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Bullet Chess Championship: Nakamura, Tang Reach Winners Final

Bullet Chess Championship: Nakamura, Tang Reach Winners Final

JackRodgers
| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

The 2022 Bullet Chess Championship presented by DigitalOcean soared to new heights today after a dazzling showdown between pre-tournament favorites GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Daniel Naroditsky, which Nakamura won in stylish fashion.

GM Andrew Tang was victorious against IM Le Tuan Minh in the other Winners Semifinal in yet another nailbiter while the two Losers Top 8 matches ended in wins for GMs Jose Martinez and Oleksandr Bortnyk against GMs Arjun Erigaisi and Brandon Jacobson, respectively.

The event will continue with the Winners Final and Losers Quarterfinal taking place on March 16, starting at 10 a.m. PT / 18:00 CET. 

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.


Hikaru Nakamura vs. Daniel Naroditsky: 12.5-5.5

The showdown between Nakamura and Naroditsky was set up to be one of the most thrilling matches of the tournament and it certainly did not disappoint!

Naroditsky must have earned even more fans after his tremendous match against GM Ray Robson in the Winners Quarterfinals after Twitch viewers polled the underdog at 59% to win the match, a healthy nod to the drastic improvement of Naroditsky over the last 12 months.

Although you could probably count on one hand how many bullet chess matches Nakamura has lost in the last decade, a potential upset was in the air after Naroditsky won several of the first few games. Naroditsky was able to exert immense time pressure on his opponent, a task which many would find unfathomable against the world's highest-rated blitz chess player. Nakamura, though, was equally imposing and launched several brutal attacks that allowed him to take a one-point lead at 5-4 into the break.

Tension rose during the time off and the first game back only added to this. With 10 seconds each left on the clock, Nakamura showed his adjusted approach for the second half of the match, which involved upping the pace so that Naroditsky could no longer flag him. A flurry of precise moves resulting in a win for Nakamura helped the favorite find his groove and helped him realize his renewed match strategy was a good one.

If the first half of the match took place in the stratosphere, Nakamura's play in the second half could only be considered intergalactic! Five convincing wins in a row turned the encounter into a match of two halves within minutes, and Naroditsky's flag attempts were simply not enough against a flawless Nakamura.

Naroditsky was able to score a sole win and draw in the second half but was unlucky to lose several games, including one where he seemed to have a promising attack that was nullified by an incredible resource as his queen got trapped in the middle of the board.

Naroditsky's queen was soundly trapped!

Despite Nakamura winning by a convincing margin, Naroditsky can take solace in the fact that he was able to create a few cracks in Nakamura's gameplay and may get a second shot if he progresses through the Losers Bracket.

Le Tuan Minh vs. Andrew Tang: 8-9

Le has had phenomenal starts in each of his matches throughout this tournament and today was no different. Le commanded respect after racing to a 4-0 lead, courtesy of a clinical round four game that culminated in a knight getting trapped on the rim.

A usually emotionless Tang cut a despondent look after several uncharacteristic blunders; however, he showed promising signs of a resurgence, scoring two key wins before the break.

These two wins would prove to be an omen of things to come, and with an injection of pace from Tang, he managed to tie up the match and then take the lead after showing perfect technique to flag Le in a technically drawn king and pawn ending. 

The two jousted right up until the final seconds of the match, with Tang tying it up at 8-8 with 10 seconds left on the clock. The final game of the Winners Semifinal turned out to be a heartbreaking loss for Le after Tang won a piece in the first few moves. A spirited king walk made for good viewing but was not enough to spook Tang, who confirmed a brilliant comeback win.

Tang's moment of truth will come when he takes on Nakamura in the Winners Final.

Oleksandr Bortnyk vs. Brandon Jacobson: 9.5-7.5

The clash between Bortnyk and Jacobson was a high-voltage matchup where both players were neck and neck throughout, although it was Bortnyk who came in clutch on several occasions to take the match by a two-point margin.

Bortnyk, who was a finalist in the 2019 edition of the event, took one step closer toward a Cinderella comeback story and showed his ambition to win his way back into the top bracket despite a surprise loss to GM Raunak Sadhwani in the opening round. 

The first three games of the match ended in draws but were exhilarating duels, with the two opponents playing an average of sixty-eight moves each per game! The one-second-per-move approach became even faster in the fifth game when Bortnyk managed to secure a draw in 101 moves even though he played the entire endgame down a piece. Several mistakes in extreme time pressure determined these results, showing that you need a little bit of luck when it comes to bullet chess.

Jacobson was equally impressive and won a fine game where he was able to 'fossilize' black's rook in the middle of the board. He successfully navigated Bortnyk's counterplay to win the rook and the game.

Jacobson's strong finish, including two wins from the last four games, was not enough to close the gap and Bortnyk prevailed.

Jose Martinez vs. Arjun Erigaisi: 11-6

Martinez was a convincing winner in the second Losers Bracket matchup and was simply the faster player in the seventeen games of the match. The players were on par in terms of accuracy, but it was the Peruvian GM that demonstrated why he is a mainstay in the top ten of the Chess.com Bullet Chess leaderboard and was never short of tricks throughout the match.

With the scores at 3-2 to Martinez early in the match, the two played an outstanding sixth game, which involved an early knight sacrifice in the Sicilian Defense, and, after Black was able to withstand the pressure, the eventual winner proceeded to launch one of the most devastating attacks of the tournament thus far. This led to a resignation from Erigaisi who foresaw a common tactical motif to take advantage of a cornered king.

Martinez maintained a small lead heading into the break, but it was in the second half of the match that he put Erigaisi in a vice with a string of five tactically impressive games. Martinez relaxed in the final games of the match, losing two but ultimately progressing to the next round.

The event will continue in two days, March 15, starting at 10 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central European.



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