After the first day of the competition, the reigning World Champion, and the player he defeated for the title a month ago, are tied for first.

One day after the World Rapid Championship ended, the World Blitz Championship started in the same location: Doha, Qatar. After the first day of the two-day competition, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the reigning World Champion in classical, or slow, chess, and Sergey Karjakin of Russia, the player he beat to retain the title in a match in New York Ciy last month, are tied for the lead, each with 10 points in the first 12 rounds. They are 1.5 points ahead of their nearest rivals. 

Like the World Rapid Championship, the Blitz Championship has a prize fund of $200,000, with a $40,000 first prize.

Carlsen and Karjakin had struggled at the beginning of the Rapid Championship. Carlsen eventually recovered to tie for first (finishing third on tiebreaks), while Karjakin was 19th on tiebreaks. Both got off to a much better start in the Blitz Championship. 

Carlsen started with three straight wins. My favorite was his victory over A.R. Saleh Salem of the United Arab Emirates:

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Salem, A.R. Saleh
World Blitz Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 3 | 29 Dec 2016 | 1-0
15. gxh5 Nxh5?! This move is inaccurate.
15... cxd4! Black should have played this move now so that White cannot take recapture on d4 with the bishop.
16. exd4 Nxh5 And Black would have an edge.  )
16. Be5 cxd4 17. Bxd4! White's pawn remains on e3 so he can put pressure on the pawn on d5 pawn and can also still play f4 at some moment.
17... b5 18. a3
18. Bxg7 Was also fine.  )
18... Rc6
18... Bxd4 19. Qxd4 Ng3 And Black once again looks fine.  )
19. Rhg1
19. Bxg7! This move looked stronger.  )
19... Rfc8 20. f4 Bxd4
20... Nf6 This was Black's last chance to offer real resistance. He had to avoid the exchange of his dark-squared bishop.
21. h5 Ne4! 22. hxg6 Nxd2 23. gxf7+ Bxf7 24. Rxg7+ Kf8 25. Rh1 e5 And the position would be unclear. Finding this line is nearly impossible in a slow game, but in a blitz game? Forget about it!  )
21. Qxd4 Ng7 22. h5
22. e4 This move was even better, but the move played by Carlsen also does the trick.  )
22... Bf5
22... Nf5! 23. Qd3 Qa7! 24. hxg6 Qxe3+ 25. Kb1 Black would be much worse, but he could still fight on.  )
23. hxg6 Rxg6 24. e4! Be6 Black resigned before White could play f5

A solid draw in Round 4 with Black against Leinier Dominguez Perez of Cuba, the 2008 World Blitz Champion, was a fine result for Carlsen. But in Round 5, he stumbled against none other than Karjakin.

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Karjakin, Sergey
World Blitz Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 5 | 29 Dec 2016 | 0-1
Nec6 In games with a time control this fast, errors are extremely common even among the best players in the world. White's next move is a perfect example.
20. e3?
20. Nd6! Na5 21. Qa4 Qxd6 22. Qxa5 e4 White has a slight edge, but I doubt he will win.  )
20... Na5 And Black wins a lot of material by forking queen on b3 and the rook on b7.
21. Qxc4 Qxc4 22. Nd6 Qe6 23. Rxb4 Qxd6 It took Black awhile to win, but the final result was never in doubt.

The loss did not break Carlsen’s spirit as he rebounded with five consecutive wins. I particularly like his effort against Alexander Morozevich of Russia.

