Nakamura Wins Knockout: Rapid Chess Championship Week 9


GM Hikaru Nakamura won week nine of the 2022 Rapid Chess Championship presented by Coinbase, defeating longtime rival GM Levon Aronian in the knockout final. 

GM Vladimir Fedoseev won the Swiss tournament and made it to the semifinals along with GM Jose Eduardo Martinez Alcantara. GMs Alexander Grischuk, Welsey So, Daniil Dubov, and Mohammad Amin Tabatabaei made it to the quarterfinals. 

Participating in the event were 34 elite players from the FIDE top-100 list, top-10 women, and top-10 juniors in the world, alongside 10 wildcards. The event will continue next weekend, April 16-17, starting at 9 a.m. Pacific / 17:00 Central European.

The Rapid Chess Championship is a weekly tournament held by It is a nine-round Swiss event with a 10+0 time control held every Saturday, followed by a knockout event on Sunday between the top-eight finishers and a 10+2 time control. If players draw, they play another 3+2 game; if drawn, they play a 1+1 game; and if that is drawn, a single armageddon game is played.


Fedoseev finished a full point ahead of this top-notch field with an undefeated seven out of nine. My favorite game was Fedoseev’s critical victory over second-place finisher Martinez in round six. Fedoseev employed the beautiful tactical idea of 19.Nd5 to loosen Martinez’s defense of his center pawns, winning a pawn and converting seamlessly in the queen endgame.

Commentator Nardotisky noted that, by this point in the tournament, Fedoseev was already pulling ahead of the field: “This is exquisite endgame technique by Fedoseev, who has been head and shoulders above this competition so far.

Martinez’s key victory against So in round five highlighted Martinez’s incredible time-scramble ability. In a drawn ending, So―with more than 20 extra seconds on the clock―attempted to flag Martinez. Yet, Martinez played faster and more accurately, winning a pawn, trading into a winning pawn endgame, and catching up on the clock.

Aronian finished third, achieving a three-game winning streak in rounds five through seven against the formidable GMs Vladislav Kovalev, Alexey Sarana, and Dmitry Andreikin, the week-seven knockout winner. Can you find the tactical shot Aronian used against Sarana to gain material in this previously equal queenless middlegame?

Nakamura was the only player other than Fedoseev to achieve an undefeated score, finishing fourth. One of his key victories was over GM Maxim Matlakov, the week-six knockout winner, when he fought back after being down a pawn and having a significant positional disadvantage on the queenside to create powerful play on the kingside.

Grischuk qualified for the first time with a three-game winning streak in the critical sixth, seventh, and eighth rounds, including victories against Matlakov and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, the week-one winner. 

The game GM Gata Kamsky vs. GM Robert Hess reinforces an important lesson for these sudden death time controls: in time scrambles, it’s not about the time on the clock itself but the speed and clarity of the players. Fortune-telling Naroditsky accurately predicts that Hess will flag Kamsky despite having half the time on the clock.

Saturday Swiss | Final Standings (Top 20)

Number Rk Fed Title Username Name Rating Score SB
1 17 GM Bigfish1995 Vladimir Fedoseev 2706 7 33
2 21 GM Jospem Jose Eduardo Martinez Alcantara 2669 6 31.25
3 3 GM LevonAronian Levon Aronian 2787 6 30.75
4 1 GM Hikaru Hikaru Nakamura 2846 6 30.5
5 20

GM Grischuk Alexander Grischuk 2671 6 19.75
6 9 GM GMWSO Wesley So 2732 5.5 30
7 5

GM Duhless Daniil Dubov 2741 5.5 25
8 16 GM amintabatabaei Amin Tabatabaei 2666 5.5 24
9 10 GM jefferyx Jeffery Xiong 2717 5.5 24
10 12 GM mishanick Alexey Sarana 2709 5.5 23.75
11 6 GM FairChess_on_YouTube Dmitry Andreikin 2742 5.5 23
12 13

GM dropstoneDP David Paravyan 2705 5.5 22
13 8 GM ChessWarrior7197 Nodirbek Abdusattorov 2706 5 11.5
14 32 GM GMHess Robert L. Hess 2516 5 10
15 26

GM Infernal_XaM Pavel Ponkratov 2573 4.5 18.5
16 18 GM Indianlad S.L. Narayanan 2643 4.5 17.25
17 14 GM Grandelicious Nils Grandelius 2622 4.5 16.5
18 15 GM Konavets Sam Sevian 2623 4.5 15.5
19 31 GM TigrVShlyape Gata Kamsky 2499 4 17.75
20 19 VNM GM LiemLe Liem Le 2632 4 15.75

(Full final standings here.)


