Speed Chess Championship: Can MVL Ride Nakamura's Red Bull?
The third Nakamura-MVL matchup in Chess.com history.

Speed Chess Championship: Can MVL Ride Nakamura's Red Bull?

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Oct 10, 2018, 9:08 AM |
36 | Chess Players

It's "only" a quarterfinal, but it's a matchup worthy of much more.

On Thursday, October 11 at 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central Europe) Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will go toe-to-toe to decide the last semifinalist of the 2018 Speed Chess Championship campaign.

The two players represent the highest-rated blitz players in the world, not counting Magnus Carlsen, who didn't enter this season's contest. While the Frenchman is world number-two in blitz (2937) and the American world number-three (2893), Nakamura enjoys leads in both Chess.com rating classes.

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On this site, Nakamura is number-one in blitz (3042) while Vachier-Lagrave is even outside the top 40 at 2869. The disparity is much less in bullet, where Nakamura is second-highest-rated at 3062 and his opponent number-four at 3025. Gaudy numbers indeed!

We often preview these matches by talking about their head-to-head record in either classical or over-the-board blitz, but since both of these players are so active on Chess.com, let's go for a more meaningful stat: Who has done better when they've faced off on Chess.com/live?

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They've played 90 games, with Nakamura winning a little more than half (48), MVL winning about a quarter (24) and only 18 draws. Some of those games came from their 2016 matchup in the GM Blitz Battle Challenge (the former name of the SCC). In that meeting, Nakamura won the match 21.5-10.5 thanks to a rout in the 3+2 time control, which the American took by a whopping 8.5-1.5 (note that this season the increment will only be one second for all time controls, hence 3+1).

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Nakamura also beat his French rival in one of the last Death Matches. In December, 2015, the score was nearly the same, 17.5-10.5.

This means that Nakamura and MVL will now be the first players to match up in all three "one-on-one" formats Chess.com has ever introduced: Death Match, GM Blitz Battle Challenge, and Speed Chess Championship!

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If you want to do a deep dive into their past blitz games, you can find them all here, or their bullet games, which are all here. But if you prefer to hear from the players themselves, we've got you covered there, too.

Chess.com: What's your confidence level of winning this match?

HN: The usual, I think I am a 55 percent favorite.

MVL: I'm obviously not a favorite in this match given Hikaru's record, but I hope to capitalize on my recent form. I also learned a few lessons from my previous speed chess battles with Hikaru so I'm gonna say 25-30 percent [to win the match].

Chess.com: How will you prepare? Chess-wise, or maybe also non-chess wise?

HN: My complete preparation will consist of doing tactics on Chess.com (no joke).

MVL: I'm mostly chilling since the Olympiad but obviously I'll have some blitz or bullet games before starting the match, and I'll probably also think about a couple of opening choices.

Chess.com: From where will you be playing?

HN: I will be playing from Sunrise, Florida. [Nakamura owns a home there. —MK]

MVL: I'll be playing from my home, the usual! [Paris, France. —MK]

Chess.com: If you could choose a different sport to battle (for three hours!) and beat your opponent, which would it be?

HN: If I could play Maxime for three hours, I'd enjoy playing Fortnite.

MVL: Giant bullet chess is not a sport yet, so I'll try my luck in ping pong.

Chess.com: If you watched, what did you think of Wesley So vs. Vidit Gujrathi?

HN: (Answering before the match took place) I will be asleep and recovering from jet lag. However, I expect Wesley to win. 

MVL: (Answering after watching the match) There were a lot of interesting moments, but I think Vidit lost the theoretical battle and didn't try enough to surprise Wesley when it was already clear he probably should.

Log in to either Twitch.tv/chess or Chess.com/TV on Thursday, October 11 at 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central Europe) to see which of these blitz and bullet monsters moves on to face Levon Aronian in the semifinals!

Peter Doggers contributed to this article.

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