Will Carlsen-Nakamura 2 Be Better Than The Original?
Will this sequel live up to the hype?

Will Carlsen-Nakamura 2 Be Better Than The Original?

| 30 | Chess Players

This season's Speed Chess Championship finals on January 3 will go the way of last year's Grandmaster Blitz Battle ending: GM Magnus Carlsen vs. GM Hikaru Nakamura. For many, seeing these two duel again is the most cinematic matchup.

Last time around, Carlsen played better in the "slower" segments en route to winning 14.5-10.5. But will this year's face-off be more memorable than the first, which produced record audiences on and


It's hard to make a sequel better than the original, but that hasn't stopped Hollywood from trying. If the two GMs want to live up to the hype, they may want to take a few pointers from the silver screen. Besides, with IM Danny Rensch and GM Eric Hansen commentating, we can help write the script here with some choice movie quotes.

But which sequels should the two emulate? According to a recent poll on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), members ranked these as the top five sequels of all time:


Screenshot from

So with that in mind, let's try to give some advice to Carlsen and Nakamura on how they can borrow these movies' key elements for a more entertaining matchup. (I know, I know, you're as apoplectic as I am about the lack of love for Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, but it's just as well, since I've never seen either player breakdance, so there's little to be mirrored from that film.)

1. The Dark Knight

This one's easy. Obviously any opening where the black knights play a prominent role would be key here. Carlsen played the Nimzowitsch Defense (1...Nc6) against GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov in Isle of Man this year, then again recently in the World Rapid and Blitz against GM Sergei Movsesian.

As for Nakamura, he's actually from Gotham and is no stranger to opening with the other dark knight. The American has played Alekhine's Defense (1...Nf6) about 10 times in classical chess, including at a world championship. It remains a regular blitz weapon, having been used in Carlsen-Nakamura 1 (although without success) but also in two of his wins earlier this SCC season against GM Sergey Grigoriants.

Here was one of those wins, where two dark knights run amok. No word on which one was Batman and which one was Bruce Wayne.

For the ultimate "Dark Knight" experience, either player could open with 1...Nf6 AND 1...Nc6, but they'll have to cough up more than the cost of a movie ticket to prepare with a copy of the out-of-print "Black Knights' Tango."

Movie quote commentators must work in to the show: "Some men just want to watch the world burn."

2. Terminator 2

This sequel has already been alluded to many times in the past month by members. The "AlphaZero" and "Skynet" comparison was just too hard to ignore.

But let's suggest these two chess terminators go a different way. They can begin paying homage to the action film with their wardrobe. Leather jackets aside, simply donning some wraparound shades would be a good start.

Nakamura was once a 2800 and also tried to be a T-800 once:


GM Hikaru Nakamura, playing the Ray-Ban gambit at the 2013 Sinquefield Cup. | Photo: Mike Klein/

And who did Nakamura try to polarize with his shades? Yes, his own personal T-1000, Magnus Carlsen...

Carlsen Nakamura

James Cameron could do a film on the Carlsen-Nakamura rivalry. | Photo: Mike Klein/

If either player wants to get some proper Arnold-style shades, chess's own action hero, GM Maurice Ashley, has you covered.

Maurice Ashley

GM Maurice Ashley, or Will Smith's stand-in for Men in Black 4? | Photo: Mike Klein/

It'll be hard to replicate the threat of thermonuclear war, however. Probably the closest chess comparison would be beating GM Viktor Korchnoi, but those days are gone.

Movie quote commentators must work in to the show: "I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle."

3) Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back

Now generally considered the greatest of the "Star Wars" catalogue, there's no shortage of ways for the two intergalactic chess heroes to imitate the sci-fi classic.

They've both already played the role of Luke Skywalker, having spent separate time training with the Grand Master of the Jedi. Both trained in Kasparov's summer residence in Croatia; apparently Dagobah wasn't the best place for learning opening theory. (By the way, Yoda, or rather GM Garry Kasparov, has been following the SCC this year and told that "Magnus is clearly the favorite.")

If they really wanted to get into character, they could play the match left-handed. After all, Luke doesn't end the film with all of his appendages.

If it's Han Solo they're trying to imitate, both have also already found their Princess Leia.


No word on whether Nakamura or Carlsen's belle is actually the leader of the Rebel Alliance. | Photos: Mike Klein and Maria Emelianova/

Both GMs have the requisite sidekick. GM Peter Heine Nielsen is nearly the right height to be a less-hairy Chewbacca. Nakamura's longtime computer-whiz second, the laconic NM Kris Littlejohn, would be an ersatz C-3P0.

But no, what will really piggyback the success of the second "Star Wars" film will be a classic lightsaber duel. The first film had a type of "holographic chess" game played, and has commissioned Disney to create a virtual reality "holochess" game. Let's hope it's ready in time to replace the final Chess960 game with a holochess lightsaber battle.

Movie quote commentators must work in to the show: "Impressive...most impressive."

4) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Another sequel whose title begs for a chess equivalent; for this one, we suggest both players rekindle their passion for active kings.

Not only did Nakamura once walk his white king to d6 on an open board, he also let his 2600-opponent promote a queen in the process. Frodo never dies, and the 1779-mile journey to Mordor only took 13 king moves.

So what does that make Carlsen? Nakamura weighed in on this himself a few years back:

If it's not clear to Nakamura if Carlsen uses his powers for good or evil, what should be clear is that he doesn't treat brave kings as forgivingly as they walk about the chessboard:

For Carlsen to truly get into the "Lord of the Rings" mindset, he can choose to keep slaying the Dragons...

...or keep becoming the Dragon:

Movie quote commentators must work in to the show: "You're outnumbered, Aragorn. You need more men."

5) The Godfather: Part II

Switching from Frodo to Fredo, and at the risk of being completely obvious, Carlsen and Nakamura should play the Sicilian every chance they get. The opening and movie share many traits: complicated casts of characters, intrigue, and unexpected attacks.

In their first-ever Sicilian, the film lived up to the hype:

Nakamura's only classical win ever against Carlsen was also in a Sicilian:

Sadly, none of the 25 games from Carlsen-Nakamura 1 saw the Sicilian. But Nakamura hasn't shed it from his Norwegian repertoire. He played it earlier this year in classical chess against the world champ. You guessed it, another exciting clash:

Movie quote commentators must work in to the show: "You broke my heart, Fredo. You broke my heart."

Both "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and "The Godfather: Part II" ran a little more than three hours—just about exactly one Speed Chess Championship match. Will the drama of Carlsen-Nakamura part two match any of these sequels?

We're going to make you an offer you can't refuse: Watch the world's two best blitz and bullet players clash for three hours.

Bring all the popcorn and Skolebrød you'll need for what will likely be the most-watched event in history. The opening credits roll on Wednesday, January 3 at 10 a.m. Pacific.

You can catch all the drama on or as non-Academy-award-winning hosts IM Danny Rensch and GM Eric Hansen cover all the plot twists.

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