The Big One: Nakamura-MVL In Next Death Match

The Big One: Nakamura-MVL In Next Death Match

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No banal introduction needed for Death Match 34, this one sells itself.

GM Hikaru Nakamura, the self-proclaimed best bullet player in the world, will face off against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who was a whisker away from winning this year's World Blitz Championship. The match will be Monday, December 21 at 9 a.m. Pacific (GMT-7), 12 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast live at

Both men have won a previous Death Match, so the winner in December will become only the second person to win multiple matches (GM Georg Meier was the first player to do it; the overall record of players competing in their second match is a disappointing 1-5). 

Vachier-Lagrave will play from France and Nakamura from Italy. They'll battle for all the argent/soldi.

Nakamura has the highest bullet rating in the history of Last month he nearly rang the bell of 3200 and naturally ranks number one out of the 600,000+ members with a bullet rating. His reached his peak blitz rating of 2978 only a week ago, and he seems destined to be one of the very few to break 3000 there.

How hard is it to beat Nakamura in a game, let alone a match? For every 100 games of bullet played on, on average he wins 90 and draws four. His blitz percentage is only marginally worse.

And he's not just playing cupcakes. In fact, he's not even a stranger to his Death Match opponent on the site:

Nakamura once typed this in the chat while watching a tournament broadcast on


Despite the proclamation, many speed demons have tried! "Chessbrah" GM Eric Hansen (himself once the highest-rated bullet player on tried for quite a while to get the best of Nakamura in a bullet-only "quasi" death match last month. Their session lasted two hours, whereas a Death Match is three. (Nakamura can win 12 games in 20 minutes -- see for yourself!)

Hansen is known for his celerity and got off to an early 2-0 lead. Then Nakamura became, well, Nakamura. (Warning: explicit language is heard in the commentary to the match.)

In case you didn't watch until the end, the final score of 59-13 for Nakamura was almost triple the success rate for Hansen compared to his opponent's lifetime record against all players.

Nakamura even co-wrote a book about bullet chess.

Is there anything Nakamura can't do? Vachier-Lagrave may be hoping he has a few more hard collisions before the match:


Nakamura at free safety? Well even the Carolina Panthers are 7-0, so clearly he can't be stopped.

Joking aside, Vachier-Lagrave is no slouch, and serious chess fans already know this will be a battle.

What are the Frenchman's qualifications? He's the former world junior champion and currently number three on the FIDE Blitz Ratings list (trailing only Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen).



Both players enjoy tennis — perhaps that should be the tiebreaker?

"Mr. Biel" also nearly won this year's FIDE World Blitz Championship — he led all players with 9.5/11 after day one. He won the 2010 and 2012 European Blitz Championships.

The two have played blitz over the board in an official setting several times. At the 2010 World Blitz Championship, Vachier-Lagrave won both of their head-to-head encounters.

At this year's Norway Tournament, which was preceeded by a blitz event, Nakamura won.

Here's another video from the 2014 World Blitz Championship where Vachier-Lagrave almost gets tricked by GM Judit Polgar, but with dwindling time quickly finds a way to deal with her pesky pawn. Nakamura finished second in 2014 but did not play this year.

Nakamura missed out on the 2015 World Rapid and Blitz Championships but instead showed off his prowess at those time controls in Las Vegas. He went undefeated in 12 rapid and blitz games in winning Millionaire Chess.

When it comes to Titled Tuesday, Nakamura clearly has outperformed Vachier-Lagrave. The American has three titles to his credit, whereas Vachier-Lagrave plays often but is still searching for his first crown (though he has "cashed" several times).

After you've sorted through all this data, let us know in the comments who you think is the favorite, and make sure to mark your calendars for Monday, December 21 at 9 a.m. Pacific (GMT-7), 12 p.m. Eastern. Vachier-Lagrave will be in France and Nakamura in Italy, but chess fans will be on

You never know; maybe we'll see someone play another 271 moves (just think what they can do with increment):

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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