Negreanu excels in POGChamps group stages

Jon Pill
Posted on: February 22, 2021 08:00 PST

After playing his three group matches, Daniel Negreanu is through to the Championship Bracket in POGChamps3. For this tourney, Negreanu doesn't even have to know poker's hand rankings, because the whole thing is chess from the opening to the endgame.

After sweeping the board in his first match against Twitch gaming star "Pokimane", he was coming in strong. With a couple of hundred Glicko points over his next two opponents, "Rubius" and "xQcOW," he was feeling a little more confident. Both of these players are around 1000 on, while Negreanu is close to 1200.

With these two matches completed over the weekend, he finds himself the second seed in his group. He will face off against "benjyfishy" in the quarter-finals. It seems his sessions spent training with GM Hikaru Nakamura are paying off.

As with his matches against Pokimane, Negreanu seems to feel the pressure on these streams. He is the polar opposite of his relaxed and chatty poker-self. Its rather endearing to see the nerves getting to him.

Daniel Negreanu v. Rubius

Like Pokimane, Rubius prepped well for his openings. All three of Negreanu's opponents in the group stages had Anna Rudolf for a coach. She really seems to know how to prep her students for the first ten moves.

Rubius's sharp openings, coupled with Negreanu's performance anxiety, made for a much closer match than expected. With a rating difference of 200, Negreanu should win 75% of his games. He managed 100% here, but only by the skin of his teeth.

"Until you have played with thousands of eyes on you you don’t realize how much choking happens," the Canadian poker pro tweeted after his blunderful play.

In the first game of the match, Negreanu played the Sicilian against Rubius. From a complicated opening, Negreanu could simplify down until his tactical skills put him a bishop ahead.

Negreanu ran his advantage up with some smart piece-trading, and Rubius resigned after the 55th move.

The second game was shorter.

In a game that was rich in errors from both sides, Rubius blundered his queen in the mid-game and was unable to win enough material back, despite Negreanu's overextended king-side pawns.

In the end Negreanu sent Rubius to the rail with a pretty back-rank mate.

After his match with Rubius, Negreanu took to Twitter. He let Rudolf know what a nightmare her students were in the opening. Flattery will get you everywhere. Anna Rudolf took pity on DNegs and offered him a video lesson to even the playing field a little.

"I think it’s time to prepare some new openings. When @Anna_Chess can plan for your openings, you are just screwed," he tweeted.

"Haha thank you, @RealKidPoker! After all those struggles I may have caused I feel like it's only fair if I help you back with the prep," Rudolf replied.

Daniel Negreanu v. xQcOW

His next match was on Saturday against xQcOW. With some of Rudolf's tips under his belt, Negreanu went in confident. Both Negreanu and xQc were going into the match undefeated.

They were playing for the top seed in their group.

In their first match, Daniel played the Danish Gambit, an opening he's worked hard on with his coach, Nakamura. After following the main-line a little way, xQc veered off and got Negreanu tangled enough to take his knight.

xQc quickly converted that small advantage into a big one as the game went on. Negreanu stuck with it until almost the bitter end. With just a pawn left to defend his king from an array of pieces, Negreanu gave up on move 52.

Negreanu had a little better luck as black. In a far more tactically complicated match, he managed to give up his queen for a small advantage in material.

It didn't last long, and Negreanu found his pieces whittled away to nothing by a series of queen forks from xQc. Negreanu resigned once again and had to settle for second-seed in his group.

Negreanu was disappointed with his "ugly, brain fogged performance" and claimed he was "genuinely embarrassed how poorly [he] played."

But he was pleased to have "still advanced in the championship bracket" where he will be taking on "benjyfishy" on Tuesday.

Featured image source: Flickr by Angie Garrett.