Nakamura vs Harikrishna: 1 Million Scovilles Of Chess On May 4
GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Pentala Harikrishna are set to face off May 4 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time in the second GM Blitz Battles Match. You may want to bring a cold glass of milk.
"Naka" and "Hari" together make an incredibly spicy combo. The "nagahari" pepper is more than 1,000,000 Scoville heat units, at least 100-400 times hotter than a jalapeno! Will "NakaHari" be able to burn as hot? (Sorry GingerGM, even when you're fresh and pure, you only clock in at 60,000!)
The nagahari pepper, also known as bhut jolokia, was once the world record holder for hottest pepper. (Photo: Wikipedia.)
Nakamura will certainly do his part. He brings his own version of brimstone to the 64 squares. His Chess.com blitz and bullet ratings are both higher than the Tabasco Sauce rating, which measures 2,500 Scoville units.
Nakamura is now up to 2865 in blitz and 3237 in bullet, so Harikrishna will need to figure out how to remedy the burn. Luckily, cultures with a history of spicy food, like India, often use dairy products in their cooking for exactly this reason! Casein, a protein found in milk, helps mute the nerve receptors for capsaicin.
Can Harikrishna handle it? Well, he's from Guntur District, an area known for pepper production. The "Wonder Hot" chili is the hottest, and the area exports large quantities of peppers. This time, Chess.com is the buyer.
"It's interesting to play Hikaru online because he's considered to be very, very strong," Harikrishna told Chess.com. "Especially in bullet...My results against him online are very bad."
Harikrishna has been attempting to diffuse Nakamura's heat since they were children. They first met in the 2000 World Youth Championship in Spain in the under-14 section, a tame draw in 22 moves. Their next meeting came for country, when the U.S. met India in the 2008 Olympiad.
The Americans routed the Indians 3.5-0.5, including Nakamura's lone career classical win against Harikrishna. Here was their board-two game, featuring a slow-burning opening system that Nakamura employed several times in Dresden. GM Duncan Suttles would be proud:
They've met in over the board blitz too -- twice at the 2012 Biel Tournament. Nakamura showed that he loves to play the Austrian Attack against the Pirc:
You may be thinking: "Austrians aren't known for spicy food." Apparently you aren't a craft beer drinker -- this Vienna lager is made with ghost pepper, one of the hottest in the world. Have a bottle while you watch Nakamura dismantle a super-GM.
Harikrishna fought back in 2014 at Tata Steel. His curry simmered for a while before boiling over on top of Black's king. Just look at how normal Black's kingside looked five moves before Harikrishna doused him with sauce.
They've played at least one more blitz game against each other, a long draw in a queen ending at the 2014 World Blitz Championship. Unlike the first GM Blitz Battle between Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk, neither Nakamura nor Harikrishna has won the event.
Harikrishna has had some notable results however. In 2014 he earned silver at the Asian Blitz Championship and earlier this year took third in blitz at the IMSA Elite Mind Games event. He also won the 2009 Chigorin Memorial Blitz Tournament.
Nakamura has won two Death Matches against high-2700s (against GM Wesley So and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave), in formats that closely parallel the GM Blitz Battles. He's also registered five Titled Tuesday blitz wins, and just today won the Ultimate Blitz event with GMs Garry Kasparov, Fabiano Caruana, and So.
If this article is getting bland right about now, it's time to grab that jar of red heat in the database, otherwise known as Nakamura's queen sacs. Here's a few drops to add some kick to the prose:
Here's one in blitz against a former world champ:
And another against a near-world-champ:
They say good things come in threes, but this is Nakamura, so here's a fourth:
Besides being on the lookout for opportunities for Nakamura to set the board alight, Harikrishna may do well to read up on the literature of his opponent. Nakamura co-wrote a book on bullet chess and recently synthesized his points in a Chess.com article.
The Indian number-two admitted to having limited training in bullet. "I should do some practice," he said.
Nakamura never seems to tire of practicing his bullet skills. Here he is Tuesday at the U.S. Championship closing ceremony playing a series with GM Eric Hansen:
Harikrishna can consume some of the spiciest vindaloo plated before him. How do three queens sound? Check out how he quelled the aggression of a famous attacker at the Olympiad:
He can also dish up some dessert. Check out the subtle flavors late in this endgame:
Like Nakamura, Harikrishna enjoys a long meal. He's not going to leave any food on his plate.
Harikrishna told Chess.com that there's too little time following the current supertournament in Norway to prepare any openings for Nakamura. He said he plays some online, including a few of the past Titled Tuesday events on this site.
When told that May's Titled Tuesday has double the usual prize fund ($4,000), he considered "warming up," and that might mean playing Nakamura early!
For the GM Blitz Battle, the Nakahari pepper will be burning for three hours beginning at 10 a.m. Pacific (GMT -7) on Wednesday, May 4. Like all Blitz Battles, there will be 90 minutes of 5+2, 60 minutes of 3+2, and 30 minutes of 1+1. The opening game of each segment will be Chess960. Full rules are here.
Make sure to watch the action live. Chess.com is expanding its coverage into even more languages. GM Robert Hess and IM Danny Rensch will commentate in English at www.Chess.com/TV and www.twitch.tv/chess. GM Sergei Shipov will cover the match live in Russian with GM Alex Yermolinsky at twitch.tv/chessrussia.
GM Julio Sadorra and IM Oliver "Dimarks" Dimakiling are at the mike for the Filipino brodacast at twitch.tv/filipinochess.
After this, the next matches will be:
- Caruana vs Vachier-Lagrave -- May 10 at 10 a.m. Pacific
- Qualifier Event on May 31 -- (Entries already include GMs Le Quang Liem, Baadur Jobava, Gawain Jones, Max Dlugy and many others.)
- Carlsen vs Qualifier -- June 8 or 15 (most likely) again at 10 a.m. Pacific