Today: Speed Chess Championship Doubleheader

Today: Speed Chess Championship Doubleheader

| 17 | News

The 2019 Speed Chess Championship, with a prize fund of $50,000, continues Thursday with a doubleheader which will conclude the round of 16. First, Levon Aronian (Armenia) and Alireza Firouzja (Iran) will play at 7 a.m. PDT, followed by Alexander Grischuk (Russia) and Vladislav Artemiev (Russia) at 10:30 a.m. PDT.

Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Jan-Krzysztof Duda advanced to the quarterfinals at the start of the month. The other matches had to be postponed to avoid conflicts with the FIDE World Cup, but this week we'll see more super grandmasters battling in the 2019 Speed Chess Championship:

All matches can be followed in Live Chess and with expert commentary on

Speed Chess Championship Bracket

Oct. 1: Nakamura vs. Dobrov

Hikaru Nakamura doesn't really need an introduction here at (but we'll do it anyway). Besides being yet again the number-one player in blitz (3121) and bullet (3253) on our site, he is also the reigning Speed Chess champion. Simply put, he is the player to beat.

Born in Hirakata, Japan, his family moved to the U.S. when he was two. Currently the world number-20 in classical chess, Nakamura is a five-time U.S. champion and an Olympic gold medalist.

He won the prestigious Tata Steel Chess tournament in 2011 and is a record four-time winner of the Gibraltar Masters. His peak rating was 2814 in July 2015.

Hikaru Nakamura 2019 Speed Chess Championship

Nakamura's first-round opponent is Russian grandmaster Vlad Dobrov from Moscow. Besides the nationality, Dobrov has something else in common with 13th world champion Garry Kasparov: both were born on April 13 (Dobrov in 1984).

Dobrov has a master's in physical education and sports (topic: "Comprehensive Training of Young Chess Players") at the Russian State University of Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism. He qualified for the Speed Chess Championship by winning the August Titled Tuesday qualifier.

For this article, all the players were asked which music would be best to listen to during their matches. From Dobrov's answer, it can be deduced the player whom he thinks is the favorite: "Frederic Chopin's 'Funeral March' will be my guide through the whole match. I have already prepared the disk with 3.5 hours of this masterpiece."

It seems he especially fears his opponent's online skills: "He likes park blitz like me, so my chances can be equal only in the park—where 'pre-moves,' 'auto-promotes,' 'rook versus rook' and 'two-hand-mode' can be punished by legs."

Dobrov said that Nakamura is "a man of his word" and told about when they once played online: "After being 8-0 down in one of our rare matches, finally I checkmated him, after which Hikaru said: 'OK, OK, now it's punishment time!' After these words I didn't have any chances and decided to run."

Vladimir Dobrov 2019 Speed Chess Championship

And what will he spend the money on if he wins the whole tournament? Dobrov: "A one-way ticket to the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro."

You can watch Nakamura vs. Dobrov on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 9 a.m. Pacific (noon Eastern, 18:00 CEST) with expert commentary on

Oct. 2: Mamedyarov vs. So

Born in Sumqayit, Azerbaijan, but living in Baku, the 34-year-old Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is the world number-seven in the FIDE rankings. He is the only player to win the World Junior U20 championship twice. 

Mamedyarov has made a steady rise in to the world's top-10 recently. He won several challenging events, such as the 2016 and 2017 Gashimov Memorial, the 2017 FIDE Grand Prix and the 2018 Biel Chess Festival.

Mamedyarov's most recent tournament was the FIDE World Cup, where he was surprisingly knocked out by his compatriot and good friend Teimour Radjabov, who is playing in the finals this week.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2019 Speed Chess Championship

Born in Bacoor, Cavite, Philippines, the 25-year-old Wesley So now lives in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and has been representing the U.S. since 2014. So is the world number-eight in the FIDE rankings.

Among his victories are the 2015 Bilbao Masters, the 2016 Grand Chess Tour (including victories at the Sinquefield Cup and the London Chess Classic) and the 2017 Tata Steel tournament. He was also part of the Olympic gold-winning team at the 2016 Baku Olympiad.

So's most recent tournament was the FIDE World Cup, where he was surprisingly knocked out by Nikita Vitiugov of Russia.

