Who is Better at Blitz: Carlsen or Nakamura? (Analyzed)

For most people who are just starting to get into chess, you likely have been brought by two big names. It is either Magnus Carlsen or Hikaru Nakamura.

The famed world chess genius with an attractive personality that makes him likable, and the famous chess streamer that has contributed to the “chess wave” which has brought many fans from his streaming efforts.

Can Magnus Carlsen beat Deep Blue?
Can Magnus Carlsen beat Deep Blue?

There are so many comparisons online about these two since they are so famous.

In this article I will talk about a particular angle.

Which is better between the two when it comes to blitz?

When it comes to rapid/classical we know that Carlsen is better. When it comes to blitz however, Hikaru Nakamura is not a pushover.

Nakamura is one of the best blitz players in the world. He has a chance against Carlsen.

I would provide a side-by-side comparison in order to answer this question. With all of that in mind, let’s get started. 

Who has a higher peak rating in blitz? Magnus or Hikaru?

If we are going to analyze which is the better blitz player, we need to take a look at their peak blitz rating. The rating on the blitz section is separate from the rapid and classical section.

This way, we get to identify the player’s rating when we only take into consideration their blitz games.

This is helpful in separating Carlsen’s apparent dominance in the longer time formats, which is not that important in this article.

If we take a look at their peak blitz rating we may discover something. As for Hikaru, his highest blitz rating is 2934, this is insane.

Nakamura has actually reached 2900+ elo in blitz, something that we can only dream of in classical (so far at least).

This makes him a really strong chess player, however, Magnus has an even higher peak blitz rating. Carlsen’s highest blitz rating is 2986, which even surprised me as I have been researching for this article.

Carlsen is literally only 14 points away from reaching 3000 elo in over the board blitz rating.

Reaching 3000 elo is unbelievable over the board, this achievement is definitely within reach of Magnus Carlsen.

If we are going to look at their peak rating alone, Magnus is way better (even when nakamura is also impressive!). In this category (peak rating), Magnus Carlsen is the winner. 

Which player has been blitz no. 1 rated for a longer time?

Now, I don’t want you to believe that the peak rating is the only important factor.

There are also other relative factors you see.

You can have the highest peak rating but not have been the longest number one holder of the blitz section.

In my opinion, holding the number one position in blitz is an even better consideration than just having the peak rating.

This means that the chess player is not only a one hit wonder performer, it means that they have been performing consistently for a long time. In this category, Hikaru has Magnus Carlsen beat.

Hikaru has been no. 1 in the blitz section for multiple years in a row. Not even Magnus Carlsen has been number one in the blitz section for this long.

Magnus is mostly number 2, even when he had the higher peak rating he hadn’t been number one for as long as Hikaru Nakamura.

Now I do think that this is just because Magnus Carlsen is also focusing on other things in the past, mainly his world title and his classical rating.

He probably doesn’t play blitz as much, and when he does focus on it, he gets a higher peak rating.

However we must give credit where it is due, Hikaru Nakamura has been way more consistent in being number 1 in blitz. In this category, Hikaru Nakamura is the winner. 

What about the world blitz chess champion? Who has more titles?

I think that this is just the factor that sweeps Hikaru Nakamura  under the rug. You can be the number one rated blitz player for a long time and not win the world chess blitz championship.

This championship is of the same prestige as the classical world championship, only that it is for the blitz section.

When you win this championship you are basically the world blitz champion, the title holder for that particular year.

In other words, this tournament tests a player’s capability to perform under pressure, whether they have what it takes to become a champion.

Magnus Carlsen is five time world chess blitz champion, not only is he a champion in the classical format but also in the blitz format.

There have been years over magnus carlsen have achieved the “triple crown”, basically him being the world champion in all three formats (classical, rapid, and blitz).

Unfortunately at the time of writing this article, Hikaru Nakamura has never won the world chess blitz championship title.

He seems to be having a rough time getting that title, it has always been Magnus Carlsen.

This is a huge gap, 5-0 is not even a comparison.

Even though Hikaru Nakamura has been the number one rated blitz player for the longest time, he can’t seem to win on the biggest stage.

I think that this will be critical information in this side-by-side comparison between these two players. 

