World Rapid, Blitz Chess Championships Officially Opened; Carlsen To Start With Black
Ju Wenjun and a ballet dancer watch Carlsen picking his color for tomorrow. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

World Rapid, Blitz Chess Championships Officially Opened; Carlsen To Start With Black

| 56 | Chess Event Coverage

The World Rapid and Blitz Championships were officially opened on Tuesday evening in St. Petersburg, Russia. The drawing of lots resulted in Magnus Carlsen and every other player with an odd pairing number starting the rapid tournament with the black pieces tomorrow.

The World Rapid & Blitz runs from December 26 till 30. The first round of the world rapid championship starts . You can follow the games live on our website here.

The ceremony was held on Christmas day in the Manege on St. Isaac's Square in central St. Petersburg, which will also be the tournament venue the next five days. These days it mostly serves as an art exhibition hall, but the building was formerly used for the training of horses by elite cavalry. In one of the speeches, the obvious pun was made that now it's time to move horses again!

Before the ceremony, a press conference took place with world champions Magnus Carlsen and Ju Wenjun, 2016 world championship challenger Sergey Karjakin, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, Russian Chess Federation President Andrey Filatov, and Manege Director Pavel Prigara.

Press conference World Rapid and Blitz Championship 2018The press conference before the ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The first question was for Carlsen: "You won all three titles; which title is the most memorable and most important to you?"
Carlsen: "The next one!"

You can replay the press conference here.

Then he was asked: "What is required for chess players to win all titles?"
Carlsen confidently replied: "I think you need versatility in style and to be able to excel at all time controls. I feel like I have what it takes to do it. I am pretty optimistic about the chances to play a couple of good tournaments here."

Magnus Carlsen Press conference World Rapid and Blitz Championship 2018The most important title for Carlsen? "The next one!" | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The evening included some spectacular dance, video art, acrobatic and musical performances, and part of the ballet Swan Lake was performed as well. The ballet dancers then remained on stage, and were joined by classical world champions Carlsen and Ju, the top seeds of both sections, for the drawing of lots. Carlsen starts with the black pieces tomorrow, Ju with white.

Magnus Carlsen Ju Wenjun Opening World Rapid and Blitz Championship 2018Magnus Carlsen and Ju Wenjun at the drawing of lots. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After it was held in Riyadh last year, the tournament has been moved to St. Petersburg so that players from all federations can participate. Ukrainian GM Pavel Eljanov still decided against playing (possibly due to the current tension between Russia and Ukraine) but for instance his compatriot Anna Muzychuk, who won both titles in 2016 but declined to play in Saudi Arabia last year, is back again.

There is still a distinct Saudi flavor though. Not only does the tournament bear the name of King Salman (it is the second edition, as part of a three-year contract), but as the FIDE President remarked in his speech, players won't be finding pork or alcohol at the event! But the players seemed to enjoy the healthy food and their company, while a band was playing jazz for the last half hour or so.

You can replay the opening ceremony here.

On December 26, 27 and 28 the World Rapid Championship will be played, which is a 15-round Swiss. On each day there will be five rounds; the time control is 15 minutes plus 10 seconds increment.

On December 29 and 30 the World Blitz Championship will be played, a 21-round Swiss. On the first day 11 rounds will be played, and on the last day 10 rounds. The time control is three minutes plus two seconds increment.

For each event, the first prize is 60,000 euros in the open section and 40,000 euros in the women's section; more info can be found in our preview.

Hikaru Nakamura tried his luck against Konstantin Kosteniuk's Chess Robot during the reception after the closing ceremony.

The fields for both the open and women sections are amazingly strong. Below you'll find the top 50 for both sections; a total of 206 players are listed in the open section (including a number of players from Saudi Arabia with ratings below 1900) and 124 in the women's section. 

