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Hikaru Nakamura Wins Fischer Random World Championship
Nakamura is the new Fischer Random World Champion. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Hikaru Nakamura Wins Fischer Random World Championship

JackRodgers
| 83 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura was crowned as the FIDE Fischer Random World Chess Champion on Sunday after winning a thrilling armageddon tiebreaker final against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Having split the points in their four-game mini-match, Nakamura saved his best efforts for the decider and paid tribute to the heroics of the format's namesake, GM Bobby Fischer, by claiming his first world championship title in Reykjavik 50 years after his fellow American defeated GM Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War.

Nakamura won $150,000 for winning the event while the remainder of the $400,000 prize pool was split among the other participants.

In the consolation matches, GM Magnus Carlsen overcame the world rapid champion GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov to round out the podium, recovering from a 1-0 deficit in the process.

How to review?
You can review the 2022 Fischer Random World Championship on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and all live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive. Games from the event can be viewed on our events page.

The live broadcast was hosted by GMS Daniel Naroditsky and Robert Hess.

For Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi, the final day of the Fischer Random World Championship would culminate in the first world title for one of the players, and tensions were high from the moment the clocks started at 3 p.m. local time. 

The starting positions for the first two games were relatively straightforward. The key features included a queen in the corner and the bishops remaining on their normal squares.

Nakamura, playing with the black pieces, quickly took command of the center and pushed Nepomniachtchi backward. Unable to wrestle the initiative from Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi eventually succumbed to a tactic that saw him lose a piece.

Although an early loss hurt his chances of taking the title, Nepomniachtchi knew all too well that a comeback was possible after he sensationally rebounded against Carlsen in Saturday's semifinal. 

One of the more expressive players on the circuit, Nepomniachtchi doesn't always give away the strength of his positions with his facial expressions. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the second game, Nakamura was able to transpose into a position that resembles his trusty Nimzowitsch-Larsen opening, which he has used to great effect in online tournaments for years. By move 40, Nakamura had garnered a +2.5 advantage but instead of pressing for a win, he chose to repeat moves.

With the pressure firmly on his shoulders, Nepomniachtchi struck at the perfect time in game three and dealt Nakamura his first (and only) loss of the entire event. Nepomniachtchi was clinical with the black pieces and confidently sacrificed an exchange on move 20 to open attacking lines on the queenside to level the score heading into the final regulation game.

Nakamura stunned viewers in the fourth game as he offered a draw on move 15 after equalizing early with the black pieces, leading commentator Hess to question: "They're allowed to offer draws?!" Both players were clearly happy to settle things with an armageddon tiebreaker, but the loser would inevitably regret the unfinished business in round four.

A bidding process took place to decide who would play with which color in the tiebreaker. Nepomniachtchi won the bid to play with black with draw odds and 13 minutes on the clock to Nakamura's 15. The final starting position was announced soon thereafter, and the players had five minutes to strategize.

Nepomniachtchi looked to have the armageddon game under control early after trading into an opposite-colored bishop middlegame, but Nakamura muddied the waters and stormed home to claim his first-ever world championship title. GM Rafael Leitao has annotated our game of the day below.

Nakamura celebrated the historic victory, as many have come to expect at this point, with a prompt YouTube video covering his games! At the end of the video, he mentioned that he would soon be off to Toronto where he will compete in the Chess.com Global Championship Finals. Given his astronomical performance rating of 2924 (calculated based on FIDE rapid ratings) for this tournament, Nakamura is undoubtedly one of the favorites to win in Toronto as well.

Aside from the title clash, three consolation matches took place in Reykjavik on Sunday to decide the finishing order for the rest of the field. Following a disappointing semifinal loss, Carlsen found himself in trouble early against Abdusattorov and lost the first game after the Uzbek GM cleverly trapped his bishop.

Carlsen eventually fought his way back into the match and onto the podium, defeating Abdusattorov 3-1. Overall, the world champion was clearly not in his best form but will have two more opportunities to snatch up world championship titles in the world blitz and rapid championships in December.

Carlsen still came in third despite a lackluster performance by his lofty standards. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

GM Vladimir Fedoseev continued to outperform his rating and dispatched the defending champion GM Wesley So by a two-point margin to move into fifth place, while GMs Matthias Bluebaum and local Hjorvar Gretarsson finished in seventh and eighth respectively.

This year's Fischer Random World Championship has reignited the discussion about the future of chess and has provided a refreshing step sideways from the near-perfect performances of the world's elite in classical events. As Nepomniachtchi graciously tweeted after losing his match on Sunday, the chess world "hope(s) to see more Fischer Random tournaments in the future."


The Fischer Random World Championship, brought to you by the Government of Iceland and the City of Reykjavik, gathered top players worldwide to compete in a series of classical Fischer Random games for their share of the $400,000 prize fund and the title of FIDE Fischer Random World Champion. Fischer Random (also known as Chess960) is a chess variant where all standard chess rules are the same except for the starting position of the pieces, which can be in one of 960 semi-random setups. Heavily endorsed by the 11th world champion GM Bobby Fischer, the variant sidesteps opening preparation to highlight players' true understanding of chess.


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