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2021 Speed Chess Championship Preview: Who, Where, And Why To Watch

2021 Speed Chess Championship Preview: Who, Where, And Why To Watch

NathanielGreen
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Enjoy your weekend and rest up, for next Monday it will once again be time for Chess.com's premier blitz event: the Main Event of the Speed Chess Championship presented by Coinbase. The tournament begins with the November 8 matchup between GMs Anish Giri and Jan-Krzsyztof Duda, where GM Danya Naroditsky is beginning his journey as the lead commentator for Chess.com.

This year once again showcases 16 top grandmasters fighting for a $100,000 prize fund. The star-studded field includes 11 players in the top 20 of the November 2021 FIDE Blitz Rating List and 10 players once or currently in the top five in the world in standard ratings.

How to watch the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event live
You can watch the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event Presented By Coinbase live on Chess.com/TV and on our Twitch and YouTube channels. You can also keep up with all the details here on our live events platform.
2021 Speed Chess Championship

Their average Chess.com Blitz rating is 3051 and their Bullet average is an even more ridiculous 3137. They are all top 40 in the world by FIDE Blitz. Nine different countries are represented. It's a big-time field.


The Players

Speed Chess Championship 2021
The complete field.

It may be a big-time field, but one player looms above the rest: the reigning three-time SCC champion and top-rated Chess.com Blitz player. The other 15 grandmasters will try to knock GM Hikaru Nakamura off his throne as he once again enters as the favorite.

Nakamura Speed Chess Championship
Another 15 players coming at the speed chess king this year. Will they all miss again?

Naka's biggest threat to a fourth-straight title may be GM Alireza Firouzja, although they cannot face each other until the finals. In just the last four months, the second-seeded Firouzja has begun playing for France, turned 18 years old, and roared into the top 10 in the world. As of writing, he is also on the verge of qualifying for the 2022 Candidates. A Speed Chess Championship would only add to a monumental 2021 for the young star.

Firouzja Speed Chess Championship
Being the 2021 Bullet Chess Champion means no lead will be safe against Firouzja come the final 1+1 round.

Third seed GM Wesley So is a two-time SCC finalist (in 2018 and 19) who, like Firouzja, can give Nakamura a fight. 

So Speed Chess Championship
Can So return to the finals after a one-year hiatus?

The fourth seed is GM Ding Liren, the current world #2, while sixth seed GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was one of last year's finalists after defeating GM Magnus Carlsen in the semis. Hikaru next?

Vachier-Lagrave Speed Chess Championship
Is another deep run in store for the best French-born chess player ever?

In round one, fifth seed GM Levon Aronian will play GM Daniil Dubov making his SCC debut. Also playing in their first SCC are GMs Aleksey Sarana and Peter Svidler. Sarana qualified through the Super Swiss. Meanwhile, GM Jeffery Xiong won the Grand Prix and GM Nihal Sarin won his second-straight JSCC, an event he remains eligible for through 2024.

Dubov Speed Chess Championship
How far can the first-timer's relentless attacking style take him in the SCC?

This exciting field is rounded out by Giri, Duda, GM Alexander Grischuk, and 2018 world championship challenger GM Fabiano Caruana.

Caruana Speed Chess Championship
2018 world championship challenger, and 2021 world championship Chess.com commentator, seeks his best SCC finish yet.

So, what can we expect in the first round? Seven of these matches will be held before the FIDE World Championship begins, while the SCC will wrap up after the end of the world championship.

The First Round

As in years past, there will be 90 minutes of 5+1 (five minutes for the game with a one-second increment added per move), 60 minutes of 3+1, and 30 minutes at 1+1. Those last 30 minutes not only often decide the match, but the players in this year's first round have hardly ever played each other in Chess.com Bullet.

2021 Speed Chess Championship Bracket
The bracket.

In five of the eight matches, the last half-hour will be their first time facing each other in bullet, on Chess.com at least. It should make for some very exciting matches.

Each table below shows the SmarterChess projections by the numbers provided by NM Matt Jensen. And what are the players' overall experiences against each other? Find their lifetime Chess.com scores against each other in blitz and bullet, as well as over the board in classical time controls, below.

