Nakamura vs So: Death Match 30, Jan. 3, 2015 — Not To Be Missed

Nakamura vs So: Death Match 30, Jan. 3, 2015 — Not To Be Missed

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Make sure you're free January 3, 2015 at 9 a.m. Pacific (noon Eastern, 6 p.m. Central Europe). Have things to do? Cancel them.

Reserve your best chair and have your drinks and snacks ready for the battle between U.S. #1 GM Hikaru Nakamura and U.S. #2 GM Wesley So in Death Match 30.

You can watch the entire match live on

We're talking about the world's #9 and #10 in the live ratings, who have an average rating of 2770. But for this format it might be better to look at their live blitz ratings: for Nakamura (GM Hikaru on that's 2887 (#2 behind Magnus Carlsen!) while So has 2726 (#35).

It must be noted that So (GM gmwesley_so on has played much fewer events that were officially FIDE rated.

The U.S. grandmaster of Philippine origin has had an excellent year, and winning $100,000 at the first Millionaire Chess tournament was the highlight.

Nakamura recently had success at quick chess as he dazzled in St Louis and had a "stonking" performance at the rapid tournament in London.

You can let us know in the comments who you think has better chances. Before you scroll there, we asked the players to tell us a little more about themselves, similar to the "Beyond the Board" feature of the Master's Bulletin.

1. Besides the $1,000 in prize money, will you two be making any friendly wager?

WS: “Nothing planned yet, but I would definitely be open to it.”

HN: “I didn't even know that there was prize money. However, I doubt there will be any wagers as this is a death match and I intend to battle to the death.”

2. You both live in St. Louis. Do you ever play blitz together? And if so, what is the approximate score?

WS: “I don't believe Hikaru and I have played over-the-board blitz before. Our only tournament game was Tata Steel 2014 where I was White and it ended in a draw.”

HN: “I don't think we've ever played blitz over the board or on the internet.”

3. Name an opening that goes way up in strength/usability in blitz.

WS: “The Sicilian and the Ruy Lopez.”

HN: “Any opening which is unplayable in classical chess.”

GM Hikaru Nakamura at the 2013 Sinquefield Cup. (Photo by Mike Klein)

4. What historical/retired player would give you a tough match in blitz?

WS: “Bobby Fischer, whom I personally believe to be the best chess player ever.”

HN: “I would love to be able to go back in time and play blitz against Fischer or Tal in their prime.”

5. Bullet chess on an analog clock -- did you ever play it?

WS: “Many many years ago when people still used analog clocks. I have a very old game where I played bullet (though we were using a digital clock)":

HN: “I've played some bullet chess over the board, but it tends to get a little bit too hectic and messy. Although, I have won every time for what it's worth!”

6. What was your longest in-person or online blitz or bullet match? Who was it against, what was the score, and did you set out to do it or did both players just keep playing?

WS: “I used to play for almost 12 hours straight when I was in Webster University. I was playing my teammates. One of my usual victims is Ray Robson, who seems to improve from every loss.”

HN: “I've played 5-6 hour matches on the internet against Kamsky and Rustemov back in the day. It goes without saying that I no longer remember the scores. I think both matches were extremely close though.”

GM Wesley So at the 2014 ACP Golden Classic (photo courtesy Lennart Ootes).

7. What's the best restaurant in St. Louis?

WS: “There are lots of good ones. I could recommend Pappy's Smokehouse as steaks are my personal favorite.”

HN: “For ethnic food, by far and away, House of India in Clayton. Wasabi for sushi, and I've become a big fan of Cucina Pazzo also in the Central West End.  Anything junky and unhealthy like Pappy's Smokehouse is just overrated in my book.”

8. If you had to pick a bughouse partner, who would you pick?

WS: “Fidel Corrales Jimenez. Besides being a very strong player he brings fun and amusement to the table. You have to watch him play.”

HN: “I've been lucky enough to have played some with the best players in the U.S. (Kazim Gulamali and Richard Francisco), as well as Levon Aronian, but I would love to play on the same team with the best of the best, aka Nils Grandelius.”

9. Practical scenario -- Assuming White has Ke1, Qd1 and Black has Ke5 (and premove is of course available), exactly how much time would you need to win?

WS: “Less than five seconds.

HN: “I'd guess 1.7 seconds.”

GM Hikaru Nakamura at the Gashimov Memorial in 2014. (Photo by Peter Doggers.)

10. What's the funniest online chess handle you've ever seen?

WS: “CapilanoBridge. He's a great player though.”

HN: “Not sure, I've seen too many. However, it definitely IS NOT LexySexy.”

11. If you ran FIDE, name a change that you would make.

WS: “I would try to make chess more professional. I would add personal information to all the players, ways to contact them, and their achievements. I would try to create more leagues. I'll structure it to be similar to other professional sport organizations, such as the NBA or FIFA.”

HN: “I don't think I would ever want such a thankless job like running FIDE.”

12. You're both teammates now. Give us a percentage chance that the U.S. wins a team medal at the Olympiad in 2016.

WS: “Ninety percent. 100 percent if all things went well. Nothing wrong with being an optimist right?”

HN: “I don't like percentages, but I think the chances of medaling are somewhere around 20 percent.”

13. Chess players are better at _____ than most people but worse at ______.

WS: “Better at chess and worse at interpersonal skills.”

HN: “Chess players are better at analyzing and thinking ahead than most people but worse at understand real -ife situations.”

GM Wesley So, winner of the first Millionaire Chess Open (photo courtesy Billy Johnson).

14. What's the coolest place you've ever played a casual game or a tournament?

WS: “Khanty-Mansiysk Russia. Minnesota is a close second.”

HN: “From a historical standpoint, I think that playing the Fide Grand Prix at Simpsons on The Strand was the absolute highlight. So many legends of the game played some of the most famous games in history there.” 

15. Teach us some trash-talk in Italian. (I'll ask So some trash-talking in Tagalog.)

WS: “'Gisingin mo ako kapag ako na' — which means 'Wake me up when it's my turn.'” 

HN: “I wish I could help, but Italian is such a beautiful language and I haven't learned any really bad phrases.”

Tune in to on Saturday, January 3 at 9 am Pacific (noon Eastern, 6 pm Central Europe) for live coverage!

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