FIDE World Rapid and Blitz 2022

Gunina leads among Women as four players share first place in the Open

The first day of the World Rapid Сhess Сhampionship ended with four leaders in the Open section and Valentina Gunina leading alone in the Women’s tournament

The World Rapid Chess Championship kicked off in Almaty today at 3 PM local time. As in other significant events, the first moves in Round One were ceremonially made by the FIDE President and dignitaries. Joining FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich among the top boards were Kazakhstan’s Minister of Culture and Sports Dauren Abayev, the Akim (mayor) of Almaty Erbolat Dosaev and Sergey Lukyanov, Chairman of the Management Board of Freedom Finance, General partner of the event.

The first day saw five rounds in the open section and four in the women’s tournament.

The Open Rapid

Reigning World Champion in classical chess Magnus Carlsen leads the pack of four players who finished the day on top with 4,5 points out of five games. Joining him are Vladimir Fedoseev, Arjun Erigaisi and Jorden Van Foreest.

Just half a point behind is a pack of ten players which includes Anish Giri, Jan-Krzysztof Duda as well as the two-time winner of the Candidates Ian Nepomniachtchi and the defending World Champion in rapid, Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

The most notable clash of the day in the Open section was in Round Four when two world champions: Carlsen (in classical chess) and Abdusattorov (in rapid) faced one another. After playing 1.b3 – in an opening popularised by the legendary Bent Larsen – Carlsen took the initiative early on in the game forcing Black to gradually retreat until his kingside defence caved in.

Asked if this was “sweet revenge” for the upset Abdusattorov staged in the World Rapid in 2021 by beating Carlsen and eventually taking the crown, and, also for managing to hold him to a draw when both were on five points in the World Blitz Championship in Moscow in 2018, the Norwegian coolly replied – “It’s never a revenge but it was a good win”, with a cheeky smile on his face.

The first day of the Rapid in Almaty was summarized succinctly by Carlsen: “I had three games as Black today so, overall, I’m very happy.”

Along with Carlsen, Vladimir Fedoseev, Jorden Van Foreest, and Indian champion Arjun Erigaisi are also having a great start to the tournament and are sharing first place with Carlsen. Fedoseev began with three wins, then tied with Nihal Sarin. However, he continued to play well and won as Black against the native player Arystanbek Urazayev in the fifth round.

After each scoring four victories, Van Foreest and Erigaisi dropped half a point in the last round of the day. Van Foreest tied with the Polish superstar Jan-Krzysztof Duda in a game in which the Dutchman was significantly better on time but couldn’t do much on the board. The 19-year-old Erigaisi managed to win a pawn against Carlsen after the opening, but he couldn’t find a hole in the world champion’s defences in the later part of the game.

In Round Six Magnus Carlsen will be playing as White against Van Foreest while Vladimir Fedoseev will be looking to capitalise on the first-move advantage against Arjun Erigaisi.

The Women’s Rapid

In the Women’s division, where four rounds were played on day one, three-time Women’s European Champion Valentina Gunina sits alone in first place with a perfect score of 4/4. She established dominance over Nino Batsiashvili in Round Four and swiftly pushed her to resign.

The group of six players who are half a point behind Gunina is led by the previous Women’s World Champion Tan Zhongyi, who just won Pool B of the Women’s Candidates. Joining her are Leya Garifullina, Humpy Koneru, Elina Danielian and Gunay Mammadzada.

The 2021 Women’s World Rapid champion Alexandra Kosteniuk is in the third tier, in a group of 15 players on three points.

A big surprise on the first day of the rapid was 18-year-old WIM Zeinep Sultanbek of Kazakhstan. Rated only 1834, she has performed as 2522 in the first four rounds, beating WGMs Balajayeva, Shuvalova, and Sachdev, and losing only to Danielian. Another young Kazakh player to keep an eye on!

Despite playing in her native country, the 2021 silver medallist in Rapid, Bibisara Assaubayeva is having a difficult time, with two draws, one victory and one defeat after the first four rounds.

Round Five of the Women’s Rapid will see Valentina Gunina trying to hold on to her leading position in the tournament in the game against non-other than former Women’s World Champion Tan Zhongyi.

The games on the second day of the World Rapid Chess Championships will start at 3 PM local time.


The organisation of the event and support

The World Rapid and Blitz championships are held by the Kazakhstan Chess Federation together with the International Chess Federation and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, as well as the Akimat of the city of Almaty.

The event is made possible thanks to the agreement with Freedom Finance, which becomes a General Sponsor of the event. Freedom Broker is an investment company and a stockbroker. Provides access to NYSE, NASDAQ, LSE, HKEX and other largest stock exchanges on the planet.


Text:  Milan Dinic

Photo: Anna Shturman and Lennart Ootes