Speed Chess Championship: Nakamura Dominates In Bullet, Advances To Quarterfinals
Nakamura didn't allow any surprises against Svidler.

Speed Chess Championship: Nakamura Dominates In Bullet, Advances To Quarterfinals

| 44 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura beat GM Peter Svidler with a score of 22-10 in the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event and will face GM Anish Giri in the quarterfinals. The next match, between GM Wesley So and GM Jeffery Xiong, starts on Monday, November 15 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central European Time.

How to watch?

The games of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event are played on the live server. They are also available on our platform for watching live games at and on our apps under "Watch." Expert commentary can be enjoyed at
2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event

The live broadcast of the match.

The final result doesn't do justice to Svidler's resilient performance in the first two segments of the match. He gave a close and exciting fight in the blitz section only to suffer an 11-1 defeat in the bullet segment. It was a tactically charged match where viewers were treated to several unusual openings, courtesy of the American grandmaster.

The very first game of the match provided some excitement for the spectators as Svidler resigned in a drawn position!

This year's Speed Chess Championship features a recurring theme of bishops and the f8-square. In their match two days ago, GM Richard Rapport blundered Bf8 checkmate-in-one against GM Alexey Sarana, and in round five Svidler did the same in an even simpler position!

However, the eight-time Russian champion bounced back in the next game and reduced Nakamura's lead to 3.5-2.5 with a beautiful miniature on the white side of the Sicilian defense.

The match situation remained double-edged throughout the 5+3 segment, and Nakamura decided to add fuel to the fire as he essayed a rare 1.b4, the so-called Orangutan opening, in game nine. In the end, he lost this game due to a blunder, but he was obviously satisfied with the opening result since he repeated this move in four more games later in the match.

He got his "Orangutan revenge" in game 13, punishing Svidler for anti-positional pawn grabbing on the queenside.

The next game may have been the turning point of the match as Svidler couldn't find the killer blow after delivering another excellent knight sacrifice. From that game onward, his tactical alertness seemed to have diminished. In games 15, 16, and 18, he blundered simple tactics, and even when he obtained winning positions (games 14 and 17), he couldn't find the way forward in critical moments, acquiescing to premature draws by repetition.

This allowed Nakamura to take a three-point lead 15 minutes before the end of the blitz segment. Nevertheless, Svidler cut into the American's lead by one point in game 19 and would have nearly evened the score before the bullet segment if had he won in game 20, the last blitz game.

And that game was, hands down, the game of the match.

The resourcefulness Nakamura displays in handling losing positions, such as the one above, is surely demoralizing for his opponents. The commentator, GM Daniel Naroditsky, who had his fair share of blitz and bullet battles with Nakamura, perhaps said it best:

And so Nakamura went into the bullet segment with an 11-9 advantage. This kind of a result is usually a death sentence for most of his opponents, and this match was no exception as Svidler managed to win only one out of 12 bullet games. However, it was one that the Russian will definitely be proud of.

In the rest of the games, the reigning SCC champion was simply "too strong, too fast." The turnaround he pulled off in the final game of the match is memorable.

Asked about the topsy-turvy start of the match in the post-match interview, Nakamura responded: "A lot of credit has to go to Peter; he played a very good match. On top of him playing well, I thought that I was also missing a lot of basic tactics in 5+1 and, to some degree, 3+1. I tried not to tilt and try to keep the match within the two-point margin as much as I could. I just assumed that as we get lower and lower, I would have an advantage."

Svidler was not dissatisfied with his performance in the blitz segment either: "We are sort of avoiding the elephant in the room here, which is that, basically, the margins here were as much as you wanted them to be before the bullet because only one of us actually plays the bullet. All in all, I think that 5+1 and 3+1 I played reasonably well for someone who doesn't play much online, and it was close enough to feel fine with it. But obviously, the bullet was just a slaughterhouse."

Nakamura is confident in his chances to win the SCC this year: "I still think that I have a pretty decent margin in bullet over most of the rest of the players."

It was difficult for commentators Naroditsky and GM Robert Hess to ignore another elephant in the room: the Orangutan opening. Nakamura explained his choice: "The reason I started playing it is because I fell too far behind on the clock in previous games with White trying to play good chess. But then I realized that I cannot play good chess, so I shifted to it so that I can play the first 20 moves without thinking." 

Svidler thought that it was not as bad as it looked: "I got some terrible positions against it. At times, I was sitting there, thinking, how do I equalize? And this is not what you're not supposed to be asking yourself. It's extremely annoying to be thinking that with Black about this opening. So, it was a decent choice."

Svidler earned $625.00 based on a score percentage, while Nakamura will receive $2,000 for the victory plus $1,375.00 on percentage, or $3,375.00 in total. He advances to the quarterfinals where he will play GM Anish Giri.

All Games

The 2021 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. The tournament will run November 8-December 19, 2021 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.

Find all information about the Speed Chess Championship here.

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