Nakamura vs So In Death Match 30: Better, Faster, Stronger

Nakamura vs So In Death Match 30: Better, Faster, Stronger

| 54 | Chess Event Coverage

With apologies to Daft Punk, the next Death Match will be better, faster and stronger than ever before.

The top two Americans (and top-10 world players) GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Wesley So will face off on January 3, 2015 at 9am Pacific (noon Eastern) in Death Match 30.

You can watch the entire match live on

This edition supplants Death Match 29 (Vachier-Lagrave-Andreikin) as the highest-rated in history.

It also finally gives users the chance to see Nakamura, a frequent live player, in action for three hours straight.

The matchup was due to take place in October, but was rescheduled after FIDE announced its Grand Prix series, in which Nakamura is currently acquitting himself nicely.

What was So doing in October? Oh, just collecting $100,000. Since our original match announcement, his transfer to the U.S. has been completed, but if he ever travels back to his native Philippines, that's 4,480,294 pesos.

He'd better bring an extra suitcase.

Here's a quick look at both St. Louis residents:

GM Hikaru Nakamura -- FIDE 2777

Nakamura, a three-time U.S. champion, set numerous "youngest" records in his junior years. He has since reached a peak of world number-three and the highest rating of any American in history. (He passed legendary GM Bobby Fischer during the 2012 Olympiad.)

GM Hikaru Nakamura at the 2013 Sinquefield Cup.

Besides the trio of national titles, his biggest tournament win was likely the 2011 Tata Steel Tournament in the Netherlands. Nakamura finished in clear first ahead of such luminaries as GMs Carlsen, Anand, Kramnik, Grischuk and Aronian.

Nakamura has honed his chess skills at various open tournaments in the U.S. As such, he is known to employ many openings and play uncompromising chess.

Here he is beating the previous Death Match winner en route to winning the 2008 rapid play event in Cap d'Agde, France.

Nakamura has played tens of thousands of blitz games online, and some pundits claim he is the best bullet player in the world.

You can count himself among that crowd -- during's coverage of the 2014 U.S. Championship, Nakamura wrote this to the online audience:

Nakamura's message was a reference to a famous quote by the late poker champion Stu Ungar, who was similarly confident about his own abilities:

"Someday, I suppose it's possible for someone to be a better no-limit hold 'em player than me. I doubt it, but it could happen. But I swear to you, I don't see how anyone could ever play gin better than me."

Nakamura was the highest-rated blitz and rapid player on FIDE's first list of the kind, published earlier this year.

Nakamura frequently plays bullet and blitz on under the name "Hikaru."

Prudence demands showing one of his blitz games. This one was played over the board in 2009. Take note of Nakamura's sparkling 33rd move.

Recently, he also used his blitz prowess to break the deadlock in a classical+blitz match with Armenian GM Levon Aronian.

Nakamura has also been an integral part of the U.S. national team since 2006. In his four Olympiad appearances, he has two team bronze medals and four top-ten finishes.

Nakamura at the "Burning Boards" exhibition during the 2014 Sinquefield Cup.

Were it not for a last-round loss in Istanbul 2012, he would have had an individual medal as well. In his two World Team Championship appearances, his team has finished second and fourth, while he has banked an individual gold and silver.'s Peter Doggers recently profiled Nakamura -- click here to read it again.

GM Wesley So -- FIDE 2762

What Nakamura has been to the U.S., So has been to the Philippines. Despite the country's storied chess history, So became its highest-rated player in history while still a teenager.

So's rise to the world's elite has been equally as impressive. So became a GM shortly after his 14th birthday. He also broke GM Magnus Carlsen's record for youngest to reach 2600. He's only been a super GM for a little more than one year, but is already more than halfway to 2800.

GM Wesley So at the 2014 ACP Golden Classic (photo courtesy Lennart Ootes).

So made a big splash on the world scene at the 2009 FIDE World Cup. He went in as the top under-16 player in the world and advanced to the fourth round thanks to upsets over GM Vassily Ivanchuk and defending champion GM Gata Kamsky.

Here So proves that he, too, can drum up mating attacks out of nowhere.

Like his opponent, So has played in the last four Olympiads -- he's only lost one game ever, and that was during his first appearance as an FM.

This time around he was actually the coach of Nakamura's U.S. team. Perhaps that gave him a sneak peek into Nakamura's Death Match preparation!

So has been hot recently, winning several major tournaments in the last few months.

In May, So won the Capablanca Memorial, and in July he took top honors in the ACP Golden Classic.

Of course, in October he took home that huge check at Millionaire Chess.

GM Wesley So, winner of the first Millionaire Chess Open (photo courtesy Billy Johnson).

He has held or gained rating points in 29 of the last 30 ratings lists.

Just for good measure, here's another unexpected mating attack.

So began his studies at Webster University in St. Louis in 2012. He has led his chess team to two national collegiate championships.

Tune in to on Saturday, January 3 at 12 p.m. Eastern (GMT -5), 9 a.m. Pacific, for live coverage with IM Danny Rensch and special guests.

(This article is a revised version of a previous Death Match announcement.)

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