The World Rapid and Blitz 2022 winter wonderland: It’s about to get hot in Almaty

The 2022 World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships take place in Almaty (Kazakhstan) from December 25-30

Traditionally, this time of year, the chess world comes together to loosen up and decide who the best world players are when facing time pressure.

After ten years, the event is returning to Kazakhstan, the largest land-locked country in the world (with over 2.7 million kilometres square, it is five times the size of France!) and which – if you didn’t know – is the birthplace of the modern apple (not the company)! Unlike in 2012, this time, the host city will not be the capital Astana, but Almaty.

The event will be held at the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace in the city centre. Named after the acclaimed Kazakh composer, singer, poet, dombra player, dzhigit and wrestler Baluan Sholak (1864-1919), the venue seats up to 5,000 people and is home to Almaty’s women’s ice hockey team Aisulu Almaty.

The former capital of Kazakhstan, which is also its largest city with nearly two million residents, is situated in the country’s southeast, close to the border with Kyrgistan, and is not the warmest place to spend the winter. It is easy to understand why given that the last week of December is expected to have temperatures between -4 and -11 degrees!

However, Almaty is about to be hit by a “heatwave” as the world’s hottest chess players gather at the World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships to decide who is the best.

Reigning Rapid Champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov (UZB). Photo: David Llada

The best of the best

With the conditions for the event stipulating that players have to be rated at least 2550 in the open section, or 2250 in the women’s, or being reigning national champions in order to be eligible to play in Almaty, it’s no surprise that the list of players is made of the best of the best the chess world has to offer.

In the Open section, Nodirbek Abdusattorov is defending the crown from the 2021 Rapid and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will try and hold on to his world title in the Blitz. In the Women’s division, Alexandra Kosteniuk is defending the gold she won in 2021 Rapid, while Bibisara Assaubayeva is defending her title in the Blitz.

With nearly 300 players taking part from over 50 countries, split between the Open and the Women’s tournament, the chess world is ending 2022 on a high note with a huge spectacle.

In the Open event, the field is led by the reigning world champion in classical chess, Magnus Carlsen (who also won the rapid and blitz world championships in earlier editions). This is the last time Carlsen is taking part in the World Rapid and Blitz as a world champion in classical chess (as he decided not to defend his crown in 2023). He is joined by a score of medal winners and champions, including Nodirbek Abdusattorov (the 2021 winner of the Rapid), Hikaru Nakamura (winner of the silver and bronze medals in the previous world rapid and blitz championships), Jan-Krzysztof Duda (runner-up of the last year’s world blitz), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (current world blitz champion), Ian Nepomniachtchi (the second-time challenger for the title of world champion in classical chess and winner of medals in previous rapid and blitz world championships), to name a few.

Full list of participants for the Open Rapid
Full list of participants for the Open Blitz

Women’s World Blitz Champion Bibisara Assaubayeva (KAZ). PHOTO: Anna Shtourman.

The women’s event is headlined by the defending world champion in rapid and the runner-up at the 2021 blitz Alexandra Kosteniuk. A former women’s world champion in classical chess, Kosteniuk just won gold in the European rapid and silver in the European blitz, so she will be looking for a double crown! She is followed by Kateryna Lagno (who also has gold medals from the world rapid and blitz events), as well as a plethora of strong world players such as Tan Zhongyi, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Nana Dzagnidze, Antoaneta Stefanova and others.

Bibisara Assaubayeva, a Kazakh native, will be the focus of much attention in the women’s competition. She had an outstanding performance in the 2021 edition, taking first place in the blitz and coming second in the rapid.

Full list of participants for the Women’s Rapid
Full list of participants for the Women’s Blitz

Both the Open and the Women’s will be played under the Swiss system format. Full details of the regulations for the events can be found here for the Open and here for the Women’s competitions.

The total prize fund is one million USD dollars, with 700,000 USD going to the open championships and 300,000 USD to the women’s championships. Prizes in USD Open Women Rapid 350,000 150,000 Blitz 350,000 150,000.

One million dollars in prizes

Prizes in USD Open Women
Rapid $350,000 $150,000
Blitz $350,000 $150,000

Basic schedule:

First of all, please note that Almaty’s time zone is GMT+6

December 25 — Opening Ceremony
December 26, 13:30 — Opening press conference
December 26-28 — Rapid competitions
December 29-30 — Blitz competitions and Closing Ceremony

You can find the detailed schedule on the official website.

Side events:

During the World Rapid and Blitz Championships there will be several additional chess events for the public held at the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace:

December 27, 10.00-13.00
Women’s master class about “The role of women in chess”, followed by a simul with woman GM Dana Reizniece-Ozola

December 27, 10.00-13.00
Open blitz tournament for amateurs

December 29, 10.00-13.00
Blitz tournament for children

By Press Officer Milan Dinic

This is the official website where you can find up-to-date information about the event: