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Bullet Chess Championship: Nakamura Advances To Grand Finals

Bullet Chess Championship: Nakamura Advances To Grand Finals

JackRodgers
| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

The most exciting matches so far of the 2022 Bullet Chess Championship presented by DigitalOcean were in full swing today, headlined by a clash between bullet titans GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Andrew Tang. With both players neck and neck until the final minutes, it was Nakamura who surged ahead to progress to the Grand Finals.

In the other matches, GM Daniel Naroditsky was able to accelerate past GM Jose Martinez while the sole IM in the field, Tuan Minh Le, was able to take down the speedster GM Oleksandr Bortnyk in a tight affair, setting up for a riveting grand finale event tomorrow.

The final day of the event will continue tomorrow, March 17, starting at 10 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central European.

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 this weekend's 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


Nakamura vs. Tang: 11.5-9.5

It is an understatement to say that Tang has had to work hard to get to this point. With all of his matches being won by one-point margins, including wins over GMs Fabiano Caruana, Martinez, and Le, most fans suggested that the immovable Nakamura would be an obstacle too difficult to overcome. Tang was certainly deserving of the opportunity to play in the Winners Final.

Tang was the first to strike in the match and immediately announced himself as a serious opponent for Nakamura. After three games, the score was even, with both players holding their own on the clock and both navigating difficult tactical positions.

The fourth game of the match was possibly the most suspenseful time scramble of the entire Bullet Chess Championship, with Tang securing a draw in a rook vs. rook ending with 0.1 of a second left on the clock. Naroditsky, who was present in the Twitch chat, summed things up aptly with a simple "OMG".

Nakamura, unfazed by Tang's lightning speed in the previous game, won the following one. However, he then lost two games back-to-back when Tang turned up the heat. It takes a gargantuan effort to beat the five-time U.S. chess champion, but 90.6 and 86.1 CAPS scores in consecutive games, hovering in and above the realm of Nakamura's average bullet CAPS score of 86.8, was enough to score some favorable results.

There is no doubt that this match was the most visibly uncomfortable we have seen Nakamura in this tournament so far and a hyper-focused Tang exuded confidence throughout and let his pieces do the talking.

The halftime break was an opportunity for Nakamura to reset and get back to the dominant form that had seen him dispatch his previous challengers with more than healthy scores. However, Tang was in inspired form, continuing his first-half heroics and matching Nakamura blow for blow.

Hikaru is a guy you can never count out in a match.

—GM Aman Hambleton

Nakamura eventually found his feet and played exceptional chess to win four games back-to-back, quelling Tang's stranglehold and stamping his authority on the match. The most impressive of these victories came when Nakamura administered a 33-move tactical masterclass where the timely 31.Nf4 left Tang clutching at straws.

Although the day was won by Nakamura, Tang will feel as though he won a moral victory in coming so close and, at times, procuring leads against Nakamura throughout the match. Should Tang proceed through the Losers Finals tomorrow, he will have another chance to play against Nakamura straight afterward in the Grand Finals.

Oleksandr Bortnyk vs. Tuan Minh Le: 6.5-8.5

Both players put on stellar displays of time management throughout this match but showed different strategies from the onset. Le often gained clock advantages of up to 10 seconds heading into multiple endgames; however, it was Bortnyk who was making up time during the scrambles, leading commentator Hess to dub Bortnyk the best "pre-mover" in bullet chess.

Bortnyk is the best of all the players when it comes to time scramble pre-moves.

—GM Robert Hess

The players wrestled back and forth at the beginning of the match with Bortnyk drawing first blood. After six games and locked scores of 3-3, with two wins and two draws apiece, it immediately became clear that this match would go the distance.

Bortnyk was able to take a one-point lead into the break after reaching terminal velocity in the seventh game and winning a tricky ending with little to no time left on the clock. 

There is no honor among thieves. This is bullet chess.

—GM Aman Hambleton

It was Le that would bounce back in the second half, though, and to highlight the barely splittable difference between the players, Le was the only one who was able to win back-to-back games in this half. These two games would eventually decide the match, with Bortnyk having not enough time on the clock to make a comeback.

The match came down to the very last game, with Bortnyk needing to win on demand to tie things up. However, Le showed a great deal of poise with the black pieces, despite a spacial disadvantage, to win the game and eliminate Bortnyk from the event.

Naroditsky vs. Martinez: 11.5-5.5

Naroditsky came out with all guns blazing in this match with some considerable opening preparation and a high-voltage pace to boot. The Twitch pundits predicted an 81% chance of winning for the American GM; though, based on Martinez's form in the tournament so far, he could not be discounted.

Naroditsky was able to win the first two games in spectacular fashion. He employed the increasingly popular Jaenisch Gambit in the second game, which became a regular occurrence in last weekend's Rapid Chess Championship, and was able to pile the pressure on Martinez's castled king, courtesy of a knight outpost on c4.

Martinez did have ample opportunity to show his class and was able to strike back with two wins of his own to bring the score to 3.5-2.5 (in favor of Naroditsky). "The Prophet" was able to extend this lead to two points heading into the break, leaving Martinez with a tricky deficit to unfurl in the second part of the match.

The Peruvian GM was able to score a win with a surprise checkmate after Naroditsky walked his king to the a6 square, but Naroditsky had an edge overall, bringing the power and the punch to assert his lead in the latter stages of the match, securing a victory with several minutes remaining on the clock. A luckless Martinez was frustrated by an accidental draw by repetition and a tricky endgame escape by Naroditsky when Martinez was low on time.

 

Nakamura has now worked his way into the Grand Finals, where he will take on one of three candidates; Tang, Naroditsky, or Le, depending on their results tomorrow in the Losers Finals. Make sure you tune in then for what will certainly be a hypersonic conclusion to a competitive event.



Previous coverage

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