The 7 Best Chess Moments Of 2019
What were your favorite moments in chess of 2019?

The 7 Best Chess Moments Of 2019

| 77 | Fun & Trivia

2019 was a great year for chess.

While many chess fans are ready to jump right into 2020 and the world championship drama, let's take a moment on this last day of 2019 to appreciate the best chess had to offer this year.

For much of 2019, the world's top chess players battled to qualify for the 2020 Candidates' Tournament, and it came down to the wire for the full field to emerge. The championship cycle is now set for 2020 and chess fans can hardly wait.

There were some exciting developments in computer chess (a personal favorite), including the ascent of neural-network chess engines like Lc0 to the top of the pack.

The year also saw another big leap forward for online chess coverage, with more in-person tournaments and online events streamed and professionally broadcast by the mega-hype team.

A living chess legend, Vladimir Kramnik, proposed an exciting rule change to chess. And in the last days of 2019, the current world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen, continued his dominance of the year (and decade, and century...) by holding all three major world chess championships: classical, rapid and blitz.

chess trophy

So how do all these great things stack up?

Here's our ranking of the seven best chess moments of 2019:

7. Saint Louis Arch Bishops win 2019 PRO Chess League.

The Saint Louis Arch Bishops receive their first-place medals and the $20,000 first prize.| Photo: Eric Rosen/PRO Chess League.
The Saint Louis Arch Bishops receive their first-place medals and the $20,000 first prize.| Photo: Eric Rosen/PRO Chess League.

When: May 2019

What happened:

Led by the super-GM and 2020 world championship candidate Fabiano Caruana, the Arch Bishops claimed their second PRO Chess League title in three years with a dominating win over the Baden-Baden Snowballs.

The Arch Bishops played the live semifinals and finals in San Francisco with strength from top-to-bottom boards, but it was Caruana's scorching 7.5/8 score for the weekend that sealed the victory.

Further reading:

6. Kramnik teams up with AlphaZero to propose "no-castling chess."

kramnik alphazero no-castling chess

When: November 2019

What happened:

Vladimir Kramnik, one of the greatest world chess champions of all time, retired from competitive chess in 2019. But he wasn't done making chess headlines.

Last month, Kramnik proposed an elegant and simple solution to boring draws and repetitive openings in top-level chess: Get rid of castling. 

Kramnik tested his rule change with another chess legend, the neural-network chess engine AlphaZero. Kramnik and AlphaZero owner DeepMind collaborated to produce beautiful sample games where the artificial intelligence chess project played itself without castling allowed.

Further reading:

5. Speed Chess Championship showcases rising stars and established champions.

2019 speed chess championship

When: 2019, ongoing

What happened:

The Speed Chess Championship expanded to include women's and junior events in addition to its main bracket of the world's top speed chess players.

The biggest underdog in the field, GM Elina Danielian, ran through the women's bracket to claim the title. And it would be an understatement to call Wei Yi a rising star, since he already is star (full stop), but the Chinese prodigy won the Junior Speed Chess Championship all the same. 

The main Speed Chess Championship bracket had its share of upsets and brilliancies, highlighted by the 21-year-old Vladislav Artemiev dispatching two speed chess legends—Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian—by the same dominating score of 16-9, before falling in the semifinals to Wesley So

At press time, three super-grandmasters remain in the Speed Chess field. So is through to the finals, while the reigning champion Hikaru Nakamura will need to get past Ian Nepomniachtchi in their semifinal match before he can defend his title against So. 

Nakamura vs. Nepomniachtchi is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 5 at PST on 

Further reading:

4. Nakamura wins inaugural Bullet Chess Championship.

nakamura bullet chess championship

When: April 2019

What happened:

Was it any surprise?

Hikaru Nakamura, already the long-reigning Speed Chess Champion, added another online chess title to his resume with a win in the first Bullet Chess Championship.

Nakamura, the heavy favorite going into the tournament, defeated Oleksandr Bortnyk to clinch the championship. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave finished in third place in the loaded championship field. 

Further reading:

3. Lc0 wins first Computer Chess Championship, but Stockfish strikes back.


When: April 2019

What happened:

Lc0, an open-source project using machine learning to train a neural-network chess engine, rose to the top of the computer chess world by defeating the champion Stockfish in the Computer Chess Championship.

It marked the first time a neural-network engine had beaten Stockfish in a championship event, proving that artificial-intelligence-based chess engines could play better than the traditional engines, which had been the kings of chess for the past two decades.

Stockfish, though, soon took back the championship from Lc0, and these two engines will battle with many others in the coming decade to determine the best chess-playing entity in the world.

Further reading:

2. Wesley So wins Fischer Random Chess Championship.

Magnus Carlsen resigns and congratulates Wesley So. Photo: Lennart Ootes/
Magnus Carlsen resigns and congratulates Wesley So in the Fischer Random Championship. Photo: Lennart Ootes/

When: November 2019

What happened:

Wesley So became the first officially-recognized champion of Fischer Random chess, beating the classical chess world champion Magnus Carlsen in the finals of a groundbreaking event played both online on and in-person in Norway under the FIDE (World Chess Federation) banner.

So pulled off the upset of the heavily-favored Carlsen in a shocking runaway, winning 13.5 to 2.5, ending the match early before the scheduled blitz games.

The tournament was a fan-favorite for its energetic games and exciting starting positions, showing that Fischer Random chess will have a bright future in the 2020s.

Further reading:

1. Carlsen wins world rapid and blitz titles to become triple champion (again).

Hikaru Nakamura resigns the blitz championship to Magnus Carlsen.  Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.
Hikaru Nakamura resigns the blitz championship to Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

When: December 2019

What happened:

The reigning classical world chess champion Magnus Carlsen won both the world rapid and blitz championships at the end of the year to once again hold all three major titles in a tremendous feat of chess dominance. 

Carlsen is now the world champion in the three most important forms of chess (and he just missed a fourth, finishing second to Wesley So in the Fischer Random championship). With the wins, Carlsen further secured his legacy as one of the greatest chess players ever.

With another title defense in the 2020 world chess championship, Carlsen could finally shed that "one of" clause and become simply the greatest of all time—if he is not already.

Further reading:

Let us know your favorite chess moments of the year in the comments.

And before you sign off for the year, take a look at some more of our best-of-2019 content:

More from Pete
Can You Solve Our 2023 Holiday Puzzler?

Can You Solve Our 2023 Holiday Puzzler?

Can You Solve Our 2022 Holiday Puzzler?

Can You Solve Our 2022 Holiday Puzzler?