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Nakamura Wins Another One: Arena Kings Season 9 Week 9

Nakamura Wins Another One: Arena Kings Season 9 Week 9

AnthonyLevin
| 5 | Chess Event Coverage

Shortly after winning the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix and qualifying for the FIDE Candidates Tournament, GM Hikaru Nakamura won the ninth week of Arena Kings (making it two weeks in a row). He won in the final with a score of 3-1 against GM Oleksandr Bortnyk. The semifinalists were IM Tuan Minh Le and GM Jose Eduardo Martinez Alcantara

60 streamers and 768 players in total participated in Arena Kings this week. 

How To Watch?
You can watch Arena Kings on Chess.com/TV most weeks. You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive.

This week featured Fischer Random Chess with the usual two-hour arena followed by a 16-player knockout with the highest-scoring streamers of any rating. The time control was 3+0 in both portions.


Arena

FM James Canty III passed the proverbial baton to the following player-streamers, highlighting their channels on the main Chess.com broadcast for the first two hours: GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Robert Hess, GM Benjamin Finegold, IM Le Tuan Minh, Chessbrainiac, and LethbridgeChess.

The Fischer Random variant promised a day full of surprising and unusual tactics while the fast time control, without an increment, ensured crazy time scrambles and end-of-game pre-move contests. On his streak of winning virtually every tournament he's played in lately, Nakamura won first place in the arena with a whopping 27 wins, zero losses, and one draw.

All in all, the speedsters prevailed, their pre-move skills coming especially in handy in the arena format. A nice win by Le over Bortnyk below shows just how little time these players need to clinch the checkmate at the end of the game, and we're talking about approximately two seconds:

In the following position, White just castled. Being Black to move, James Chirilov (Chessbrainiac) expressed frustration on his stream at not being able to castle here and, after several attempts of placing the king on the a8-rook, ultimately played 13...Rc8. 

What must Black do to castle below in a Fischer Random game? Place the black king on c8 (just a random move) to see the answer.

To his credit, Black won the game without needing to castle anyway. 

Going into the last round, after defeating IM Renato Terry, Nakamura casually said to his viewers: "I'll play one more for you guys." Like a rockstar playing an encore for his fans, already knowing he qualified, he then defeated Bortnyk in his last arena game.

Knockout

The knockout portion of Arena Kings this week ended with the usual suspects—all regular GM and IM participants at various Chess.com events making it to the semifinals—and Nakamura coming out on top in the end. One might expect the Fischer Random format to even the field a little bit, to throw Nakamura off against his esteemed opponents, but it didn't in the end.

Every single match in the round of 16 ended in a 2-0 score except IM Damian Lewtakvs vs. IM Saparmyrat Atabayev, which the latter won with a 1.5-2.5 score. Their penultimate game was the most interesting, a curious endgame where the better side—Atabayev, in this case—was seemingly unable to break through a fortress despite being up an extra bishop. A swindle on the clock did the job though:

In the quarterfinals, Nakamura won both of his games against Atabayev with a score of 2-0 before a single game finished in the other matches. Canty's tone in the commentary as he says, "It's gonna be like mate in seven," straight out of the opening only attests to Nakamura's dominance at this event. 

All the usual suspects entered the semifinals: Nakamura, Le, Martinez, and Bortnyk. Not every game was earned with virtue and honor, but that's the nature of blitz. Just as Canty announced, "He's lost; ain't nothin' he can do about this one," Martinez pulled out a win against GM Klementy Sychev in the last game of the quarterfinals and made it through.

"Nothing but big-dog matchups," said Canty about the players in the semifinals. A small crisis occurred for Nakamura when he lost his first game against Le, but then he won the second. The third game was insane and could have gone to either player after Le played a speculative bishop sacrifice, but one that worked out. Nakamura had a lost position pretty quickly, but then pulled his magic, escaped, and won:

Bortnyk vs. Martinez turned out to be equally as tight, with the Peruvian GM winning the first game and Bortnyk evening the score after. In the final game, Bortnyk played a masterful squeeze, shuffling for a long time to run down his opponent's clock before breaking through. A 135-move mammoth of a game:

The finals were a first-to-three-wins match between Nakamura and Bortnyk. Nakamura steamrolled through the first two games, finishing the first with a kingside attack and winning the second on time after his opponent blundered a full exchange early on. Bortnyk won a full rook and went on to win the third game, however, showing his resistance and fighting spirit. Nakamura needed only one more shot to put the match away:

Standings, Results, Prizes

Nakamura won $500 for first place and Bortnyk took $350 for second. The $200 prize went to semifinalists Martinez and Le while the four quarterfinalists took in $100 each, and ninth place through 16th received $50 (pending confirmation of fair play). The full standings of the knockout field are below:

 Arena Kings Season 9 | Week 9 | Final Knockout Standings

Rk Country Player Rating
1 @Hikaru 3072
2 @Oleksandr_Bortnyk 2783
3-4 @Jospem 2833
3-4 @wonderfultime 2748
5-8 @SlipperySpeedster 2136
5-8 @MITerryble 2782
5-8 @AtabayevSaparmyrat 2674
5-8 @Sychev_on_YouTube 2373
9-16 @DamianoLew95 2206
9-16 @SundramNaam2SunaHoga 1966
9-16 @ChessBruh630 1579
9-16 @RodrigoViverosGonzales123 1543
9-16 @MikhailTal-ReBorn 1854
9-16 @diamondop 1748
9-16 @VallabhTFT 1281
9-16 @Ram_MS 1316

Full arena standings here.

All prizes are published in the results report here. 

Arena Kings is a weekly tournament held by Chess.com to showcase streamers. A two-hour Arena is followed by a knockout featuring the top 16 streamers from the arena, with both sections using a 3+0 time control. The games begin at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time/18:00 Central European every Wednesday.

AnthonyLevin
NM Anthony Levin

NM Anthony Levin caught the chess bug at the "late" age of 18 and never turned back. He earned his national master title in 2021, actually the night before his first day of work at Chess.com.

Anthony, who also earned his Master's in teaching English in 2018, taught English and chess in New York schools for five years and strives to make chess content accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages. At Chess.com, he writes news articles and manages social media for chess24.

Email:  anthony.levin@chess.com

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