Speed chess continues to gain status as a competition format  in its own right, even for a tournament starting on Christmas Day. Some 250 top players, led by the No1, Magnus Carlsen, are expected next weekend in Almaty, Kazakhstan, for the five-day $1mn 2022 World Rapid and Blitz championships.   

In total there are four tournaments, Open and Women, all sponsored by Nevada-based Freedom Finance. The time limit for rapid is 15 minutes per player for the entire game, plus a 10 seconds per move increment, while for blitz it is three minutes per player per game, plus a two seconds per move increment.

As at classical chess, 32-year-old Carlsen is the player to beat. In the decade since 2012, when the rapid/blitz championships became annual events, he has won three rapid and four blitz crowns, more than anyone else.

The Norwegian’s main rival is Hikaru Nakamura, the five-time US champion who is now a streamer with more than a million followers, and is also the current No1 at blitz, with a 2900+ figure to his name. There are many others with a realistic chance, including several from the new generation of teenagers.

The entry bar is high, a 2550 rating (2250 for women) plus national champions and a few wildcards, which helps explain why only two English players are making the long journey to Central Asia.

Before the World Rapid/Blitz, there is a top class online tournament this week. The quarter-finals of the chess.com Speed Championship include Nakamura v Levon Aronian at 2000 GMT on Monday December 12, Carlsen v Fabiano Caruana at 1800 GMT on Tuesday 13, and Wesley So v Maxime Vachier-Lagrave at 1800 GMT on Wednesday 14.

The format is 90 minutes of games at 5/1 blitz (five minutes per player per game, plus a one second per move increment), 60 minutes of 3/1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1/1 bullet. All games, including running commentaries, from this highly watchable competition are free to view live on chess.com or chess24.com.

A one-day open-to-all speed event much nearer home this weekend is sure to attract master level English entrants, plus many lower ranked hopefuls eager to make a name in an afternoon. The 14th Richmond Blitz at Orleans Park School on Saturday December 17 (1pm start)  has a £500 first prize, £350 for the top female player, and a total £2,850 prize fund. The format is 11 rounds, with a time limit of four minutes per player for the entire game. plus a two seconds per move increment.

Puzzle 2499

White mates in two moves, This picturesque position was composed by Werner Keym, a German specialist in offbeat puzzles. There is just a single hidden sequence.

Click here for solution

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