Blitzcoin Invitational Day 5: Naroditsky Pockets The Victory
Daniel Naroditsky convincingly won the final match against Liang Awonder and the entire tournament. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Blitzcoin Invitational Day 5: Naroditsky Pockets The Victory

| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

After four previous days of Blitzcoin Invitational, it was time for the final match.

The top-seed GM Daniel Naroditsky faced another very dangerous and fast player, GM Awonder Liang, and went on to convincingly beat him to win the tournament and the first prize of 0.296 BTC, which is about $18 000 at the moment, while his opponent got the second prize of 0.148 BTC, or about $9 000.

How to watch?
You can follow the games and live broadcast here: Blitzcoin Invitational.

This match was shaping to be a very exciting show for a few reasons. To begin with, the remaining players were some of the most experienced and dangerous bullet and blitz players out there, even though the entire field of the top 16 US young talents featured only great players overall. But even more importantly, the final match had a different format: this time, there would be three hours of chess, with three different time controls: an hour of 5/0 blitz followed by an hour of 3/0 blitz and an hour of 1/0 bullet.

Of course, as the slower time controls allow for a lot fewer games, the wins would be worth considerably more: for winning a 5/0 game, the players would get three points, a 3/0 win would be worth two points, while a bullet win would be worth one point only.

It was interesting to see how the match would begin, as both players have shown in the previous matches that as they take the lead, opponents' lives would get rather problematic.

In the first game, Naroditsky went for a rather ambitious variation with White against Liang's Caro-Kann and got completely outplayed. As the commentators FM Peter Giannatos and NM James Canty were rightfully praising the underdog's positional manoeuvring and things looked grim for the top seed, all of a sudden Black missed a powerful exchange sacrifice and quickly went underwater. 

However, despite this heart-breaking loss, Liang did not lose his spirit and immediately equalized the score. The 5/0 match was very tense and ended with Naroditsky's minimal advantage: 12-9.

This three-point advantage, though, became more significant as players moved on to the second leg of the match, since the 3/0 wins were less valuable, which meant Liang needed more than one extra win to catch up.

And, he started off very strong: first, he nearly bridged the score gap by making it 12-11 to his opponent's favour, and then 14-13. 

The next half an hour essentially determined the outcome of the match, as the top seed delivered a series of very impressive wins and ended the second leg with a huge lead: 33-18. In the process, he certainly went through difficult and dangerous positions, which he saved with some neat tactical ideas. It is certainly worth seeing a miniature, which could have also gone the other way if White had found a key precise decision or two.

A difference in 15 points is not easy to neutralize in any time control, but in bullet, it meant Liang needed 15 extra wins, as now the games were only worth one point.

With bullet having its specifics, the games certainly did not lack drama: there were one-move blunders, misclicks, mouse slips and all other kinds of things that burn players' nerves and make bullet such a fun show.

Admittedly, Naroditsky was on top of his game for the entire night, kept increasing his lead and never gave the opponent a single chance to go on a long winning streak, decrease his lag in score or show any other sign of a meaningful comeback, and eventually, he deservingly won the match with an astonishing score of 63-31.

It has been a great fight, and Liang should certainly consider this tournament a large success; meanwhile, the top seed reminded everyone he can not only trick super grandmasters in classical chess with his unexpected opening choices but also dominate the field of GMs 50-100 points lower rated than him.

Just as the match ended, the players got on a call with the commentators for a quick interview.

Here is what Liang had to say about the final match and his opponent: "It is clear that Dany's side of the bracket was much more difficult. I haven't played online in a while, so the most important thing for me was to make sure I was in shape, especially because the bullet was so important. There wasn't a whole lot of pressure for me, I really enjoyed it, that was key. I've never played someone of Danya's calibre before in online chess. It's really tough. I've watched him play, and it's much easier to watch him play than to play him. The speed...he's so fast, and his tactics are obviously very sharp, it's very difficult to close out games against him. He has a classical understanding of the game and a very annoying blitz repertoire, so I was really struggling. I tried my best to get a solid game and see where we go from there. It was a tough match, but overall, I'm pretty happy with the result."

There wasn't a whole lot of pressure for me, I really enjoyed it, that was key. Danya has a classical understanding of the game, he's so fast and his tactics are obviously very sharp. I was really struggling, but overall, I'm pretty happy with the result.
—Awonder Liang

The winner also had a lot to say. Naroditsky commented on the outcome the following way: "It was a great match overall. I wasn't happy with my start, it was pretty shaky from the first game. I think Awonder was playing a phenomenal five-minute segment. There were a couple of moments where I played a little too loosey-goosey, and Awonder punished me mercilessly. So, I was kind of worried during the five-minute portion and I was happy to emerge from it. I think my form today wasn't quite as sharp as it was in the last two games, so I modified my repertoire, tried to take a little bit longer in the opening, and I feel that strategy worked rather well. I was very impressed with Awonder's speed, and it was only due to the big cushion that I felt really comfortable. Super fun matches overall, and I'm absolutely thrilled.

It was a great match overall. I wasn't happy with my start, it was pretty shaky from the first game. My form wasn't quite as sharp, so I modified my repertoire to take a bit longer in the opening and that worked really well. I was very impressed with Awonder's speed. A super fan match overall, and I'm absolutely thrilled.
—Daniel Naroditsky

The match and the interview with both players ended, but the broadcast did not, as there was a news bomb to be delivered. Naroditsky announced that he would now be a new lead commentator at He referred to this partnership as a "dream come true" and was incredibly thrilled, but at the same time, promised he would still be working on his streaming and YouTube at the same time. You can learn more about this piece of news here.

All games of Day 5

Final standings after day 5

The prize fund of one Bitcoin is provided by one of Daniel Naroditsky's supporters: Chad Engan, also known as "Montanachess" on Twitch.

The 16 invited elite US Chess members will compete in blitz and bullet matches to see who prevails. The event runs from October 27 through 31.

Earlier reports:

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