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Bullet Chess Championship: Nakamura Wins Title, Tang Runner-Up

Bullet Chess Championship: Nakamura Wins Title, Tang Runner-Up

JackRodgers
| 40 | Chess Event Coverage

The 2022 Bullet Chess Championship presented by DigitalOcean reached its conclusion today with a series of edge-of-the-seat finals matches that resulted in GM Hikaru Nakamura being crowned the champion! Nakamura, undefeated across his matches of this year's event, has proved once again that he is one of the world's best bullet chess players.

GM Andrew Tang was a deserving runner-up after progressing through the Losers Final, courtesy of a convincing win against GM Daniel Naroditsky. Naroditsky was still recovering from a ridiculously close win against IM Tuan Minh Le, who was on the receiving end of an unbelievable checkmate that left the players, commentators, and viewers speechless in the final game of their Losers Semifinals match.

How to watch?
You can watch the 2022 Bullet Chess Championship presented by DigitalOcean on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on the Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive.
Live broadcast of the final of this tournament hosted by GMs Robert Hess and Aman Hambleton.

The 2022 Bullet Chess Championship presented by Digital Ocean is a double-elimination bracket knockout held by Chess.com and featuring $100,000 in prizes. All games are 1+0, and matches are 30 minutes long with a break at the 15-minute mark. In the event of a tie, players continue to play, alternating colors, until a player wins a game.

Selected Matches


Naroditsky vs. Le: 9.5-8.5

Naroditsky vs. Le was one of the closest matches of the tournament so far with the two bullet powerhouses desperate to book their spot in the Losers Final against Tang. The first half of the match saw neither player able to take more than a two-point advantage and both players were able to put on great displays of tactical awareness as they alternated results throughout.

 

Le was able to lift his game to another level after a devastating one-point loss to Tang in the Losers Top-8 and, by all counts, it seemed as if this match could go either way at the break with Naroditsky leading 5-4.

The American GM showed his weapon of choice early, playing the solid Reti Opening, which goaded his opponent to overextend, and Le came to the party prepared to attack, playing with higher accuracy in the first half.

Le has been particularly impressive at the beginning of matches and at the starts of both halves throughout the tournament; indeed, he chose the games after the break to pounce. The IM was able to take three of the next five games to establish an important lead with the match clock ticking down quickly. Naroditsky kept his cool though and was able to tie things up with just two minutes left in the match in a good knight vs. bad bishop ending. If the next game ended in a win for one player, it would likely have proven decisive.

With a rook apiece left and Le with nine seconds to Naroditsky's six in the second-to-last game, the "Prophet" was able to take inspiration from Tang's unbelievable, clutch game against Nakamura yesterday to swap rooks and draw with mere seconds left on the clock.

The final game of the match saw Le gain a huge advantage, creating two protected passed pawns with a seemingly safe king. With the match almost wrapped up in the Vietnamese IM's favor, the two players, commentators, and viewers were absolutely stunned to find that Le's king was, in fact, not safe! Naroditsky was able to checkmate the white king with a sequence leading to a ladder mate. Gobsmacked, Naroditsky was hardly able to keep his composure and fist-pumped the air. 

It was a gut-wrenching way to lose the match for Le and he was dejected on stream afterward, but it cannot be understated that Le was absolutely classy throughout the event and was a good sport despite the tilting loss.

I have never seen anything quite like this.

—Aman Hambleton

Tang vs. Naroditsky: 11-8

If beating one of the world's best bullet chess players (Le) was tough, then backing up against another of the world's quickest players, Tang, with only minutes to compose himself, would prove the most difficult task for Naroditsky in this year's BCC. It was fitting that the two players remaining were those that had given their waiting Grand Finals opponent, Nakamura, the most trouble. Twitch viewers gave Naroditsky a 69% chance of progressing, which was a relatively close margin compared to other matches in the event. 

The penultimate match turned out to be a one-sided affair after Tang was untouchable in the first seven games, winning six of these in a sophisticated fashion. Tang's close match with Nakamura yesterday proved to be a fantastic warmup for this match as Tang was masterful both tactically and on the clock. 

Naroditsky was not able to make inroads into Tang's solid setups until the second half, but it was already too late, despite his winning the final three games of the match.

Commentator Hess found a brilliancy that both the players missed, begging the question: will GM Hess push his bullet rating up over the next year and consider playing in the next edition?

Overall, the match proved that Tang was the player most deserving of a challenge to the so-far undisputed king of bullet chess, Nakamura, and the title of the 2022 Bullet Chess Championship.

Nakamura vs. Tang: 11-8

The title match of the 2022 Bullet Chess Championship was a rematch between the players of yesterday's Winners Final, with the formidable Tang taking on Nakamura. Tang certainly had a mountain to climb if he was going to challenge Nakamura, but he held his own throughout the early stages of the match, staying in there with a 2-2 score after four games. An important moment came for Tang in the fourth game, where he had to fend off numerous checkmate threats to take the game, which was dubbed the Digital Ocean Game of the Day by commentators Hess and Hambleton.

The title seemed to slip away from Tang after the next few games, though, and Nakamura's brutish and uncompromising style saw him streak away to a four-point lead. Nakamura said in the post-match interview that he felt the gap was decreasing between him and the other leading players; however, this match showed, if anything, that Nakamura is perhaps a more dominant force in the bullet chess scene than he realizes.

I feel like that edge every year is getting smaller and smaller.

—GM Hikaru Nakamura

Leading into the break, Tang was unlucky to not shorten the gap to a two-point margin after missing an inconceivable back-rank checkmate from Nakamura, who was stuck in a totally losing position and playing against Tang's two queens.

Tang did manage to recover post-break after this difficult loss and Nakamura appeared to relax slightly, allowing Tang to string together three wins in a row. This included a rook vs. rook ending mirroring the same position that the two players had reached yesterday. Tang managed to draw that game with 0.1 of a second left on the clock, though Tang's flagging skills were top-notch today and he was able to get revenge for the stress of yesterday's ending.

Nakamura eventually calmed the match down with a defensive masterclass with the black pieces and left Tang with minimal time to mount a comeback. A draw that saw a tricky underpromotion to a knight was the nail in the coffin for Tang and a joyous moment for Nakamura, who realized he had won his third Bullet Chess Championship title!

In this position, Tang opted to promote to a knight with axb8=N, but it did not change the result.


And so, another year's Bullet Chess Championship, brought to you by Digital Ocean, comes to an end after an exhilarating series of matches, trials, and tribulations that have kept us entertained over the past few weeks. Congratulations to Nakamura for taking the title this year!


 

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