Nakamura, So Cruise Through To Quarterfinals

Nakamura, So Cruise Through To Quarterfinals


The 2022 Speed Chess Championship continued on Thursday with a high-octane double-header that saw GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So brush past their respective contenders, GMs David Paravyan and Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

Nakamura was particularly impressive in his match and got creative in his 19.5-7.5 drubbing over Paravyan, while So’s 14-12 victory forced him to play his best chess to progress.

The first quarterfinal between GMs Nihal Sarin and Ding Liren will take on December 9 at 6 a.m. PT / 15:00 CET.



Blitz 5|1: So-Abdusattorov 4.5-3.5

Off the back of his stunning Global Championship victory, So bounced out to an early lead against the world rapid chess champion, winning the first two games with some aggressive kingside play.

Known for his staying power in big moments, Abdusattorov didn’t let the lead last long and won consecutive games in the fourth and fifth, including a surprising king walk out of the Ruy Lopez that commentator Rozman correctly predicted.

Rozman also humorously reignited banter with round of 16 casualty GM Anish Giri, citing a Twitter thread about the Netherlands’ win over the U.S.A in their FIFA World Cup round of 16 match. With the Mogul Chessboxing Championship fast approaching it begs the question as to whether or not a clash in the ring between the two chess personalities may be on the horizon.

The contrasting styles of the players became apparent as the match drew on, with the Uzbek GM’s wins being more “Karpovian” (former world champion GM Anatoly Karpov was renowned for his ability to grind out small positional advantages) in style, as opposed to So’s preference for sharp positions.

Two clean wins from So in the sixth and seventh games confirmed that he would head into the first break with a lead. However, the margin was still in question. A messy final game of the segment fell in favor of Abdusattorov, but the former prodigy appeared to be disgusted by his own play, clearly feeling that he should have been able to make things simpler en route to a 3.5-4.5 scoreline.

Blitz 3|1: So-Abdusattorov 4.5-3.5

Having not found much success battling against So’s Ruy Lopez and Italian openings, the Tashkent native probably spent the break figuring out how to combat the openings. However, he would be stunned when So opened the 3+1 segment with 1.e3. Commonly referred to as the Van’t Kruij’s Opening, the curious move took 20 seconds for So to play. Uninterested in messing around with his experiment, Abdusattorov liquidated into an ending and offered a draw on move 20, which was accepted.

A mouse slip or a stroke of genius? So’s 1.e3 was only the second time he had played the move in a serious game. Photo: Eric Rosen/

Despite managing to win the second game of the segment, the 2021 finalist’s lead quickly evaporated following dual victories from his opponent. This time invoking the spirit of GM Boris Spassky, Abdusattorov trapped So’s bishop on the edge of the board after the a7-pawn was pinched and equalized the scores at 6.5-6.5.

Needing to halt his opponent’s momentum, the American superstar played one of his best games in the fifteenth, taking advantage of black’s isolated queen pawn and putting on an endgame masterclass to take the lead once more.

The 3+1 games would have almost certainly ended with a single point between the players if not for a pawn race miscalculation by the trailing 18-year-old which led him to dip to a two-point deficit before the bullet portion. With the white pieces, he was offered the opportunity to draw via threefold repetition but saw ghosts with seconds on the clock and paid the price for overpressing.

Bullet 1|1: So-Abdusattorov 5.5-5.5

In a positive sign for Abdusattorov, he emerged the victor in the wild first game of the 1+1 portion though the joy was shortlived as he blundered his queen in the very next game! 

Periodic flashes of brilliance were on full display in the bullet segment and a brutal temporary queen sacrifice from the Uzbek GM was among the best. For an opening that is well known for its high draw rate and solidness, the Petrov provided several exciting moments on Thursday.

Sensing the need to secure victory sooner rather than later, So fired on all cylinders and won three games straight to quell any chance of a comeback for Abdusattorov. The periodic was not marked by a high level of precision; rather, it showed the experience and blistering speed of the American veteran.

Recovering from the now five-point deficit seemed practically impossible; however, the Uzbek GM never gave up hope, bowling over So’s Petrov Defense followed his Queen’s Gambit in successive games.

Needing to win two more games to equal the scores, Abdusattorov sensed that there was not enough time on the clock to win by normal means and started moving instantly. The strategy backfired quickly though, and in the penultimate game, he trapped his own queen on move 11, all but securing the match for the three-time U.S. champion.

