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Nakamura Wins 5th Speed Chess Championship: 'He's Just A Beast In This Format'

Nakamura Wins 5th Speed Chess Championship: 'He's Just A Beast In This Format'

NM_Vanessa
| 127 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura won his fifth title match at the 2022 Speed Chess Championship, defeating GM Magnus Carlsen in an immensely close final on Sunday. Nakamura dominated the 5+1 segment, capitalizing on his own winning chances while disrupting Carlsen's―finishing undefeated. From there, the match became a fascinating battle between Carlsen's undeniable fighting spirit, and Nakamura's exceptional speed and perceptive match strategy.  

How to watch?
You can watch the 2022 Speed Chess Championship on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive. The games can also be followed from our Events Page.

Live broadcast of the match, hosted by GMs Daniel Naroditsky and Robert Hess.

Entering this duel, Carlsen held the lead in their overall blitz and bullet scores. He was also the victor of both their previous SCC matches in the 2016 and 2017 finals. However, in all of 2022 up to this match, Nakamura had gone undefeated against Carlsen. Thus, Carlsen was likely out for vengeance. 

What would the latest Clash of the Titans hold?


Blitz 5|1: Nakamura-Carlsen 6.5-2.5

In the first segment, Nakamura displayed nearly optimum form while Carlsen struggled to find his usual strength. He managed to gain the upper hand in several games but seemed to lack his usual killer instinct.

Game two was one such example. With a dominating position, Carlsen aimlessly moved his pieces back and forth in the time scramble, hesitating on his only breakthrough, c5!? Eventually, Carlsen blundered a pawn, and Nakamura snuck away with a perpetual check. 

Carlsen himself saw his unsteady play in game three as a bad sign. He pressed for an edge with black for many moves when suddenly Nakamura's wandering knights turned the tables. 

In fact, after this game, Carlsen admitted: "Frankly, for the rest of the five minutes portion, I felt that he played fantastic chess. He just way better than me in every aspect."

Frankly, I felt that he played fantastic chess."

—Magnus Carlsen

In game five, Carlsen tried to mix things up with 4...e5!?, gambiting a center pawn for shock effect.

Though Carlsen clearly surprised his opponent, Nakamura responded with pragmatic development and soon built up pressure on the queenside. He then combined positional ideas with tactical ones to crash through, "eliminating every sliver of counterplay that Magnus can drum up" as commentator Naroditsky described. 

During the halftime break of the 5+1, Carlsen curiously changed his clothes, perhaps in an attempt to reset his mindset and fortunes. 

In game eight, as Carlsen strived to increase his advantage on the queenside, Nakamura craftily set up counterplay on the kingside. After a blunder by the world champion, the reigning Speed Chess Champion swiftly played a checkmating combination. This is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao.

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

Nakamura finished the 5+1 segment with a four-point lead while continuing his undefeated streak in 2022 vs. Carlsen. How long would the world champion go without a win?

Blitz 3|1: Nakamura-Carlsen 4-6

In the next segment, Carlsen returned with more of his usual confidence and won the first game cleanly, hunting down Black's weaknesses and maintaining a significant time edge. 

After his stellar play in the 5-1, Nakamura adjusted his match strategy to suit his lead on the scoreboard, playing cautiously and looking for ways to stretch out games and run down the match clock. 

In fact, in game eight, Nakamura went into a forced draw variation with white and waited out nearly all of his time before finishing the game. 

Nakamura explained his strategy after the match: "I just figured with the lead there is no reason not to do this. I feel like you have to try and use every advantage you have against Magnus."

I feel like you have to try and use every advantage you have against Magnus."

-Hikaru Nakamura

Carlsen shared his own thoughts on game eight and Nakamura's clock-running strategy overall: "Props to him for recognizing that. It's absolutely fair game."

Despite Nakamura's efforts, towards the end of the 3+1, Carlsen launched a comeback, narrowing his competitor's lead to two points. Can you find the tactic that jumpstarted Carlsen's resurgence?

Bullet 1|1: Nakamura-Carlsen 4-5

After losing the first game, Carlsen fought back to win game after game, shrinking the gap between him and his longtime rival. Every game, however, Nakamura looked for ways to chip extra seconds off the match clock, bringing him closer to victory. 

Carlsen won a third game in a row, converting a topsy-turvy game into a winning endgame andtying the score with 17 minutes to go.

Nakamura retaliated by going on a tear, winning three out of the next four games. Down two points as the next game started, Carlsen needed to win the first with enough time left for a second. The game began with 3:26 minutes left on the match clock.

The circumstances lead to an amazing final fight between play on the board and bleeding out the time, finishing with the peculiar sight of Nakamura celebrating his match victory while down two queens in the current game. 

In the post-match interview, Nakamura shared his thoughts on this duel with his rival: "Magnus always kept fighting back. It was insane. There were probably two or three times in the bullet where I thought finally the match was over, and he found a way to keep it complicated. It was just a great match."

Carlsen also shared his feelings on the match: "He's just a beast in this format. I still think that I'm a little bit better, but I certainly didn't prove it today. He's certainly as close as anyone's ever been. It's a great challenge."

Nakamura won $15,178.57 along with bragging rights until their next clash while Carlsen took home $4821.43 as the runner-up.

Final Score


All Games | Finals

Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket

The 2022 Speed Chess Championships Main Event started on November 23 and concluded on December 18. Top speed-chess players competed at three different time controls in a 16-player knockout as they vied for a share of the $100,000 prize fund along with the most prestigious title in online chess.

The likes of GMs Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and many more battled it out to determine the 2022 speed chess champion.


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