Hans Niemann Wins Universal Chess Tour's Inaugural Super GM Match; Chidobe Awuzie Celebrity Chess Winner

GM Hans Niemann won a Super Grandmaster Match, with a prize fund of $50,000, against GM Vidit Gujrathi on June 22, 2024. The Universal Chess Tour (UCT) chose Niemann and Gujrathi for their chess credentials and for their abilities to attract media coverage and fans. National Football League (NFL) player Chidobe Awuzie bested other celebrities in rapid chess.

The Super Grandmaster Match happened at the NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills, Texas, a city in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The arena matches served as a main attraction and novel selling point for the UCT’s Universal Chess Open, held June 20 through 23 in the same location. All participants in the Open received tickets to attend the match and accompanying celebrity tournament.


Match Format

The Super GM match lasted from 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 22 until just before 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 23. The first chess player to win two rounds won the match, but each “round” actually consisted of multiple games, with increasingly quick time controls for each round.

Within each round, games were scored normally, with each win counting as one point and each draw as a half a point. For round one, the time control was game in four minutes plus a two-second increment. The first player to reach four points won round one. For round two, the time control was game in three minutes plus a two-second increment. The winner of round two was the first to reach six points. For round three, the time control was game in two minutes plus a two-second increment. The first to reach six points won round three.

In between rounds were 10-minute breaks. Following directions from tournament staff, spectators avoided interacting with the players on their breaks. During games, Niemann and Gujrathi wore noise-canceling headphones.


Image Caption
Hans Niemann getting "into the zone" before the 3+2 round of his match (Photo Alexey Root)


Match Results

GM Hans Niemann won the match by winning two of the three rounds. Niemann won round one with a score of 4–3. Gujrathi won round two with a score of 6–3. Niemann won round three with a score of 6–3. For his match victory, Niemann received $30,000. Gujrathi got $20,000.


Image Caption
Vidit Gujrathi (L) with the author (Photo courtesy of the subject)



Videos of the Super Grandmaster Match are available at Evergreen Chess and at ChessBase India. GM Hans Niemann posted on X about his victory.

Pre-match, Gujrathi posted a video on X of him catching a football at the playing site. Gujrathi also posted a video of him shooting a basket. Niemann gave pre-match interviews to IM Sagar Shah of ChessBase India and Brooklyn Dave of Evergreen Chess. To Brooklyn Dave, Niemann mentioned that he would also like to challenge Gujrathi in football and basketball.



Games are available on Lichess.org, with one exception. The ninth game of round two was not broadcast due to a DGT error. International Arbiter Louis Reed, who served as tournament director for the Universal Chess Tour events, explained that the board had been set up too quickly from the previous game. The computer software perceived queens on d1 and on c2 in the starting position. Therefore, the DGT did not work for the final game in three minutes game. However, camera footage showed that Niemann hung a rook and resigned.

In his post-game interview with Shah, Niemann discussed the last game of round three, which he won as White. Niemann also analyzed that game at 12 minutes into his recap video on YouTube. Below are annotations courtesy of the author and IM Doug Root:



Gatorade Versus Snickers

Niemann told Shah that his friend GM Robby Kevlishvili gave him a bottle of Gatorade before game three of round three, when the score in that round was tied at 1–1. Niemann said that drinking the blue-colored Gatorade raised his energy. Before round three, Gujrathi had taken a few bites of a Snickers bar given to him by GM Harshit Raja.

During the match, Kevlishvili and IM Josiah Stearman seemed to be “Team Hans,” and Raja appeared to be “Team Vidit.” Raja’s attention to Gujrathi was sporadic, as Raja frequently joined the ChessBase India broadcast.


Celebrity Chess Tournament

Before the Super Grandmaster Match was a Celebrity Chess Tournament, with a time control of G/15 D5, played earlier in the afternoon. It was won by Chidobe Awuzie, a cornerback for the Tennessee Titans of the NFL. Tournament Director Reed said that the celebrity players did their own thing. Some of them skipped one or more rounds. In other rounds, they played whatever color they felt like rather than following the colors on the pairings.

In the finals, Awuzie was victorious against Kyler Murray, a quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL. The game was competitive and mostly even throughout, with Awuzie eventually converting a rook-and-two-pawns-versus-rook endgame.


Image Caption
Chidobe Awuzie (L) with TD Louis Reed after the celebrity chess tournament final (Photo Alexey Root)


Most of the celebrities were professional football players, as one of the three founders of the Universal Chess Tour is Amari Cooper, a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. Cooper’s chess coach is FM Sharvesh Deviprasath, who is also a founder of the Universal Chess Tour as well as a 2023 National High School Co-Champion. The third founder is Cole Blakeman.


Sharvesh Deviprasath (L) watches his student Amari Cooper's game against Chidobe Awuzie (Photo Alexey Root)
Image Caption
Sharvesh Deviprasath (L) watches his student Amari Cooper's game against Chidobe Awuzie (Photo Alexey Root)


For next year, the Universal Chess Tour plans new versions of this year’s Super Grandmaster Match and Celebrity Chess Tournament.


Universal Open

The Universal Open boasted a $150,000 prize fund across seven sections. In the open section, five players tied for first with a 4½/6 score, including the aforementioned Kevlishvili and Raja. Also joining them were GMs Mikhail Antipov and Brian Escalante, as well as IM (and GM-Elect) Andy Woodward.

Each of the five co-champions took home $2,730 for their efforts. FM Ryan Amburgy and Arsal Gardezi (a national master with a FIDE rating of 2006) each earned $1,125 for finishing with the top scores of players rated under 2300 FIDE, with 3½ points apiece.

In the Universal Open Blitz, GM Vojtech Plat won clear first with a 9/10 score, pocketing $750. Escalante added an additional $375 to his weekend winnings with a second place finish of 8½/10. All results from the blitz are available here.

Full results from all sections are available on the tournament’s website.