Hikaru Nakamura won just 2 games in the World Rapid Championship in Almaty, but on Day 1 of the World Blitz he won 8 to take a 1-point lead and give himself every chance of winning his first ever World Rapid or Blitz title. Magnus Carlsen is among the 5-player chasing pack after making a dramatic late arrival midway through Round 1, still dressed in casual gear. Ian Nepomniachtchi would also fall foul of the dress code.
The 1st day of the World Blitz Championship is a marathon, with 12 rounds in the Open section and 9 in the Women’s, but Magnus Carlsen took things a bit too literally as he found himself running to the board and making his move 2 minutes and 30 seconds after his clock had been started — a serious handicap given the players only receive 3 minutes.
It was later revealed that Magnus had gone skiing in the morning but got caught in traffic on the way back.
At the board, Carlsen’s opponent Vladislav Kovalev, who had been overruled by the arbiter when he tried to wait for Magnus, didn’t try to play on time, and Magnus did Magnus things as he went on to win anyway.
That would be the start of a 5-game winning streak for Magnus, but his late arrival had also drawn attention for his Puma gear, completely in contravention of the strict dress code.
If it was deliberate, it could have been an inspired marketing ploy, similar to the one Pelé, the Brazilian footballing legend who died the same day, once employed.
It seems more Magnus just didn’t have time to change, but he had before Round 2 began, when he showed up in a suit.
Magnus wasn’t the only player whose appearance raised questions, however, since Ian Nepomniachtchi was wearing a T-shirt that was a tribute to another footballing legend, Lionel Messi. It contained a phrase (roughly = “What are you looking at, stupid?”) Messi had famously spoken to a Dutch player in an interview after Argentina beat the Netherlands in the recent World Cup.
This was the scene as the announcer explained that players not following the dress code would be expelled from the tournament.
The Head of the Appeals Committee Pavel Tregubov and even a FIDE lawyer were dispatched to talk to Ian, who was unimpressed.
What made the discussions more pointed is that just when FIDE were pushing for players to wear suits they appeared to have miscalculated something in the venue, with Hikaru Nakamura commenting after a draw against Magnus: My performance is pretty good, considering the conditions… It’s 9000 degrees in the playing hall, it’s affecting everybody, so that’s not great.
Magnus also stared defeat in the face against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but instead remained unbeaten to end the day in joint second place.
Hikaru also survived some scary moments, for instance against Jan-Krzysztof Duda, but pulled away in the last two games with wins over Haik Martirosyan and Vladimir Fedoseev. In that latter game he struck with 19.Nxb5! cxb5 20.e5!, exploiting the undefended rook on a8.