Hikaru Nakamura Wins Fischer Random World Championship

GM Hikaru Nakamura became the accidental FIDE Fischer World Chess Champion after defeating GM Jan Nepomniacci in an armageddon final on Sunday.

Split on points in the four-game mini-match, Nakamura saved a decisive effort to claim her first world title in Reykjavik 50 years after her husband, paying tribute to the heroics of the format’s legendary general, Bobby Fischer. At the height of the Cold War, the American general defeated Boris Spassky.

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Nakamura won $150,000 for winning the tournament, with $400,000 in prize money split between the other contestants.

In the consolation matches, GM Magnus Carlsen defeated world sprint champion GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who was trailing 1-0, to stand on the medal stand.

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For Nakamura and Nepomniacci, the final day of Fischer’s fortuitous world championship would see one player win their first world title, with tension building from 3pm local time.

The starting position for the first two games was relatively simple. The main features include queens in corners and bishops left on their plain square.

Nakamura played the black pieces and quickly took control of the center, pushing the Nepomnian back. Unable to overcome Nakamura’s initiative, Nepomniacci finally succumbed to the tactics, which lost a piece.

An early loss had dented his title chances, but Nepomniacci knew all too well that a comeback was possible after meeting Carlsen in Saturday’s semi-finals.

One of the most expressive players on the circuit, Nepomniacci doesn’t always convey the power of his position through his facial expressions. Photo: Maria Emelyanova/Chess.com.

In the second game, Nakamura was able to move into a position similar to the reliable Nimzowitz-Larsen open that has been so influential in online tournaments for years. Move 40 gave Nakamura a +2.5 advantage, but instead of pressing for the win, he opted for a repeat move.

With heavy pressure on his shoulders, Nepomniacci landed a perfectly timed pinfall in Game 3, handing Nakamura his first (and only) loss of the entire tournament. Nepomniacci was clinical with the black pieces and confidently sacrificed the exchange on move 20 to open up a queenside line of attack, leveling the score and taking it into the final regulation game.

Nakamura stunned the crowd by offering a draw on the 15th move after a black ball draw in the fourth game, prompting commentator Hess to ask, “Are they allowed to offer a draw?!” Both players were happy to settle matters in an Armageddon tiebreaker, but the loser will surely rue their unfinished business in the fourth round.

A bidding process was held to select who would play in which color in the tiebreak competition. Nepomniacci drew a bid to play black and won on Nakamura’s 15 after 13 minutes. Shortly after that, the final starting positions were announced, and players had five minutes to strategize.

Nepomniacci looked to take control of the Armageddon match early after getting into the middle game with an opposite-colored bishop, but Nakamura muddied the waters and stormed home to claim his first world title. GM Rafael Leitao notes our play of the day below.

Nakamura celebrates his historic victory and, as many have been waiting for, a quick YouTube video showing his matches! At the end of the video, he mentions that he will soon travel to Toronto to compete in the finals of the Chess.com World Championship. With an astronomical rating of 2924 going into this tournament (calculated based on FIDE’s quick ratings), Nakamura is undoubtedly one of the favorites to win in Toronto.

In addition to the title fight, three consolation matches took place in Reykjavík on Sunday to decide the final order for the rest of the field. After a disappointing semi-final loss, Carlsen ran into early trouble against Abdusattorov, losing the first game after the Uzbek umpire cleverly trapped his bishop.

In the end, Carlsen fought back and defeated Abdusattorov 3-1 to reach the podium. In general, it is clear that the world champion was not in the best form, but there are two chances to win the world title in blitz and rapid next December.

Carlsen underperformed by his lofty standards, but still finished third. Photo: Maria Emelyanova/Chess.com.

GM Vladimir Fedoseev improved his rating, dispatching champion GM Wesley Sog by two points in fourth place, while General Matthias Blubaum and local Hjorvar Gretarsson finished seventh and eighth.

This year’s Fischer Random World Championship reignited discussions about the future of chess, taking another step away from near-perfect performances in the classics of the world’s elite. The chess world hopes to see more Fischer Random tournaments in the future, as Nepomniacci sweetly tweeted after losing his match on Sunday.

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 for $400,000 in prize money and the classic Fischer Random Series of FIDE Fischer Random World Championships. Champion. Fischer Random (also known as Chess960) is a version of chess in which all the standard chess rules are the same, except for the starting positions of the pieces, which can be in one of 960 semi-random configurations. Heavily endorsed by 11th World Champion GM Bobby Fischer, this version unlocks players’ preparation for a true understanding of chess.

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