The championships brought together players from 50 countries. Spectators jammed the venue and hundreds of thousands of fans watched on the Internet. The game’s biggest star won another championship and then lost his temper, while another top player became the first three-time champion in fast chess.

The Rapid and Blitz World Championships are in the books. 

Held over five days at the Bolle Meierei, located in the heart of Berlin, the championships attracted most of the world’s top players from a total of 50 countries — a record for these championships. 

Hundreds of thousands of people watched the matches over the Internet — following the games live, and for the first time, also watching the players on video. Another bonus for online viewers: a confessional booth for players stationed in the main playing hall. David Navara of the Czech Republic and Eric Hansen of Canada used it more than once. 

More than 2,000 spectators watched in person, selling out the venue the first day and packing the playing hall every day of the competitions.

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the reigning champion at classical time controls, came to Berlin to defend the titles he won in rapid and blitz in 2014. He was successful in his first quest, smoothly, almost effortlessly, winning the Rapid Championship and finishing a full point ahead of his nearest competitor. 

In the Blitz Championship, Carlsen got off to a good start. At the end of the first day, he trailed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France by only half a point.

But things went wrong on day 2. He lost to Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan in Round 13, then to Alexander Grischuk of Russia in Round 15, and finally to Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine in Round 20. That ruined not only his chances of winning the Blitz Championship but even of finishing among the medalists. He finished sixth on tie-breakers. 

His mistakes and losses did not sit well with Carlsen and he lost his temper. Unfortunately for him, NRK, the Norwegian broadcaster, was in Berlin to cover the championships in general, and Carlsen in particular, and it had a camera trained on his board throughout the event. So his outbursts were caught on tape

Carlsen apologized later during the press conference, saying, “I realize it looks pretty stupid to spin round and round and punch your hands in the air and then storm out like a moron.”

While Carlsen was melting down, Grischuk was heating up. He had sort of the opposite performance to Vachier-Lagrave and Carlsen on day 1. He had lost two games and trailed by 2 points.

Day 2 did not start out any better, as he lost his first game to Radjabov. But then he caught fire, winning 7 of his last 9 games, while drawing the other two, to finish with 15.5 points, a half point ahead of Vachier-Lagrave and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, the former world champion. 

That earned Grischuk his third Blitz World Championship. He is the first player to win either the rapid or blitz championship three times. 

Many photographers covered the championships, capturing the crowds, the intense competition and some of the moments of comraderie between the players. 

And after it was all over, the medals had been presented, and the closing ceremony was finished, what did some of the players do? They sat down at the boards in the playing hall to play more blitz chess. 


Dylan Loeb McClain is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He was a staff editor for The New York Times for 18 years and wrote the paper’s chess column from 2006 to 2014.