GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Wesley So contested their third Speed Chess Championship Final match today, a much-anticipated duel after each secured thrilling semi-final victories. Nakamura defeated GM Ding Liren in armageddon in likely the most epic match in Speed Chess Championship history, and So fended off a serious challenge from Junior Speed Chess Champion, GM Nihal Sarin.
While Nakamura had won the previous two finals matches, So has been in fine form since—winning plenty of speed chess events. Despite the tense setup, the match proved an unanticipated blowout as Nakamura accumulated an early lead and soon found every time scramble breaking his way. Ultimately, Nakamura claimed a double-digit victory, finishing 15 points ahead of So: 23-8.
All games of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event were played on the Chess.com live server. They are also available on our platform for watching live games at Chess.com/events and on our apps under “Watch.” Expert commentary was available at Chess.com/tv.
Blitz 5+1: Nakamura-So 5.5-3.5
After a professional opening draw, Nakamura won possibly the finest game in the whole match, a miniature with the black pieces. After the subtle misstep 10.Ba3?, Hikaru found the excellent refutation 10…e4! and after developing his pieces with great pressure, he finished with the pretty 18…Nxf2!!
This game could easily be included in any instructor’s lesson repertoire; it felt like a Morphy masterwork.
In the next game, Nakamura fended off a frightening attack from So to claim a two-point lead, but then So stiffened his resistance. Two draws were followed by a So win, and he seemed positioned to equalize the score in the following game when Nakamura started creating counterplay and was even rewarded with a win. So seemed to miss that the white knight was picking up the bishop with check.
Things weren’t out of So’s hands yet as he also benefited from a missed knight hop to the edge of the board as 30.Nh5+! picked up a mating attack and brought the match back to within a point once again.
The critical final game of the 5+1 time control was pure chaos in a complex rook and knight endgame. The advantage shifted rapidly between winning and likely drawing as So defended with his rook awkwardly stuck to g6. Just as he’d found the perfect configuration, Nakamura landed the last trick in a time scramble, claiming victory.
Blitz 3+1: Nakamura-So 7-2
Although So was down by two, the 3+1 time control has invariably been his best time control. He’s beaten both Nakamura and World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the 3+1 segment. It was certainly within So’s powers to overturn a two-point deficit in the time control and battle it out in bullet. Sadly for So’s fans though, things got out of control very quickly. Nakamura won the first four games, stretching his lead to an incredible six points and effectively ending the match with his 3+1 opening run.
While Nakamura won the second game of the time control, he did miss a beautiful Greek Gift sacrifice. In fact, this position would come up again later in the match.
Hikaru’s fourth opening win looked likely to be a critical victory for So who had a crushing attack when he missed or miscalculated 27.Qxe5+!, and things got out of hand as Hikaru’s king successfully prepared to flee the pocket and find total safety on e3.
After a chaotic, stabilizing draw, So scored an excellent endgame win, demonstrating how to box out Nakamura’s king and then converting with the classic Lucena bridge-building technique.
So tried to continue his endgame-winning ways, but while he came close to a decisive advantage in the following game, he over-pressed and found his bishop trapped on g7. After further confusion, Nakamura won the game, forestalling So’s attempted momentum.
The final game in all three time controls was chaotic and exhilarating. So gained control of the seventh rank and seemed close to victory when Nakamura found a dazzling, puzzle-like combination to extricate himself. 37…Rxb2!! and 38…Bc2!! each received the brilliant stamp of approval from Game Review, and after giving up his rook and bishop, Nakamura gained access to d1 for his queen and secured a perpetual check. Commentator GM Benjamin Bok stated: “This is insane, and you can see Wesley is just incredulous.”
Bullet 1+1: Nakamura-So 10.5-2.5
If a four-game winning streak seemed impressive in the 3+1 time control, the 1+1 section was even more shocking. Nakamura started with six consecutive victories.
It was clear that tilt was a factor as the commentators observed. Some fans had speculated that the match was likely in Bongcloud territory, but So denied Nakamura the opportunity to initiate his pet opening by playing it first. He unleashed 2.Ke2 in his first game with the white pieces, getting a solid laugh from Nakamura who played 2.Ke2 himself in the next game.
— Chess.com (@chesscom) December 19, 2021
After six victories, pundits were starting to speculate that Nakamura might actually manage an adoption, ten consecutive wins. So stopped such conversation with a pretty counter, …Qe2! which got another chuckle from Nakamura.
As promised previously, the final game in each time control finished with brilliance and chaos. The final bullet game, and the final game in the entirety of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship, saw So repeat the opening that gave Nakamura a chance to play the classic Greek Gift sacrifice. Nakamura was clearly aware of the missed opportunity as he immediately seized his second chance and revealed the point he’d most likely missed in his previous calculations. 22.Rxe6! The sacrifice revealed multiple nice themes. Capture of the rook permitted a royal fork, but non-capture meant that So had to surrender oodles of material to narrowly evade mate.
So earned $2,580.65 based on his score percentage, while Nakamura received $10,000 for the match victory plus $6,364 on percentage ($17,419.35 total). This was Nakamura’s fourth consecutive Speed Chess Championship title, and So joked that perhaps next year he should take a break. In return, Nakamura quipped that like Carlsen, perhaps he would only play if he knew his opponent’s in advance.
While the 2021 Speed Chess Championship is over, there’s ANOTHER great speed chess event just around the corner. The 2021 FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Championship takes place Dec. 26-30 in Warsaw, Poland. Both Nakamura and Carlsen are registered to play, as well as a host of additional speed chess stars. Chess.com will be covering the entire tournament live on Chess.com/tv with commentary by GMs Jon Ludwig Hammer and Irina Krush. Burn off those Christmas calories with some high-energy spectating!
The 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event is a knockout tournament among 16 of the best grandmasters in the world who will play for a $100,000 prize fund. The tournament ran from November 8-December 19, 2021 on Chess.com. Each individual match featured 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet chess.
In our SCC Bracket Contest, three people picked every single match in every single round correctly to achieve a perfect bracket score of 320. Based on tiebreakers, @lukashavishvili won the first prize, @GotYaAllinCheck took second prize, and @k10Gaurav won the third prize.
Congratulations to the winners! Chess.com will shortly be contacting them and all our three- and one-month diamond membership winners, as well as the winner of our random drawing.
Find all information about the Speed Chess Championship here.
- Speed Chess Championship: Nakamura Beats Thing In Spectacular Armageddon Finish, Advances To Finals
- Speed Chess Championship: So Edges Out Nihal, Enters Finals
- Speed Chess Championship: So Knocks Out Caruana, Advances To SF
- Speed Chess Championship: Nakamura Defeats Giri, Will Face Ding In SF
- Speed Chess Championship: Thing Eliminates Aronian, Advances To Semifinals
- Speed Chess Championship: Nihal Dominates Against Rapport, Advances To SF
- Speed Chess Championship: Caruana Upsets MVL, Meets So In Quarterfinals
- Speed Chess Championship: So Rallies, Eliminates Xiong
- Speed Chess Championship: Nakamura Dominates In Bullet, Advances To Quarterfinals
- Speed Chess Championship: Nihal And Aronian Win And Advance To Quarterfinals
- Speed Chess Championship: Report Knocks Out Sarana In Dramatic Tiebreaker
- Speed Chess Championship: Ding Beats Mamedyarov, Close Finish To Reach QF
- Speed Chess Championship: Giri Defeats Duda, Advances To Quarterfinals