2023 FIDE World Rapid Championship: Carlsen Repeats, Bodnaruk Surprises

Five days of fast chess once again close out the calendar year. The 2023 World Rapid and Blitz Championships and World Women's Rapid and Blitz Championships began December 26 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, with the rapid tournaments concluding earlier today and two days of blitz set to begin tomorrow. 


Image Caption
How is anybody supposed to stop Carlsen when he has that many pawns? (Courtesy Lennart Ootes/FIDE)


The open section saw GM Magnus Carlsen defend his 2022 title, earning clear first with a 10/13 score. Russian GM Vladimir Fedoseev was a half-point behind him, while Chinese GM Yu Yiangyi finished third on tiebreaks with 9/13. Joining Yu were no fewer than eleven players on the same score, including American GM Fabiano Caruana and a number of familiar faces. Full results are available here


Caruana tied for third, but was only 13th on tiebreaks. From top-left, here he is pictured with GM Peter Svidler, who also tied for third (courtesy Lennart Ootes/FIDE), GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (also tied for third) and Richard Rapport (courtesy Lennart Ootes/FIDE), with GM Anish Giri (courtesy Anastasia Korolkova/FIDE) and with GM Levon Aronian (courtesy Maria Emelianova/Chess.com)

In addition to Caruana and Aronian (pictured above), three other Americans competed in Samarkand, and they all finished with plus-scores. GM Hans Niemann finished with 8½/13, and GMs Andrew Hong and Conrad Holt both finished with 7½/13. 


A number of players made movie star-like entrances, including Niemann (left), and Rapport (pictured with Raunak Sadhwani). Photos courtesy Lennart Ootes/FIDE.


The women's section had an upset victory, as the "Year of the IM" came to a fitting close in its penultimate event. With both IM Nurgyul Salimova (Bulgaria) and IM Vaishali Rameshbabu (India) qualifying for the 2024 FIDE Women's Candidates tournament ahead of a number of grandmasters, it was only fitting that IM Anastasia Bodnaruk (Russia) took top honors on tiebreaks ahead of GMs Humpy Koneru (India) and 2023 FIDE Women's World Championship runner-up Lei Tingjie.


Image Caption
A crowd gathers around the blitz tiebreak between Humpy (L) and Bodnaruk (courtesy Anastasia Korolkova/FIDE)


Bodnaruk and Humpy played a two-game blitz match to determine the top honor, with Tingjie finishing third on tiebreaks. Interestingly, Tingjie took a draw three moves into her final game (against Bodnaruk), only to be excluded from the playoff. Bodnaruk and Humpy traded blows in the two-game match, with the first "sudden death" game ending in a draw before Bodnaruk pulled through in the fourth tiebreak. 


A full range of emotions for Bodnaruk, whose up-and-down tiebreak match saw her ultimately take the gold medal as an IM ahead of 19 GMs in the field. (Photos courtesy Lennart Ootes/FIDE (L) and Anastasia Korolkova (R)/FIDE)


Between the long tiebreak and Carlsen taking a relatively quick draw in his final game to clinch first in the open, it was a funny quirk of the tournament that the open tournament winner was decided before the women's section even though the women's section only had three rapid games on the final day compared to the open's four.


Image Caption
Jennifer Yu was the top American in the women's section, finishing in a tie for eighth with players such as GMs Lagno and Goryachkina! (courtesy Maria Emelianova/Chess.com)


Four Americans competed in the women's section: GM Irina Krush, WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova, WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan, and WGM Jennifer Yu. Despite entering with the lowest rapid rating, it was Yu who emerged with the highest score of the bunch: 7½/11 and an 11th-place finish on tiebreaks. Full results can be seen here

The blitz championship begins on December 29 at 4:00 a.m. CST with games broadcast live on Chess.com for both the open and women's sections. 

Keep an eye out in the new year for a number of Wednesday Workouts covering some of the highlights from this tournament.