2020 Speed Chess Championship Power Rankings

2020 Speed Chess Championship Power Rankings‎

SmarterChess
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42 | Chess Players

Past results are one of the best predictors when it comes to online chess events. The 2020 Speed Chess Championship features players from past speed chess championships, junior speed chess championships, and other qualifiers who have played speed chess with a 1-second increment. Often the favorite in a match-up can be predicted with a weighted average of the players' FIDE classical ratings and online ratings. Bringing in the classical ratings tends to do a nice job accounting for the extra 1-second increment that the players usually don't include in their regular games on chess.com.

Returning back-to-back champion Hikaru Nakamura will be looking to make history with his third Speed Chess Championship (SCC) title. The 2016 and 2017 SCC champion Magnus Carlsen will be looking to also win his third SCC title. You can be sure back-to-back finalist Wesley So and bullet specialist Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will be looking to take home their first SCC titles this year. Joining the field this year is a talented group of young players that have high chess.com ratings and are ready to surprise the fans.

To create these rankings, I have created what I call "segment ratings" for each of the time controls (5+1, 3+1, and 1+1). Each segment rating is formulated based on these factors, in order of importance:

  • Past SCC results
  • Current Chess.com and FIDE ratings
  • Recent strong positive trends for players improving quickly
  • Minor tweaks based on other online events and intuition

These segment ratings help build the SmarterChess predictions, sponsored by ChessGoals, and also go into the live odds algorithms during the shows.


1. Magnus Carlsen (7-0 Lifetime SCC Record)

Magnus Carlsen, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 2nd

Key Stat: Ranks first in all three segment ratings.

On Carlsen's path to winning the 2016 event (called Grandmaster Blitz Battle), he defeated Tigran Petrosian, Alexander Grischuk, and Hikaru Nakamura. Against Nakamura, Carlsen was up 10.5-5.5 after the blitz portion and cruised to a 14.5-10.5 victory. In the 2017 edition, Carlsen faced Nakamura again in the finals, this time after defeating Gadir Guseinov, Wesley So, and Alexander Grischuk. Nakamura fans were thinking he may have a chance against Carlsen considering Nakamura was the higher seed and possibly stronger in the bullet segment. Carlsen proved that wrong by crushing Nakamura 7.5-2.5 in bullet and winning the match 18-9. Until someone can beat Carlsen, his number-one spot in the power rankings is here to stay.

2. Hikaru Nakamura (13-2)

Hikaru Nakamura, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 1st

Key Stat: Highest blitz rating on the active leaderboard by over 100 points.

Nakamura is a force to be reckoned with and is always in the discussion for the strongest blitz chess player on the planet. Nakamura has won the most SCC matches of any competitor with 13, and the next closest players are trailing by a wide margin with seven victories (Carlsen and So). Besides the matches with Carlsen, Nakamura has won every match by three points or more which tends to be a decisive victory in this format. The wild card for Nakamura this year is the fact that he has switched to online streaming and is extremely active playing on Chess.com.

3. Wesley So (7-3)

Wesley So, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 4th

Key Stat: 8.5-1.5 lifetime in 3+1 segments.

So is the back-to-back runner-up in the SCC, losing only to Nakamura both years. In the last two years, So also put the brakes on two surprising newcomers that looked unbeatable. In 2018, Jan-Krzysztof Duda defeated top SCC players Sergey Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk before losing to So in the semi-finals. The next iteration of the event featured Vladislav Artemiev defeating both Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian, but again this top SCC talent was stopped by So in the semi-finals. So will most likely have to defeat both Nakamura and Carlsen to win the whole event this year, and he has shown to be the closest player thus far to these two SCC giants.

4. Vladislav Artemiev (2-1)

Vladislav Artemiev, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 7th

Key Stat: Defeated top-10 SCC players Aronian and Grischuk, each by a +7 margin.

Artemiev put on an impressive performance last year defeating both Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian by 7 points. In both matches, Artemiev was losing after the 5+1 segment and outclassed his opponents as the time controls became quicker. The combination of his mental fortitude to stick in a match after being down, combined with his bullet skills, make him a formidable opponent for even the top three players.

5. Ian Nepomniachtchi (3-3)

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 6th

Key Stat: Consistently strong in all three segments.

Nepomniachtchi is an improving player in all formats and time controls. He is now ranked 5th in the world in FIDE classical ratings, and he is currently leading the 2020 Candidates event for the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Champion title. In the SCC, Nepomniachtchi was knocked out in the second and first rounds in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Last year though he smashed previous SCC records in his 27-2 victory over Danielian. He then defeated world number three Ding Liren 19-12 and only lost to Nakamura by three points in the semi-finals.

6. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (3-2)

Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Speed Chess Championship

Seed: 5th

Key Stat: 3rd ranked player in the 1+1 segment.

