THE FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Championships to be held in Doha later this month will provide enough consolation and plenty of excitement for fans after the annual Qatar Masters, which started in 2014, was scrapped this year.
The Masters, which had attracted some of the world’s top-rated players, was the only high-profile event on the Qatar Chess Association (QCA) calendar.
But the QCA should be praised for bringing in World Rapid and Blitz Championships, which will be held at the Ali bin Hamad Attiya Arena from December 26 to 31. It will feature more than 400 players, including rapid world champion Carlsen, from 75 countries.
The rapid and blitz format is not as prominent as the conventional one, but Carlsen’s presence will surely attract a lot of attention.
“Rapid and blitz are for enjoyment,” Carlsen had recently said.
Given his terrific form at the recent FIDE World Championships in New York where he defeated Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, the 26-year-old looks the favourite in Doha because he is as good in rapid as he is in any format.
However, the top-seeded Norwegian, who won the Qatar Masters last year, is sure to face strong challenge from France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Armenia’s Levon Aronian, India’s Viswanathan Anand and USA’s Christopher Nakamura in the rapid event.
Meanwhile, in the absence of Russian Grandmaster Alexander Grischuk, who won the blitz event last year, Carlsen may also have a good chance to claim a double. He had won his first blitz crown in 2014.
In the women’s rapid event, defending champion Kateryna Lagno of Russia is once again the favourite while Ukraine’s Anna Muzychuk is expected to do well in blitz.
“It’s going to be another big occasion for us. We’ll live up to our expectations as a good host,” Qatar Chess Association Secretary Mohammed Al Medaikhi told Doha Stadium Plus.
“The Qatar Masters was a classic tournament, but rapid and blitz events will give fans something different to look forward to. We need such big tournaments to educate the parents and kids. The chess activity improved a lot over the last three years with many new students enrolled in QCA training centres,” said Al Medaikhi, who is also a top-notch Grandmaster.