Daniel Negreanu has been pouring his heart and soul into training for his heads-up match with Doug Polk.
The two players have whole teams of coaches and analysts running simulations, crunching numbers, and reviewing hand histories. The game doesn’t feel like the Johnny Moss v. Nick Dandalos set up of 1951 (or ’49 if you believe Moss’s account). Instead, it’s more like a boxing match or the man v. machine chess matches against Kasparov.
As the two soft-machines grind on against each other, Negreanu’s also been putting some effort of his own into mimicking Kasparov more literally. His chess.com records show in the first two weeks of 2021 that he’s already played around 80 games of chess at the 10-minute time limits alone.
Now he’s giving up more time from poker study, to push wood with Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura.
Nakamura is the best in the world at 10 minute or shorter time limits (known as Blitz under FIDE rules). He’s also top 20 at Standard time limits. But most importantly he’s also a brand ambassador for Chess.com and an active Twitch streamer. So he makes a natural coach for the upcoming PogChamps, a chess tournament in which major Twitch personalities are coached by ChessTwitch stars and then usually compete for a $50,000 prize pool.
This year, that prize pool is doubled.
Last time around Fintan Hand was the the big name to represent PokerTwitch. This year, it’s Negreanu.
The training session between Negreanu and Nakamura seemed to go well with the poker pro tweeting to Hikaru, “This was a blast! I learned so much! Thank you Hikaru you are an excellent and patient teacher.”
Masterclass v. Grandmaster
The lessons with Negreanu were live-streamed on Twitch and uploaded to Nakamura’s YouTube Channel.
The videos start with a quick rundown of Negreanu’s chess history. Negreanu explains that he took up chess as a way of recovering from a debilitating Hearthstone addiction. “I was playing eight, seven hours a day,” Negreanu told the GM.
He then watched Garry Kasparov’s chess masterclass on the same site where Negreanu sells his poker masterclass. Since then he seems to have plateaued. So he seemed very into Nakamura’s training.
Before the event he tweeted, “Looks like I’m getting my first ever chess lesson today and it comes from a guy who might be better than me at chess. No way to know for sure, but thats my educated guess on the matter”
Together they mostly went through thought processes and strategic thinking using Negreanu’s favorite opening, the Danish Gambit, as a guide. In fact, for anyone who wants to give this a go (the main line is: 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 …), the two videos make an excellent introduction to the traps, zaps, and pitfalls of that opening.
Nakamura isn’t only training Negreanu. He has videos of training up already with “Mr Beast” and “Pokimane.” So he has some conflicts of interest.
Nakamura also plays poker from time to time. Perhaps, Negreanu will return the favor and give the GM some heads-up coaching.
For anyone wanting to watch Negreanu play more seriously, the PogChamps will be streaming on Twitch from February 14th, 2021.
Featured image screen capped from YouTube