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Firouzja Beats Nakamura Twice To Win Bullet Chess Championship

Firouzja Beats Nakamura Twice To Win Bullet Chess Championship

Colin_McGourty
| 66 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Alireza Firouzja has pulled off a stunning triumph to claim his second Bullet Chess Championship after winning four matches on the final day. He won grueling encounters with GMs Sam Sevian and Daniel Naroditsky and was on the verge of pulling out of the Grand Final. In the end he played, winning the first match against GM Hikaru Nakamura 17.5-12.5 to force a reset and then clinching an overtime thriller 12.5-10.5 in the second.

Firouzja's Path To The Grand Final

Firouzja Beats Nakamura Twice To Claim Title


Final Bracket

Prizes

Firouzja's Path To The Grand Final

A loss to Sevian in the Winners Quarterfinals condemned Firouzja to a long road back to the Grand Final. He'd already beaten GMs Anish Giri, Oleksandr Bortnyk, and Nihal Sarin, but there was a lot more work to do on the final day. It started off with some revenge! 

Losers Semifinal: Firouzja 9.5-7.5 Sevian

Sevian had not just beaten Firouzja in the Winners Bracket but had scored an incredible 13-4 victory. 


There would be no repeat of that blowout, but Sevian hadn't slowed down and was constantly ahead on the clock. It wasn't just speed, however, as the U.S. grandmaster found some fine tactics to take a 5-4 lead.

Sevian would later take a 7.5-5.5 lead, but Firouzja hit back on demand to win the next two games and force overtime. In the first game of overtime, Sevian was on top and missed a couple of winning tactics, but the position on the board and on the clock had equalized when suddenly Firouzja appeared to have lost on time. 

It turned out, however, that he'd fallen victim to a glitch that had struck at an unfortunate moment. Chess.com has tracked the source of this glitch, which affects 0.002% of games, to a bug in a third-party software package they use, CometD. Their team has assured us that the issue will be patched within the next 24 hours.

The game was ultimately chalked off and overtime began again. This time Firouzja came through with two wins to clinch a 9.5-7.5 victory.

Firouzja would later comment, "It was one of the hardest professional days I ever had, I think." The day was just getting started. 

Losers Final: Firouzja 9.5-7.5 Naroditsky

Lying in wait in the Losers Final was Naroditsky, another bullet monster, who spent the moments before the match catching up on some reading!

The unconventional preparation worked, as Naroditsky raced to a 3.5-0.5 lead, but when Firouzja hit back, he did it in stunning style, winning six games in a row. 

Naroditsky wasn't going to go down without a fight, however, and then struck back with three wins of his own to level the scores. The streaks continued, as Firouzja took the next two games for a two-point lead, meaning that, with the clock running out, his opponent had to win on demand.

It wasn't to be, as Firouzja premoved his way to victory with a draw by the 50-move rule. 

Firouzja commented: "Against Danya it was also a very tough match, but at the end I couldn’t… my eyes were seeing things, when you play too much."

He was considering quitting, and a tense 20 minutes followed when it seemed the Grand Final might not take place before the chess did, nevertheless, begin again. 

Firouzja Beats Nakamura Twice To Take Title

The prematch body language suggested Nakamura would be an overwhelming favorite, but Firouzja's appetite would grow with the games.

Later Firouzja felt his mood worked in his favor:

"My only advantage against Hikaru was that I already wanted to give him the win; I wanted to withdraw, so I didn’t care anymore. This was my only advantage!"

I already wanted to give him the win; I wanted to withdraw, so I didn't care anymore. This was my only advantage! 

—Alireza Firouzja 

Firouzja also had something no one else had—the experience of beating Nakamura in the Bullet Chess Championship and winning the title. 


To repeat that feat he would have to defeat Nakamura twice, since the five-time U.S. Champion had won all his matches and still had two lives intact. 

