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    Entries in Hikaru Nakamura (100)

    Thursday
    Feb042016

    Nakamura Wins Gibraltar, Defeating Vachier-Lagrave in a Playoff (Plus a Zurich Preview)

    My fantasy of a 13-way tie for first in Gibraltar didn't come to pass, as Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won their games against David Anton and Sebastien Maze, respectively, to finish tied for first with 8/10. The result was a playoff, and after four consecutive draws (of which Nakamura had winning positions in two of them, albeit very briefly in the second) it came down to an Armageddon game. Nakamura won the coin toss and took black, and when he neutralized Vachier-Lagrave's pressure (that was convincingly achieved with 35...Kg7) the latter was forced into some serious risks. Nakamura was up to the challenge, and soon he was up the exchange while MVL was forced to trade queens or lose a knight. He chose a third option - resigning - and Nakamura won the event for the second straight year and the third time overall. (He first won in 2008.)

    Tied for third through eighth places with 7.5 points were, in tiebreak order, Etienne Bacrot, S. P. Sethuraman, Pentala Harikrishna, Gawain Jones, Li Chao, and Emil Sutovsky. The women's prize went to Anna Muzychuk with 7 points, which was a fine score for just about anyone. (By comparison, Viswanathan Anand and Nigel Short wound up with 6.5 points, and Anand had to win his last two games to achieve that. Admittedly, his tournament was a disaster, but there were 2700+ players who, like Muzychuk, scored 7/10 and had perfectly respectable performances.)

    Congratulations to the winners and condolences to the losers. I was going to engage in some speculation about what Anand's performance here might mean for the Candidates' tournament next month (the short answer: I'm inclined to think it doesn't mean much), but since he'll be in action about a week from now in Zurich we should look towards that event, which will feature three other candidates as well - Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian, and Anish Giri. They will be joined by Vladimir Kramnik and Alexei Shirov in a "slow rapid" (G/40' + 10") and blitz competition from February 13-15.

    The Zurich organizer, Oleg Skortsov, is hoping that this time control (or something close to it) will become the new classical time control. Speaking for myself, I would like to see more tournaments with rapid time limits, but I don't want to see slower time controls go extinct, either. It isn't a pleasure playing back-to-back six hours games in Swiss system events, but the value of depth shouldn't be scorned. It too has a place in our chess world. But what say you? Please answer both as a chess fan (what do you like watching when you're watching top grandmasters in action?) and as a chess player.

    Wednesday
    Jan132016

    Komodo Defeats Nakamura in an Odds Match

    Ah, those pesky chess engines. Once upon a time they were toys, then good tools for warming up, then equal competitors, and then superior opponents with whom we could at least compete. Now? Fuhgedaboutit. Even the best players have no chance against them--worse, they can't even hold the balance when receiving odds.

    But they do come close - at least the best humans do. Hikaru Nakamura braved a four-game odds match against the latest and greatest engine at the top of the heap, Komodo 9.3, and the match came down to the wire.

    In game 1 Nakamura had White, and Komodo played without the pawn on f7. That game was drawn, as was game 2, in which Komodo took White and started without the pawn on f2. In the third game the odds were a bit heftier: Komodo had White and played without the rook on a1, in return for which Nakamura played without the N@b8 and started with the rook on that square. That game was also drawn.

    Finally, Nakamura received no extra material at the start of the final game, but if the old adage that a pawn is worth three tempi is true he received its equivalent. Playing White, he was given the moves e4, d4, and Nf3 for free, and then started the game from that point with the move. The engine managed to gradually extinguish White's advantage in a sort of King's Indian, and went on to win a very impressive game culminating in a fine ending.

    Nakamura was in the match all the way, and I wouldn't be shocked if he managed to draw or even win a rematch. Will there be any further contests? Let's hope so, and let's hope that humanity can keep up and not let the quantity of the odds grow any bigger (or at least not much bigger).

    The games can be replayed here.

