Speed Chess Championship: 7 Things To Watch For

Speed Chess Championship: 7 Things To Watch For‎

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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40 | Fun & Trivia

In just three days from now, one of the biggest events of 2020 starts: the $100,000 Speed Chess Championship Main Event with GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Magnus Carlsen as the top seeds. What can we expect?

How to watch?

The games of the Speed Chess Championship Main Event will be played on the Chess.com live server. They will also be available on our platform for watching live games at Chess.com/events. Expert commentary can be enjoyed at Chess.com/tv.


This year's Speed Chess Championship is destined to become a legendary event. Fans can follow the action live on Chess.com/tv with expert commentary as the players battle it out in one-on-one matches of 5+1, 3+1, and 1+1 games.

The field is top-notch, with a combination of super grandmasters as well as up-and-coming players with special skills for online blitz and bullet. Based on the October 2020 FIDE blitz ratings, Carlsen is the second seed while the top seed is Nakamura.

The field also includes GM Alireza Firouzja, the highly gifted 17-year-old from Iran who came second in the Norway Chess tournament recently. World championship candidates GM Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also play, as well as the fresh U.S. Champion GM Wesley So.

2020 SCC Main Event | Participants

# Rank Fed Name Rating B-Year Qualification
1 1 Nakamura, Hikaru 2900 1987 2019 Champion
2 2 Carlsen, Magnus 2886 1990 Invite
3 3 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2822 1990 Invite
4 4 So, Wesley 2816 1993 Invite
5 6 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2799 1998 SCC Invitational
6 10 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2785 1990 Invite
7 11 Artemiev, Vladislav 2783 1998 SCC Grand Prix
8 13 Firouzja, Alireza 2770 2003 Invite
9 20 Fedoseev, Vladimir 2756 1995 Super Swiss
10 22 Giri, Anish 2752 1994 Invite
11 27 Aronian, Levon 2739 1982 Invite
12 35 Caruana, Fabiano 2711 1992 Invite
13 57 Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 2662 2004 SCC Grand Prix
14 67 Nihal Sarin 2658 2004 Junior SCC
15 - Maghsoodloo, Parham 2601 2000 SCC Grand Prix
16 - Martirosyan, Haik 2597 2000 SCC Grand Prix

GM Nihal Sarin qualified as the winner of the Junior Speed Chess Championship. The Speed Chess Grand Prix delivered four players: GMs Vladislav Artemiev, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Parham Maghsoodloo, and Haik Martirosyan.

GM Vladimir Fedoseev qualified as the runner-up of the Super Swiss. The Russian GM finished behind Nakamura, who is directly seeded into the Main Event as last year's winner. The last name that became known was GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who qualified as the winner of the Speed Chess Invitational.

2020 Speed Chess Championship Bracket

2020 Speed Chess Championship bracket
Here's the schedule for the round of 16:

  • November 1, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe: Vachier-Lagrave vs. Sarin
  • November 2, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe: Carlsen-Maghsoodloo
  • November 4, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe: Firouzja-Fedoseev
  • November 11, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe: Nepomniachtchi-Aronian
  • November 12, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe: Nakamura-Martirosyan
  • November 15, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe: Caruana-Duda
  • November 16, 2020 at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe: Giri-Artemiev

The date and time for So-Abdusattorov will be announced soon.

With the competition starting on Sunday, what can we expect this year?

1. Carlsen's return to Chess.com

The Chess.com team is just as excited to see Carlsen returning as any chess fan is. His match with Maghsoodloo on November 2 will be his first participation in an event on our server since the 2018 PRO Chess League.

While the pandemic dominated world affairs in 2020, to some extent Carlsen was personally responsible for an increase in online super tournaments. He ended up winning his own Magnus Carlsen Tour, in a thrilling final against Nakamura.

Now, the champion is back on Chess.com—and he is out for blood.

Magnus Carlsen 2020 Speed Chess championship

2. A possible Carlsen-Nakamura final

Carlsen's last participation in the Speed Chess Championship was in 2017 when he defeated Nakamura 18 to 9 in the final. A year before and against the same opponent, he also won the final of the GM Blitz Battle, a tournament with a similar format. The big question is: will we see a Carlsen-Nakamura, Part III?

The American grandmaster had a fantastic 2020 so far. While becoming the most popular chess streamer on Twitch, he was also the most successful player on the board—apart from his big nemesis.

Hikaru Nakamura 2020 Speed Chess Championship

In a way, Nakamura could be seen as a triple qualifier for the Main Event: as the winner of last year, but also by finishing first in the SCC Grand Prix and the SCC Super Swiss. Winning the Main Event, with Carlsen playing, would be the crown to his already magnificent work.

The tournament could indeed culminate in another Carlsen-Nakamura final—scheduled for December 13, 2020—as the main favorites will be on opposing sides of the bracket. 

