Duda Shows Bullet Skills In Speed Chess Match With Caruana

Duda Shows Bullet Skills In Speed Chess Match With Caruana

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GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda (@Polish_fighter3000) started with three losses but ended up beating GM Fabiano Caruana (@FabianoCaruana) 17-9 in their match in the 2020 Speed Chess Championship Main Event. The Polish GM completely dominated in the bullet segment.

The last match in the Round of 16 is on Monday, November 16, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe between Anish Giri and Vladislav Artemiev.

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Initially, the predictions before the match by @SmarterChess seemed way off. Duda would win the five-minute portion 5-4? And he would win the bullet segment by a big margin, thereby having a 77 percent overall win probability?

It was tempting to throw those statistics into the bin when Caruana won the first three games and was leading 4-1 after two more. But then Duda suddenly won four games in a row to reach the predicted 5-4 after all.

The three-minute segment ended in a tie (also as predicted!) after which Duda indeed showed his superiority in the bullet. He won that segment with a smashing 8-1 score.

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As said, it was smooth sailing for Caruana early in the match. He won two games as Black using the French Defense and also outplayed his opponent in his white game:

"I was hoping to make a mark in the first two segments," said Caruana. "I was starting out well, and I guess Jan-Krzysztof was not yet fully adjusted at the start, and then he started to get his form."

Game four was an important one in the match because Caruana also reached a winning position there. He used the rare move 6.h4 against the Najdorf, which he would play four more times in the match.

Caruana had just four seconds left on the clock for what was not an easy winning continuation:

Caruana won the next game, but it would be his last win in the five-minute segment. Duda made 4-2 in another 6.h4 Najdorf as he quickly won an exchange and found a nice final touch. Commentator GM Maurice Ashley quipped: "Come on man, be nice, show some respect!"

Duda took the lead for the first time in the last five-minute game. In another French, he switched to 5.Nce2 for the first time, and that setup would serve him well for the remainder of the match. Caruana had no chance in this game, and @SmarterChess was right!

"I probably just shouldn’t have played the French so much," said Caruana. "It worked out at the start, but then I was getting these strategically awful positions and basically, it was a complete disaster around that point."

After a small break, Caruana started with a win in the first three-minute game. It still seemed anyone's match. However, the American's unfortunate loss in the next game was an early indication of what we would see in the bullet.

Amazingly, the first draw came after just13 decisive games, when Duda suddenly switched from the Najdorf to the Petroff. Caruana then did the same and also played the Petroff, which was another draw—but definitely not because of the opening. 

The three-minute segment ended with four draws in a row when the score was 9-8 for Duda. Any last hopes for the American player were quickly blown away as the Polish grandmaster won the first four bullet games.

The second of those four was especially painful for Caruana, who was completely winning earlier:

Game 21 was another one of those typical bullet time scrambles. Caruana probably didn't even want to know that he missed a mate in one twice and also a mate in two.

This author doesn't want to give the impression that Duda was only lucky. He simply played very strongly (and fast!) in a lot of games, such as the last, and he finished the match in style:

Caruana won $692.31 based on win percentage; Duda won $2,000 for the victory plus $1,307.69 on percentage, totaling $3,307.69. He moves on to the quarterfinals, where he will play GM Wesley So (@GMWSO).

Afterward, the winner wasn’t even sure he had played so well. "I thought I was extremely lucky today in the bullet because I was winning games that were equal or worse for me or sometimes even lost."

His three losses at the start hadn't come as a surprise: "I knew that the beginning of the match might be very difficult for me. I didn’t expect zero out of three, of course, but usually I start with losing a game in these matches. I played quite badly in those games obviously but afterward, I was kind of getting into the match."

Duda Speed Chess 2020
Caruana: "I had the feeling that the bullet would be very tough for me. I didn’t expect it to go as badly as it did, but I had the feeling that I would be a serious underdog in the bullet."

The American player, still the world number-two in classical chess, agreed with the commentators that bullet is not really his thing and that he never had much interest in it. He didn't prepare for it either, saying: "I don’t think I’m going to improve massively by playing a few bullets games before the match. I’m just panicking when I’m down to seconds, and this is not a thing you can really correct in a day or two."

Duda did prepare. He agreed that winning the Speed Chess Invitational helped, and he also played lots of bullet before the match. "To be in good shape, you have to play bullet all the time," he said.

All games

One match remains in the Round of 16. Details for the quarterfinals will be announced soon.

  • November 16, 2020 at 9 a.m. / 18:00 Central Europe: Giri-Artemiev

2020 speed chess bracket
The 2020 Speed Chess Championship Main Event is a knockout tournament among 16 of the best grandmasters in the world who will play for a $100,000 prize fund, double the amount of last year. The tournament will run November 1-December 13, 2020 on Each individual match will feature 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet chess.

Speed Chess Guess the Move

Speed Chess Fantasy standings
The current leaderboard for SCC Fantasy.

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