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A glorious opening ceremony in Kazakh style at the World Rapid and Blitz 2022

by Sagar Shah - 26/12/2022

The World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2022 kick off in Almaty, Kazakhstan on the 26th of December 2022. On 25th of December, one day before the start of the event, there was an opening ceremony held at the venue. The first thing you notice when you enter the premises of the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace is how massive it is and how spacious it is going to be for the players. Next you get to see the Kazakh culture in the opening ceremony and the love for chess that the country possesses. Check out our pictorial report from the World Rapid and Blitz 2022.

A grand opening ceremony in Almaty

By Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal from Kazakhstan


A very important question for all players is whether they should attend the opening ceremony or not. If there is a choice, most of them prefer not to because they can relax in their rooms, prepare, unwind and get ready for a grueling 5-day event. And those players are right in their own way. However, those who did attend the opening ceremony at the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace in Almaty, which is also the venue of the World Rapid and Blitz 2022, took back with them some wonderful memories. The dance and music performances were excellent, the speeches were short and the number of local fans who turned up were huge in numbers. It goes to show how popular chess is in Kazakhstan. Top four seeds in each category - Rapid and Blitz in open and women, did turn up - Carlsen, Nakamura, Lagno and Kosteniuk. The 15 minutes that Magnus spent with the crowd were truly heart-warming. If you are not yet updated with the players list, you must definitely check out our curtain raiser article.

The day started with a technical meeting | Photo: Amruta Mokal

All the important points were shown on the screen | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Coming in like a boss! The biggest attraction of the tournament - Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Amruta Mokal

GM Darmen Sadvakasov interacts with Magnus Carlsen. Darmen is the tournament director of the World Rapid and Blitz 2022. He is 5-time Kazakh champion and also a former World Junior Champion.  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A unique way to choose the colour. Two Kazakh style vessels containing one white king and one black king in each one is brought towards Magnus | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Magnus chooses the black king and hence in the world rapid 2022 he will get the black pieces in game 1 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A shapan is brought for Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A staple article of Kazakh clothing is the chapan or shapan, a long, loose robe. Unlike other clothing, it is not gender-specific and is worn by men and women. Chapans are made from various fabrics and are available in a range of colors (most often monochrome or dark). They are lined with a layer of wool or cotton.

Magnus is ready to wear it! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It seems to fit him pretty well! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

You also have to wear the hat! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

And now he looks like a Kazakh local! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Hikaru is given a traditional Kazakh fur hat also known as Tymaq  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The top seed in the women's blitz Kateryna Lagno draws the white king | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The top seed in women's blitz Alexandra Kosteniuk draws the black king | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The special box for all the VIPs | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Dauren Abayev, the minister of culture and sports was present at the opening ceremony | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Erbolat Dosaev, currently the Akim (Mayor) of Almaty graced the occasion. He has been the deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan as well as the minister of finance for the country. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

FIDE President Arkadij Dvorkovich talks how the Football world cup just ended and it is now time for the chess extravaganza of World Rapid and Blitz to begin!  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Small kids performed admirably at the opening ceremony | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The smiling kids lit up the entire event! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The local dances were filled with energy and colour | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The atmosphere was filled with energy  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A well-known Kazakh local music band performed as the final act of the opening ceremony | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A talented Indian youngster playing the World Rapid and Blitz for the first time in his life - Pranav V. | Photo: Sagar Shah

The opening ceremony gives a chance for players of different countries to meet and mingle with each other | Photo: Sagar Shah

Three top women players - Humpy, Saduakassova and Gunina | Photo: Sagar Shah

The FIDE delegate to the event is GM Pavel Tregubov | Photo: Sagar Shah

Always doing a wonderful job behind the camera is Amruta Mokal | Photo: Sagar Shah

A day before the games

On 25th of December, the Christmas Day before things start to get intense at the World Rapid and Blitz, we all decided to go for a nice lunch.

On the streets of Almaty - Padmini Rout, Anish Giri, Vidit Gujrathi and Sagar Shah

The super seven!

The only waiter at the restaurant who could speak English

Anish Giri gets his copy of ChessPa in the Chess Adventure Park for his 1.5-year-old son Michael

How to follow the tournament?

You can follow the LIVE commentary on FIDE's YouTube channel.

It starts at 3 p.m. local time, which is 2.30 p.m. IST

Starting rank for women's event:

No. NameFideIDFEDRtg
1GMKosteniuk Alexandra4128125FID2537
2GMLagno Kateryna14109336FID2531
3GMTan Zhongyi8603642CHN2502
4GMGoryachkina Aleksandra4147103FID2484
5GMDzagnidze Nana13601903GEO2475
6GMHarika Dronavalli5015197IND2475
7GMKoneru Humpy5008123IND2468
8GMAbdumalik Zhansaya13703544KAZ2448
9IMSaduakassova Dinara13700090KAZ2435
10IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat12512214IRI2411

Starting rank for the open event:

No. NameFideIDFEDRtg
GMNakamura Hikaru2016192USA2909
GMCaruana Fabiano2020009USA2847
GMCarlsen Magnus1503014NOR2830
GMYu Yangyi8603820CHN2807
GMArtemiev Vladislav24101605FID2803
GMDubov Daniil24126055FID2792
GMGiri Anish24116068NED2792
GMNepomniachtchi Ian4168119FID2782
GMDuda Jan-Krzysztof1170546POL2773
GMVachier-Lagrave Maxime623539FRA2771

Video Gallery:

The entire opening ceremony
The way in which Magnus Carlsen spent time with the fans after the opening ceremony was truly inspiring
Who are the Kazakh chess fans supporting for this event?
The way Carlsen and Nakamura were called up on stage was very cool to watch!
Zhansaya Abdumalik the top Kazakh female player and also the president of Kazakh chess association and the deputy mayor of Almaty speaks about the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd.
He is one of the strongest youngsters in the world of chess. Alexey Sarana speaks about how it is a confusing time for chess players - whether to focus on classical, rapid or blitz.

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