Nakamura Starts With 10/12, Leads World Blitz Chess Championship

Nakamura Starts With 10/12, Leads World Blitz Chess Championship


GM Hikaru Nakamura ascertained a commanding lead after scoring 10/12 on the first day of the 2022 FIDE World Blitz Chess Championship on Thursday. Nakamura defeated eight grandmasters en route to his imperious score, conceding only four draws against GMs Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Daniil Dubov, and Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

IM Polina Shuvalova and GM Valentina Gunina finished the first day on top of the women’s blitz championship with scores of 7.5/9. The women’s event was a slightly more tumultuous affair than the open with many of the top seeds losing games in the early rounds which opened up the field considerably.

The World Blitz Chess Championship will come to its conclusion on Friday, December 30, starting at 12 a.m. PT / 10:00 CET.

Fewer than 24 hours after the crowning of a new rapid chess world champion, 175 open players descended upon the Baluan Sholak Palace of Culture and Sport in Almaty, Kazakhstan to contest for the coveted title of world blitz chess champion and a share of the $350,00 prize fund.

Headlined by the defending champion GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the 24-round event will see most of the world’s top players vie for the title. Some of the players who will likely pose a challenge are heavy rating favorites Nakamura and Carlsen, as well as other 2700+ players including GMS Yu Yangyi, Vladislav Artemiev, Dubov, and Giri.

Only Carlsen has managed to defend the world blitz title, which he did on two occasions in 2018 and 2019. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After a dramatic finish to the FIDE World Rapid Championship in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, lopsided round-one matchups seemed unlikely to produce comparable tension. In a surprise twist, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. The news of the round was undoubtedly Carlsen arriving late to the board and playing his entire game against GM Vladislav Kovalev with 30 seconds on his clock. 59 moves later the world champion secured a win and it was later revealed that he was “stuck in traffic” after going skiing earlier in the day.

The skiing that Tarjei Svensen was alluding to likely took place near the Shymbulak ski resort, which the world number-one had visited with the reigning blitz champion Vachier-Lagrave days earlier.

Besides a few draws, the top 10 seeds survived the first two rounds relatively unscathed. However, things began to get trickier as the third unfolded. One of the tournament favorites GM Ian Nepomniachtchi was spectacularly upset by GM Aleksandr Shimanov, who beat up his compatriot with the bishop pair.

Yu, who is one of the most consistent performers in elite blitz tournaments, found an incisive combination to quell Serbian GM Velimir Ivic‘s perfect start. The Chinese GM finished the all-encompassing barrage with a queen sacrifice, culminating in a back-rank checkmate.

Heading into the fourth round only 12 players remained on a perfect score and the whittling down continued with an astounding six decisive results on the top boards. Nakamura scored a key win against dark horse GM Nihal Sarin while GM Denis Lazavik overcame a 249 rating deficit to knock over GM Shakriyar Mamedyarov. This meant the gap between him and the next lowest-rated player on his score, Duda, was just shy of 300 points! 

Lazavik was among elite company after four rounds. Image:

Crunch time arrived in round five as the top 10 seeds caved in and were forced to play against each other. The crucial matchups of Duda-Carlsen and Giri-Nakamura both provided significant intrigue and were arguably tough matchups for the two higher-rated players.

The Polish superstar Duda has proven to be a thorn in Carlsen’s side in the past, but on Thursday the world champion was simply too good, even employing the Modern Defense to get the job done. The board-two game was quickly drawn while Lazavik’s brilliant run finally came to the end at the hands of Yu.

The Modern Defense was the poison of choice for Carlsen against Duda. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Boards one and two featured near-identical incidences in round seven after both Giri and Yu lost on time against the tournament’s top seeds. Feeling the heat and trying to avoid a forced checkmate in 10 against Nakamura, Yui’s clock drained in a helpless position but Giri, who was much worse, was able to foreshadow the way the game was heading and dropped his shoulders as the flag fell.

To be a fly on the wall after the Giri-Carlsen game! Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All eyes zoned in on the showdown between top seeds Nakamura and Carlsen in round eight as the two dueled to decide if one would become the sole leader. The intentions of the players became clear after a drawish version of the Queen’s Gambit Declined: Semi Tarrasch arose and on the 21st move the players shook hands without theatrics. Thanks to draws on lower boards, their joint lead on 7/8 was maintained.

Round nine was a relatively quiet round with draws on the top four boards, but this was merely the calm before the storm heading into the last three rounds of the day. Mamedyarov played beautifully against Carlsen with the black pieces and managed to win a pawn on move 28.

Charged with adrenaline, the players began blitzing out moves as the world champion attempted to defend a difficult position. The Azerbaijani GM, who found himself on the verge of victory, blundered a perpetual check, which Carlsen pounced upon when the opportunity arose.

Three draws in a row for each of the leaders meant that by the day’s penultimate round, two chasers, Dubov and GM Haik Martirosyan, had caught them.

