Hikaru Nakamura finished his 4-game match with David Navara on a high note, winning the game to complete a very convincing victory. (To Navara's credit, he maintained a sense of humor, setting up a self-mate on the final move.) With this success Nakamura picked up 12 rating points and has moved up to #5 on the live rating list. Well done!
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After a couple of losses, David Navara at least got to do the pressing in game 3 of his four-game match with Hikaru Nakamura. Ultimately he won a pawn in a rook ending, but with limited material and all the pawns on the same side of the board it wasn't nearly enough to win. The match concludes tomorrow.
American #1 and world #7 Hikaru Nakamura is taking on Czech #1 and world #25 David Navara in a four-game match in Prague. Game 1 was today and was won by Nakamura with the black pieces.
It's early days yet for FIDE's rapid and blitz ratings, but it's so far, so good for U.S. #1 and world #7 (in classical chess) Hikaru Nakamura, who tops both of the new top 100 lists. World Champion Magnus Carlsen, incidentally, is #4 on both lists, but with the rapid and blitz world championships coming next month expect him to give an extra effort to "fix" the situation.
Here's a wide-ranging interview, closing with a few comments about Vugar Gashimov and the memorial tournament in his honor starting in a few days.
(HT: Jaideep Unudurti)
Magnus Carlsen had a very bad time of things in the (quick) rapid games on Tuesday, and came close to losing his lead at the Zurich Chess Challenge. Close, but not close enough for Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana to catch him. All three players won their first game - Carlsen over Boris Gelfand, Aronian over Viswanathan Anand and Caruana over Hikaru Nakamura - and it looked like the deal was done. Carlsen enjoyed a two point lead over Aronian and a three point lead on Caruana, with just four games to go.
But then it got interesting. Aronian outplayed Carlsen and won handily to close to within a point. Caruana only drew with Gelfand, so he only closed his gap to two and a half points. In round 3 Carlsen drew with Nakamura, and while Aronian remained a point behind after a draw with Gelfand, Caruana got another half a point closer by defeating Anand. (That was three losses in a row for Anand, incidentally.)
Round 4 was the big chance. Caruana outplayed Carlsen, coming to within a single point of the leader. Had Aronian managed to defeat Nakamura, he would have caught Carlsen in first. Nakamura has been a regular "customer" of his for some time now, but not today. Nakamura won a good game, and so Aronian remained a point behind.
Round 5 was a mere formality. Carlsen had White against Anand, and cynically (but understandably) repeated game 8 of their match pretty much move for move. The players conducted the whole game at blitz tempo, called it a draw, and Carlsen clinched. (I enjoyed Nakamura's disdainful expression as he looked up at the electronic display as this was going on.) Caruana and Aronian played a real game, which also ended in a draw, and thus they finished tied for second, a point behind Carlsen. (Caruana took second on tiebreak.) Here are the full final standings:
1. Carlsen 10 (out of 15 - the classical games were scored double)
2. Caruana 9
3. Aronian 9
4. Nakamura 7.5 (he finished the rapid with a very strong 3.5/4)
5. Anand 5
6. Gelfand 4.5
Here are two interesting quotations from Hikaru Nakamura. First, from his Twitter account last year, after Magnus Carlsen won the title:
Starting to realize that I am the only person who is going to be able to stop Sauron in the context of chess history.
Second, there's this from the cover of the latest issue of New In Chess Magazine. [N.B. I haven't received my copy yet, and perhaps all is clearly explained therein.]
I do feel that at the moment I am the biggest threat to Carlsen.
I think this may be an example of what psychologists call precommitment: one removes possible paths of escape so that he has no choice but to face a particular challenge. Given this lack of choice, moreover, one is likelier to muster one's full effort - the only way out is through, as the saying goes.
Objectively, these remarks are doubly dubious. First, he has never beaten Carlsen in a classical game, so it's hard to see why Middle Earth should put its ("preciousssss"?) resources behind H.N. Baggins. Second, while Levon Aronian perhaps showed a little psychological weakness in his final round game with Carlsen in last year's Sinquefield Cup, why not go for him? He's the world's clear #2 at the moment, and there's no obvious reason why he couldn't beat Carlsen in a match; likewise Vladimir Kramnik when he is on song. I don't mean that either would be a favorite against Carlsen, but if we're discussing "best chances" they look like the best options at the moment. One might also wonder why Nakamura is a better option for the next cycle than some of the younger players coming up, like Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri. None of this is to deny that Nakamura could have his chances as well, only the plausibility of his statements.
As a practical matter though, it's quite interesting. By making such a bold statement he is putting pressure on himself to deliver results, and if that's what he needs to train his best it may be a good strategy. I get the feeling too that Nakamura's remarks about Carlsen get under the latter's skin a little. More than once - including after their game today - I've seen Carlsen rankle a bit when any suggestion arises that Nakamura is an especially difficult opponent for him. Maybe irritating cool customer Carlsen is also part of the plan.
Are Nakamura's comments exemplars of the best kind of sportsmanship? Perhaps not, but they're not really rude, either. I think they're primarily his attempt to psych himself up, and they're a little amusing too - at least the one calling Carlsen "Sauron". So let's end this post on appropriately absurd and light note: