A wide-open race in the World Blitz as Carlsen suffers three defeats

An open field in the World Blitz Chess Championships as defending champions Carlsen and Lagno underperform on the first day

Defending champion Magnus Carlsen got off to a bad start in the World Blitz Chess Championship having suffered three losses on the first day and is a point and a half behind the tournament leader Levon Aronian.

Sitting alone at the top on 10/12, Aronian (who in 2010 won the world blitz) lost just one game but beat all of his main opponents of the day. He is, however, yet to play the defending champion Magnus Carlsen as well as Hikaru Nakamura (who has won the silver medal in the previous edition of the event).

Egypt’s Bassem Amin has staged a big surprise, finishing day one alone in second place, with 9.5/12, and is followed by the top Iranian player and former junior world champion Parham Maghsoodloo who is on 9/12.

They are chased by a field of 12 grandmasters all with 8.5 points, including defending champion Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Daniil Dubov, Alexander Grischuk as well as one of the top blitz players in the world, Hikaru Nakamura who also struggled to make a breakthrough, making five draws in a row.

The third tier of players, on 8/12, is led by local favourite Jan-Krzysztof Duda and includes former contender for the world chess crown and the 2016 World Blitz Champion Sergey Karjakin. World number two Alireza Firouzja is also on 8/12 but it is clear that he is not in his element. He started with a loss and then made two draws. His two-game victory run in rounds Four and Five ended when Serbian GM Aleksandar Indjic dominated the young French superstar in Round Six. Two more victories and Firouzja lost another game – to Alexander Predke in Round Nine. However, the 18-year-old showed he is world-class material by keeping his cool and making a comeback with three victories in the final three rounds of the first day of the blitz.

The former contender for the title of World Champion, American Fabiano Caruana is on 7/12, while the winner of this year’s world rapid championship, Nodirbek Abdusattorov has 6.5 points.

A day of ups and downs for Magnus Carlsen

The problems for Carlsen began in Round Five where he got into time trouble and found himself in an inferior position Black against Polish GM Bartosz Socko. To make things even worse for the World Champion, he ended up a piece down with no compensation and had to capitulate. The audience burst into applause as Carlsen shook the hand of his opponent admitting defeat.

Then came another shock for Carlsen. In Round Six he was leading white pieces against the strong Grandmaster Vladimir Fedoseev (who finished the day on 8.5/12). The world champion played fast making sure he didn’t repeat the mistake from the previous round and end up in time trouble. He achieved control over the game but his execution was poor and – again – Carlsen made a fatal mistake on move 44 and threw in the towel a few moves later. The world champion showed a sign of frustration as he slammed down one of the pieces on the chessboard following the game.

Carlsen then managed to recover, scoring two victories, but then came another blow. In Round Nine, he suffered a loss at the hands of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (who finished the day on 7.5/12). The world champion was gradually outplayed and lost an exchange ending in a hopeless position.

However, Carlsen did not allow the setbacks to crush him completely as he then defeated former Kasparov’s second Mikhail Kobalia and Turkey’s Vahap Sanal. But the day ended on a bitter-sweet note for Carlsen as he didn’t manage to win against India’s Arjun Erigaisi who defended very well as Black.

Carlsen enters the second part of the blitz championship a point and a half behind leader Levon Aronian.

The women’s championship: Bibisara Assaubayeva leads as defender and three-times champion Lagno sinks

With eight points Bibisara Assaubayeva is the sole leader following the first day of the Women’s World Blitz Chess Championships where nine rounds were played on the first day. The 17-year-old player from Kazakhstan has earlier this year shown great promise in the online Women’s Speed Chess Championship where she lost to Hou Yifan. In the first nine rounds of the world blitz, Assaubayeva has lost just one game (to Valentina Gunina), defeating some of the tournament top contenders – Alexandra Kosteniuk, Polina Shuvalova and Anna Muzychuk.

Following a very strong performance in the three-day world rapid championship, 20-year-old Indian player Vaishali Rameshbabu (the sister of the Indian chess prodigy Praggnanandhaa) is in second place with 7.5/9.

Three players are sharing third place – Humpy Koneru, Alexandra Kosteniuk (who managed to recover from a loss in the first round to Turkey’s Ekaterina Atalik) and another Kazakh player, 21-year-old Zhansaya Abdumalik.

Top seed player and the current titleholder, Kateryna Lagno, seriously struggled on the first day of the women’s world blitz tournament. The three-time women’s world blitz champion started with a loss to a significantly lower-rated player and then made a draw. Out of nine rounds, Lagno won just three games, drew four and lost two. With 5/9 she is now as far down as 40th place and will have a tough task in the remaining eight rounds should she want to retain the title.

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