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Morozevich, Alexander
World Blitz Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 10 | 29 Dec 2016 | 1-0
Kf7 The computer evaluates the chances in this endgame as equal, but I think that's ridiculous. The White pawns look much better than the extra Black piece. Indeed, Carlsen wins the game and makes it look easy.
43. Rxe6 Kxe6
43... Nxe6 This move looks more accurate to me.  )
44. Ke4 b6 45. Nf4+ Kd6 46. g4 All nice and simple. White centralizes his pieces and starts pushing his pawns.
46... b5
46... Ne6 This is the engine's suggestion but I think White should win after:
47. Nxe6 Kxe6 48. g5  )
47. g5 a5 48. h4 Ne6 49. Nxe6 Kxe6 50. b3 All still very simple. white sets his passed pawns on the queenside in motion.
50... Bf8 51. c4 bxc4 52. bxc4 Bd6 53. c5 Bg3 54. h5 Black is unable to put up much resistance. It's difficult to even point out where he went wrong. Once again, Carlsen seems to be right and the engines seem wrong. That is not easy to do, particularly in a blitz game!
54... Bf2 55. d5+ Kd7 56. g6 hxg6 57. hxg6 Ke7 58. d6+ Kf6 59. d7

Karjakin’s performance after beating Carlsen was not quite as efficient, but it was very strong nonetheless. He gave up three more draws, but remained undefeated overall on the day, notching several nice victories. I really liked his game with Ahmed Adly of Egypt. Adly, who had Black played the opening poorly, but it can be very difficult to punish errors in a blitz game. Karjakin was more than up to the task.

Karjakin, Sergey vs. Adly, Ahmed
World Blitz Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 6 | 29 Dec 2016 | 1-0
5. Nc3 a6?! I think that this move is inaccurate.
6. Bxd7+ Qxd7? And this move is just plain wrong. If Black wants to play like this he should recapture with the knight.
6... Nbxd7! 7. O-O Ne5 Black is probably okay in this position.  )
7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Qg4?
8... e6 White has a pleasant position, but the move played by Black cedes a huge advantage to White.  )
9. Qxg4! Nxg4 10. Nd5! Black is going to get knocked around.
10... Kd8 11. f3 Ne5 12. Nb6 Ra7 13. Be3 a5 14. Ke2 Ra6 15. Nb5 Nbd7 It took a terrific effort from Adly to not lose material immediately, but his position is still terrible.
16. Nxd7 Kxd7
16... Nxd7 This prevents the position from opening up, which would be to White's advantage, but the situation is still very unpleasant for Black.  )
17. c5! Nc4 18. Bf2! Not fearing the loss of the pawn on b2 because Black is badly underdeveloped.
18... Nxb2 19. Rhc1 Rc6 20. a4! Trapping the knight on b2.
20... e6 21. Ra2 Nxa4 22. Rxa4 The rest of the game was easy for Karjakin.
22... dxc5 23. Rxa5 Ra6 24. Rxa6 bxa6 25. Nc3 Bd6 26. Na4 Rb8 27. Nxc5+ Ke8 28. Nd3 a5 29. e5 Be7 30. Rc4 Rb5 31. Rc8+ Kd7 32. Ra8 f5 33. exf6 gxf6 34. Ra7+ Ke8 35. g4 f5 36. Bd4 fxg4 37. fxg4 h5 38. Ne5 hxg4 39. Ra8+ Bd8 40. Nc6 Kd7 41. Nxd8 Rd5 42. Be3 Rh5 43. Bf4 Rf5 44. Bg3 Rf8 45. Ra7+ Kxd8 46. Ra8+ Ke7 47. Bd6+ Kxd6 48. Rxf8 Kc5 49. Rg8 Kd5

One thing that makes blitz interesting is the blunders. In some positions, the best move can be found very easily even in just 15 seconds, but with only two or three, errors creep in. This was definitely the case for Benjamin Bok of the Netherlands in Round 4 against Baadur Jobava of Georgia:

Bok, Benjamin vs. Jobava, Baadur
World Blitz Championship | Doha, Qatar | Round 4 | 29 Dec 2016 | 0-1
Ra3+ 43. Kd2?
43. Rc3 White would be fine after this move.
43... Ra1 44. Rc2  )
43... Nc4+ 44. Kd1 Ra1+ 45. Rc1 Rd2+ Probably Bok missed this when he played Kd2. Blitz produces lots of blunders!

There are only nine rounds left on Friday and I predict that Carlsen will win the two-man race and win the championship, as he did in 2014.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.