Hikaru Nakamura Wins Fischer Random World Championship

GM Hikaru Nakamura was crowned FIDE Fischer Random World Chess Champion on Sunday after defeating GM Jan Nepomniachtchi in a thrilling armageddon tiebreaker final.

Splitting points in their four-game mini-match, Nakamura did his best for the decider and honored the format’s namesake, GM Bobby Fischer, by winning his first world title in Reykjavik in 50 years. American General Boris Spassky was defeated at the height of the Cold War.

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Nakamura won $150,000 for winning the event, with the rest of the $400,000 prize pool split between the other contestants.

In the consolation matches, GM Magnus Carlsen defeated the speedy world champion GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, recovering from a 1:0 defeat, and ascended to the podium.

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For Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi, the final day of the Fischer Casual World Championship would conclude with one of the players winning their first world title, and the tension was high from the moment the clock started at 15:00 local time.

The starting positions in the first two games were relatively simple. Key features include a queen in the corner and bishops remaining in their normal squares.

Playing with the black pieces, Nakamura quickly took command of the center and pushed back the Nepomniaxchi. Unable to counter Nakamura’s initiative, Nepomniachtchi eventually succumbed to a tactic that saw him lose a piece.

While the early loss hurt his title chances, Nepomniachtchi knew full well that a comeback was possible after his sensational rebound against Carlsen in Saturday’s semifinal.

One of the more expressive players of the era, Nepomniachtchi doesn’t always convey the power of his positions with his facial expressions. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the second game, Nakamura was able to move into a position similar to the trusty Nimzowitsch-Larsen opening that has been to great effect in online tournaments for years. By the 40th move, Nakamura had a +2.5 advantage, but chose to repeat the moves instead of pressing for the win.

With the pressure firmly on his shoulders, Nepomniachtchi struck at the perfect time in the third game, handing Nakamura his first (and only) loss of the entire event. Nepomniachtchi was clinical with the black pieces and traded confidently on move 20, leveling the score in the final regulation game to open lines of attack on the queenside.

Nakamura stunned the crowd in the fourth game as he bid a draw on move 15 after an early draw with the black pieces, prompting commentator Hess to question, “Are they allowed to bid a draw?!” Both players were happy to settle things with an armageddon tiebreaker, but the loser would regret his unfinished business in the fourth round.

A bidding process was held to decide who would play with which color in the tiebreaker. Nepomniachtchi won a bid to play with black with draw odds and 13 minutes to Nakamura’s 15. The final starting position was then announced and players had five minutes to strategize.

Nepomniachtchi looked to take control of the early armageddon game after trading an opposite-suited bishop middlegame, but Nakamura muddied the waters and stormed home to claim his first world title. GM Rafael Leitao outlined our play of the day below.

As many expected, Nakamura celebrated his historic victory with a quick YouTube video covering his match! At the end of the video, he mentioned that he will soon be traveling to Toronto, where he will compete in the Chess.com Global Championship Finals. Given his astronomical performance rating of 2924 (calculated based on FIDE rapid rankings) for this tournament, Nakamura is certainly one of the favorites to win in Toronto as well.

In addition to the championship fight, three consolation matches took place in Reykjavík on Sunday to determine the order of finish for the rest of the field. After a disappointing loss in the semifinals, Carlsen ran into trouble against Abdusatorov and lost the first game after the Uzbekistani GM cleverly trapped his bishop.

Carlsen eventually defeated Abdusattorov 3-1 to regain the match and the podium. Overall, the world champion was not in the best form, but he will have two more chances to win the world championship titles in December at the blitz and rapid world championships.

Carlsen still finished third despite a poor performance by his high standards. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

General General Vladimir Fedoseev continued to outperform his ranking, sending reigning champion GM Wesley So to fourth place by two points, while General Matthias Bluebaum and local Hjorvar Gretarsson finished seventh and eighth respectively.

This year’s Fischer Casual World Championship reignited the debate over the future of chess and provided a refreshing step away from the stellar performances of the world’s elite in the classics. As Nepomniachtchi graciously tweeted after losing his match on Sunday, the chess world “hopes to see more Fischer Random tournaments in the future.”

Brought to you by the Government of Iceland and the City of Reykjavik, the Fischer Random World Championship brings together the world’s best players to compete in a series of classic Fischer Random games for shares of the $400,000 prize pool and FIDE Fischer Random World titles. champion. Fischer Random (also known as Chess960) is a chess variant in which all the standard chess rules are the same except for the starting position of the pieces, which can be in one of 960 semi-random setups. The variant, heavily favored by 11th world champion GM Bobby Fischer, opens up preparation to emphasize players’ true understanding of chess.

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