Bullet Chess Championship Quarterfinals: Naroditsky Masterclass Sets Up Showdown With Nakamura


The 2022 Bullet Chess Championship presented by DigitalOcean resumed today with a blockbuster lineup of matches that featured the world’s number one bullet chess player GM Hikaru Nakamura as well as a masterclass from “The Prophet,” GM Daniel Naroditsky.

These results mean that the two streamers will face off in a match for the ages in the semifinals on March 14 at 10 a.m. PT/19:00 CET. 

GM Andrew Tang again proved that he is a force to be reckoned with in this match-based format, backing up his win against GM Fabiano Caruana with a high-class victory over the Peruvian GM Jose Martinez, while GM Tuan Minh Le downed GM Raunak Sadhwani in a convincing quarterfinal with a series of sharp, tactical triumphs.

How to watch?

Live broadcast of this weekend’s tournament, hosted by GM Robert Hess and WIM Anna-Maja Kazarian.

The 2022 Bullet Chess Championship presented by Digital Ocean is a double-elimination bracket knockout held by Chess.com and featuring $100,000 in prizes. All games are 1+0, and matches are 30 minutes long with a break at the 15-minute mark. In the event of a tie, players continue to play, alternating colors, until a player wins a game.

Selected Matches

Ray Robson vs. Daniel Naroditsky: 3-15

The first match of the Winners Quarterfinals was expected to be a tight affair between GM Ray Robson and Naroditsky. As the fifth and third highest-rated bullet chess players on Chess.com respectively, two things were assured: speed and brilliance. 

In what can only be described as one of the most clinical performances by a player in the history of the Bullet Chess Championships, Naroditsky showed inspired form during the first half of the match, dominating the clock and the scoreboard. Naroditsky surged to a 7.5-1.5 lead, conceding only three draws in the first nine games. 

There was a gap in class today between the players, with Naroditsky constantly maintaining slight time advantages in almost all of the games—a strategy that would prove decisive in the match.

Robson, the reigning three-time Puzzle Battle World Champion would never be someone you would bet against in this format. However, Naroditsky was practically untouchable and equally dominant in the second half of the match, eventually closing it out with a 15-3 score. 

Robson was only able to pick up a single win in the match thanks to a nice rook sacrifice to show the power of passed pawns!

Naroditsky will now play the pre-tournament favorite Nakamura in the Winners Semifinal in a blockbuster match, where his chances surely cannot be discounted after today’s supreme performance—dubbed by GM Robert Hess as “some of the best bullet chess [he has] ever seen.”

Some of the best bullet chess I have ever seen.
— GM Robert Hess

Raunak Sadhwani vs. Tuan Minh Le 7-10

The Vietnamese superstar Le needed to pull out all his tricks against sixteen-year-old prodigy Sadhwani in this match to eventually win with a comfortable score of 10-7. Both players showed excellent technique throughout the match. However, Le’s tactical vision and resourcefulness were the catalysts for a late-match blowout. 

Several fast-paced draws set the tone at the start of the match, and, despite players trading blows in games three and four, nothing could split them. Le was visibly distraught after the fourth game, clearly feeling that he could have done more to procure a better result. Especially after losing game five, the Vietnamese needed to bounce back. In typical Le style, he was able to settle his nerves and again tie up the match.

After the break, Le began gaining momentum and won five points out of the next six games. While most chess players panic at the thought of only having one minute to make a move, it should be noted that both players managed their time exceptionally, consistently playing games over sixty moves long without losing on the clock a single time. The problem for Sadhwani though, is that Le was not missing anything!

Sadhwani will be disappointed that this match slipped away from him. Still, the Indian will have a chance at redemption when he joins round two of the Losers Bracket.

 Jose Martinez vs. Andrew Tang 8.5-9.5

Despite equivalent lifetime Bullet Chess CAPS scores of over 80, Chess.com Twitch viewers correctly polled at over 70% that Tang would outpace the staunch Martinez in this quarterfinal match. 

Often dubbed the world’s fastest bullet chess player, Tang lived up to his reputation early and by the halfway point of the match had taken a 6-3 advantage on the scoreboard. The most exciting game, and the Digital Ocean “Game Of The Day,” saw Tang sacrifice his queen for a knight, with a threat geometrically resembling an “Anastasia’s Mate.” However, he was unable to win the game due to dynamic counterplay from Martinez.

A comical moment came several games later when Martinez accidentally castled queenside into Black’s attack. Amazingly, despite the setback that left his head shaking, the mercurial Martinez was still able to win!

Though Martinez did put up some late resistance, Tang kept his advantage with a professional approach, playing both actively and aggressively, taking every game down to the wire and ticking down the match clock. Even with the final result showing only a one-point advantage to Tang, this does not reflect the control and authority which he exerted throughout. 

Hikaru Nakamura vs. Brandon Jacobson: 19.5-0.5

Although Jacobson was able to squeeze in a few warmup games against earlier quarterfinal winner Le, it was not enough to stop the seemingly infallible Nakamura in the bullet time control.

Nakamura, streaming his own live commentary to a legion of fans on Twitch, did not feel the pressure of the occasion at all, winning the first ten games straight in the first “adoption” of the 2022 edition. This match victory was a message to the rest of the field and Nakamura’s semifinal opponent Naroditsky. According to host Hess, “Hikaru is the final boss” of bullet.

Hikaru is the final boss.
— GM Robert Hess

The second half saw Jacobson swap to mobile after some internet issues, however, this did not change his luck at all, and Nakamura’s dominance continued. The final score of the match was a 19.5-0.5 whitewash, a result eclipsing the earlier magnificence of Naroditsky.

Nakamura displayed devastating accuracy and found some left-of-field tactics late in the match which had Hess proclaiming him as “the player to beat” in this event.

Winners of today’s matches will go on to play in the Winners Semifinal with the headlining match undoubtedly being the Nakamura vs. Naroditsky encounter. With the scintillating form shown by Le and Tang today, it is difficult to predict who has the best chance of taking out the Winners Bracket.

GMs who lost their matches today will have to back up again tomorrow in the Losers Bracket and each hopes to win the remainder of their matches in order to rejoin the field. 

Bullet Chess Championship 2022 Winners Bracket

Bullet Chess Championship 2022 Losers Bracket

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