Nakamura, So Clash Friday In Speed Chess Championship Rematch
Hikaru Nakamura will face a familiar opponent in Wesley So on Friday, as the two GMs square off in this championship rematch.

Nakamura, So Clash Friday In Speed Chess Championship Rematch

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This Friday, GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Wesley So are set to renew their rivalry in the 2019 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship final. After their championship clash last season, the rematch stands to be one of the most anticipated showdowns in event history.

The match will be broadcast live this Friday, February 21 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time, 18:00 Central European Time on Chess.com/TV.

Nakamura is heading into his third consecutive Speed Chess Championship final and will be looking to clinch his second title. The 32-year-old has been at the pinnacle of online tournaments this past year. In addition to winning the 2018 Speed Chess Championship, Nakamura is Chess.com's reigning bullet champion and holds the Chess.com record for most Titled Tuesdays won (11).

2018 Speed Chess Championship Final
In last season's final, Nakamura pulled away in the dying minutes to capture his first Speed Chess Championship title.

While Nakamura will face a familiar opponent on Friday, So's ascent in online events is certainly noteworthy. The 26-year-old won the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship in Norway by upsetting Carlsen. Since then, So has been a key piece of the Saint Louis Arch Bishops' PRO Chess League title defense, compiling a performance rating of over 2800 across 24 games.

So has been in fine form of late over the board as well, highlighted by his impressive showing at this year's Tata Steel Masters where he finished third behind only Carlsen and GM Fabiano Caruana. In doing so, he achieved a performance rating of nearly 2800.

Wesley So Magnus Carlsen FRChess
So's victory over Carlsen to win the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship proved to be one of 2019's biggest surprises. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

In their last online encounter, So bested Nakamura with the black pieces in the 2020 PRO Chess League season opener:

If the title of Chess.com Speed Chess champion was not enough motivation, the players will be competing for a prize fund of $10,000 in Friday's match. The Speed Chess Championship is unique in that prize money is distributed not only based on the match's outcome, but also on the individual scores of each player as a ratio. With this in mind, the players will be fighting all the way through the conclusion of the bullet portion.

The 2019 Speed Chess Championship features $50,000 in prizes and is the showcase event in a family of three: the Junior and Women's Speed Chess Championships, which collectively feature prizes in excess of $100,000.

Speed Chess Championship Prizes

Nakamura should be feeling confident heading into Friday's match. The American has been dominant in this year's championship, besting GM Vladimir Dobrov by nearly twenty points, and overwhelming the Polish talent GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the second round. To secure his berth into a third-consecutive Speed Chess Championship final, Nakamura built an early lead against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and never let go.

So arguably has had the most difficult schedule in this year's event. After eliminating GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with relative comfort, the American narrowly put an end to GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's late comeback bid in the bullet portion. In December's semifinal, So bested GM Vladislav Artemiev in each of the three segments to book his place in this year's finals.

Speed Chess Championship 2019 Bracket
Despite being the tenth seed in this year's Speed Chess Championship, Wesley So reached the final by beating Artemiev.

In the 2018 Speed Chess Championship finals, Nakamura pulled away from So late in the bullet portion, winning 15.5-12.5. Heading into last year's final, Nakamura had a 67 percent chance of winning the match, but this year SmarterChess (@SmarterChess) gives the defending champion only a 51 percent chance of winning in Friday's match, citing So's growth in both the 5+1 and 3+1 portions since last year. Across his three matches this season, So holds a 21.5-11.5 score (16 wins, six losses, 11 draws) in the 5+1 portion, posting a winning percentage just shy of 50 percent.

So meets the eye test as well. During Monday's PRO Chess League broadcast, commentator Robert Hess noted that this year's final will be much closer, citing Wesley's ascent in both the live ratings and Chess.com leaderboards.

 Nakamura won his first Speed Chess Championship title last season by beating So 15.5-12.5.

Like last year's final, fans will be keeping a close eye on the bullet portion, as Nakamura has consistently been one of the fastest players in this year's field. 

You can watch the Speed Chess Championship Final featuring Hikaru Nakamura vs. Wesley So on Friday, February 21, starting from 9 a.m. Pacific Time, 18:00 CET on Chess.com/TV.

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