Bullet 'Beast' MVL Beats Dominguez 19-12 In Speed Chess Match

Bullet 'Beast' MVL Beats Dominguez 19-12 In Speed Chess Match

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave reached the 2018 Speed Chess Championship quarterfinals by beating Leinier Dominguez 19-12 on Thursday. The French GM put away an initially close-fought match with a stirring performance in the bullet section.

"I think this is going to be the most level of the matches we've seen so far," said commentator Robert Hess at the start. He was right, for about two-thirds of the match.

Dominguez was a qualifier for this year's Speed Chess Championship, but proved to be a worthy opponent for Vachier-Lagrave. The Cuban might well be among the invited players next season, just like he is an invited player for the upcoming Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz.

Dominguez started with a win to take an early lead—and kept it for two more games—just like Fabiano Caruana and Wei Yi had done in the matches they lost.

MVL then leveled the score, and after some back and forth, after 11 games, the score was still equal: 5.5-5.5. The French GM then won three games in a row in the 3|1 section, but Dominguez fought back and won that section.

Even after the first bullet game, the score was still super close: 10.5-9.5 for MVL.


But, in the end, the SmarterChess predictions proved correct once again. MVL, who had practiced some bullet games with Vietnamese bullet specialist IM Minh Le a day before the match, was rocking and rolling in that section. He won four games in a row at some point, and that was the killer blow for Dominguez.

Vachier-Lagrave, who had just finished his Biel tournament where he said he had "found back his chess," took over the lead in the following, crazy game. Commentator IM Danny Rensch didn't miss the Short-Timman reference, the most famous example of a king walk. (Here's our video in case you don't know this classic!)

That was a missed chance for Dominguez, and "a big turning point" according to MVL: "I actually had done some nonsense; I basically gave a pawn for no reason. And then I found this really nice idea, the king coming to h5, escaping there. To be fair, after 29.f4 there's probably a lot of defensive options."

Dominguez came back with a a vengeance. He scored a win with principled play, going for MVL's Najdorf, choosing a critical line and staying on top in the complications. (On pre-match strategy, Dominguez would later say: "I didn't prepare too deeply. I just thought about some options, what we could play.")


After a draw, MVL struck back in the same variation of the Najdorf. Dominguez actually won the opening battle again, but one careless move was enough to get into a dead lost position.

Dominguez was down by two points at the end of the 5|1 section, the biggest margin so far. His play wasn't much worse, but he was clearly suffering from spending too much time on the clock. He would work on that problem immediately.

5|1 segment | Score

Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
Vachier-Lagrave 2860 2949 0 ½ ½ 1 1 0 ½ 1 1 5.5
Dominguez 2871 2782 1 ½ ½ 0 0 1 ½ 0 0 3.5

Dominguez started the 3|1 portion very well: Two games in, the score was level again. The first three-minute game also was an equalizer in the "king-walk competition" as this time it was the Cuban who moved his monarch from g1 all the way to e8 with the queens still on the board.

The very next game was an impressive effort by Dominguez as well. He was fully back in the match, after a crushing win with the black pieces.

Leinier Dominguez Speed Chess

That was a wake-up call for MVL, who duly won the next three games. After that, Dominguez fought himself back to a one-point margin, but wouldn't equalize anymore. Strange things happened in the following endgame.

In game 17, Dominguez decided to try out the Pirc. From an opening perspective, Black was actually doing well but since this game was such a hard beating, he didn't return to this opening the rest of the match.

3|1 segment | Score

Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
Dominguez 2857 2909 1 1 0 0 0 1 ½ 0 1 1 5.5
Vachier-Lagrave 2875 2823 0 0 1 1 1 0 ½ 1 0 0 4.5

Dominguez won the 3|1 segment and went into the bullet one point down. After one draw, that became two points with another unsuccessful first move, this time the Alekhine. And yes, also here Black was OK at some point...

Vachier-Lagrave's win as White in the following Semi-Tarrasch was quite impressive. Note that, although normally a 1.e4 player, the French GM also had this variation on the board as White in Leuven this year.


The very last game of the match was a comedy of errors on Dominguez's part. He seemed to be getting his honorable final win, but must have been groggy by that point.

1|1 segment | Score

Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
Vachier-Lagrave 2999 3054 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 9.0
Dominguez 2864 2809 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 3.0

For his victory, Vachier-Lagrave earned $1,646.90 and Dominguez got $421.10. The original $2,000 prize pool was increased by $68, donated by the chess community on Twitch.

Dominguez said that it was pretty level, until the bullet: "I thought that I could get some chances but he was playing really strong, and I didn't get chances at all."

Vachier-Lagrave: "I was trying to keep the positions in control for some time. I wasn't really managing but then in the bullet things went a lot smoother."


Vachier-Lagrave's next opponent will be Nakamura. "He's definitely the favorite, from previous bad experiences," MVL said, "but...there's a but. I will fight. I will try to give my best and if my best is not enough, at least I will have tried."  

The next Speed Chess match will be the all-Russian clash Alexander Grischuk vs Ian Nepomniachtchi on August 7, 9 a.m. Pacific (noon Eastern, 6 p.m. Central Europe), right before Titled Tuesday. As always, the games can be followed in Live Chess and live commentary will be provided on and

You can find all top chess events easily in our tournament calendar.

The live broadcast during the match.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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