Giri vs. Duda (November 8)

It's the winner of the 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational, Giri, against the winner of the 2021 World Cup and 2022 candidate, Duda. As the seedings indicate, it's one of the closest matches on paper. 

Matchup 8 Giri 9 Duda
SmarterChess Prediction 12.5 14.5
Lifetime Chess.com Blitz 10.5 7.5
Lifetime Chess.com Bullet 3.0 7.0
Lifetime OTB Classical Score 2.5 1.5

Ding vs. Mamedyarov (November 9)

Their over-the-board record is close but they have never met on Chess.com. Despite their seeding differential, this is one of the closer matches by the numbers. Ding will be playing his first Chess.com Blitz since November 2020 while Mamedyarov recently won Titled Tuesday, our weekly blitz tournament.

Matchup 4 Ding 13 Mamedyarov
SmarterChess Prediction 13.0 14.0
Lifetime Chess.com Blitz 0.0 0.0
Lifetime Chess.com Bullet 0.0 0.0
Lifetime OTB Classical Score 6.5 4.5

Firouzja vs. Sarana (November 10)

These players have faced off in Chess.com Blitz more than any other first-round pair, but their bullet portion will be a first.

Matchup 2 Firouzja 15 Sarana
SmarterChess Prediction 16.5 10.5
Lifetime Chess.com Blitz 46.5 23.5
Lifetime Chess.com Bullet 0.0 0.0
Lifetime OTB Classical Score 0.0 0.0

Grischuk vs. Nihal (November 11, 1st match)

Grischuk and Nihal played several one-minute games together in 2019. This is another very close first-round match.

Matchup 7 Grischuk 10 Nihal
SmarterChess Prediction 14.0 13.0
Lifetime Chess.com Blitz 1.0 0.0
Lifetime Chess.com Bullet 10.5 9.5
Lifetime OTB Classical Score 0.0 0.0

Aronian vs. Dubov (November 11, 2nd match)

One of two matchups where the contestants have never played on Chess.com, and they've barely played over the board either. The numbers favor Aronian, but it's unclear how their styles will interact head-to-head.

Matchup 5 Aronian 12 Dubov
SmarterChess Prediction 16.0 11.0
Lifetime Chess.com Blitz 0.0 0.0
Lifetime Chess.com Bullet 0.0 0.0
Lifetime OTB Classical Score 1.5 0.5

Nakamura vs. Svidler (November 12)

This 1 vs. 16 matchup isn't necessarily a setup for the lower seed. Nakamura is certainly a heavy favorite, but Svidler has played Nakamura close in a small four-game Chess.com sample.

Matchup 1 Nakamura 16 Svidler
SmarterChess Prediction 19.5 7.5
Lifetime Chess.com Blitz 2.0 2.0
Lifetime Chess.com Bullet 0.0 0.0
Lifetime OTB Classical Score 7.5 12.5

So vs. Xiong (November 15)

It's the only-first round matchup between countrymen. They have met several times over the board, but only once on Chess.com.

Matchup 3 So 14 Xiong
SmarterChess Prediction 19.0 8.0
Lifetime Chess.com Blitz 0.5 0.5
Lifetime Chess.com Bullet 0.0 0.0
Lifetime OTB Classical Score 6.0 3.0

Vachier-Lagrave vs. Caruana (November 29)

Both players know what it's like to be a finalist, MVL in the SCC and Caruana in the FIDE World Championship. But only one of them has a chance at being a finalist in this year's SCC.

Back in 2016, they played in the first round of the eight-player GM Blitz Battle Championship, where MVL won.

Matchup 6 Vachier-Lagrave 11 Caruana
SmarterChess Prediction 17.0 10.0
Lifetime Chess.com Blitz 9.0 7.0
Lifetime Chess.com Bullet 7.0 2.0
Lifetime OTB Classical Score 16.0 20.0

Conclusion

And so it's shaping up to be a terrific Speed Chess Championship in 2021. How can you make it even more exciting?

By picking the winners—click the link and join thousands of people who have already submitted their bracket, before registrations end Sunday!

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