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Nakamura, GothamChess Dream Team Wins In Armageddon

Nakamura, GothamChess Dream Team Wins In Armageddon

AnthonyLevin
| 30 | Chess Event Coverage

In our second consecutive match to go to an armageddon tiebreaker this season, GM Hikaru Nakamura and IM Levy Rozman defeated GMs Jorden van Foreest and Eric Hansen 2-1. Next, they'll play the legendary commentator team, GMs Daniel Naroditsky and Robert Hess, in the 2024 Team Chess Battle Semifinals.

Van Foreest and Hansen showed great defense to survive game two, but commanding the white pieces again in the final game, the opposing all-American team brought home a fantastic attack to win on demand.

The Semifinals are upon us. We start with GM Wesley So and IM Alice Lee vs. GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Cristian Chirila. That'll be on Friday, March 1, at 2:00 p.m. EST / 20:00 CET / 22:30 IST.

 


Pre-Match Banter: Players Take Shots At... Danny?

As far as trash talk goes, this was the most tame pre-match banter we've seen so far. No one fired a single shot at the other team at the start, though GM Anish Giri and IM Danny Rensch, who had nothing to do with this match, weren't spared from Rozman's crosshairs: "I just wanna do better and make more memorable content than Danny and Anish did"—referring to their Quarterfinals loss last week.

Hansen, on his turn, said: "I'm pretty rusty. I did play in this format and did okay a long time ago... versus Danny and Robert, but I have a feeling today the opposing team will not be as dysfunctional as that team was and any team that Danny touches."

I have a feeling today the opposing team will not be as dysfunctional as that team was and any team that Danny touches.

—Eric Hansen

Aside from dunking on Danny, the players only had positive things to say. Rozman, of course, had nothing to complain about regarding his teammate, while Van Foreest quipped that he'd pass all of the heavy lifting onto his lower-rated teammate. 

Let's dive right into the action.

Nakamura & Rozman 2-1 Van Foreest & Hansen: Armageddon Decides It All


A dry draw in game one was followed by two critical games. After being met with immovable defense in the second game, the streamer team stormed the barricades in the armageddon tiebreak, winning on demand.

The first game was very correct and not very interesting, according to the players. Nakamura expressed his frustration about the innocuous opening throughout the game, at one point saying: "This is like way too proper of a game." He later explained: "Even though White is a little better, it's very hard [for them] to come up with any specific plan."

Van Foreest thought as much: "I think we were trying to make them fall asleep, but instead we almost caused ourselves to fall asleep."

I think we were trying to make them fall asleep, but instead we almost caused ourselves to fall asleep.

—Jorden van Foreest

In the post-game interview, Rozman pointed out that, between his Chess.com account and Hansen's, this was the first non-loss he's ever scored—making half a dent in a long list of zeroes. Before the day was over, it would become a full dent. 

Somehow the topic of a bullet match to follow this one got going, and in that conversation Rozman misheard "100 games" as "100,000 dollars."

Naroditsky happens to know a thing or two about marathon bullet matches, at times taking place in the dead of night.

Recalling his (in?)famous bullet match with GM Alireza Firouzja during the last Candidates Tournament, he shared: "I remember walking into the commentary studio and I tried to look all perked up even though I got two hours of sleep. And I thought, maybe nobody noticed. And then I realized like GM Garry Kasparov commented on it, and I was like, 'Oh cr**, I might be fired.'"

I remember walking into the commentary studio and I tried to look all perked up even though I got two hours of sleep.

—Daniel Naroditsky

We can confirm that Danya wasn't fired. Anyway, on to game two.

After Black sacrificed a pawn, White found the powerful 15.Bd2!, with Nakamura already forecasting: "This should just be winning for us." However, Black followed up with the equally brilliant moves 15...Rae5! and 16...d5!, which Nakamura called "phenomenally good" after the game. From a middlegame up a pawn, White decided to go into an endgame down a pawn, but one that could be drawn.

Hansen and Van Foreest exhibited the spirit of a strong team after this tough game. "If not for Eric, I would've lost," said the Dutch number-two, while the Canadian GM explained: "I wasn't as optimistic as Jorden, so his optimism at that point, we just had the mentality, okay, we're down a pawn, let's have some fun!"

If not for Eric, I would've lost.

—Jorden van Foreest

And so they lived one game longer. Bidding five minutes and 57 seconds, they played with the black pieces and draw odds. With 10 minutes, Nakamura and Rozman would have to win with the white pieces, or be eliminated.

By 27.Qg5!, Stockfish continues to sing its favorite song, "Equality," but Nakamura assessed the position differently.

"This is exactly the kind of game that you don't want in an armageddon game with Black," he said. "This is very, very unclear, you're low on time, and there's no straightforward way to try and simplify the position." 

This is exactly the kind of game that you don't want in an armageddon game with Black.

—Hikaru Nakamura

Although the opposing team found several strong moves to hold the balance, Nakamura's prognosis rang true in the end. GM Rafael Leitao gives a detailed analysis of our Game of the Day below.

 

Rozman, being the only non-grandmaster of the four players (though he spilled that he has plans to return to over-the-board soon), was humble in the interview: "Obviously, I was making a joke about being the clown amongst the line of soldiers, but okay, let's be serious, like I think maybe even Hikaru on his own would perform better than with me... Adding me to the team I'm not even sure helps!"

Obviously, I was making a joke about being the clown amongst the line of soldiers, but okay, let's be serious, like I think maybe even Hikaru on his own would perform better than with me.

—Levy Rozman

Van Foreest and Hansen exit the tournament, but not without splitting $2,000. Meanwhile, we can look forward to two exhilarating semifinal matches: the podcasters (Caruana and Chirila) vs. America's greatest, present and future (So and Lee)—and chess' biggest streamers (Nakamura and Rozman) vs. chess' biggest commentators (Naroditsky and Hess). Tune in this Friday! 

How to watch?
You can watch the 2024 Team Chess Battle on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com. Games from the event can be viewed on our events page.

The live broadcast was hosted by GM Daniel Naroditsky.

Team Chess Battle is an event where two-player teams can freely communicate while facing other teams in a series of rapid chess games. Eight teams of two players each compete in a single-elimination bracket. Matches consist of two games (the Final is a four-game match) with a 10+10 time control. The event starts on February 21 and features a $25,000 prize fund.


Previous coverage:

AnthonyLevin
NM Anthony Levin

NM Anthony Levin caught the chess bug at the "late" age of 18 and never turned back. He earned his national master title in 2021, actually the night before his first day of work at Chess.com.

Anthony, who also earned his Master's in teaching English in 2018, taught English and chess in New York schools for five years and strives to make chess content accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages. At Chess.com, he writes news articles and manages social media for chess24.

Email:  anthony.levin@chess.com

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