Nakamura denies Carlsen’s comeback to win 2023 Bullet Chess Championship

Nakamura denies Carlsen’s comeback to win 2023 Bullet Chess Championship

Hikaru Nakamura secured his fourth Bullet Chess Championship title on July 21, completing a flawless upper-bracket run at the expense of many elite-level players. Nakamura fought his way through the likes of Daniel Naroditsky and Alireza Firouzja before defeating Magnus Carlsen himself in the grand final.

Even though the world No. 1 was able to overhaul a five-point deficit on multiple occasions in the series and pushed to overtime, Nakamura was ultimately able to clinch the series with a 17.0-15.0 scoreline with a return match to spare.

The tournament featured a double-elimination bracket, with matches comprising a set length of either 30 or 45 minutes depending on the stage of the bracket, with the games played in a 1+0 format. If neither player had a two-point advantage when the timer ran out, the series went to a six-game overtime, at the end of which the player in the lead was declared the winner. If the series was still tied after the overtime finished, play continued until the first decisive game.

Having started his campaign with a brutal 22.5-1.5 win over IM Emin Ohanyan in the first round Nakamura went from strength to strength throughout the knockout bracket, defeating three grandmasters on his way to the grand final, all in a fairly straightforward fashion.

Related: Carlsen wins Aimchess Rapid, denies interest in reclaiming classical title

Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen’s road was somewhat rockier, having competed in Barcelona for the first few rounds before returning to his home. Having started his tournament run with a dominant win of his own, 16.5-1.5 against Eric Hansen, he defeated Tuan Minh Le before losing to French prodigy Alireza Firouzja in the winners’ bracket semifinals. With victories over Andrew Tang and Daniel Naroditsky, he earned himself a chance to get revenge on Firouzja, and after winning a close match with a scoreline of 11-9, it was time for the clash of the titans in the grand final.

Nakamura was able to keep his opponent at arm’s length throughout the match, never giving up the lead to Carlsen and building a five-point lead as early as game twelve. However, the Norwegian showed his trademark still and tenacity to battle his way back into the series, ultimately forcing overtime after surviving his opponent’s dubious queen sacrifice.

Once more the players traded blow for blow in the first two overtime games, but then, despite a small pause disrupting the play, Nakamura closed out the series with back-to-back wins.

The American had a backup plan all along: Had Carlsen won this match, they would have played an entire extra series on account of Nakamura’s winner’s bracket advantage. That didn’t turn out to be the case, however, and he could happily celebrate his fourth victory in the competition, with the only blemish on his record in the past five wins coming in 2021, when then-fourth seed Alireza Firouzja defeated him in the semifinals and went all the way to win the entire tournament.

Though Carlsen has dominated faster time controls recently, Nakamura’s special expertise in bullet proved to be superior this time around, making this another exciting chapter in the longstanding chess rivalry that keeps on captivating the chess world.

About the author

Luci Kelemen

Having made a career out of writing about video games as early as 2015, I have amassed a track record of excellence since then in covering a wide variety of subjects from card games like Hearthstone and MTG to first-person shooters, business, chess and, more. Unsurprisingly, if I’m not busy writing about one of them, I’m probably playing them.

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