So switched off in the final moments of the match and lost a dead rubber but prevailed with a convincing score of 14.5-12.5, confirming that he will face GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the quarterfinals.

Blitz 5|1: Nakamura-Paravyan 7-2

The anticipation for the Nakamura-Paravyan round of 16 match drew numerous fans out of the woodwork cheering for both players and Paravyan found himself with a growing number of supporters following his spectacular run in the qualifiers. The 98% win prediction rate in favor of Nakamura, provided by the community, loomed over the fixture though, and early on in the match, it appeared that this prediction was grounded in some hard truths.

Nakamura flew out of the blocks and made a statement on the way, opting to play 1.a3 (the Anderssen Opening) in the first game and completely diverting any preparation Paravyan had concocted. The Russian wasn’t flustered by the opening but soon fell victim to a tumultuous middlegame.

A draw in game two did little to calm the match underdogs’ nerves and this was unmistakably clear when he chose not to capture a free rook in the second game. Paravyan failed to recover from the miss and drew the game.

Then the floodgates opened. Starting with yet another bamboozling move, 1.h3 (the Clemenz Opening), Nakamura put on a clinical performance to move to 2.5-0.5. Feeling the heat, Paravyan attempted a Najdorf-inspired knight sacrifice on e6 against his opponent’s Sicilian Defense: Kan Variation, but it was quickly refuted. A blistering attack that featured two brilliant moves extended Nakamura’s lead to four points in yet another victory for the dubious Clemenz opening in the fifth game.

A fourth straight win was the cherry on top for the Fischer Random world champion, and with a five-point buffer, he was content with a longwinded draw in the seventh game of the match. The Russian qualifier found some luck in the eighth game where he finally punished his opponent for his creative opening escapades and dealt Nakamura his quickest defeat in recent history. The 16-move miniature saw Paravyan masterfully operate the bishop pair to trap a knight on e7.

The final game of the 5+1 segment saw the return of the Clemenz Opening once more and the American titan kept his unbeaten streak with it running, boosting his score to 7-2.

Blitz 3|1: Nakamura-Paravyan 7.5-1.5

After the 5+1 blowout, Paravyan looked for redemption in the 3+1 games but was met by a rampaging Nakamura who was no longer looking simply for victory but to create art.

Interestingly, the sole game that Nakamura lost in the 3+1 portion was game 11, where he chose to play his usually trusty Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack. Obviously prepared for this setup, his opponent garnered an early edge with black and jostled his way to the point after a wild time scramble.

Given no time to relish in his win, the 24-year-old found himself on struggle street in the very next game when Nakamura found an astounding checkmate threat that left commentators Xiong and Canty baffled.

Five straight bruising wins distinguished the blitz section and confirmed the overwhelming fan prediction that Nakamura would proceed to face GM Levon Aronian in the quarterfinals. The most impressive of these wins was due to his defensive virtuosity in game 16 where he fended off seven great moves and one brilliant move in the first 17 moves as Paravyan forced his king out into the middle of the board.

Our unique game of the day has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below.

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

This dominant streak from the defending champion left him with an 11-point advantage heading into his favorite time control.

Bullet 1|1: Nakamura-Paravyan 5-4

The final segment was the most successful for Paravyan and Nakamura was caught out going against advice outlined in his own book, Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate (co-written with Bruce Harper), where he states in chapter six that you should “play what you know” in bullet.

Despite the qualifier’s consistent genius with seconds on the clock, the bullet maestro still managed to outscore him due to a number of unbelievable swindles.

With a final score of 19.5-7.5, Nakamura showed that he is ready to defend his Speed Chess Championship title, even with his menagerie of unorthodox openings.

For their round of 16 match wins, victors So and Nakamura received $2,120 and $2,777 while Abdusattorov and Paravyan received $1,880 and $1,223 respectively.

All Games – Round of 16

Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket

The 2022 Speed Chess Championships Main Event started on November 23 and will conclude on December 16. Top speed-chess players are competing at three different time controls in a 16-player knockout as they vie for a share of the $100,000 prize fund along with the most prestigious title in online chess.

The likes of GMs Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and many more battle it out to determine the 2022 speed chess champion.

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