GM Hikaru Nakamura was crowned the FIDE Fischer Random World Chess Champion on Sunday after winning an epic Armageddon playoff final against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.
They split the points in their four-game mini-match, with Nakamura saving the decisive effort and honoring the format’s namesake, GM Bobby Fischer, as his teammates won their first World Championship in Reykjavík in 50 years. American GM defeated Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War.
Nakamura won the event and won $150,000; The rest of the $400,000 prize pool is divided among the other participants.
In the consolation matches, GM Magnus Carlsen recovered from a 1-0 deficit in the process to defeat world fastest champion GM Nodirbek Abdusatorov to complete the podium.
He played brilliantly during the week and won Armageddon against Nepo. 👏 pic.twitter.com/ZwhA0FyacQ
– Chess.com (@chesscom) October 30, 2022
For Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi, the final day of the Fisher Random World Championship was a World Cup final for one of the players and the tension was high from 3pm on time.
The starting position was relatively easy in the first two games. The key features are the queen on the corner and the bishops remaining on the normal squares.
Playing with the black pieces, Nakamura quickly grabbed the middle and pushed Nepomniachchi back. Unable to fight the momentum from Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi eventually succumbed to a trick that saw him lose a piece.
Although the early defeat hurt his title chances, Nepomniachtchi is well aware that a comeback is possible after an emotional comeback against Carlsen in Saturday’s semi-final.
In the second game, Nakamura was able to switch to a position that resembled the trusted Nimzowitsch-Larsen opening, which he has used to great effect in online tournaments over the years. Moving to 40, Nakamura gained a +2.5 advantage but chose to repeat moves instead of pressing for the win.
With the strain on his shoulder, Nepomniachtchi hit a perfectly timed takedown in game three, handing Nakamura his first (and only) total loss of the tournament. Nepomniachci was clinical with the black pieces and confidently converted exchange 20 on the move with a sacrifice to open up lines of attack on the Queenside, leading the score to the final game of regulation.
After Nakamura shocked the crowd in the fourth game by securing an early draw with black pieces on move 15, commentator Hess asked: “Are they allowed to draw?!” Both players were clearly happy to settle things with Armageddon’s decisiveness, but the loser will inevitably regret the unfinished business of round four.
“Are they allowed to submit a picture?!” –@GM_Hess
– ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) October 30, 2022
An auction is held to determine who will play in which color in the ticket breaker. Nepomniachtchi’s bid to play Black won with a draw and 13 minutes on the clock to Nakamura’s 15. The final starting position was soon announced, and the players had five minutes to strategize.
Nepomniachtchi looked to be in control after trading an Armageddon game with an opposite-suited bishop’s midgame, but Nakamura defied the tide and cruised home to claim his first ever world title. GM Rafael Litao explained the day’s play below.
As many would expect at this point, Nakamura celebrated the victory with a quick YouTube video covering the match! At the end of the video, he mentions that he will be going to Toronto soon to compete in the finals of the Chess.com Global Championship. With his astronomical 2924 performance rating (based on FIDE’s instant ratings) for this tournament, Nakamura is undoubtedly one of the favorites to win in Toronto as well.
In addition to the title clash, three consolation games were played in Reykjavík on Sunday to determine the rest of the field. Following a disappointing semi-final loss, Carlsen ran into early trouble against Abdusatorov and lost the first game after the Uzbek GM cleverly trapped his bishop.
Karlsson finally got back into the game and came on stage to beat Abdusatorov 3-1. It is clear that the world champion is not in the best shape overall, but in December he will have two chances to take the world championships in the world blitz and fast championships.
GM Vladimir Fedesev excelled in his ratings, sending defending champion GM Wesley Son two points clear of fourth place, while GMs Matthias Bluebaum and local Hjorvar Gretarsson finished seventh and eighth respectively.
This year’s Fischer Random World Championship has reignited the debate about the future of chess and provided a refreshing step aside from the absolute performances of the world’s elite in classical events. As Nepomniachtchi graciously tweeted after losing the match on Sunday, the chess world “hope(s) to see more Fischer random tournaments in the future.”
Logic was never to be found in the Armageddon games. But this, in turn, has its own logic.
Hope to see more Fischer Random tournaments in the future.
– Yan Nepomniachchi (@lachesisq) October 30, 2022
Brought to you by the Government of Iceland and the City of Reykjavík, the Fischer Random World Championship brings together the best players from around the world to compete in a variety of classic Fischer Random games for a $400,000 prize fund and the FIDE Fischer Random World title. Champion. Fischer Random (also known as Chess960) is a chess variant where all the standard chess rules are the same except for the starting position of the pieces, which can be in a 960 semi-random setup. Highly acclaimed by 11th World Champion GM Bobby Fischer, the opener showcases his true understanding of chess.