Speed Chess: Can You Fight Back Like Carlsen and Nakamura?

“It’s always fun to play Magnus!”

-Hikaru Nakamura after defeating Sergey Karjakin semi-finals to reach the 2017 Speed Chess Championship Final

Once again, the stage is set for an epic Speed Chess final, and—once again, it’s Magnus Carlsen vs. Hikaru Nakamura, two of the greatest blitz players on earth.

What makes these two such fantastic blitz players?

It’s not that Carlsen and Nakamura are immune to mistakes. On the contrary, they make their fair share of mistakes and often reach difficult or inferior positions. The difference is that mistakes, even complete blunders, often do not end up losing them the game.

Sharpen your own tactics as we explore their top-notch counterattacking skills.

Carlsen rarely resigns in blitz games, even when down significant amounts of material. In Carlsen’s Champions Showdown Match against Ding Liren, he refused to resign when he blundered a rook, and, shockingly, even went on to win!

In his semi-finals Speed Chess match against Alexander Grischuk, Carlsen outdid himself and won a game where he had previously blundered his queen.

Puzzle #1

Alexander Grischuk vs. Magnus Carlsen

Black to move.
Level: Warm-Up

Puzzle #2

Magnus Carlsen vs. Gadir Guseinov

Despite blundering the exchange earlier in the game, Carlsen has kept his opponent under pressure and now has his chance to win. Can you find it?

White to move.
Level: Intermediate

Puzzle #3

Magnus Carlsen vs. Alexander Grischuk

White to move.
Level: Advanced


Puzzle #4

Sergey Karjakin vs. Hikaru Nakamura

Not only does Karjakin have a material advantage (1 bishop and 3 pawns vs. 1 rook), but he’s just played 35. Qd2, creating a double attack on two valuable black pawns on a5 and g5. How did Nakamura respond?

Black to move.
Level: Intermediate

Puzzle #5

Sergey Karjakin vs. Hikaru Nakamura

Karjakin is a pawn ahead, and his previous move (28. Bf1) aims to dislodge Black’s active rook and press on the c4-pawn. How did Nakamura keep his counterplay alive?

Black to move.
Level: Advanced


The Knockout Bracket

Watch the highly anticipated finale on Chess.com/TV or Twitch.tv/Chess on Wednesday, January 3 at 10 a.m. PST / 1 p.m. EST.

For more information on the 2017 Speed Chess Championship, visit:


Vanessa West is a regular writer and digital assistant for US Chess News. She won the 2017 Chess Journalist of the Year award.

You can follow her on Twitter: @Vanessa__West


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