With players tiring as the day wore on the draw rate crept up, and for the fourth game straight, Carlsen drew his game, this time against Dubov. Nakamura’s Indian Game: Black Knight’s Tango was more of a waltz in round 11 as he defeated Martirosyan and took a half-point lead over his nearest chasers.

That lead would be extended to a full point when the famous content creator blew GM Vladimir Fedoseev off the board in the final round of the day. Analyzed below by GM Rafael Leitao, our Game of the Day sums up the uncompromising style that Nakamura brought to the table on Thursday in order to take the lead.

Although Nakamura failed to make his mark in the rapid championship, it must be noted that the Fischer Random world champion has still not lost a game in Kazakhstan over the last week in the rapid or blitz tournaments. With 12 rounds left to play, he has quickly become the favorite to snatch his first world blitz title.

2022 World Blitz Chess Championship | Standings After Round 12 (Top 20)

# Fed Title Name Rating Points
1 GM Hikaru Nakamura  2909 10
2 GM Anish Giri  2792 9
3 GM Magnus Carlsen  2830 9

GM Daniil Dubov  2792 9
5 GM Haik Martirosyan  2745 9
6 GM Richard Rapport  2654 9

GM Vladimir Fedoseev  2733 8.5

GM Vladislav Artemiev  2803 8.5
9 GM Raunak Sadhwani 2657 8.5

GM Aleksandr Shimanov  2605 8.5

GM Maxim Matlakov  2674 8.5
12 GM Jules Moussard  2606 8.5

GM ian Nepomniachtchi  2782 8.5

GM Denis Lazavik  2484 8
15 GM  Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2773 8
16 GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov  2733 8
17 GM Vincent Keymer  2600 8
18 IM Mukhiddin Madaminov  2333 8
19 GM Nihal Sarin 2702 8

GM Dmitry Andreikin  2735 8

(Full standings here.)

All World Blitz Chess Championship Games

This year’s women’s tournament features a number of previous world blitz champions including defending champion IM Bibisara Assaubayeva as well as GMs Kateryna Lagno, Gunina, and Nana Dzagnidze.

Assaubayeva exceeded all expectations when she won the 2021 championship. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Much like the open section, the women’s section started with a splash of drama, with the top seed Lagno immediately falling to WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova with the white pieces. The fourth and fifth seeds GM Humpy Koneru and Alexandra Kosteniuk were also casualties in the first round, each losing to play over 200 rating points lower than them.

The first round was a bloodbath for the top 10 seeds. Photo:

Upsets were so prevalent in the early rounds that by the time round three was complete, not a single one of the top five seeds was left standing on 3/3, courtesy of a GM Elina Danielian victory over GM Aleksandra Goryachkina on board one. While Goryachkina found herself 11 moves from delivering checkmate after a successful Kings Indian Attack, the shocking 47.Bd2?? completely threw the lead away and opened the floodgates for the aggressive Armenian.

In round five, 21-year-old Shuvalova emerged as the leader after defeating Danielian and wins over Dzagnidze and GM Harika Dronavalli cemented her spot as one of the tournament frontrunners. Only a loss at the hands of Gunina stunted Shuvalova’s run which saw her finish the day with a 2613 performance rating.

Gunina’s run was potentially even more impressive as not a single game was lost en route to her 7.5/9 score. Gunina will face her biggest challenge yet when she takes on Kosteniuk in round 10,

Kosteniuk will have her chance to usurp the leaders in round 10. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The defending champion Assaubayeva’s bid for title retention took a hit in the final round of the day when she lost to recently minted GM Elisabeth Paehtz. The loss leaves her 1.5 points shy of the lead and in need of an unbeaten run when play resumes on Friday.

2022 Women’s World Blitz Chess Championship | Standings After Round 9 (Top 20) 

# Fed Title Name Rating Points

IM Shuvalova Polina 2361 7.5

GM Gunina Valentina 2368 7.5
3 GM Tan Zhongyi 2510 7

GM Goryachkina Aleksandra 2484 7

GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2469 7
6 GM Harika Dronavalli 2407 6.5
7 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2416 6.5
8 GM Paehtz Elisabeth 2396 6.5
9 GM Danielian Elina 2331 6
10 IM Tania Sachdev 2309 6
11 IM Javakhishvili Lela 2364 6
12 IM Assaubayeva Bibisara 2404 6

GM Lagno Kateryna 2522 6
14 IM Fataliyeva Ulviyya 2322 6
15 IM Mammadzada Gunay 2383 6
16 WGM Injac Teodora 2316 6
17 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2431 6
18 IM Gaponenko Inna 2291 6
19 IM Padmini Rout 2298 6
20 WIM Nurgali Nazerke 2067 5.5

(Full standings here.)

All Women’s World Blitz Chess Championship Games

The 2022 FIDE World Blitz Championship is an elite over-the-board event featuring the best speed chess players in the world. Masters and national champions from around the globe gather to compete in a Swiss tournament for their share of the $350,000 prize fund.

Classical world champion Carlsen, followed by speed chess legends Nakamura, Duda, and Vachier-Lagrave head the field and will be challenged by numerous other 2700+ players. 

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