Magnus Carlsen achieved a triple world crown last week for the third time in his career. The Norwegian, 32, won both the World Rapid and World Blitz titles at Almaty, Kazakhstan, to add to his classical championship, which he will not defend this year. Carlsen previously held all three in 2014 and 2019.

Speed events are growing in popularity, particularly among experts and young players, because the need to memorise openings is diminished and the players are tested on their creativity, resourcefulness and reaction speeds. Rapid chess is 15 minutes for each player for the entire game, plus a 10 seconds per move increment. Blitz is three minutes per player per game, plus a two seconds per move increment.

The deeper significance of Carlsen’s virtuoso performance was as a practical demonstration of his belief that consistent high-class play can be achieved at a speedier time rate than classical chess with its four-hour sessions. He scored 26 points from 34 games overall with only three defeats, one on time and the others through blunders in drawn positions.

One of his best Rapid attacks was modelled on a 1970 Bobby Fischer classic, with an improbable climax 28 Ng5!! sacrificing a bishop on a square allowing a knight fork of White’s queen and both rooks.

Even more spectacular was Carlsen’s Blitz win over Hungary’s Richard Rapport, which has been widely hailed as the greatest speed game of all time. It had everything — sacrifices, a king chased round the board, four pawn promotions, and a final winning coup just at the moment when all seemed lost. The game was captured live on video, and can be followed move by move on

Hikaru Nakamura, Carlsen’s perennial rival in online tournaments, could not quite match the champion’s pace but still took the Blitz silver medal. Considering that his prime career is now as a streamer with more than a million followers, Nakamura has had a remarkable year, narrowly missing out on qualification for a match for Carlsen’s vacated classical title.

Carlsen himself never seems to stop. He will be back in action next Friday, 13 January, as top seed in the “chess Wimbledon” at Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.

Puzzle 2501
Hans Niemann vs Parham Maghsoodloo, world rapid 2022. White chose 1 Qe3. Can you find a better move?

For solution, click here

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