The Fide World Rapid and Blitz Championships should satisfy the appetite of chess lovers who have been craving for bigger events in Qatar after two successful editions of Qatar Masters.
The twin world championship featuring more than 400 players from 75 countries, including world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and former world champion Viswanathan Anand of India, will start today at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena.
The Rapid and Blitz format is not as prominent as the classic one, but presence of title holders and former champions are a big boost for the championship.
“Rapid and Blitz are for enjoyment. It is touch and go. You make one mistake and you are gone,” Carlsen said during a pre-event press conference yesterday.
Carlsen’s World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin (Elo 2785) of Russia will also have an opportunity to avenge his tie-breaker defeat to the Norwegian in the FIDE World Championships in New York recently.
Anand (Elo 2779), who missed out on a World Championship match this year, will get a chance to lock horns with Carlsen, who will be looking to defend his Rapid title.
The top-seeded Norwegian (Elo 2853) will also face tough challenges from France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2811), Armenia’s Levon Aronian (2795) and USA’s Hikaru Nakamura (2779) in his bid to defend the title.
The young champion is aware of the tough battle ahead and said it would not be easy as many former world champions would be breathing down his neck in Qatar.
“Yes, Vishy and many others will be a hurdle for me. Though I can’t pinpoint any specific names, who will be a threat to me here,” said Carlsen.
The world No. 1 would be looking for a ‘double’, eyeing the Blitz title he had last won in 2014.
Anand, who was also present for the press conference, said the field looks strong.
“It will be a tough one,” the 47-year-old Indian GM said.
The Chennai-born, who became a grandmaster three decades back, said he has come back to Qatar after a gap of 26 years and over the years the country has undergone drastic changes.
The Grandmaster said he was confident the hosts will deliver an excellent championship.
“I have known (Qatar Chess Association general secretary) Mohamed (al-Medhaiki) for many years and I am sure that the organisation of the championship will match the high standards they have set over the years.”
In the women’s Rapid event, defending champion Kateryna Lagno of Russia is once again the favourite, while Ukraine-born Anna Muzychuk is expected to defend her Blitz title she won in Khanty-Mansiysk.
“I am happy to be in Qatar, this is my first trip to the country and hopefully it will be a memorable one,” the GM, who plays for Slovakia said.
Al-Medhaiki, for his part said, “We are happy to host this tournament in Qatar. This is the second time an event of such magnitude will be hosted in the Middle East. The high calibre of players who have indicated their interest to come to Doha is a testimony to the quality of organisation of our past tournaments, especially the Qatar Masters.”
Qatar is hosting the championships for the first time.
“It’s going to be another big occasion for us. We’ll live up to our expectations as a good host. The Qatar Masters was a classic tournament, but Rapid and Blitz events will give fans something different to look forward to. We need such big tournaments to educate the parents and kids. The chess activity improved a lot over the last three years with many new students enrolled in QCA training centres,” the Qatari GM said.
The Rapid event will be held over three days (December 26-28) at a time control of 15min+10s and the Blitz Championships will be run on the next two days (December 29-30) at a time control of 3min+2s. Both the events will be Swiss pairings tournaments.
The Blitz will have 21 rounds in open championship and 17 rounds in the women’s championship, with a single game for each round of the Swiss event.
On the other hand, the Rapid will be of 15 rounds for Open and 12 rounds for the women’s championship, with a single game for each round of the Swiss event.
The total prize fund for the tournament is $400,000 with $40,000 for the winner of each championship and $80,000 in the women championships with $10,000 for the winner of each championship.
World Blitz champions, three-time winner Alexander Grischuk (2006, 2012, 2015), Vassily Ivanchuk (2007), Leinier Dominguez (2008), Levon Aronian (2010), world Rapid champion Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2013) and other top players are also taking part in the tournament.
In the women’s section former world Rapid champions Alexandra Kosteniuk, Antoaneta Stefanova, Anna Ushenina, Zhu Chen, 2014 world Rapid champion and 2010 world Blitz champion Katerina Lagno, 2012 world Blitz champion Valentina Gunina, FIDE Grand Prix Series winner Ju Wenjun and other top players also feature in the participants list.
26 Dec: Day 1 – Rapid
27 Dec: Day 2 – Rapid
28 Dec: Day 3 – Rapid
29 Dec: Day 1 – Blitz
30 Dec: Day 2 - Blitz
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