Newly crowned world rapid chess champion Magnus Carlsen is the early forerunner to win the world blitz chess title as well.
The Norwegian has taken a slim lead over his rivals after the first day of competition at the World Blitz Chess Championships in Moscow.
Leading the women’s competition is Russian Katerino Lagno, who is being chased by a pack of four grandmasters including newly crowned women’s rapid chess champion Humpy Koneru of India
After 12 rounds in the men’s competition, Carlsen has 10 points, just is half a point ahead of the second-placed Russian Maxim Matlakov , while another three players are on nine points.
The first day of the competition saw a surprising performance by the 15-year-old Uzbek grandmaster odirbek Abdusattorov who started the Blitz with five wins.
The only other player with a maximum score after five rounds was Carlsen. The two met head-to-head in the next match where Abdusattorov sacrificed a pawn and played positionally.
Carlsen managed to take control of the game by blocking Black’s key pieces, but then the Norwegian blundered badly as he overlooked his main pawn. The World Champion couldn’t hide his anger and was clearly frustrated. The game eventually ended with a draw.
Abdusattorov’s performance slipped in the second half of the first day, but with seven points and having played some of the strongest players in the Blitz, his score is impressive.
A big surprise in the tournament came in Round Seven which saw Carlsen’s first defeat in the Blitz, having previously won the Rapid without a loss.
He lost to Dmitry Andreikin, the two-time Russian champion. Carlsen ended in time trouble with his king in danger. After a few exchanges around the black’s king on the kingside, Carlsen was two pawns down and eventually resigned.
This was his first loss having played 21 games in the Rapid and the Blitz without defeat. Carlsen quickly brushed off this defeat as in the remaining five rounds he won four games and drew one – with American Hikaru Nakamura.
Matlakov, who is chasing Carlsen for the title, had five points after the first six rounds (four wins and two draws). He then had a series of three consecutive draws followed by three wins. Matlakov’s key moment will likely be in the first game of the second day of the Blitz, in Round 13, when he will be facing Carlsen on board one.
Three players are sharing third to fifth position – Nakamura, Daniil Dubov, and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The bronze-medallist from the 2018 Blitz in St. Petersburg, Nakamura, had the momentum taken away from him in the third round when he suffered a defeat at the hands of Alireza Firouzja (who finished the day with an impressive score of 8), and then barely saved a draw in Round Four against Timur Gareyev. who with 8 points is someone to watch out for in the final part of the competition.
Dubov started the Blitz with a loss to Ilia ljiushenok but then regained his confidence and maintained a strong performance until the end of the day, without a loss. Ian Nepomniachtchi suffered two loses in the first day, to Ponkratov (8) and Socko (8), but won all of his last four games, which will likely bolster his confidence ahead of the decisive day of the Blitz.
Former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik is also on eight points after 12 rounds. Kramnik’s first loss came in Round Five, where he was defeated by Sergey Karjakin (6½). The former world champion lost two more games (to Gabriel Sargissian (8) in the seventh round and to Boris Savchenko (8) in Round Nine
Overall, not a bad result so far for someone who has retired from active chess.
Nine games were played on the first day of the Women’s Blitz. Kateryna showed she was serious about defending her 2018 women’s world blitz title. She has eight points out of nine rounds and has already defeated some of her most likely competitors for the title.
There are four players trailing her – Alexandra Kosteniuk, Humpy, Daria Charochkina, and Alina Kashlinskaya, all on 7 points.
Alexandra Kosteniuk finished the day with just one loss and will face Lagno in the tenth round. The winner of this year’s women’s rapid, Humpy Koneru lost to the day-one leader Lagno in a dramatic game at the final round of the first day of the Blitz.