GM Hikaru Nakamura won his fourth consecutive Arena Kings on April 20 with a score of 3.5-0.5 in the final and has continued a streak of winning every time he’s played in Season 9, seven in total. GM Vagur Rasulov finished as a finalist while IM Tuan Minh Le and GM Alan Pichot finished in the semifinals.
This week’s Arena Kings was streamed by 64 players out of the 1,398 total who competed on Wednesday. Only streamers are eligible for the knockout portion of the tournament.
How To Watch?
FM James Canty III showcased several streamers during the two-hour arena portion of the tournament: GMs Nakamura, Daniel Naroditsky, Gata Kamsky, Oleksandr Bortnyk, Ben Finegold. David Arutinian, Aman Hambleton, Le, WGM Adriana Nikolova, James Chirilov, and Timofii Datsenko.
Nakamura was the first-place finisher among streamers, boasting 22 wins, two losses, and one draw this week. Other streamers who did not make it into the knockout, however, took it in stride and provided some comical moments nevertheless.
After losing to Nakamura in a previous game, Nikolova went on a rampage, winning her next five games in a row and remarking: “Everyone is easy after Hikaru’s game.”
While highlighted on the main Chess.com broadcast, Finegold squeezed out a win in an extremely long game and proclaimed it: “… the worst game ever played on Chess.com, and that it includes all of IM Danny Rensch‘s games,” a casual jab at our fearless leader.
As usual, the top 16 finishing streamers were a mixed bag of titled and untitled players who would decide this week’s winner.
The round of 16 kicked off with dual commentary by Naroditsy, who had just played in the arena, and Canty. The “appetizer round,” as Naroditsky called it, featured crushing wins by the favorites on each board. Every match ended in a no-nonsense score of 2-0 in favor of the titled players: GMs Nakamura, Rasulov, Pichot, Kamsky, Maksat Atabayev, IMs Saparmyrat Atabayev and Le, and FM Marco Riehle,
The round of 16 ended quickly and the most impressive moment was Nakamura pre-moving all the way to checkmate, albeit against an 1107-rated player:
The quarterfinals featured no real upsets, featuring match-wins by familiar names: Nakamura, Pichot, Le, and Rasulov. The most dramatic moment of this phase had to be the following instance of mutual blindness, with both players missing a hanging queen. Unfortunately for Kamsky, however, the Argentinian grandmaster was able to win despite the initial miss.
This brings us to the semifinals, with the first matchup being Nakamura vs. Pichot. After suffering a loss in the first game, Pichot cooked up a nice queen trap in the following game that Nakamura must have missed:
In signature style, however, Nakamura took advantage of several inaccuracies to escape with a draw. After the game, Naroditsky pointed out: “The position after Bg5, I think most people would resign there.”
In the final game, Nakamura powerfully used the central duo of d- and e-pawns to dominate his opponent’s minor pieces, combined with the bishop pair, to win and move into the final.
Now, knights are notorious for their forking potential in blitz chess and it was a knight that decided game one in the semifinal match between Rasulov and Le. After playing a great game and slowly converting the advantage, Le made an incorrect capture, allowing counterplay with a timely …e4, and the sudden trend-shift got the better of him:
This loss in the first game from a winning position seemed too much psychologically for the Vietnamese IM and led to a second loss in the following game, bringing the match to an abrupt end.
The final match between Nakamura and Rasulov was full of more action than the final score would suggest. Nakamura won the first game after playing his usual 1.b3 system and slowly pressuring his opponent to make time-trouble-induced mistakes. Of course, a well-trodden strategy by the American candidate.
The second game ended in a draw, but the next one featured a really nice bind by Nakamura, playing White. After 25.b6, Naroditsky said: “You just don’t survive these positions against Hikaru.” After some complications where Nakamura actually threw away for exactly one move, the end result was still the same.
In the last game, the American only needed a draw to wrap up the match but soon found himself cruising to victory. However, again, Rasulov was not without chances and missed a winning opportunity after 27…Qc3??. He needed to find the following move to stay in the match:
White to move and win.
Despite a few momentary lapses, Nakamura took advantage of critical moments and his play was consistent enough that his (very few) mistakes went unnoticed and unpunished.
Standings, Results, Prizes
Nakamura again earned $500 for first place and Rasulov won $350 for second. $200 went to semifinalists Pichot and Le. The four quarterfinalists won the usual $100 each with ninth place through 16th getting $50 (pending confirmation of fair play). The full standings of the knockout field are below:
Arena Kings Season 9 | Week 11| Final Knockout Standings
All prizes are published in the results report here.
Arena Kings is a tournament held every Wednesday for streamers on Chess.com. A two-hour arena is followed by a knockout of the top 16 streamers from the arena. Both sections use a 3+0 time control and games begin at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time/18:00 Central European each week.