The Fedoseev vs. Tabatabaei quarterfinals match was a fascinating back-and-forth game to watch. Tabatabaei sacrificed a pawn in the opening to get two powerful central pawns charging down the board. Then he sacrificed a second pawn to gain immense piece activity in the queenless middlegame.

Fedoseev defended well and seized the advantage by sacrificing an exchange to mobilize his queenside pawns and two knights, managing to create two dangerous connected passed pawns.

Tabatabaei put up a formidable defense, getting Tabatabaei down to just two knights, nearly drawing. Fedoseev used Tabatabaei’s last pawn against him, checkmating with two knights against a pawn.

In the Nakamura vs. Grischuk quarterfinals match, Grischuk fell behind on time in a complex position. In Grischuk’s time pressure, Nakamura continuously increased the pressure on the board, making threat after threat until Grischuk missed a mating idea with just seconds on the clock.

In the Aronian vs. So quarterfinals rapid game, Aronian created some pressure in the queenless ending by limiting the development of So’s queenside pieces. The players ultimately traded into a drawn rook and opposite-colored bishop ending.

In their blitz playoff game, Aronian gained a tremendous amount of activity from the black side of a seemingly delayed Marshall Gambit and converted it into an overwhelming material and positional advantage.

The Martinez vs. Dubov quarterfinals rapid game was a fascinating duel revolving around Dubov’s …g4 pawn break. As Naroditsky described Martinez’s defense of the g4-square: “It’s like those movie scenes where you put everything against the door so you can’t break it down.”

In their blitz playoff game, Dubov sacrificed two pawns in the opening to create great pressure on Martinez’s position. However, he overlooked a subtle winning idea in a key position. Can you find the unusual move White can play to gain material?

When Dubov missed his chance, Martinez defended well, neutralizing Dubov’s compensation leaving himself simply two pawns ahead. Dubov tried to fight back in vain and Martinez converted his material advantage into a victory.

The Fedoseev vs. Nakamura semifinals rapid game was a hard-fought battle that eventually traded to a drawn bishop vs. knight ending. 

In their blitz playoff, Nakamura set up a clever mating net with his two rooks and bishop vs. Fedoseev’s queen and many pawns. 

In the Martinez vs. Aronian semifinals game, Aronian outplayed Martinez to gain a significant positional advantage from the opening as Black and soon found a tactical breakthrough to win two pawns.

In the Aronian vs. Nakamura final, Nakamura found a tactical way to hunt down Aronian’s loose pieces on Nakamura’s side of the board, gaining an exchange along with a stronger position. He converted his advantage cleanly by trading into a winning king and pawn ending. 

Nakamura was in sharp form throughout the knockout, seeming to play even better with each match. As Naroditsky described it: “Hikaru is on another level. As the tournament goes on, some players get tired, and they get a little worn down. Hikaru merely increases the pressure that he puts on each subsequent opponent.”

Hikaru merely increases the pressure that he puts on each subsequent opponent.

—GM Daniel Naroditsky

In his interview, Nakamura shared his thoughts on the upcoming Candidates Tournament: “Even if I don’t win the tournament this time, I think just having that chance to try and play good chess and perform better than I did is the most important thing because I really didn’t think I’d ever have that chance after 2016.” He also shared what goes into putting together a team to prepare for the Candidates Tournament:

Standings, Results, Prizes

The winner of the Swiss tournament is Fedoseev, and the winner of the knockout tournament is Nakamura. Below are the full standings and prizes of the knockout:

Sunday Knockout | Final Standings

# Fed Player Place Prize
1 Hikaru Nakamura Winner $7,500
2 Levon Aronian Finalist $3,500

Vladimir Fedoseev Semifinalist $2,500
3-4 Jose Martinez Semifinalist $2,500

Alexander Grischuk Quarterfinalist $1,000
5-8 Wesley So Quarterfinalist $1,000

Daniil Dubov Quarterfinalist $1,000
5-8 Amin Tabatabaei Quarterfinalist $1,000

The Rapid Chess Championship is brought to you by Coinbase. Whether you’re looking to make your first crypto purchase or you’re an experienced trader, Coinbase has you covered. Earn crypto by learning about crypto with Coinbase Earn, explore DeFi and web3 with Coinbase Wallet, get exclusive rewards when you spend with Coinbase Card, and much more. Learn more at and get $10 in bitcoin when you sign up and verify your account.

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