2018 World Rapid & Blitz | Participants (Top 50)

Fed Title Name Rtg No. Fed Title Name Rtg
GM Carlsen Magnus 2903 1 GM Muzychuk Anna 2595
GM Nakamura Hikaru 2844 2 GM Ju Wenjun 2584
GM Artemiev Vladislav 2812 3 GM Lei Tingjie 2545
GM Fedoseev Vladimir 2810 4 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2540
GM Aronian Levon 2802 5 GM Lagno Kateryna 2539
GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2786 6 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2515
GM Wang Hao 2782 7 IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2506
GM Karjakin Sergey 2774 8 GM Muzychuk Mariya 2493
GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2771 9 GM Harika Dronavalli 2484
GM Harikrishna Pentala 2758 10 GM Koneru Humpy 2479
GM Yu Yangyi 2758 11 GM Goryachkina Aleksandra 2477
GM Kamsky Gata 2757 12 GM Ushenina Anna 2471
GM Svidler Peter 2753 13 GM Danielian Elina 2470
GM Le Quang Liem 2752 14 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2466
GM Korobov Anton 2740 15 IM Abdumalik Zhansaya 2444
GM Giri Anish 2739 16 GM Tan Zhongyi 2442
GM Mamedov Rauf 2739 17 IM Bodnaruk Anastasia 2442
GM Tomashevsky Evgeny 2737 18 IM Arabidze Meri 2431
GM Grischuk Alexander 2732 19 IM Atalik Ekaterina 2429
GM Guseinov Gadir 2732 20 GM Khotenashvili Bela 2428
GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2731 21 GM Zhao Xue 2425
GM Andreikin Dmitry 2725 22 WGM Girya Olga 2425
GM Zhigalko Sergei 2724 23 GM Cramling Pia 2420
GM Anand Viswanathan 2723 24 WIM Shuvalova Polina 2411
GM Dubov Daniil 2723 25 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2402
GM Sjugirov Sanan 2722 26 GM Gunina Valentina 2396
GM Jobava Baadur 2718 27 IM Javakhishvili Lela 2388
GM Gelfand Boris 2715 28 GM Batsiashvili Nino 2382
GM Anton Guijarro David 2708 29 IM Mammadova Gulnar 2382
GM Akopian Vladimir 2707 30 IM Saduakassova Dinara 2381
GM Oparin Grigoriy 2701 31 IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2378
GM Cheparinov Ivan 2697 32 WGM Ambartsumova Karina 2369
GM Motylev Alexander 2697 33 FM Voit Daria 2367
GM Morozevich Alexander 2696 34 IM Galliamova Alisa 2363
GM Matlakov Maxim 2690 35 WGM Mamedjarova Turkan 2357
GM Amonatov Farrukh 2688 36 IM Guseva Marina 2348
GM Bocharov Dmitry 2683 37 IM Skripchenko Almira 2347
GM Duda Jan-Krzysztof 2683 38 WGM Berend Elvira 2342
GM Salem A.R. Saleh 2682 39 WGM Mamedjarova Zeinab 2330
GM Zubov Alexander 2681 40 IM Gaponenko Inna 2320
GM Fridman Daniel 2677 41 WGM Michna Marta 2320
GM Riazantsev Alexander 2677 42 IM Charochkina Daria 2319
GM Petrosian Tigran L. 2676 43 WGM Guichard Pauline 2319
GM Sargissian Gabriel 2674 44 WGM Kovanova Baira 2317
GM Shirov Alexei 2674 45 WGM Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim 2317
GM Melkumyan Hrant 2672 46 WGM Bivol Alina 2314
GM Dreev Aleksey 2671 47 GM Zhukova Natalia 2306
GM Grachev Boris 2669 48 IM Buksa Nataliya 2304
GM Timofeev Artyom 2668 49 WFM Gritsayeva Oksana 2303
GM Kovalenko Igor 2665 50 WIM Dordzhieva Dinara 2298

Press conference World Rapid and Blitz Championship 2018Impressive media attention for the press conference. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen Dvorkovich Press conference World Rapid and Blitz Championship 2018World champion Carlsen with FIDE President Dvorkovich. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Ju Wenjun Press conference World Rapid and Blitz Championship 2018Reigning women's world champion Ju Wenjun. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Konstantin Kosteniuk's Chess Robot World Rapid & Blitz 2018Konstantin Kosteniuk's Chess Robot was in action as well... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Konstantin Kosteniuk's Chess Robot Nihal Sarin World Rapid & Blitz 2018...and Nihal Sarin, who traveled straight from Sitges, was one to try it out. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Bachar Kouatly Arkady Dvorkovich World Rapid & Blitz 2018Representatives from Saudi Arabia chatting with FIDE's Bachar Kouatly and Arkady Dvorkovich. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen Opening World Rapid & Blitz 2018Carlsen meeting with some officials. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Video art Opening World Rapid & Blitz 2018A video art performance opened the ceremony... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Ballet Opening World Rapid & Blitz 2018...followed by a ballet performance from Swan Lake. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Acrobatic act Opening World Rapid & Blitz 2018Later, a spectacular acrobatic act followed the ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Yury Solomatin contributed to this report.

Earlier report:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

Company Contact and News Accreditation: 

Phone: 1 (800) 318-2827
Address: PO Box 60400 Palo Alto, CA 94306

More from PeterDoggers
New Power Generation Shows Itself At Sharjah Masters

New Power Generation Shows Itself At Sharjah Masters

14-Year-Old Lu Miaoyi Wins Chinese Women's Championship; Wang Yue Takes Open

14-Year-Old Lu Miaoyi Wins Chinese Women's Championship; Wang Yue Takes Open