    Tuesday
    Dec082015

    London Chess Classic, Round 4: Four Draws and a Nakamura Win

    Decisive results aren't exactly falling like leaves in autumn, but it's not for want of effort at the London Chess Classic. Magnus Carlsen tried until move 78 to beat Michael Adams, and Veselin Topalov went to move 83 trying to defeat Fabiano Caruana, but the defense held in both cases. Alexander Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave "only" went to move 43, but their game was a thriller, with both sides playing very accurately in a game that was complicated from start to finish. For Grischuk it was especially impressive, as he had to wend his way through a difficult position in severe time trouble. The fourth draw was fairly short, between Anish Giri and Levon Aronian, but it had its interesting moments early on before it flickered out.

    The fifth game had a winner - the third win in the tournament. Hikaru Nakamura came into today's game with Viswanathan Anand with a 5-1 score against him in decisive classical games, and now it's 6-1. Nakamura steered the game towards a Catalan sideline, which Anand met with an interesting pawn sacrifice. Black's compensation was at least nearly sufficient, but that and the general complexion of the game changed after Anand's 24...Qa4?!, sidelining the queen. Anand hoped that the queen would prove active here; unfortunately for him, it was anything but. The queen was stuck, and after 30...g6 31.h5 g5 Black's weakened kingside allowed Nakamura to transfer his knight from a3 to f5, resulting in a speedy win. (The games can be replayed here, with my notes to several of them.)

    Nakamura thus joins Giri and Vachier-Lagrave in the lead with a +1 score. Topalov lost to the latter two and remains alone in the cellar, half a point behind Anand and a full point behind the four players who are on 50%. Here are the pairings for round 5:

    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Giri (2.5)
    • Caruana (2) - Grischuk (2)
    • Anand (1.5) - Topalov (1)
    • Adams (2) - Nakamura (2.5)
    • Aronian (2) - Carlsen (2)

    Saturday
    Nov212015

    Caruana Wins the Showdown in St. Louis, Hou Wins the Undercard

    Slightly old news, yes, but compensation is forthcoming. From Friday the 12th through Monday the 15th of this month the top two players in the U.S., world #5 Hikaru Nakamura and world #6 Fabiano Caruana faced off in a four day, four stage match called The Showdown in St. Louis for a hefty prize fund. ($60k for the winner, $40k for the "loser".)

    Day 1 saw them play a Basque match, i.e. a two-board simul against each other. Those games were played with a classical time control, and while Caruana had good winning chances in both Nakamura managed to hold the draw in each case.

    Day 2 was the best day of the event for Nakamura, who won the Chess960 games (played at a rapid time control) by a 2.5-1.5 score. He lost the first game, won the next two and finished with a draw. All the games in the match were weighted equally, so after two days Nakamura led 3.5-2.5.

    Day 3 was what Jennifer Shahade aptly called "rapid rapid" - game 15'+10" - and in this stage Caruana took over. Nakamura was winning the first game, but by the end was fortunate to draw. Caruana won the second game when Nakamura made an astounding, beginner's error in the opening of game two. The next two games were similar: Nakamura was very close to winning game three, which was eventually drawn, while Caruana won another (relatively) clean game in round 4 to close out the day with a 3-1 lead in the stage and a 5.5-4.5 overall lead.

    Day 4 saw the players go at it in an eight-game blitz match, and while one would normally expect Nakamura to be the favorite it was Caruana who dominated. There were lots of errors, as you'd expect from a blitz match - especially on day four of a tough event - and Caruana won the stage with a 4.5-3.5 victory that included a last-round loss from what had been an equal-to-better position almost throughout. Te final match score was 10-8 in Caruana's favor.

    In the undercard, Parimarjan Negi and Hou Yifan played the same schedule against each other, and Hou Yifan was the dominant victor, winning by an 11-7 score. That's even more impressive, considering she lost both of the Basque games on day 1, but after that she steamrolled Negi, winning the Chess960 3.5-.5 (Negi drew the fourth game), the rapid 3-1 (Negi won game 2), and the blitz 4.5-3.5. Hou earned $30k, Negi $20k.

    The latter match was quite entertaining, and certainly of greater theoretical interest as the players went after each other in one Sicilian after another. However, and possibly unfortunately, I've undertaken to offer comments to all 14 of the orthodox chess games (for one thing, I couldn't find the Chess960 games) in the Caruana-Nakamura contest, and you can replay them all here.

