Carlsen beats Nakamura in 3-hour blitz battle

by Albert Silver
10/28/2016 – World Champion Magnus Carlsen and elite player, as well as renowned blitz specialist Hikaru Nakamura, played a three-hour blitz match online as the final of an online invitational tournament hosted by Chess.com. It was broadcast live at the online service Twitch where the two players could be seen via Skype connections as they played. Magnus Carlsen won the encounter 14.5 – 10.5. Report and games.

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Bringing in eight players, who played out the series in a knockout event, it was no great surprise to see Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura emerge as the finalists of the event called the Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship.

The match was hosted by Chess.com, and shown at Twitch TV, a service dedicated to online video broadcasts for games. Twitch has most prominently been used for streaming screencasts of competitions in games such as League of Legends, DOTA, and others of their kind, but the platform has now expanded its audience to a wide variety of others.

The full broadcast on Twitch can be seen above with games and live commentary 

Played on a typical 2D chessboard, the two finalists also connected via Skype allowing the viewers to share their facial expressions as the games unfolded. For the most part there were few moments in the spirit of Kasparov’s memorable outbursts and gestures, captured on camera in the past, but one could still clearly see the expressions of frustration when a position suddenly went sour. Perhaps the most notable was a game that the World Champion seemed to all but have in the bag, but got thoroughly confused by Nakamura’s energetic attempts to fight back, and ultimately lost. Acknowledging he had been outsmarted, he was seen clapping on video.

Nevertheless, it was his match, as he generally got the upper hand throughout. The final was split into three phases: the first was 90 minutes in which the two would play non-stop blitz games of five minutes plus two seconds of increment. This went badly for the American who found himself constantly far behind in time, with easily two minutes difference. A line of the Nimzo-Indian seemed to plague him especially badly as he lost in it three times with white. This phase ended 5.5 - 3.5 for Carlsen.

The second phase was 60 minutes long, with non-stop games of three minutes plus two seconds increment. If anything, it went even worse and ended in a 5.0 – 2.0 victory for Magnus. Finally, the last and fastest set was thirty minutes for unlimited bullet games of one minute plus a one-second increment. Finally the expertise of Nakamura came through as he managed to edge out his opponent and take it 5.0 - 4.0, but this was insufficient to balance the overall bout.

For his efforts, and winning the final 14.5 – 10.5, Magnus Carlsen took home the first prize of US$4000.

In his post-match comments, Magnus Carlsen was asked where he was and the Norwegian replied that he was in the Caribbean at that moment, immersed in his World Championship preparations. He added that of course he was playing training games continuously during this period, and he viewed this match against Nakamura as extra preparation, allowing further training games against an elite player.

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.

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