Speed Chess Championship: Nihal Dominates Against Rapport, Advances To SF
GM Nihal Sarin showed versatility and resilience to win his quarterfinal match.

Speed Chess Championship: Nihal Dominates Against Rapport, Advances To SF

| 16 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Nihal Sarin beat GM Richard Rapport by a score of 18-9 in the first quarterfinal match of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event. On Monday, December 6 we will have a doubleheader as GM Ding Liren will face GM Levon Aronian at 6:00 a.m. Pacific / 15:00 Central European Time while GM Hikaru Nakamura will battle it out with GM Anish Giri at 10:00 a.m. Pacific / 19:00 Central European Time.

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The games of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event are played on the live server. They are also available on our platform for watching live games at and on our apps under "Watch." Expert commentary can be enjoyed at
2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event

The live broadcast of the match.

Nihal, the youngest participant in this year's SCC, has made it to the semifinals by eliminating two players from the world's top 15. He first defeated GM Alexander Grischuk in round one, and today it was Rapport. It's a great feat for the 17-year old from Kerala, India, although an entirely deserved one considering the consistency that he has displayed across all speed chess time controls so far.

The match against Rapport got off to an exciting start as we saw some tactical fireworks as early as the first game. Nihal sacrificed a full rook in a mutual time scramble, but instead of refuting it, Rapport allowed his king to get into a mating net. He was given another chance to save the game spectacularly, but he fumbled and lost on time in the end.

The top Hungarian player evened the score in the second game, but his poor time management cost him game four, in which he flagged again while Nihal had two minutes and 30 seconds on the clock. This gave the young Indian star a one-point lead.

After a mini-break, Rapport seemed to have collected himself as he improved his time management in the next stage of the match. However, his conversion technique failed him in four consecutive games, in which a combination of Nihal's defensive resourcefulness and his own indecisiveness resulted in four draws instead of four wins for the Hungarian. A piece blunder in game six was particularly painful.

After the fifth consecutive draw, it seemed like the players got infected by the World Championship bug. Even the commentators, GM Daniel Naroditsky and GM Jon Ludvig Hammer couldn't help but get distracted by the World Championship mood a bit since nothing decisive was happening in the match for quite a while.

Fortunately, Nihal snapped the drawing streak by winning game 10, the second of the 3+1 segment, in a nice technical fashion. He won another two games in a row to take what seemed to be a commanding 8-4 lead midway through the 3+1 segment. However, Rapport narrowed the gap with two wins in a row of his own. His affection for the bishop pair was obvious throughout the match, and while it sometimes worked against him, the bishops had a feast in game 14.

The Indian prodigy managed to get his four-point lead back by scoring 2.5/3 in the next three games. However, the last game of the blitz segment could have easily gone the other way had Rapport not allowed a shocking queen trap where he had a virtually decisive advantage in the position and on the clock.

With a 10.5-6.5 lead going into the bullet segment, Nihal, one of the highest-rated bullet players on, was a huge favorite (86% expected winning probability as per SmarterChess live odds) to win the match. He lived up to the expectation as he cruised through the 30-minute 1+1 time control segment with six wins, one loss, and three draws to finish the match with a dominant 18-9 victory. His win in game 21 was a pretty one.

To be fair, the final score doesn't reveal the intensity in the blitz segment in which Rapport was even getting better positions overall. Nihal displayed composure when defending difficult positions and was usually clinically converting his own advantages, but one has a feeling that this match could have been much closer score-wise if the Hungarian had used at least half of his opportunities.

As Hammer acutely observed: "Rapport playing great chess and then spoiling winning positions has been the story of the day."

The 17-year old Nihal Sarin is the first semifinalist in this year's SCC

When asked to comment on his victory, Nihal humbly admitted: "I managed not to lose some very bad positions. I think that this was really the big reason I won the match."

Rapport agreed with this, adding that "There are too many painful games to remember." But he also credited his opponent for excellent conversion technique: "I feel like when you get so many chances and convert zero of them, you deserve to get crushed. I was horrible at capitalizing on my chances today while Nihal when he got his chances, was much more reliable. I feel like that made the key difference."

Nihal was also asked by Hammer whether he thinks that his prowess in one-minute chess can help him win the whole championship, to which he replied: "Hikaru is much better, while I feel like I have a chance against everyone else."

Rapport earned $1000.00 based on his score percentage, while Nihal pocketed $3,000 for the victory plus $2,000.00 on percentage ($5,000.00 total). He advances to the semifinals where he will play the winner of GM Wesley So vs. GM Fabiano Caruana.

All Games

The 2021 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. The tournament will run November 8-December 19, 2021 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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