    Monday
    Oct192015

    Upsets at the European Club Cup

    Their teams won their round 2 matches at the European Club Cup even without their help, but it was still a shocking day for Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri, as they both lost to "mere" 2550-level grandmasters. Badly, too, especially in Nakamura's case. The American #1 and (now-former) world #2 was convincingly beaten by Yannick Pelletier while Giri was defeated by Vlastimil Babula.

    In fact it was almost a triple defeat for the world's super-elite as Sergey Karjakin was on the ropes against Christian Bauer, and had he lost his team (which included Nakamura) would have drawn against their massively outrated opponents. Fortunately for them, Karjakin continued his alchemy, again turning lead into gold and pulling out a victory.

    Thursday
    Oct152015

    Nakamura-Caruana in November, Plus an Undercard, Plus the European Team Championship

    It looks like Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana will engage in a sort of tetrathlon in St. Louis next month. From the 12th through the 15th they will compete against each other in Chess960 (4 games at 20' + 10"), rapid (4 15' + 10" games), blitz (8 games at 3' + 2") and blindfold (not sure about the details). The games in each discipline count equally, and the overall winner of the match gets $60,000 while the loser gets $40,000.

    Meanwhile, there will be a concurrent match between Hou Yifan and Indian star (and Stanford student) Parimarjan Negi. I believe (but am not positive) that they will follow the same format.

    It looks entertaining, though chess fans won't be hurting for excitement as the European Team Championship also starts November 12, and includes Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk and many, many more superstars of the game.

    Tuesday
    Oct132015

    Nakamura Wins The Millionaire Open

    More precisely, Hikaru Nakamura won the top prize in the open section of the Millionaire Open; they were plenty of other sections and major prize winners. He was a convincing winner in the final, defeating Le Quang Liem 1.5-.5, winning the first game in great style and giving a charity draw in the sequel from a winning position.

    Before that, however, things weren't so smooth for him. The mini-match against Yu Yangyi began well for Nakamura, as he achieved an easy draw with Black in a 5.Re1 Anti-Berlin. In the second g/25', however, he was in real trouble. Had Yu played 27...Qd3 Nakamura would have had a lot of work ahead of him to save the game and the match. He finally escaped, but again got in trouble in the first of the g/15's. It was another 5.Re1 Anti-Berlin, and Yu came up with the interesting 13.c4. Nakamura didn't find the best way to react to this idea and was soon in serious trouble. Again his opponent missed his chance, playing a4 one move too late, and Nakamura managed to draw again. Finally, he broke through in game 4. Yu played the opening rather strangely, going into a Sveshnikov from a 3.g3 Anti-Taimanov(!) a tempo down. Nakamura played very well, dominated the game and won the match.

    In the other semi-final Le Quang Liem overcame Aleks Lenderman in two games. In the first game Lenderman was probably alright after the opening. He equalized, I think, but had to play the sharp 16...g5. Instead he chose the very natural 16...Nd6, probably missing 17.Nd4 (with a host of nasty threats), and after that he could never really catch up. Le won a terrific game, forcing Lenderman to win the rematch in order to force a second pair of games. Lenderman got off to a great start, too, and had a big, even winning advantage through most of the early going. His last chance to (probably) win the game was on move 32, when maintaining the position would have left Le with a horrible position. Instead, he tried to force the issue with 32.b4?, entering a tactical morass that Le handled better than he did. Lenderman still had some chances over the course of the game to make a draw, but since that's as good as a loss he kept on pressing, eventually resulting in a second win for Le.

    In the final, everything went Nakamura's way. In his white game Le didn't seem to know the line very well, and Nakamura got an advantage that he prosecuted mercilessly. In the second game Le went for tactics, and it rebounded against him. As noted above, Nakamura had a completely winning position when the draw was agreed, sealing the match and the $100,000 first prize. In the consolation match to determine third and fourth places, Yu Yangyi defeated Lenderman 2-0 to take the honors.

    There were many other dramatic matches as well for high-stakes prizes; it looked like a fun event. It looks like Maurice Ashley managed to make it fly after all.

    Monday
    Oct052015

    Good News For U.S. Chess Fans In 2016?

    According to Chess24's report on game 4 of the Svidler-Karjakin match at the World Cup, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said that the 2016 World Championship match will definitely be in the United States, either in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, while the odds on next year's Candidates' tournament being here in the U.S. are about 50%.

