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Nakamura Storms Into Bullet Chess Grand Final

Nakamura Storms Into Bullet Chess Grand Final

Colin_McGourty
| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura is through to the Grand Final of the 2024 Bullet Chess Championship after beating GM Daniel Naroditsky 16.5-11.5. Naroditsky still has one life remaining and will play the winner of the match between GMs Alireza Firouzja and Sam Sevian for a chance of revenge against Nakamura. Firouzja defeated GMs Oleksandr Bortnyk and Nihal Sarin, while Sevian overcame GM Jose Martinez in overtime.

The action continues Thursday, June 13, at 12 p.m. ET / 18:00 CEST / 8:30 p.m. IST

Winners Bracket After Day 3


Losers Bracket After Day 3


Winners Final

Losers Round 3

Losers Quarterfinals


Winners Final: Nakamura 16.5-11.5 Naroditsky

The question in the Bullet Chess Championship is always a simple one: Who can stop Nakamura? The one player to have managed it in the past is Firouzja, who claimed the title in 2021.

Perhaps the next best hope, however—at least in the absence of GM Magnus Carlsen—is Naroditsky, who is a true bullet and hyper-bullet specialist with immense experience.

It's when we get into the deeper stats, however, that things get more interesting. Naroditsky is phenomenally fast and, on average, has a 2.62-second lead over his opponents by move 20. Just one player is faster—Nakamura, who leads his opponents by a stunning 4.5 seconds! (Check out NM Todd Bryant's How Fast Are The Best Bullet Players?)

It was that speed in the opening that would ultimately tell in the match, though at the start Naroditsky had chances. Nakamura pointed out afterward that as in the matches against Nihal and GM David Paravyan he'd been under pressure in the first game, with his opponent gaining a winning position before scraping only a draw in the end.

Nakamura opened the scoring in the next game; then the third was an example of what can happen when you try to blitz out opening moves at lightning speed. Naroditsky castled only for 9.c5! to trap his bishop. He resigned two moves later but not before taking a sip of his drink.

Nakamura opened up a 4.5-1.5 lead, but then Naroditsky picked up his first win with a mating attack before delivering checkmate in the next game with 0.2 seconds to spare. 

That cut the lead to a point, but then the five-time U.S. champion put his foot on the gas and scored 4.5/5 to break clear. He would never let his opponent back into the match and had achieved an eight-point lead at 16.5-8.5 before a curious finish.

"A bunch of garbage games at the end, but still a win!" Nakamura summed up afterward, since he had lost three games in a row, with one of them notable for a seemingly random Bongcloud with 9...Kxe7.

In fact, it was the best move in the position, since the defending champion had fallen into a trap! 

Nakamura enjoyed the final game, in which he managed to move at blink-and-you-missed-10-moves speed to avoid a fourth loss in a row.    

It was a dominant win, and Nakamura had some ominous words:

"I’m not happy with my play. I don’t think I could have played much worse than I did in this match today, and I still won by like five, so I’ll take it, I guess."

I don't think I could have played much worse than I did in this match today.

—Hikaru Nakamura

Naroditsky still has one life intact, however, and will play the Losers Final for a chance at a rematch with Nakamura. He'll face either Firouzja or Sevian, after a day of intense matches in the Losers Bracket.

Losers Round 3: Firouzja 10-7 Bortnyk


Despite the contrast in classical ratings, there was every reason to believe at fast online time controls Bortnyk would be able to compete with Firouzja. So it proved, with the Ukrainian scoring an early three-game winning streak to take a 4-2 lead before Firouzja reeled off five wins in a row. One of those wins featured a beautiful combination that was worth the eight-second investment of time! 

The battle was tense, with Bortnyk pumping his fist as he managed to narrow the score to 8-7 just when it seemed Firouzja would take a decisive lead.

The young French-Iranian grandmaster kept his cool, however, and won the last two games to clinch victory.

Firouzja was ice-cold.

Losers Round 3: Martinez 9.5-5.5 Paravyan

The other round-three battle was between two equally-matched opponents who until recently were both relatively little known. 

Martinez is the man of the moment and went on to win, exploiting some crucial blunders by his opponent—it was notable that Paravyan's response each time was a wry smile. 

Martinez didn't hide his own emotions as he threw a punch on clinching a 9.5-5.5 victory.

The winners of those two matches next faced the players who had parachuted down from the Winners Bracket.

Losers Quarterfinals: Firouzja 12-7 Nihal 

Nihal is a dangerous bullet opponent, and he proved that by trading blow for blow with Firouzja in the early stages, including taking a 3-2 lead.

The match remained balanced until, with the players level on 6.5-6.5, Firouzja suddenly won five of the next six games to clinch the match. When Nihal moved a knight to a square where it could be taken, it was all over bar the shouting.

The final match of the day was also the most exciting. 

Losers Quarterfinals: Sevian 11-9 Martinez 

Sevian made it through to the Bullet Chess Championship main event only through a qualifier, but Bryant noted that he's a dark horse to win the event. Why? His average move speed of 0.79 seconds is faster than that of any other player, including Nakamura, and, which is perhaps not unrelated, he uses premove more than anyone else.

How did he feel playing a second match? 

"This is so fast-paced; it honestly gives you a headache at some point! Especially when it’s high level, when your opponent keeps playing really good moves, the heart’s pumping, it’s really difficult to play bullet for a long time."

This is so fast-paced; it honestly gives you a headache at some point!

—Sam Sevian on bullet chess

The match against Martinez was a rematch of their round-one clash in the Winners Bracket, which had gone to overtime before Sevian emerged the winner. History would repeat itself.

The match was full of drama. For instance, Martinez pulled off a swindle to win Sevian's rook before Sevian swindled back to win the game anyway. 

It went right down to the wire, with Martinez at one point in a winning position in the 16th game that would have given him a 9-7 match victory, before Sevian pulled through on demand to make it 8-8 and take us to overtime.

There could be up to 10 more games, with a player needing to win by two points, but after two draws, Sevian finally won the last two games to clinch an 11-9 victory. You could see what it meant to the two players!

Sevian was asked if he watches his opponent during a game: "After he blunders, I do like to check his cam!"

The 2024 Bullet Chess Champion will be crowned on Thursday. The action starts with Sevian taking on Firouzja, a repeat of their match from round two of the Winners Bracket, when Sevian won 13-4. He commented: "I don't think he was playing his A-game... He also has a tilting problem—hopefully he tilts again!" 

He also has a tilting problem—hopefully he tilts again!

—Sam Sevian on Alireza Firouzja 

The winner of Sevian-Firouzja will next take on Naroditsky, with the winner of that match facing the final boss of Bullet Chess—Nakamura. It's not going to be easy, since to win the title the player coming from the Losers Bracket needs to beat Nakamura not once but twice! 

How to watch?
You can watch the 2024 Bullet Chess Championship on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on the Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive. The games can also be followed from our events page.
Live broadcast of Wednesday's matches, hosted by GMs Benjamin Bok and Aman Hambleton.

The Bullet Chess Championship 2024 (BCC) is Chess.com's most elite bullet chess event where players compete to see who's the fastest chess player in the world. The event's qualifiers happened on May 14, with the main event occurring on June 10 through 13. Players compete for their share of the $100,000 prize fund.


Previous coverage

Colin_McGourty
Colin McGourty

Colin McGourty led news at Chess24 from its launch until it merged with Chess.com a decade later. An amateur player, he got into chess writing when he set up the website Chess in Translation after previously studying Slavic languages and literature in St. Andrews, Odesa, Oxford, and Krakow.

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