Levon Aronian Dominates Day 1 of World Blitz Chess Championship 2021, Carlsen Having A Bad Day

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The World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championship 2021 event continued with the Blitz event on the 29th of December 2021. The top seeds came into the Blitz event with the intent to avoid the reoccurrence of the Rapid event upset. Players will have to adapt quickly to the rapidly ticking clock unlike in other tournaments they’re used to. The time control for the event is set at 3 minutes with an increment of 2 seconds per move from move 1. Thanks to the swiftness of each game, there was room for 12 rounds of chess on Day 1.

Weak Title Defense

World blitz chess championship 2021
A far-from-pleased Magnus. Image: Rafal Oleksiewicz

Magnus Carlsen might have lost his rapid crown to Abdusattorov to dash his hopes of another triple crown, but he would be looking to compensate for the disappointment by maintaining the blitz crown. However, all have not gone according to plans for the Norwegian. He, quite unusually, lost three games, including two on a bounce after starting well with four wins out of four.

His first loss came against Polish Grandmaster Bartosz Socko, who outplayed the defending champion in 45 moves and forced him into a mate-in-two position. The next loss for Carlsen came instantly after the first punch. Vladimir Feedoseev blitzed through the queenside of the 5-time World champion. Once again, the resignation followed after one of Black’s pawns couldn’t be stopped from reaching the finish line.

Carlsen recovered well against another Russian GM Alexander Predke and Israeli GM Boris Gelfand, but the recovery was short-lived. Old rival, Shakriyar Mamedyarov managed to scale through a poor opening to land another blow on the 16th undisputed World Champion. Bitten by the blitz clock once more, Carlsen missed a basic discovered attack. All attempts at damage control proved futile as Magnus raised the White flag just when Stockfish declared a mate in 12 for Mamedyarov.

The telling blunder by Carlsen

He currently sits in 8th position after gathering 8.5 points out of 12. This leaves him 1.5 points adrift of top-placed Levon Aronian with everything to play for in the next 9 rounds. He comes up against GM Moghsoodloo Parham of Iran in Round 13.

Unstoppable Aronian

World blitz chess championship 2021
Is he back? Image: Mark Livshitz

9 wins in 12 rounds place the American player firmly in the top spot in the blitz event. Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alexander Grischuk, and Daniil Dubov are a few top players who have all tasted defeats in the hands of Levon in this tournament. He boasts the highest tournament performance rating with 2902, having already bagged 45.2 Elo rating points from his successful campaign so far.

Here’s an instructive game against Daniil:

Aronian’s only loss in the blitz event so far has come against India’s Abhimanyu Puranik. Puranik with the white pieces showed courage to win against an opponent rated over 300 Elo rating points above him. It took 56 moves and a hopeless position to force Aronian to throw in the towel. However, he recovered from the loss by winning 5 games on the bounce. Day 2 sees him come against 3+2 specialist, GM Bassem Amin of Egypt.

Eyes On The Man Of The Moment

Can he repeat the same feat? Image: Rafal Oleksiewicz

Handling the pressure that comes with a spotlight can be overwhelming sometimes. The young Uzbek Grandmaster sits outside the top 50 on the standings after 12 rounds. He has managed to gather 6.5 points, but the 5 losses so far all but replicate his rapid form. He did manage to score wins against top players like Jorden Van Foreest and the Armenian Tigran Petrosian.

The World Rapid Champion continues his blitz campaign against Merab Gagunashvili from Georgia.

Underwhelming Caruana

Fabiano at the event. Image: Mark Livshitz.

Fabiano Caruana has also had a slow start to his blitz campaign after managing 5 wins, 4 draws, and 3 losses from his first 12 games. His performance currently places him at 52nd position with all to play for on Day 2. He would be looking to add to his wins against GM Samy Shoker, Grigoriy Oparin, and the rest.

His loss against Boris Gelfand was one of his poorest blitz performances, with 81 average centipawn loss. Despite Gelfand having 3 blunders, Caruana’s 4 blunders took the game beyond his reach, and the former world challenger would hope to recover against Maxim Matlakov at the start of Day 2.

Surprise Packages

Parham Maghsoodloo

Parham has put up a strong performance so far. Image: Anna Shtourman.

The Iranian top seed sits comfortably at 3rd place with 9 points from Day 1. His only blemish in the tournament so far has come from a loss to FIDE Master Jan Klimkowski from Poland. The 21-year old has gained 31.8 Elo points in what has been a successful campaign so far. He faces his biggest test so far against the Blitz World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the next round.

Bassem Amin

GM Bassem Amin. Image: Anna Shtourman

Not often do we see a player from Africa compete for the top prize. Bassem Amin has risen against all odds to be well on course to be the next blitz champion of the world. The Egyptian is probably the biggest gainer of Elo ratings so far with 62.4 already in the bag. In this tournament, he has gone toe to toe with Ian Nepomniachtchi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and Maxime Vashier-Lagrave and has held his own in the games.

His only loss so far is against Turkish GM Vahap Sanal. If he wins the event, it would be the first time an African player has won a World Champion title. His quest continues against Levon Aronian on Day 2.

How Other Favorites Fared

Invincible Nakamura

Drawmura? Image: Anna Shtourman

So far, GM Hikaru Nakamura has been the only player to not have tasted defeat after 12 rounds. His draw-dominated performance, including drawing 5 on the bounce, has cost him 33.8 Elo rating points so far. Certainly, he would look to convert the draws to win as he resumes his quest against speedy Russian, Daniil Dubov.

Rock-solid Sasha

Rock Solid Sasha. Image: Anna Shtourman

Alexander Grischuk, popularly called Sasha, has lost only to the current sole leader and would be looking to build on his good start in the tournament. He will test his strength against Vladislav Artemiev in the next round. Vladislav came into the tournament as the third highest-rated player.

Erigaisi and Dubov level on points with Carlsen

Smiling Erigaisi. Image: ChessBase India

Two players popular for their speed in online chess have fared well so far in the world blitz championship. They sit in 12th and 9th respectively heading into round 13. Erigaisi would be looking to build on his last-round draw with Carlsen as he faces Uzbek GM Javokhir Sindarov next.

Firouzja Vs Abdusattorov

Clash of the titans. Image: Chess Base India

Spectators were already brewing a comparison between an established youngster, Alireza, and hot new prospect, Nodirbek. Alireza was quick to shut down the comparison as he dismantled the 17-year old in just 29 moves. The Trompowsky Attack was the latest trick up the Iranian’s sleeve as Alireza never looked troubled in the game.

A string of poor Knight moves gave Alireza significant control of the initiative. The French-Iranian made no mistake with 29.Rc4, aiming to seize control of the c file. Abdusattorov resigned at this point.

The Blitz Emotions

Slamming the board, uttering cuss words, and unconventional facial expressions are the typical ways to react to bad outcomes in chess games, especially in blitz chess. This time, IM Pawel Teclaf from Poland launched a new reaction by falling off a chair after blundering mate in 2.

Into The Women Section

Bibisara Assaubayeva, sole lead with 8/9. Image: Michal Walusza

Alexandra Kosteniuk would be looking to bag the double after starting her blitz campaign. In 9 rounds so far, she has been without any draws, losing 2 and winning 7. One of her losses came against the current leader with 8 points 17-year old IM Bibisara Assaubeyava, the woman who finished behind her on the rapid podium. She faces Humpy Koneru in the next round, while Bibisara would hope to continue her 4-game winning streak against IM Vaishali from India.

It’s far from over in the women’s section as there are still 8 rounds to go on Day 2. Who do you tip to bag the open and women’s prizes? Let us know in the comments below.

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