Samarkand To Host World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championships


FIDE has announced the venue for the 2023 FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Championships less than two months before it is due to start.

The world governing body of chess confirmed the traditional Christmas event will take place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, from December 26 to 30, with a $1 million prize fund. 

It follows concern among players, reported in the Norwegian press this week, that yet again the announcement had been left late. 

Carlsen finished with a commanding score of 10/13 in the Rapid last time around. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

GM Johan-Sebastian Christiansen had told NRK: “It is simply hopeless and amateurish. It’s like this every year and I really don’t understand why. It ruins it for so many players. Not too much time is wasted on preparation, but it will be much more difficult if it ends up in a country with visa requirements.”

GM Aryan Tari added: “As usual, we still don’t know which country will host, which is ridiculous. As players, we are used to it not being announced until a couple of weeks before the tournament. It happens every year and has become a tradition.”

World number-one Magnus Carlsen is likely to be back to defend the two world championship titles he claimed in 2022, though the local contingent will be strong, with Uzbekistan the reigning Olympiad champions.

The Uzbekistan team with GMs Ivan Sokolov (coach), Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Nodirbek Yakubboev, Jahongir Vakhidov, and Javokhir Sindarov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The World Rapid and Blitz is the latest high-level event to be awarded to the rising chess power of Uzbekistan. The city of Khiva, in the north west of Uzbekistan, recently hosted the “Russian” half of the 2022/23 Women’s Candidates, with the ease of Russian players being able to obtain visas perhaps a factor in the choice of venue.

The 2026 Chess Olympiad will also take place in Uzbekistan and, in a press release issued on Wednesday, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich said: “FIDE recognizes Uzbekistan’s rich chess tradition and its recent emergence as a chess superpower. This dedication and investment in chess led us to entrust the hosting of this prestigious event to Uzbekistan.

“Uzbekistan will also host the 2026 Chess Olympiad – and hosting such a major event as World Rapid and Blitz will certainly give a boost to preparations.”

The format of the events remains the same. The first three days of rapid chess see 13 rounds in the Open section (11 in the Women’s) of chess with 15 minutes per player and a 10-second increment from move 1. Then the final two days of blitz are played over 21 rounds (17 rounds for the Women’s) of 3+2 chess.

The top prize in each Open event is $60,000, with $40,000 for the Women’s tournaments. In last year’s event in nearby Almaty, Kazakhstan, Carlsen ensured he wouldn’t be without a world title in 2023 by clinching clear first in both the World Rapid and Blitz Championships, to grow his world championship haul to 15 titles: five Classical, six Blitz, and four Rapid.

He finished 0.5 points ahead of GMs Vincent Keymer and Fabiano Caruana in Rapid, and a full point ahead of GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Haik Martirosyan in Blitz. The Women’s titles were taken in Rapid by GM Tan Zhongyi (in a playoff against IM Dinara Saduakassova) and in Blitz by IM Bibisara Assaubayeva, who took the title for a second year in a row, half a point ahead of Humpy Koneru.

Playing on home soil there will be intense focus on the 2022 Olympiad-winning Uzbekistan team, including 2021 World Rapid Champion GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and 17-year-old GM Javokhir Sindarov, who just crossed 2700 on the classical rating list.

Another storyline is that the World Rapid and Blitz Championships will be the last event to be rated for the 2023 FIDE Circuit that decides one spot in the FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2024.

It’s relatively unlikely that the event will decide the spot, but if it did it would be a hugely dramatic finish to the year.





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