Hikaru Nakamura wins Speed Chess Championship

by Klaus Besenthal
12/13/2020 – The final of the Speed Chess Championship between Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was played on Saturday, with Nakamura getting a clear 18½:12½ victory. A total of 31 blitz and bullet games were played with three different time controls. Nakamura’s superiority only came to light in the bullet-chess section. This surprised no one, as the American grandmaster is known for his astounding strength in 1-minute games. | Image: chess.com

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Winning in bullet

The format used in this championship consisted of 90 minutes of 5+1 games, 60 minutes of 3+1 games and 30 minutes of 1+1 games. After the first two phases of the final, Nakamura had a +1 lead. The ten 5+1 games had produced a 5½:4½ score in favour of the American; ten more games were played in the 3+1 section, which finished with a tied 5:5 score.

In the seventh game of the 5+1 phase Nakamura obtained a remarkable attacking win:

 

Bullet chess, i.e. games played online with a time control of around one minute for each player, is probably still unknown territory for many chess followers who have been active club members for decades. After all, it is a world of its own: virtuosity in operating the computer mouse is perhaps more important than chess knowledge. In addition to the purely physical skills, quick recognition of tactical motifs also plays an outstanding role.

Thus, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Hikaru Nakamura loves this discipline — he even wrote a book about it! So Nakamura’s reputation as a bullet-chess specialist is not in doubt, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave did not really have anything to counter his opponent’s amazing skills in this format. Nakamura obtained an 8:3 victory in the bullet section.

For example, game 28 (of the 31 played) showed how things can quickly go wrong with moves being played so rapidly:

 

All games

 

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Klaus Besenthal is computer scientist, has followed and still follows the chess scene avidly since 1972 and since then has also regularly played in tournaments.

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