Speed chess is getting popular online. Does hikaru beat magnus in this aspect?

Yes, Hikaru Nakamura has Magnus Carlsen beat on this particular aspect. With chess becoming a popular pastime online, there have been multiple online blitz championships.

People over the internet usually prefer this time format, there have been many chess.com sponsored blitz tournaments for example.

Hikaru Nakamura has definitely won more online blitz tournaments than Magnus Carlsen.

I have been researching on how many tournaments Magnus Carlsen has participated online.

It seems that he has not been as active as Hikaru Nakamura in these online blitz tournaments.

However, there are tournaments where Magnus Carlsen is participating yet Hikaru Nakamura won, so it might be important to include this.

Now, I want to see more head-to-head between these two online (since online blitz chess is hikaru nakamura’s domain). But for now, Hikaru wins in this aspect. 

Head to head blitz games between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura

Interestingly enough, even though Hikaru Nakamura has won more online blitz tournaments than Magnus Carlsen, he never actually beats him.

It is mainly because another participant drops Carlsen before they even face, but head to head, Carlsen always wins.

Even in one of the world blitz championship finals where both of them qualified, Hikaru Nakamura just can’t beat him head to head.

Perhaps it is psychological, maybe even skills, but it is a fact that Magnus is an obstacle that is blocking Hikaru from being a blitz legend.

I have to admit, this is so impressive of Magnus Carlsen as blitz is not his primary focus.

Magnus Carlsen is competing in time formats that he shouldn’t even be competing in, he should be focusing on his classical ratings / world title instead.

I think that this seals the deal, Magnus Carlsen is better than hikaru nakamura so far.

Not only is Magnus beating Hikaru, but most of the games that they played together are so convincing.

Some games are close, but most are pretty much one side sweeps. I think that Nakamura doesn’t even know why he can’t perform well against Magnus.

In theory, Nakamura should perform well as he has been the blitz world number one for the longest time.

I think that it is mostly psychological, his performance is probably not as good when against one of the best chess players of all time.

If we are going to make a comparison, then the head to head score is probably one of the most important factors.

Due to this factor and the other achievements of Magnus Carlsen, I think that he is better in blitz.

With Hikaru being a streamer nowadays, it will be harder for him to catch up legacy-wise. But if he does accomplish it in the future, I may have to update this article. 

Who is better between the two in blitz? Will this change in the future?

I think that Magnus Carlsen will still be the better blitz player in the future. Sure, Hikaru has been playing a lot of online blitz, probably more than magnus, but it has always been this way.

It has always been that Magnus Carlsen is focusing on his classical ratings than on his blitz ratings, and their comparison ended up this way.

Also Hikaru plays against opponents that are significantly weaker than him, not exactly good for improvement.

It is not like playing against weaker players will make him weaker, but it definitely won’t make him stronger.

Magnus is also playing competitive blitz on some occasions, and he is usually playing against serious competitive players.

I do think that there is more value in playing against stronger players, it will keep a player’s form at peak performance.

Achievement wise, I also don’t think that Hikaru Nakamura will catch up in the future.

Since he is too busy with his streaming career, I don’t think that he can add so much more to his over the board (blitz) achievements.

I might be wrong and this may change in the future, but I predict that by the end of their career, Magnus will still be the better blitz player. 

Conclusion

Hikaru Nakamura is one of the strongest blitz chess players ever, but Magnus Carlsen is just better.

Magnus Carlsen has a higher peak rating than Hikaru Nakamura, Carlsen’s highest blitz rating is dangerously close to reaching 3000 elo, an unbelievable accomplishment.

Not only this, Magnus Carlsen has also become the world blitz champion for many years, Hikaru has not even won one so far (at the time of this writing).

In my honest opinion, he probably won’t win any world blitz chess championship title in the future due to his streaming career.

His influencer career is amazing, but you have to admit that it gets in the way of his chess-related achievements.

Their head to head is not on the side of Hikaru either, Magnus Carlsen always beats him when they face each other.

The games played between the two are usually convincing, there might be a psychological reason why Hikaru seems to always underperform against Magnus Carlsen.

This is my conclusion for this side-by-side comparison, it may change in the future but it is unlikely. That is all for this article, thank you for reading. 

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