GM Mackenzie Molner Awaits Death Match 33 Qualifier

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The U.S. has produced and harvested a glut of GMs in the last few years, so it's understandable if you haven't been able to remember them all. GM Mackenzie Molner is one of those names, and his skills will be on display as the invited player in September's Death Match 33.

Molner did something that few, if any, of the other recently minted American grandmasters can claim. He earned all of his norms domestically before being confirmed in 2013.

His name might be more familiar to longtime users. Molner was a frequent contributor to's content. His presentations on the Pirc, Blumenfeld, and other topics can still be found in the video library.

GM Mackenzie Molner, one of 18 American GMs under the age of 30 (courtesy

Molner tied for first in the 2013 U.S. Open (the 2015 tournament will be played in his home state of Arizona at the beginning of August). He also competed in the 2014 U.S. Championship and has been a standout player for the Arizona Scorpions of the U.S. Chess League. He's was named "most improved player" in 2011 and has been an all-star candidate (last season his performance rating topped 2700).

He also had a storied scholastic career. Molner won the Denker Tournament of High School Champions as a sophomore coached several teams that won state titles.

We often show complicated tactical struggles when highlighting a player's skills, but today we present a technical endgame display from Molner against a near-2700:


All members have the chance to play Molner, except the two men who have qualified for a Death Match thus far in 2015.


For eligibility, you must play a minimum of 100 blitz games in August and finish with the highest blitz rating amongst the qualifiers. The qualification begins as 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time August 1 and ends at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time August 31.


Molner and his challenger will receive a minimum of $200 and maximum of $800 for their three-hour match, depending on how many of the three segments each person wins. To date, no player has won all three time controls since the institution of the segment bonus (which began in Death Match 30). You can read about the format, prize structure, and scheduling in this news post.

Of the 32 previous matches, 13 of them have featured American vs. non-American matchups (determined by time of match; for example Zherebukh and Caruana were not playing for the U.S. when they competed, while So played only one of his two matches under the U.S. flag!). The tally so far? Seven wins and six losses for the internationals. Should a non-U.S. player qualify, Molner will be looking to even the mark!

Let's take a look at who has been actively playing blitz in July on These games don't count (only games in August qualify for the 100-game minumum) but it does show who has a good shot:

GM Hikaru Nakamura (2918) -- That's right, the top blitz player on has been extremely active on the site, perhaps relaxing a little after qualifying for the Candidates Tournament.

GM Hikaru Nakamura will be fresh off the 2015 Sinquefield Cup, but is eligible to qualify for the next Death Match (photo: Peter Doggers).

Nakamura has played 240 games thus far in July and at the time of this report had pushed his rating above 2900, more than 150 points clear of the field. He is eligible since he was the invited player in January's match, not the qualifying player.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2683) -- Has only played 14 blitz games in July (a 9-5 series win over GM Robert Hess), but may want to become only the second player to win two Death Matches. MVL won Death Match 29 late last year, while GM Georg Meier is the only person to win two of them.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: in the same boat as Nakamura! He'll be busy at the Sinquefield Cup in late August.

GM Nikolay Chadaev (2632) -- New to the site this year, he's played 11 games in July, only losing one!

IM Minh Tran (2601) -- Has nearly 1500 completed games on, with 43 blitz games in July. He would be the second Vietnamese player to compete in a Death Match (GM Le Quang Liem played in Death Match 24).

GM Robert Hess (2539) -- Like Nakamura, his scheduled has freed up recently. Hess just graduated from Yale University and played in 170 games in the first three weeks of July. He would surely love to win one of these; he's 0-2 in previous attempts.

Robert Hess is now a grandmaster and Yale graduate, joining at least three others with that distinction -- GMs Robert Byrne, Ken Rogoff and Joel Benjamin (photo courtesy Hess's Facebook page).

The qualifier will be announced in early September, at which point an exact date and time will be set for later that month.

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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