Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen came into the Speed Chess Championship as the top two seeds and the prohibitive favorites to reach the final. On Thursday, both will get the chance to prove their dominance and move into the semifinals, though they’ll face dangerous Russian opponents gunning for upsets.

Carlsen Nakamura Speed Chess Championship odds
Magnus Carlsen (left) and Hikaru Nakamura (right) will enter their respective Speed Chess Championship quarterfinals as heavy favorites. (Image: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com)

Carlsen faces off against Vladislav Artemiev first, while Nakamura takes on Vladimir Fedoseev later in the day.

So, MVL Advance in Speed Chess Championship

Two players have already made it through to the Speed Chess Championship semifinals. American Wesley So – who beat Carlsen in the finals of the Skilling Open earlier this week – beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda two weeks ago. While Duda kept up with So during the five-minute portion of the match, So dominated the three-minute games by an 8-1 margin on the way to a 16-10 win.

On Wednesday, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave booked his spot in the semifinals with a 14.5-12.5 victory over Levon Aronian. The match was dead even at nine points each heading into the one-minute bullet portion. That’s when Vachier-Lagrave took over, pulling away from the Armenian grandmaster to take the match.

The fact that the contest came down to the fastest time control didn’t escape Aronian, who later commented on his reasons for losing.

“I always think Maxime is a favorite when it comes to bullet,” Aronian said. “I don’t spend my time doing nonsensical things like playing bullet, and I paid for it!”

Carlsen, Nakamura Face Strong Challengers

Carlsen reached the quarterfinals by crushing Parham Maghsoodloo 24-5 in their opening-round match. He’ll now face a tougher challenge against young Vladislav Artemiev. The 22-year-old won the 2019 European Chess Championship and ranks 11th in the official world blitz ratings.

Carlsen still comes into the match as a heavy favorite. The World Blitz Champion is the only person other than Nakamura to win the Speed Chess Championship, and few players can hope to contend with him over a match of 25-30 games. Unibet lists Carlsen as a -5000 pick to win the match over Artemiev (+900).

Speed Chess Championship Odds (via Unibet)
Magnus Carlsen: -5000 Vladislav Artemiev: +900
Hikaru Nakamura: -1430 Vladimir Fedoseev: +575

Many fans regard Nakamura as the greatest blitz player in the world. He ranks No. 1 on the FIDE rating list with an astounding 2900 rating, and won the Speed Chess Championship in both 2018 and 2019.

That should make him at least as big a favorite as Carlsen in his quarterfinal, though Fedoseev poses some risk to Nakamura. While he currently ranks No. 21 on the world blitz ratings list, he has won major blitz titles before, including at the 2013 European Youth Chess Championship and the 2015 Dubai Open. Fedoseev also got the best of Nakamura in a recent informal online blitz match.

That means Nakamura faces a more difficult challenge than Carlsen in this round, though most pundits still make him a significant favorite. Unibet posted Nakamura as a -1430 choice over Fedoseev (+575), showing plenty of confidence that the American can coast to a win.

The pace of the Speed Chess Championship will pick up significantly after the quarterfinals. The final four will play out the semifinals on Dec. 11 and 12, with the two finalists facing off on Dec. 13.

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