipped the sequence and added the audio of the aforementioned allegro pesante:

Chief Arbiter IA Ivan Syrovy first informed of his decision to give 0 points to both contenders based on subsections 11.1 and 12.9.5 of FIDE’s Laws of Chess:

11.1. The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute.

12.9.5. Options available to the arbiter concerning penalties: reducing the points scored in the game by the offending player.

According to Syrovy, the moves played in the game demonstrate that Dubov and Nepomniachtchi had prearranged the result of the game. The players objected to the decision, which prompted a referral to the Appeals Committee. The Committee unanimously voted (3/3) to reject the appeal.

Once the decision was confirmed, Dubov and Nepomniachtchi were left with 8½ points each, and now belong to the 7-player pack standing a half point behind the leaders.

Vladislav Artemiev

Co-leader Vladislav Artemiev drew both Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi on Friday | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

The Hong v. Yu controversy

Five rounds earlier, another dispute that was eventually resolved by the Appeals Committee delayed the start of round 7 by close to an hour.

On board 11, Andrew Hong lost on time in his game with white against Yu Yangyi. According to Hong, however, he had pressed the clock and the clock had malfunctioned.

After checking the clock and talking to both players — with Ju Wenjun serving as translator for Yu — the Appeals Committee took their time and eventually decided to keep the score as was originally established: i.e. a win for Yu. FIDE shared the letter of the Committee explaining their reasoning for taking this decision.

One of the consequences of this dispute — perhaps the most relevant — was the fact that the games in the open section continued until around 10 p.m. in Samarkand. By the end of the day, the players looked exhausted. GM Àlvar Alonso Rosell reflected on X about the experience of playing 12 rounds of blitz (against top opposition) on a single day — with long waiting times between rounds:

It is mental hell to have to put up with such long waits (I speak from experience), and it leads to a drastic drop of quality in the games.

Notwithstanding the controversies, the participants will return to the playing hall on Saturday (one hour earlier than usual) to play 9 more rounds of blitz. In the day’s first round, MVL will get the white pieces against Carlsen.

World Blitz Chess Championship 2023

Women’s world champion helping Yu Yangyi with the translations, as he and Andrew Hong explain what happened to the arbiters | Photo: FIDE / Anastasia Korolkova

Caruana 1 - 0 Sjugirov

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

World Blitz Chess Championship 2023

In a good mood — Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Magnus Carlsen and Laurent Fressinet | Photo: FIDE / Anastasia Korolkova

Standings after round 12

Rk. SNo Name Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4 
1 Artemiev, Vladislav 9 88,5
2 Carlsen, Magnus 9 85
3 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 9 82,5
4 Nihal, Sarin 9 82
5 Erigaisi, Arjun 9 80,5
6 Riazantsev, Alexander 9 78
7 Dubov, Daniil 8,5 89
8 Sjugirov, Sanan 8,5 87,5
9 Tabatabaei, M. Amin 8,5 85,5
10 Murzin, Volodar 8,5 84,5
11 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 8,5 83
12 Shimanov, Aleksandr 8,5 75
13 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 8,5 71,5
14 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 8 85,5
15 Makhnev, Denis 8 84,5
16 Sarana, Alexey 8 83
17 Tsydypov, Zhamsaran 8 82
18 Narayanan, S L 8 80
19 Radjabov, Teimour 8 78,5
20 Indjic, Aleksandar 8 78
21 Mamedov, Rauf 8 78
22 Yu, Yangyi 8 76,5
23 Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 8 75,5
24 Sindarov, Javokhir 8 75
25 Maghsoodloo, Parham 8 74,5

...206 players

All available games

Gunina leads with 8½/9!

While 13 players have either 8½ or 9 points (out of 12) in the open section, a player managed to get a 1½-point lead (after 9 rounds) in the women’s tournament. The ever-creative Valentina Gunina kicked off the event with 7 wins in a row, drew Harika Dronavalli and ended the day with a win over women’s world rapid champion Anastasia Bodnaruk to become the clear leader of the blitz competition.

Remarkably, Gunina came from playing 11 decisive games in the rapid championship, as she finished in seventh place with an 8/11 score!

Standing 1½ points behind the 34-year-old from Murmansk are five players: Kateryna Lagno, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Harika Dronavalli, Anastasia Bodnaruk and Leya Garifullina.

Valentina Gunina

Valentina Gunina | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

Not surprisingly — since this is a blitz tournament — Gunina showcased a sharp, tactical style throughout the first day of action. In fact, her two last wins of day 1, over Gunay Mammadzada and Bodnaruk, ended in checkmate.

In round 2, she defeated Indian rising star Savitha Shri in only 21 moves.

21.Qb3 — instead of 21.Qc2 — allowed 21...Nh4, with mate-in-two on the board. Capturing the knight gives way to mate on h2.

Savitha Shri

Savitha Shri ended the day with 4/9 points | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

Gunina’s final win of the day came after Bodnaruk neglected her back rank decisively.

An in-form Gunina — who, by the way, had a 1-minute advantage on the clock — quickly found 32...Rd1+ 33.Bxd1 Qd1#.

Will she manage to make the most of her massive lead on Saturday? Tough opponents stand close behind, as eight more rounds of blitz await!

Alexandra Kosteniuk

In the chasing pack — Alexandra Kosteniuk | Photo: FIDE / Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 9

Rk. SNo Name Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4 
1 Gunina, Valentina 8,5 48,5
2 Kosteniuk, Alexandra 7 48
3 Dronavalli, Harika 7 46,5
4 Bodnaruk, Anastasia 7 45,5
5 Garifullina, Leya 7 44
6 Lagno, Kateryna 7 43
7 Mammadzada, Gunay 6,5 46,5
8 Munkhzul, Turmunkh 6,5 43,5
9 Goryachkina, Aleksandra 6,5 43
10 Shukhman, Anna 6,5 42
11 Assaubayeva, Bibisara 6 47,5
12 Narva, Mai 6 47
13 Divya, Deshmukh 6 41,5
14 Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 6 41
15 Omonova, Umida 6 41
16 Salimova, Nurgyul 6 40,5
17 Stefanova, Antoaneta 6 39,5
18 Mkrtchyan, Mariam 6 39,5
19 Danielian, Elina 6 39
20 Kamalidenova, Meruert 6 39
21 Wagner, Dinara 6 37,5
22 Muzychuk, Anna 6 36
23 Charochkina, Daria 6 33,5
24 Priyanka, Nutakki 6 32,5
25 Zhu, Jiner 5,5 50,5

...118 players

All available games


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.