The first round of 16 match in this year’s I’M Not A GM Speed Chess Championship featured an exciting battle between two well-known names in the chess streaming community: IM Levy Rozman (GothamChess), the number one chess streamer on YouTube and a finalist in last year’s IMSCC, and WGM Nemo Zhou (akaNemsko), the Canadian chess-streaming star who also streamed during the match.
Rozman won with a score of 19-4 after an incredibly strong start in the first two segments and stabilizing his advantage in the bullet segment.
The next round of 16 match between IMs Greg Shahade and Lawrence Trent will take place on May 11 at 11 a.m. PT / 20:00 CET.
The I’M Not A GM Speed Chess Championship (IMSCC) is an online event where some of the strongest IMs and other invited players compete in a series of speed chess matches. Each match consists of a 5+1 blitz segment, a 3+1 blitz segment, and a 1+1 bullet segment, with the player who scores the most points winning the match. If there’s a tie, players play a four-game 1+1 match to decide the winner. If the tie persists, an armageddon game with a bidding system decides the winner.
Blitz 5|1: Rozman-Nemo 6-1
The first and longest segment of the match started with three consecutive and convincing wins by Rozman. On paper, with the American IM’s online blitz rating in the high-2600s and Nemo’s in the high-2300s, this would make sense, but the score doesn’t quite reflect the Canadian’s tenacity when fighting back in worse positions.
In the very first game, for instance, she got a bad position pretty quickly on the black side of what’s known these days as the Jobava London, but the game just kept on going. By move 33, she finally had chances to complicate the game as Rozman did not find (the very difficult) 34.Ne5!. The possible variations would have been impossible to see in blitz, as the players both had under 10 seconds each, but they were quite entertaining to analyze after.
In the fourth game, however, Nemo struck back to halt what was threatening to become an insurmountable lead for Rozman. She created an outside passed pawn on the a-file and it proved to be stronger than Black’s central pawns in the game.
The following clip was one of the most exciting games in the 5+1 portion if one judges by the rising volume of the commentators’ voices. Nemo had been defending with some two seconds on her clock for quite a long time until, suddenly, she was back in the game. In the very end, both players had chances to win, and Rozman came out on top of what became a pure battle of nerves.
The running narrative of this segment was the story of missed chances by Nemo, and there certainly were chances. In the following clip, the grandmaster commentators concisely break down how she could have saved an ending:
Coming back from a 6-1 start would prove to be a Herculean task for Nemo, but not an impossible one, as shown in the recent match between GM Raunak Sadhwani and IM Mahammad Muradli in the 2022 Junior Speed Chess Championship.
Blitz 3|1: Rozman-Nemo 7-1
Our SmarterChess predictions envisioned the American IM winning the blitz segment with a 5-2 score, which Rozman outperformed. Although Nemo won the very first game of the blitz time control after Rozman incorrectly followed up an (initially) sound queen sacrifice, she was unable to win another game after that despite achieving promising positions on several occasions.
As Rozman’s lead continued to grow, the tilt started to creep in. By the time the score reached 2-0 for the international master in this segment, the following game featured a very quick loss after Black grabbed the a2-pawn and got her queen trapped:
Nemo certainly had chances, like in the following game. She had a dominant position, but time trouble allowed Rozman the opportunity to play the game-changing …Rxe3 and ultimately snatch a win from the jaws of defeat.
In the following game, Rozman came up with a nice combination starting with 23.Nxb6, completely exposing the black king on the queenside. After navigating some difficult tactics once he allowed 26…Bb5—although the evaluation never shifted from a decisive advantage for White—he managed to land checkmate on the board.
After the following game, commentator Naroditsky exclaimed: “This match is sliding out of control for Nemo.”
In the penultimate game, she was a piece up with the white pieces and the evaluation bar was as white as snow, but Rozman was able to complicate the game and swindle a checkmate nevertheless.
And in the final game of the segment, the position was completely locked up and a proper breakthrough for either side would have been difficult to concoct. Rozman, feeling the psychological trend of the match weighing heavily to his benefit, went for a dubious knight sacrifice that, objectively speaking, didn’t work, but he won the game anyway.
It seemed that even when the games went her way, the finishing touch continued to be out of reach.
Bullet 1|1: Rozman-Nemo 6-2
The bullet segment showcased Nemo’s best play in the match as she often played faster than her opponent and more confidently than she did in any other segment, but Rozman’s overwhelming lead was already mathematically near-impossible to catch.
After Rozman won the first game, Nemo won the second, making it her third win in the match. In an endgame where Rozman was up a piece, she managed to capture all but one of his pawns (thus increasing her drawing chances), and a few more inaccurate moves by White in the time scramble allowed her to win what Naroditsky called “maybe the craziest bullet sequence I’ve ever seen.”
The next-to-last game held in store the funniest moment of the day as the commentators absolutely lost their minds from the following pre-move blunder, with Naroditsky unable to stay in his seat.
In the post-game interview, Rozman shared his expectations for the match: “I was looking at Nemo’s openings before the match. And so she has the playing style which is the worst for me, which is [to] play the same openings every game and bore me to death … so I tried to go for lines that aren’t too dumb, at least until the bullet.”
Nemo, who also joined the interview afterward, reflected: “I think the outcome of the match could have been closer if I had done a lot better… in the time scramble situations.”
All Games – Round of 16
I’M Not A GM Speed Chess Championship 2022 Bracket
The 2022 I’M Not A GM Speed Chess Championship (IMSCC) is an online event where some of the strongest IMs compete in a series of speed chess matches. The event runs May 9 through June 15, with players vying for their share of the $10,000 prize fund and the title of fastest IM in the world.