GM Hikaru Nakamura was crowned the Random FIDE Fischer World Chess Champion on Sunday after winning a thrilling Armageddon tie-break final against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.
After splitting the points in their four-game mini-match, Nakamura saved his best effort for the decider and paid tribute to the heroics of the format’s namesake, GM Bobby Fischer, by winning his first world title in Reykjavik 50 years after his colleague . The American defeated GM Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War.
Nakamura won $150,000 for winning the event, while the rest of the $400,000 prize pool was split among the other participants.
In the consolation matches, GM Magnus Carlsen defeated world speed champion GM Nodirbek Abdusatorov to round out the podium, recovering from a 1-0 deficit in the process.
He played brilliantly all week and won the final Armageddon tiebreaker against Nepo to secure the title! 👏 pic.twitter.com/ZwhA0FyacQ
— Chess.com (@chesscom) October 30, 2022
For Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi, the final day of the Fischer Random World Championship would culminate in a first world title for either player, and tensions were high from the moment the clocks started at 3pm local time.
The starting positions for the first two games were relatively clear. Key features include a queen in the corner and bishops remaining in their usual squares.
Nakamura, playing the black pieces, quickly took command of the center and pushed Nepomniahchi back. Unable to fight off the initiative from Nakamura, Nepomniahchi eventually succumbed to the tactic which caused him to lose a piece.
Although the early loss hurt his title chances, Nepomniaci was well aware that a comeback was possible after his sensational comeback against Carlsen in Saturday’s semi-final.
In the second game, Nakamura was able to shift into a position that resembled his trusty Nimzovich-Larsen opening, which he has used to great effect in online tournaments for years. With move 40, Nakamura had a +2.5 advantage, but instead of pressing for the win, he chose to re-roll.
With pressure firmly on his shoulders, Nepomniahchi landed a perfectly timed strike in the third game to hand Nakamura his first (and only) loss of the entire event. Nepomniachci was clinical with the black pieces and confidently sacrificed an exchange on move 20 to open up the queen’s attacking lines to level the score in the final regulation game.
Nakamura stunned onlookers in the fourth game as he offered a draw on move 15 after drawing early with the black pieces, prompting commentator Hess to ask: “They’re allowed to offer draws?!” Both players were clearly happy to settle. you’re dealing with an Armageddon tiebreaker, but the loser will inevitably regret unfinished business in the fourth round.
“They are allowed to offer draws?!” –@GM_Hess
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) October 30, 2022
Bidding took place to decide who would play which color in the tiebreaker. Nepomniachtchi won the bid to play black with draw odds and 13 minutes on the clock at Nakamura 15. The final starting position was announced soon after, and the players had five minutes to strategize.
Nepomniachtchi appeared to have the Armageddon game under control early on after switching to an opposite-suited bishop midgame, but Nakamura muddied the waters and stormed home to claim his first world title. GM Rafael Leitao commented on our game of the day below.
Nakamura celebrated the historic win, as many expected at this point, with a quick YouTube video covering his games! At the end of the video, he mentioned that he will soon be going to Toronto to compete in the finals of the Chess.com Global Championship. Given his astronomical rating of 2924 (calculated based on the FIDE rapid rating) for this tournament, Nakamura is undoubtedly one of the favorites to win in Toronto as well.
In addition to the title clash, three consolation matches were played in Reykjavík on Sunday to decide the finish for the rest of the field. After a disappointing semi-final loss, Carlsen found himself in early trouble against Abdusattorov and lost the first game after the Uzbek GM cleverly trapped his bishop.
Carlsen eventually fought his way back into the match and onto the podium, defeating Abdusatorov 3-1. Overall, the world champion was clearly not at his best, but he will have two more opportunities to take the world titles at the blitz and rapid world championships in December.
GM Vladimir Fedoseev continued to outperform his rating and dispatched defending champion GM Wesley So by two points to move into fourth place, while VMM Matthias Blubaum and local Hjorvar Gretarsson finished seventh and eighth respectively.
This year’s Fischer Random World Championship reignited the discussion about the future of chess and provided a refreshing step away from the near-perfect performances of the world’s elite in classical events. As Nepomniakhchi fondly tweeted after losing his match on Sunday, the chess world “hope(s) to see more Fischer random tournaments in the future.”
Logic would hardly ever be found in Armageddon games. But this, in turn, has its own logic.
We hope to see more Fischer Random tournaments in the future.
Congratulations to @GMHikaru!
– Jan Nepomniachci (@lachesisq) October 30, 2022
Brought to you by the Government of Iceland and the City of Reykjavík, the Fischer Random World Championship brings together top players from around the world to compete in a series of classic Fischer Random games for their share of the $400,000 prize pool and the FIDE title Fischer Random World 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 one of 960 semi-random settings. Strongly endorsed by 11th World Champion GM Bobby Fischer, this variant puts preparation aside to bring out the players’ true understanding of chess.