Another regular season of Arena Kings in the books, with the Championship Final of Season 9 coming next week. Week 12 ended the way the last four weeks had, with a victory for GM Hikaru Nakamura. Despite falling behind 2-0 in the final against GM Oleksandr Bortnyk, Nakamura came back to win three in a row and take home the knockout. Nakamura ended up winning all eight Arena Kings events he played in this regular season.
The semifinalists this week, which saw 1,136 players and 56 streamers contest the arena portion, were IM Le Tuan Minh and IM Renato Terry.
How To Watch?
Several streamers were featured on this week’s official stream run by broadcast anchor FM James Canty III: Nakamura, Le, WFM Alexandra Samaganova, Bortnyk, Terry, @VallabhTFT (Neil Vallabh), WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni, and @KingsBishop (Daniel Greiner). Each of the 56 streamers were fighting for their place in the knockout.
While the arenas of late have been dominated by Nakamura, this week he finished fifth with 73 points on +21 -3 =2. It was Bortnyk, in second with 83 points after scoring +22 -2 =1, who led all titled players.
The best streaming moments, however, were dominated by the two non-titled players who made it onto the broadcast.
Later on, the often-overlooked diagonal retreat leading to a capture claimed another victim.
NM Robert Ramirez joined Canty for the broadcast of the knockout. Because of their results in the arena and both having been finalists in weeks nine and 10, Nakamura and Bortnyk were probably the favorites to reach the final. For a moment in the semis, however, it didn’t look like Bortnyk would make it.
Before that, every round of 16 match was decided 2-0, including the one between Mexican NM Emilio Castellanos and Germany’s FM Marco Riehle. It was the lower-titled and lower-rated Castellanos, however, who advanced.
Castellanos’ reward was a match with Nakamura, which finished 2-0. Bortnyk also won 2-0 while the other two quarterfinals were more even, both reaching the third game.
IM Saparmyrat Atabayev upset Le in their first game and then, after a loss in the second game, held a draw in their third game to force the 1+1 bullet tiebreak. A rating gap of less than 100 points in blitz turned into one of more than 500 in bullet as Le advanced by a 2.5-1.5 score. Meanwhile, Terry and GM Vahap Sanal started with a draw, but Terry won the next two to advance.
In his first game against Terry in the semifinals, Nakamura quickly secured an advantage and converted it without trouble. The second game, despite Terry’s opening choice of 1.Nh3, reached a dead drawn endgame, but Nakamura had 10 extra seconds on the clock and flagged Terry to advance.
Against Le, Bortnyk’s strong tournament appeared to be heading for a 2-0 end, but a miraculous save in the second game forced a third.
The third game was another wild ride, Le achieving a big engine advantage before the players reached an opposite-colored bishops ending. As both their clocks dwindled, Bortnyk ended up in a winning position before settling for a draw with one second on his clock.
The bullet tiebreak introduced an increment, eliminating flagging opportunities, and an up-and-down ending went Bortnyk’s way.
And so it was indeed a Nakamura-Bortnyk final. Nakamura led on the clock the entire way through the first game, but Bortnyk kept his head in the game long enough to end up far ahead in material and checkmate Nakamura with 3.2 seconds on his clock.
The hits kept coming in the second game after the wildest imaginable finish: both players trying to flag the other, with Bortnyk succeeding in his very last tenth of a second.
In all preceding rounds, 2-0 would be the end, but the finals are best-of-five. Nakamura was his usual resilient self and won the third game with little drama.
In the fourth game, Bortnyk put immense pressure on Nakamura with 22.Bh7+, picking up a rare but eventually temporary clock advantage, and had a fleeting moment with a +10 computer evaluation. Unfortunately for Bortnyk, he could not convert and wound up getting flagged in an even rook-and-pawn ending.
The fifth game was somewhat of an anticlimax as, like with the third game, Nakamura won without incident. He was ahead on the board and by a whopping 90 seconds on the clock when the game concluded.
Standings, Results, Prizes
Nakamura again earned $500 for first place while Bortnyk earned $350 for second. The $200 prize for semifinalists belonged to Le and Terry. The four quarterfinalists each won $100 and ninth place through 16th received $50 (pending confirmation of fair play). The full standings of the knockout field are below:
Arena Kings Season 9 | Week 12 | Final Knockout Standings
All prizes are published in the results report here.
Arena Kings is a weekly Wednesday tournament for streamers on Chess.com. A two-hour arena is followed by a knockout of the top 16 streamers from the arena. Both parts feature a 3+0 time control and games start at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time/18:00 Central European.