General May 21, 2014 | 6:04 PMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen trails Nakamura in rapid and blitz

Hikaru Nakamura tops the newly-published FIDE rapid (2841) and blitz (2879) rating lists, with World Champion Magnus Carlsen trailing in 4th place in both speed chess categories. That sets the scene perfectly for the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Dubai next month, when Carlsen and Nakamura will compete in an all-star field that also features the ex-World Champion and future challenger Viswanathan Anand.

Rapid and blitz no. 1 Nakamura still struggles against the classical no. 1 | photo: Ahmed Mukhtar, Shamkir Chess website

Rapid and blitz lists finally published

Although official rapid and blitz ratings have been calculated since January 2012 and included in FIDE player profiles since July of that same year, until now the numbers hadn’t been published in list form. Mark Crowther wrote earlier this month:

Sometimes wishes do come true! Shortly after that FIDE published May 2014 Top 100 lists with rapid and blitz alongside standard chess. Although the lower number of games makes the lists less convincing than the standard lists, they still make fascinating viewing:

Rapid Top 20, May 2014

 1 Nakamura, Hikaru USA 2841 0 1987
 2 Caruana, Fabiano ITA 2840 0 1992
 3 Grischuk, Alexander RUS 2828 0 1983
 4 Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2827 0 1990
 5 Ivanchuk, Vassily UKR 2811 14 1969
 6 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar AZE 2799 0 1985
 7 Svidler, Peter RUS 2787 0 1976
 8 Aronian, Levon ARM 2785 0 1982
 9 Karjakin, Sergey RUS 2781 0 1990
 10 Malakhov, Vladimir RUS 2776 23 1980
 11 Andreikin, Dmitry RUS 2773 0 1990
 12 Kramnik, Vladimir RUS 2773 0 1975
 13 Leko, Peter HUN 2773 0 1979
 14 Topalov, Veselin BUL 2772 0 1975
 15 Anand, Viswanathan IND 2770 0 1969
 16 Korobov, Anton UKR 2770 0 1985
 17 Nepomniachtchi, Ian RUS 2768 0 1990
 18 Wang, Yue CHN 2765 0 1987
 19 Adams, Michael ENG 2764 0 1971
 20 Dominguez Perez, Leinier CUB 2763 0 1983

Note some stars are lagging behind  - Anand only 15th, Kramnik 12th – while other lesser-known players come into their element – Anton Korobov (up from no. 49 to 16) and Vladimir Malakhov (no. 52 to no. 10). Vassily Ivanchuk’s stunning 13/14 in the Latvian Railway Open propelled him up to world no. 5, although he slipped to 15th on the classical rating recently.

Malakhov won the tournament, but Ivanchuk "won the exhibition" at the Latvian Railways tournament | photo:

Blitz Top 20, May 2014

 1 Nakamura, Hikaru USA 2879 0 1987
 2 Karjakin, Sergey RUS 2866 0 1990
 3 Aronian, Levon ARM 2863 0 1982
 4 Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2837 0 1990
 5 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime FRA 2835 0 1990
 6 Anand, Viswanathan IND 2827 0 1969
 7 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar AZE 2822 0 1985
 8 Le, Quang Liem VIE 2817 0 1991
 9 Nepomniachtchi, Ian RUS 2816 0 1990
 10 Grischuk, Alexander RUS 2801 0 1983
 11 Kramnik, Vladimir RUS 2782 0 1975
 12 Yu, Yangyi CHN 2771 9 1994
 13 Mamedov, Rauf AZE 2766 0 1988
 14 Korobov, Anton UKR 2758 9 1985
 15 Ponomariov, Ruslan UKR 2758 0 1983
 16 Giri, Anish NED 2755 0 1994
 17 Nguyen, Ngoc Truong Son VIE 2746 9 1990
 18 Riazantsev, Alexander RUS 2744 0 1985
 19 Morozevich, Alexander RUS 2741 0 1977
 20 So, Wesley PHI 2734 0 1993

Former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov noted a curious feature about this list:

Le Quang Liem receives the 2013 World Blitz trophy - beneath the hat is silver medalist Alexander Grischuk | photo: Kirill Merkuryev,

In fact the whole Top 10 is rated above 2800! Perhaps it’s simply a case of the high number of blitz games played in a short period of time increasing the volatility? Names that stand out at the top are Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Le Quang Liem riding very high, although the latter’s inclusion is no great surprise – the Vietnamese player is the reigning World Blitz Champion.

There are more curiosities the further down the lists you look. For instance, no. 26 on the blitz list with 2727 is IM Stanislav Bogdanovic of Ukraine, whose classical rating is a mere 2577 (world no. 305). The young Ukrainian may simply be very good at blitz, but some of the tournaments he’s played also raise eyebrows – the Bridges of Ingul 2013 blitz marathon saw him win 51 of 55 games, with over 40 of his opponents rated over 400 points beneath him. If Garry Kasparov becomes FIDE President we may have to deal with more such issues, as he plans to combine classical ratings with online blitz.

