On December 25, Samarkand hosted a press conference and opening ceremony for the World Rapid and Blitz Championships. The attendees included the reigning World Rapid and Blitz champion Magnus Carlsen, International Chess Federation (FIDE) President Arkady Dvorkovich, Minister of Youth Policy and Sports Adham Ikramov, Chairperson of the Uzbekistan Chess Federation Alisher Sa‘dullayev and Uzbek chess player Nodirbek Abdusattorov, as reported by Gazeta.uz.

The conference moderator extended Christmas wishes to Carlsen and expressed curiosity about the chess player’s belief in Santa Claus. Carlsen replied by sharing his happiness in participating in his favorite tournament on Christmas despite Norway celebrating on December 24. “Things are going so well, so I still believe in Santa Claus, obviously,” he humorously remarked.

Magnus Carlsen (in the center). Photo: Khusniddin Auto / PressPhotoUzMagnus Carlsen (in the center). Photo: Khusniddin Auto / PressPhotoUz

A Gazeta.uz correspondent asked Carlsen if he would consider returning to the world title competition if Nodirbek Abdusattorov emerged as the winner. Earlier, the Norwegian grandmaster had stated that he would not defend his title unless facing Alireza Firouzja.

Carlsen responded that although Nodirbek would no longer be able to compete for the title in this cycle, his skill and character would give him a chance in the next one. However, Carlsen commented that, in his view, a more crucial factor is the necessity for a change in the format of the championship match. This would encourage his return to compete for the classical chess world champion title.

Photo: Khusniddin Ato / PressPhotoUzPhoto: Khusniddin Ato / PressPhotoUz

In response to a question about the state of chess in Uzbekistan, Carlsen recalled a similar inquiry the previous year on chess in Kazakhstan. At that time, he advised, “look at Uzbekistan and do the same.”

The Norwegian chess player was asked about his favorites in both chess tournaments — rapid and blitz events. “The rapid has considerably fewer rounds, and the results at the top will thus be more random. So, I think, I am personally a very significant favorite in the blitz event. The rapid championship is a lot more open. I would say that there are a lot of players who have the potential to win, including Nodirbek, but there is not one particular name that stands out,” Carlsen noted.

When asked about FIDE’s particular focus on Central Asian countries, Arkady Dvorkovich referred to two main factors: rich chess traditions and strong support for chess from people in these countries.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov. Photo: Khusniddin Ato / PressPhotoUzNodirbek Abdusattorov. Photo: Khusniddin Ato / PressPhotoUz

Nodirbek Abdusattorov addressed a question about his coaches. He mentioned Dmitriy Kayumov as his coach when he achieved a grandmaster title, and Rustam Kasimdzhanov as his current coach.

In the women’s category, Ju Wenjun drew white for rapid, while Lei Tingjie drew black for blitz.

The rapid competition is scheduled to begin on December 26 at 15:00 Tashkent time.

Uzbekistan is represented by 33 players, including Olympic champions Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Javokhir Sindarov, Nodirbek Yakubboyev, Jakhongir Vakhidov, Shamsiddin Vokhidov, Grandmaster Abdimalik Abdisalimov and others. Chess coach Georgiy Shvanov previously provided insights on tournament favorites for Gazeta.uz and discussed the chances of Uzbekistani representatives.

Press-conference video recording

Opening ceremony video recording