Grand Final: Firouzja 17.5-12.5 Nakamura

The match got off to a fast start with the players trading wins, but in terms of gut-wrenching action the third game, which ended in a draw, would top both of those. Nakamura was winning, then blundered a rook to a fork, then Firouzja let the win slip, then Nakamura was winning again but ran out of time one move before checkmate. He would refer later to that game when talking about the collapse that followed. 

It wasn't immediate, however, as Nakamura won two of the next four games before, just as Naroditsky before him, he went on to lose a staggering six games in a row. 

"Now I’m just tilting. I’m completely tilting out of my mind," said Nakamura during that sequence, and he stopped playing.

I'm just tilting. I'm completely tilting out of my mind.

—Hikaru Nakamura

"The first match was very emotional, I think—he was bothered, of course, by some things," said Firouzja, with some understatement. Nakamura found it hard to accept that his opponent had pleaded exhaustion and had been reluctant to start the match but was then playing at somewhere close to his formidable best level.

The delay to the start of the match was balanced by a break mid-match, so that things were perhaps equal when the action ultimately resumed. Nakamura drew the first game back to end the losing streak, but the gap was too big to make up, and he spent most of the remaining time in the first match plotting his tactics for the second.

Firouzja, meanwhile, had completed the first 45-minute task, and now knew he was one 30-minute rematch away from the title. 

Grand Final Reset: Firouzja 12.5-10.5 Nakamura

One conclusion Nakamura had drawn was that he would have to get serious in the opening, and in a few games he played complicated FIDE Candidates Tournament preparation at bullet speed. Needless to say, don't try this at home, but at least on the first outing, it worked. 

"The second match was a very good match, I think. We both played at our best," said Firouzja, and he traded blows with Nakamura in an incredibly close battle. Time and again there were chances for one player to break clear, with Nakamura commenting live on his Kick channel, "That was the match right there! He would have tilted if I'd won that game."

That comment was about a game at 3.5-2.5 when he was winning before making a premove blunder. Firouzja's speed in punishing the mistake was breathtaking. 

History would repeat itself, as later Nakamura could again have taken a two-point lead, but again blundered so we were back level, at 7.5-7.5. 

It was Firouzja who would take a two-point lead, at 10-8, but Nakamura struck back to win the next two games, with some help from a queen blunder just when it looked as though the match might be over. 

The first game of overtime was drawn before Firouzja struck in the next. It was a fine finish, just as the commentators were wondering how exactly White could break through. 

For the must-win final game, Nakamura said he'd play his childhood opening, and things went perfectly until a check on h6 let a winning advantage slip away, while a move later he blundered a piece. Firouzja was merciless as he wrapped up a spectacular day of chess by winning the 2024 Bullet Chess Championship. 

He could allow himself one tweet in the style of Carlsen...

...while Nakamura acknowledged the achievement. 

Firouzja revealed the trick to beating the four-time champion:

"If he gets to a losing mood, it takes time for him to get out of that. He finally will get out of it, but if you start good against him, you have an excellent chance, but it’s very hard to start good against him, of course! I was lucky I started well."

If you start good against him, you have an excellent chance, but it's very hard to start good against him, of course!

—Alireza Firouzja on beating Hikaru Nakamura 

Firouzja and Nakamura may well lock swords again in the 2024 Speed Chess Championship, with Firouzja having extra motivation to qualify for the in-person final.


He commented:

"It feels great. I think I’m now starting to play very good on the internet, on Chess.com. The last few tournaments I played really great, and I hope I continue also in the Speed Championship, try to qualify, because it’s in my city, Paris. I will try!"

I hope I continue also in the Speed Championship, try to qualify, because it's in my city, Paris.

—Alireza Firouzja 

Nakamura and world number-one Magnus Carlsen will be among the players trying to stop Firouzja. 

How to replay the action?
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 Thursday'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 competed 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 competed for their share of the $100,000 prize fund.


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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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