Ray Robson Again Dominates Puzzle Battle World Championship
GM Ray Robson won the Puzzle Battle World Championship for the third time in a row. Photo:

Ray Robson Again Dominates Puzzle Battle World Championship

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GM Ray Robson won the 2022 Puzzle Battle World Championship that concluded on Sunday. The 27-year-old grandmaster from St. Louis again defended his title, which he has been holding since the 2020 Championship, and clinched a prize of $4,500 for both components of the event. 

The live broadcast of the championship.

The championship had 16 participants and several stages (read about the championship basics here). After the participants were identified, the first part of the event—the Puzzle Rush Royale—began.

In this part, the players were divided into groups of four participants to determine which two players would advance to the quarterfinals. Each group competed in three-minute Puzzle Rushes for 60 minutes to determine the highest score. The player with the highest score qualified automatically to the next stage. The lowest-scoring player of the four was eliminated, and the second and third top-finishers faced off in a five-puzzle-battle match to determine who also advanced.

Group A consisted of GMs Robson and Daniel Naroditsky, as well as IM Christopher Noe and FM Tanitoluwa Adewumi

The youngest participant, Tani Adewumi, did not win but didn't disappoint either: a very impressive score of 49! Photo: Tani Adewumi via Twitter.

As the hour passed, Robson won the group with the top score of 59 points, while Noe, who scored only 47, was eliminated. In the tiebreak between Naroditsky and Adewumi, the popular streamer turned out stronger despite trailing during the entire mini-match and advanced to the next stage.

The second group featured GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, IM Le Tuan Minh, FM Dimitrios Ladopoulos (the famous puzzle solver and contender of the last two years), and CM David Zhurbinsky, who qualified through Chess Played Quick.

Ladopoulos won the group with a top result of 51, while the eliminated player was surprisingly Mamedyarov, who ended up last with 43. The Vietnamese star of online bullet chess won the mini-match and advanced to the next stage.

The third group (all GMs) featured GMs Jeffery Xiong, Hikaru Nakamura, Krikor Mekhitarian, and Andrew Tang. The plot took a twist: Xiong was leading with a score of 52 points, closely followed by Nakamura and Tang with 51 and 50, respectively. However, in their very last attempt, as the time was already up, both Nakamura and Tang scored 53, kicking Xiong all the way to the third spot.

Because the top scorer would qualify automatically, those two had to participate in another set of Puzzle Rush. The famous streamer won, requiring Tang to compete with Xiong for the second spot. However, Tang's opponent proved stronger and qualified for the next stage.

Nakamura scored 53 points and moved to the quarterfinals after beating Tang on tiebreaks. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Finally, in group D, represented by GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Raunak Sadhwani, as well IM Christopher Yoo and FM Sravan Renjith, the young American IM proved the fastest and the most tactically aware by getting a top score of 54. MVL did the best during the tiebreak and also made it to the top eight.

On the next day, January 8, the players began the quarterfinals. From this point on, they were supposed to play 15 matches of head-to-head Puzzle Rushes, where, crucially, not the highest single result, but the average of all attempts would determine the winner. This is very important, as now consistency would be critical: one bad result would undermine several excellent runs.

The matches were incredibly exciting and close. For example, after 10 out of 15 Rushes in the first match between Yoo and Minh, the average scores were 45.2 and 45.3, respectively. Just one or two extra points of a single Rush would make or break it! After the final one, they tied with 46.6! The three tiebreak Puzzle Rushes saw two draws and one win for Yoo, who made it to the semifinals. What an amazing plot! 

After dominating group D, Christopher Yoo went on to win a narrow match versus Le and made it to the semifinals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In the next match, Nakamura proved somewhat more precise than Naroditsky, beating him with an average score of 47.3 versus 45.8.

The next match was between one of the world's best players, MVL, and the puzzle-solving expert Ladopoulos. Amazingly, the latter scored a very convincing win with a whopping average of 48.8, while MVL only got 46.1.

Last but not least, in the remaining match where reigning champion Robson faced Xiong, the former proved faster and more precise while also getting the highest average score of all players, namely 50.1(!), as opposed to the opponent's 48.9, which would have been enough to win any other match—but not the one against Robson.

Then the players moved on to the semifinals. 

The first was between Nakamura and Ladopoulos. The Greek player showed that mastery lies in consistency, as he repeated his result: 48.8. The popular streamer only got 46.8 and saw his opponent move to the finals.

Greek FM Dimitrios Ladopoulos made it to the final match for the third year in a row, this time by beating MVL and Nakamura on his way. Photo:

In the other semifinal match, Robson surpassed his previous performance and eliminated Yoo with an unbelievable average of 50.3 versus 46.6 by his opponent.

The time for the final had arrived. With a new record score of 50.8, Robson scored his third title in a row by being more than two points ahead of Ladopoulos, whose average was 48.7. 

Interestingly, we can see that the top finishers demonstrated not only fantastic speed and precision but also very remarkable consistency. Just look at their results: the Greek player nearly repeated the same result thrice, while the Webster University graduate from St. Louis kept scoring new all-time highs, always remaining above the 50-point mark. On top of that, amazingly, the final match was between the same players for the third year in a row!

Ray Robson won the Puzzle Battle World Championship for the third year in a row. Photo: Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the post-match interview with the commentators, Naroditsky and NM James Canty, Robson commented on what, in his opinion, was different this year compared to the previous competitions.

He said: "This year, I obviously knew Dimitrios would be my main competition. However, the biggest difference was that I thought Jeffery was also equally dangerous this year, just based on having played both of them a little bit in the weeks before this championship. So, this year I had to play both of them. But I guess it was good in a way that I played Jeffery in the quarterfinal, so I got to kind of know where my level was at before this final match."

It was good in a way that I played Jeffery in the quarterfinal, so I got to kind of know where my level was at before this final match.

—Ray Robson

Here are the results of each match.






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