It's an early clash between two top-10 players. So is aware of the strength of his opponent, calls him a "natural born killer" and wonders: "What I want to know is how I got him on my first round."

Wesley So 2019 Speed Chess Championship

All matches are played with five-minute, three-minute and one-minute games. So said he didn't have a particular time control that he prefers: "Some days I am better at one, and other days I am better at another. My plan to strike in each time control to see which I am better at on that day."

You can watch Mamedyarov vs. So on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 9 a.m. Pacific (noon Eastern, 18:00 CEST) with expert commentary on

Oct. 3: Aronian vs. Firouzja

Born in Yerevan, Armenia, 36-year-old Levon Aronian is currently the number-14 in the FIDE rankings. He had a peak rating of 2830 in March 2014 that makes him the fourth-highest rated player in history.

Aronian is the only player to win two FIDE World Cups. This year he was eliminated by Vachier-Lagrave in the quarterfinals.

A three-time Olympic gold winner, Aronian also won the 2008-2010 FIDE Grand Prix; 2007, 2012 and 2014 Wijk aan Zee tournaments; the 2006 Linares tournament; and the 2018 Gibraltar tournament. He is also the 2009 world rapid champion, the 2010 world blitz champion and the 2006 and 2007 Chess960 world champion.

He said he knows a bit about his opponent: "Alireza was trained by Armenian coaches, so I more or less know his style. I expect to win with a small margin."

And what about the best music for such matches? "Something that is not filled with quickly changing melodies and has a constant beat. Golden age hip-hop?"

Levon Aronian 2019 Speed Chess Championship

Born in Babol, Iran, the 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja is currently the third-highest rated junior player in the world, behind Wei Yi and Jeffery Xiong. He won his first Iranian championship at the age of 12 and became a grandmaster at 14.

In December 2018, Firouzja came in sixth place at the World Rapid Championship. This year he tied for first place at the Sharjah Masters and came in second at the challenging open tournament in Reykjavik, where he also won the European Fischer Random Championship.

Firouzja is one of the strongest bullet players on, where he is the first player to break a bullet rating of 3300.

Alireza Firouzja 2019 Speed Chess Championship

Firouzja was knocked out of the Junior Speed Chess Championship in the semifinals by Wei Yi but later qualified for the general Speed Chess Championship anyway by winning the invitational qualifier.

He is reasonably confident about the match: "I played Levon two times in blitz, and both ended in a draw, so I see some chances for myself."

You can watch Aronian vs. Firouzja on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 7 a.m. Pacific (10 a.m. Eastern, 16:00 CEST) with expert commentary on

Oct. 3: Grischuk vs. Artemiev

Born in Moscow, the 35-year-old Alexander Grischuk is currently the 13th player in the FIDE rankings. His classical successes include winning the 2009 Russian Championship, the 2009 Linares tournament, the 2014 Petrosian Memorial and the 2017 Sharjah Grand Prix.

Grischuk is also a three-time world blitz chess champion (in 2006, 2012 and 2015). He has played in four Candidates' Tournaments (in 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2018).

In 2017 Grischuk reached the semifinals of the Speed Chess Championship, where he was defeated by Magnus Carlsen. Last year he was eliminated by Duda in the quarterfinals.

After he won gold with Russia at the 2019 World Team Championship, Grischuk was asked who is their new leader, now that Vladimir Kramnik had retired. Grischuk suggested that might be the person who is his Speed Chess opponent:

"We had Chuck Norris on the team. Vlad Artemiev, he was like Chuck Norris! Maybe you cannot call him the leader yet, but he has the potential to be the leader." 

Alexander Grischuk 2019 Speed Chess Championship

Born in Omsk, Russia, the 21-year-old Vladislav Artemiev is one of the rising stars in that country's chess. He won the 2015 Russian Championship Higher League. In the same year he came in second in the World Juniors and won the Russian blitz championship. In 2018 he cemented his blitz reputation further by winning the European Blitz Championship.

This year he had two big successes in classical chess: He won both the Gibraltar Masters and the European Individual Championship. But getting the title of Russia's Chuck Norris is arguably his highest achievement so far!

Vlad Artemiev 2019 Speed Chess Championship

You can watch Grischuk vs. Artemiev on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific (1:30 p.m. Eastern, 19:30 CEST) with expert commentary on

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