Here's a game from the 2017 final between Carlsen and Nakamura. "I am pretty sure Magnus was saying to himself what the bleep," said commentator IM Daniel Rensch after 32...b5, and at the end of the game: "Magnus Carlsen holds lost positions all day. He holds them for breakfast."

3. An early upset?

Although it's a likely scenario, a final between Carlsen and Nakamura is obviously not guaranteed. Let's look at their possible roads to the final and the biggest bumps they'll be facing.

Nakamura first needs to beat the young Armenian blitz specialist Martirosyan. Already in the second round, the reigning champion might then face Firouzja, who is the favorite in his match with Fedoseev. After that, So might well be Nakamura's opponent in the semis. A tougher way to the final is hard to imagine.

Carlsen's side of the bracket looks slightly less tough even though it's not a walk in the park either. He would normally do away with Maghsoodloo comfortably but then, either Artemiev or Giri next, is not easy. If all goes well for the Norwegian, he will most likely meet either Vachier-Lagrave or Nepomniachtchi in the semifinals.

4. Is Firouzja the future and is the future now?

The fans will be eagerly anticipating the games of Firouzja. The Iranian prodigy is still the most promising player of the new generation. His recent second place at Norway Chess further supported that status, but that was classical chess. 

At faster time controls online, Firouzja's results have been topsy-turvy this year. It started well as he scored a 2807 rating performance for the Canada Chessbrahs in the PRO Chess League. He then achieved his biggest success thus far as he defeated none other than Carlsen in the Banter Blitz Cup.

Alireza Firouzja 2020 Speed Chess Championship

Firouzja's sixth place in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, also in April, with which he missed out on the playoffs, could hardly be called a bad result. He then finished in a slightly more disappointing 10th place among 12 players in the Lindores Abbey tournament, again missing qualification for the playoffs.

In September, the Iranian GM finished in a disappointing last place at the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz. Meanwhile, over the summer he participated in many SCC Grand Prix tournaments on Tuesdays but never won one, and ended in ninth place.

Firouzja definitely has the potential to win, but will he do it this year? Only if the stars decide it's early enough to align.

5. Other dark horses?

The biggest favorite to win the event besides Carlsen and Nakamura is not Firouzja. It is So.

We would almost forget that the American grandmaster, who just won his second U.S. Championship title earlier today (also played online!) reached the final of the last two Speed Chess Championships. He lost both to Nakamura.

Wesley So 2020 Speed Chess Championship

In 2018, the match was actually a really close affair. Nakamura ended up winning 15.5-12.5 but So tied him 5-5 in both the five-minute and three-minute segments. 

The 2019 tournament saw a repeat of that final, with Nakamura winning 19.5-14.5 this time. The match was again far from lop-sided, as So came back from a four-game deficit early on and at one point was even leading.

Who else can win this thing? Well, what about the four world championship candidates Caruana, Giri, Nepomniachtchi, and Vachier-Lagrave? Or giant-killer Duda?

The famous Duda clip after he beat GM Alexander Grischuk in 2018.

And what about Artemiev, who won two Speed Chess Championship Grand Prix tournaments and finished second in the leaderboard, behind Nakamura?

It is in fact Artemiev who is in fourth place in the Power Rankings by @SmarterChess—don't miss the article with predictions based on earlier results. The Russian GM is definitely a dark horse this year, on par with Firouzja or more than that.

Vladislav Artemiev 2020 Speed Chess Championship

6. Doubled prize fund

The prize fund for this year's Speed Chess Championship is a stellar $100,000, double the amount from last year. Apart from the honor of winning a very desirable title, the players will be playing for very serious money, especially as the competition progresses.

Here are the prizes per round:

  1. Round of 16: $32,000 with $4,000 per match
  2. Quarterfinals: $24,000 with $6,000 per match
  3. Semifinals: $24,000 with $12,000 per match
  4. Final: $20,000.


In each match, half of the prize fund for that match will go to the winner, and the other half will be distributed by winning percentage. This means that in the final, the winner will earn $10,000 plus his part of the final score. A player winning the competition with a 100 percent score over four matches would earn $42,000.

7. Play our Fantasy!

The event is fun in itself, but you can play too! Chess.com is offering over $1,000 in cash prizes in addition to diamond memberships in this year's Speed Chess Championship Fantasy Contest. In this contest, players will be challenged to pick their match-winners and the margin of victory to score points throughout the competition.

All details, and the entry form, can be found here.

The Speed Chess Championship Main Event will run between November 1, 2020, and will culminate in the Champions Weekend in mid-December, with the semifinals played on December 11 and 12 and the big final on December 13.

The total prize fund is $100,000. Each match will feature 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet chess.

Find all information about the Speed Chess Championship here.

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