Duda came onto the SCC scene in 2018 and surprised fans with upsets against Karjakin and Grischuk, only losing to So in the semi-finals. He repeated his strong performance in 2019 by defeating Anish Giri in the first round and only losing to eventual winner Nakamura. Duda is the 3rd ranked player in the 1+1 segment and just beat Karjakin 6-0 in the segment to clinch his berth into the main SCC bracket.

7. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (4-4)

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 3rd

Key Stat: 4th ranked player in 3+1 and 1+1 segment ratings.

MVL, as he is often called, has participated in the SCC for the past four years. In each iteration, he won the first round and was knocked out in the second round. MVL is one of the strongest players in the bullet segment, winning that segment six out of his eight matches. He is the biggest specialist in the field in terms of his strength difference between the time controls. MVL tends to start slow but is always in the match with his strength in 3+1 and 1+1 segments.

8. Levon Aronian (3-4)

Levon Aronian, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 11th

Key Stat: 2nd ranked 5+1 player in the field.

Aronian usually wins the first round and gets knocked out in the second round by a top-4 player. This year he has a tough first-round match-up with Nepomniachtchi, 5th place in the power rankings. Aronian is 5.5-1.5 in his seven past 5+1 segments and is ranked 2nd at that segment. If he can improve in the faster segments, Aronian could face Carlsen in the semi-finals this year.

9. Alireza Firouzja (0-1)

Alireza Firouzja, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 8th

Key Stat: Top rated bullet player on chess.com.

Firouzja will be entering the event as a fan favorite with chances to move deep into the bracket this year. Last year, Firouzja lost to Aronian in the first round 13.5-12.5 but almost came back to win with an impressive 6.5-2.5 win in the 1+1 segment. Firouzja has the speed and has been increasing his classical chess rating with a strong performance in Norway this year. However, if he wins the first round, he will face Nakamura in round two.

10. Anish Giri (1-3)

Anish Giri, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 10th

Key Stat: 5th ranked player in the 5+1 segment.

Even though Giri's record is not as impressive as the top-8, his losses against So and Duda were each only by one point. He also beat Mamedyarov at a time when Mamedyarov was ranked second in the world in FIDE classical. The opposite of Firouzja, Giri has the most success at 5+1 and has more difficulty as the time controls become faster. He will have a tough match-up in round one against Artemiev.

11. Nihal Sarin (0-0)

Nihal Sarin, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 14th

Key Stat: Junior Speed Chess 2020 Champion.

Sarin dominated in the Junior Speed Chess Championship and is the third-ranked bullet player on Chess.com. It'll be interesting to see how Sarin fares against some of the top FIDE classical players that may have lower Chess.com ratings than himself. In the first round, Sarin will face Vachier-Lagrave, who also has a higher ranking as the time controls get faster. Sarin could be the SCC rookie of the year if he can upset Vachier-Lagrave and his opponent in round two.

12. Vladimir Fedoseev (0-0)

Vladimir Fedoseev, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 9th

Key Stat: Runner-up in the Speed Chess Championship Super Swiss.

Fedoseev has a chance to upset Firouzja in round one, but it won't be easy with Firouzja's speed and classical chess ability. He was consistently a top player in SCC qualifier events, placed third in the SCC Grand Prix, and was runner-up in the SCC Super Swiss. These accolades, plus the SCC rookie status, both mean anything can happen for Fedoseev in this event.

13. Fabiano Caruana (1-3)

Fabiano Caruana, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 12th

Key Stat: 2nd ranked FIDE classical player in the world.

After taking a year off in 2019, Caruana is back in the SCC this year. In the past, he has had some early exits against strong opposition, but with his strength in classical play and a recent increase in online play, he may be able to surprise people this year. He will have a very tough match-up in the first round against Duda.

14. Haik Martirosyan (0-0)

Hai Martirosyan, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 16th

Key Stat: Semi-finalist in 2020 Junior Speed Chess Championship.

Martirosyan has had success in multiple time controls and formats on Chess.com. He dominated in the first two rounds of the JSCC before running into a super-strong Nihal Sarin in the semi-finals. He will have his work cut out for him in the first round in his first SCC against Hikaru Nakamura.

15. Parham Maghsoodloo (0-0)

Parham Maghsoodloo, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 15th

Maghsoodloo has had similar successes to his Armenia Eagles teammate Martirosyan, but lost to his friend in the JSCC this year. He will face the dominant Magnus Carlsen in the first round and will most likely be looking to gain experience in his rookie event.

16. Nodirbek Abdussattorov (0-0)

Nodirbek Abdussatorov, Speed Chess Championships

Seed: 13th

Abdussattorov will come into this event with the lowest rating in all three segments. He is close to the two juniors right above him in the power rankings though, and he has proven in online matches this year that he can hang with the top players. He will have a very tough first-round match-up with Wesley So.

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