Speed Chess Preview: MVL vs. Sarin

Speed Chess Preview: MVL vs. Sarin

| 83 | Chess Event Coverage

The wait is over. Today, the 2020 Speed Chess Championship Main Event begins with its first match: GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (@Lyonbeast) vs. GM Nihal Sarin (@NihalSarin). It starts at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe.

How to watch?
The games of the Speed Chess Championship Main Event will be played on the live server. They will also be available on our platform for watching live at and on our apps under "Watch." Expert commentary can be enjoyed at

On one side, we find a seasoned French number-one, who turned 30 earlier this month and who is the world number-three on the October FIDE blitz rating list. On the other side is the 16-year-old rising star from India who is 79th on the global list but has extensive experience of playing on Sarin has played an incredible 29,178 games, more than any participant in the competition.'s @Rakesh did some digging, and one of the amazing facts he found is that Vachier-Lagrave became an IM in the year his opponent was born! If that doesn't scare Nihal enough, the "Frenchman with two names" is also a two-time European Blitz champion.

He won the World Junior Championship in 2009 and has a fine list of major tournament victories that includes Biel (five times!), Dortmund (2016), and the Sinquefield Cup (2017). Currently, MVL leads the FIDE Candidates Tournament for which the second half is postponed to the spring of 2021.

Vachier-Lagrave said he's not going to underestimate his young opponent: "His play is very consistent in blitz, and that's one of the reasons he is a very dangerous opponent. Nihal will rarely make big mistakes, and the main challenge will be to convert the promising positions I will get, as he will not make my life easy in those games."

The Frenchman, who will play from his home in Paris, expects the 5+1 time control to be important: "All time controls will be important tomorrow. Maybe 5+1 will be more crucial as if I get to a good start, it will be much easier to cruise on to victory."

About preparation, MVL said: "I played a bit more blitz online lately and generally work on being more focused during the course of the internet blitz, as I feel like it is my main weakness."

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2020 Speed Chess
Sarin can not only boast of almost 30K games on our site; he is also currently rated higher than MVL. He is the seventh player in blitz (closely followed by MVL in ninth place) and the number-three in bullet (MVL is 28th).

Sarin is the 2019 Asian Blitz Champion and was an integral part of the Indian team that won the 2020 FIDE Online Olympiad on

The 16-year-old is the youngest participant in the competition. He qualified by winning the Junior Speed Chess Championship where he defeated GMs Andrew Tang, Anton Smirnov, and Haik Martirosyan.

Asked whether he has a favorite first-round opponent in the SCC, he humbly replied: "I'm clearly going to be the weakest, and it will be great to play anyone."

Nihal Sarin 2020 Speed Chess
Sarin will be playing from his home in Thrissur, Kerala, India. He mentioned "calculation and resilience" as Vachier-Lagrave's points and suspects the 3+1 time control will be the most important part of the match. About his preparation, he said:

"I will check his games and have an approximate idea of the areas I want to go to, with the help of my coach."

Speed Chess MVL Sarin predictions
The SmarterChess predictions for MVL vs. Sarin.

As always, @SmarterChess provides us with odds calculations for the individual matches in the championship. For the opener, he has MVL on a 64 percent winning chance, although the margins are small.

The players played only once before in over-the-board chess, which was at the 2019 World Blitz Championship. "I won that game, but it was a tough fight," said Vachier-Lagrave.

The match between MVL and Sarin is the first in the round of 16. It is followed by GM Magnus Carlsen's first match, on Monday, against GM Parham Maghsoodloo. Here's the full schedule for the round of 16:

  • November 1, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: Vachier-Lagrave vs. Sarin
  • November 2, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: Carlsen-Maghsoodloo
  • November 4, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: Firouzja-Fedoseev
  • November 8, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: So-Abdusattorov
  • November 11, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: Nepomniachtchi-Aronian
  • November 12, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: Nakamura-Martirosyan
  • November 15, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: Caruana-Duda
  • November 16, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: Giri-Artemiev

2020 Speed Chess Championship bracket
The 2020 Speed Chess Championship Main Event is a knockout tournament among 16 of the best grandmasters in the world who will play for a $100,000 prize fund, double the amount of last year. The tournament will run November 1-December 13, 2020 on Each individual match will feature 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet chess.

Find all information about the Speed Chess Championship here.

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