Nakamura wins Arena Kings after Tuesday sweep
General Manager Hikaru Nakamura won Week 1 of Arena Kings Season 9 3-1 in the final knockout game, beating second general manager Jose Eduardo Martinez Alcantara with one game to spare. Nakamura also swept both Titled Tuesday events the day before, mostly performing at Chess.com’s online events this week.
IM Le Tuan Minh finished third and Sundram Kumar, the only top four with no verified title on his profile, finished fourth. 1660 players participated in this week’s arena.
How to watch?
The tournament begins with a 2-hour arena, followed by a knockout tournament between the top eight finishing streamers. Time control for Arena and KO is 3+0.
Live stream of this Wednesday’s tournament, hosted by commentator NM James Canty III.
The event started, as usual, with a few surprises. After just over the first hour of play, the top six spots in the zone were taken by non-title players, with Le seventh and Nakamura eighth.
With nearly two thousand people playing for the coveted top eight spots, streamers were highlighted during the show. Andrew Horne’s approach to karaoke and chess is now quite familiar to regular viewers:
As Canty presented several other streams on the Chess.com show, fans were able to enjoy players’ thoughts in real time. In at least one case, the difficulty of interacting with chat while playing surfaced when we saw errors in the rapid time control without increments.
Finishing as the number one streamer in the arena, Nakamura won 21 games with zero losses and seven draws. His quick calculation and smooth storytelling ability make converting advantages, even against grandmasters, seem easy as pie. Most people could imagine themselves struggling to win the next game, for example.
2 knights against a pawn, one of the most difficult victories. Accept? pic.twitter.com/xzEpcjjUoJ
— Hikaru Nakamura (@GMHIKARU) February 2, 2022
In the end, only three of the top eight spots for streamers were titled: Nakamura, Martinez, and Le. The other finishers were: SundramNaam2SunaHoga, ConcernedZipper, shreyas1609, hbkhan91 and The_Blessed.
After the arena, GM Raunak Sadhwani joined Canty in the commentary after he failed to qualify for the knockout round. Before it started, Canty jokingly called Nakamura a “bully”, adding, “Let someone else win something”, likely a reference to the American winning both headline Tuesday events the day before.
The knockout game started with the titled players having their peak. Although there was a clear difference in ratings between the two players, Le played a fine attacking game, starting with a daring knight sacrifice.
The most memorable part of today’s knockout, however, has to be the two moments when Nakamura under-promoted four pawns to the knights and demonstrated checkmates that chess fans almost never see.
A few minutes later, Nakamura did something similar with the black pieces. One really has to wonder if Nakamura spends time practicing these unusual piece setups or if he just does it on the fly.
Eventually, the final match was between Nakamura and Martinez. The first two games were drawn, with the latter giving up some opportunities to sneak up on a win. That being said, their second game saw a nice new opening idea from the Peruvian GM in 7.b4, a move championed by GM Jorden van Foreest, with the encounter at the top of the line being as recent as November 2021 in FIDE. Chess.com Greater Switzerland.
Nakamura, however, fought back hard and won the third and fourth games, not having to play the fifth game to decide the match. Their last match pretty much summed up the character of their one-on-one fight: Nakamura displayed greater patience and an ability to squeeze while playing fast while his opponent wasn’t as close. comfortable with “mixing with a purpose”, as one might say.
The tournament winner summed it up well: “He panicked. It comes down to one of Jospem’s psychological issues, which is that he can’t sit still.”
Rankings, results, prizes
Nakamura will win $500, Martinez $350, Le and Kumar $200 each, and places 5-8 will win $100 each (pending fair play confirmation). Below you can see the full knockout standings:
Arena Kings Season 9 | Week 1 | Final knockout standings
Any additional prizes will be published in the results report, which will be linked here, coming soon.
Arena Kings is a weekly tournament organized by Chess.com. This is an arena event followed by a knockout with the top eight players that begins at 9:00 a.m. PT/6:00 p.m. CEE.