Shortly after publishing this article world no. 13 Peter Svidler got in touch to share his bamboozlement (if that's a/the word!):

2757, but not even an honorary mention in the blitz list

It seems it's the same issue Sergey Tiviakov faced:

Sure enough, Peter's last game is from the Aeroflot Blitz in March 2013. Given the top players engage in so little rated speed chess this might be a recurring issue!

Carlsen trails Nakamura

Our chess24 Head-to-Head comparison also shows the two areas where Nakamura is on top

The elephant in the room, however, is that World Champion Magnus Carlsen, 110 points higher rated than Hikaru Nakamura in classical ratings, is languishing in fourth place on both lists, while Nakamura is on top and on the blitz list in particular is only three points shy of Carlsen’s astronomical 2882. Just an idle curiosity as players don’t care much about ratings, right? Well, not exactly…

Nakamura’s tweet during the final stages of the Anand-Carlsen match quickly became the stuff of legend:

Carlsen hit back during a Reddit Q&A session:

I've never actually watched Lord of the Rings... if I had, and Nakamura had been a better chess player, I might have been more insulted.

When Nakamura was confronted with that quote on Twitter he brought up the subject of ratings for non-classical chess:

Now it’s become crystal clear what he meant, and ratings are adding fuel to the recent trend for trash talk in chess.

Trash talking

Magnus Carlsen and his manager Espen Agdestein cause a stir | photo: Ole Kristian Strøm, VG

Carlsen’s comment above wasn’t his only recent jibe at Nakamura. His response to a Nakamura interview that saw, “I do feel that at the moment I am the biggest threat to Carlsen” emblazoned on the front cover of New in Chess provoked the Norwegian to quip, “has he taken up boxing?” 

At the recent press conference to announce the final line-up for the Norway Chess supertournament both Magnus and his manager Espen Agdestein were in fine form.

Agdestein: Kramnik is a great personality and a great player... but not as great as he believes. And not as good as Magnus!

Carlsen managed to combine Kramnik, Nakamura and ratings:

I'm a little disappointed that Kramnik is way down in sixth place in the world rankings. It's just too bad. Now he's coming down to Nakamura territory.

Carlsen was asked whether the trash talking was deliberate:

It's fun to talk. And so far I’ve been following up the talk with games. So then it's fine.

In classical chess that’s certainly the case, as during the recent Gashimov Memorial Carlsen stretched his record against Nakamura to 10 wins and no losses. What about blitz and rapid, though?

Showdown in Dubai

Whatever you think of the trash talk it sets the stage perfectly for the World Rapid and Blitz Championships taking place in Dubai from the 16th to the 20th June. The field is stunning, with the 124 players currently listed including the full classical world Top 5, with only Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov missing from the Top 10. The appeal of the event is obvious, as the 3-day rapid and 2-day blitz tournaments both have a $200,000 prize fund, with $40,000 going to the winner of each category.

A year ago the event in Khanty-Mansiysk was missing a large number of top players (including both Carlsen and Nakamura), though Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (rapid) and Le Quang Liem (blitz) were deserving champions. The Championships in Astana in 2012 also lacked Nakamura but did include Carlsen, although he had to settle for a silver medal behind Sergey Karjakin in rapid and Alexander Grischuk in blitz.

Carlsen and Nakamura will now lock horns in Dubai, giving Magnus a chance to overturn the current ratings situation - or for Nakamura to reassert the status quo! 

World Championship warm-up

Anand and Kramnik analyse the game that made Vishy World Rapid Chess Champion back in Cap d'Agde 2003 | photo: ChessBase

Another participant whose presence will add even more spice to the event is former World Champion Viswanathan Anand. After losing his title he vowed to get back to his rapid chess roots in 2014, and although the cancellation of the Sberbank Open due to the political situation in Ukraine threw a spanner in the works he’s been making up for lost ground. Earlier this week he played a couple of rapid exhibition matches in Corsica while on the 7-8th June he’ll play in a rapid tournament in the Moroccan capital of Rabat. Last year's event featured 2700+ grandmasters Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Laurent Fressinet as top seeds.

Of course Dubai will be where it matters, with the Indian's upcoming World Championship rematch with Magnus Carlsen intensifying the interest in their games. For Carlsen, at least, games played in advance of their planned November duel do seem to matter. When asked about Anand’s absence from the Norway Chess Supertournament he responded:

I can’t imagine facing him before the World Championship match. It’s fine with me that his last memories from our games are the ones from Zurich. [Norway Chess] could have been a positive experience for him, but it’s more likely that it would have been a negative one.

Whatever happens, chess fans are in for a treat!

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