    Sounds good to me, especially if Hikaru Nakamura or Fabiano Caruana get a world championship match in New York, where they both used to live.

    Tuesday
    Sep292015

    Nakamura on CNN Money

    Here's a fun, short feature on CNN Money with Hikaru Nakamura that's half profile, half interview, and half commercial for his sponsor.* Enjoy. (HT: Glenn Snow & Jay Carr.)

    * My math is a tribute to the late, great Yogi Berra.

    Monday
    Sep212015

    World Cup 2015: Round 4, Day 2 - Four Match Winners, Four Tiebreaks Tomorrow

    After yesterday's games four players were one draw away from advancing to the quarter-final round of the 2015 World Cup: Peter Svidler, Hikaru Nakamura, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Ding Liren, who defeated Veselin Topalov, Michael Adams, Fabiano Caruana and Wei Yi, respectively. After today's games, four players have indeed qualified for the quarters, but only three of the four come from the aforementioned quartet.

    Svidler was getting outplayed by Topalov in an Anti-Marshall, but shortly before the time control Topalov let the advantage slip. Worse still for the Bulgarian's fans, his first two moves in the second time control were serious errors, and only the fact that there was still one line at the end where Topalov could at least cause a tiny bit of trouble - a rook down - if Svidler declined the draw offer prompted the Russian to settle for a 1.5-.5 match win.

    Nakamura's troubles, by contrast, were pretty mild. Maybe there was a move or two where Adams had a tiny something in a Berlin ending, but its solidity held up and Nakamura coasted into the 5th round.

    Mamedyarov had a more serious disadvantage on the black side of an Open Ruy against Caruana, but the American's 24th and 25th moves turned out to too accommodating. With 25...Bd5 and especially 26...a5!! Mamedyarov obtained enough counterplay to save the game. Caruana may have thought he would enjoy a big advantage after 26.Bxb5 axb4 27.e6 fxe6 28.Bxc6 Bxc6 29.Ne5, but the ice-cold 29...Bd6! 30.Reg3 Rd7! held everything together. After that the only player with an edge was Mamedyarov, but the draw sufficed and the players repeated moves until splitting the point at the time control.

    That leaves Ding Liren, and the obvious implication that he was defeated in the second game of his match with Wei Yi. Wei Yi outplayed his opponent in another Anti-Marshall (by transposition) and won a pawn, but converting it proved to be exceedingly difficult. Once they reached a rook ending, both players - Wei Yi especially - were quite short of time, and as it was a complex ending both players made errors that could have cost first one and then the other half a point. Ultimately, the practical task facing Ding Liren was too difficult, and his 72nd move lost by force. I suspect that his position was practically hopeless in any case, at least without a lot of time on the clock. Tomorrow, both he and his opponent will have even less time if and when they reach a similar ending; they're headed to tiebreaks.

    Someone who is not headed to tiebreaks: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. (Also his opponent, for that matter.) MVL found himself in a lousy position out of the opening, but Wesley So came up with a very clever combination that was, sadly, too clever by half. The tactical sequence that began with 22.Bxd5? (and was perhaps envisioned on the previous move, which was also inaccurate) came a-cropper when Vachier-Lagrave played 26...Bc6. After that So fought long and hard for a draw, but couldn't quite pull it off. (The subtle 41.Ra7 was his last, best chance to save half a point, with the idea that if Black takes on f2 a series of checks will eventually force Black to cough up his g-pawn. Instead, 41.Rf6 allowed Black to lock up his remaining kingside pawns in a way that guaranteed that the h-pawn would survive and that Black could swap off the rooks.)

    The other three matches saw draws and will see tiebreaks. Radoslaw Wojtaszek had an advantage against Anish Giri, but didn't manage to turn his space advantage into something more tangible. Pavel Eljanov played 60 moves against Dmitry Jakovenko, enjoying a slight advantage the whole time, but never came even a little close to getting anything serious. Finally, Sergey Karjakin and Dmitry Andreikin played on a little longer than they did yesterday, but it was always clear that they were headed for a short day and tomorrow's tiebreaks.

    Interestingly, none of the round 5 matches are settled, as all of the round 4 winners must wait for tomorrow's tiebreakers to determine their opponents.