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    Entries in Hikaru Nakamura (118)

    Friday
    Apr212017

    Catching Up: Zurich, Grenke

    The Korchnoi memorial event in Zurich finished a few days ago, and Hikaru Nakamura won this combined rapid & rapid event. (The first stage was a slow rapid: 45' + 30", and the second was 10' + 5" - a rapid rapid.) The slower portion finished with Hikaru Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi tied in first with 10/14 (5/7 in normal scoring, but as the slower games counted for twice as much as the blitz, the scoring was doubled), a point ahead of Viswanathan Anand and two points ahead of Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler.

    At the shorter time control Nakamura again went 5/7, winning the second portion of the event outright and thereby taking overall first as well. It came down to the wire though, as Nepomniachtchi had White against Grigoriy Oparin. Oparin is young, strong, and talented, but for now he was badly outrated by everyone except for local player Yannick Pelletier. He and Pelletier were the tailenders, so things looked good for Nepo. Had he won he'd have tied for first, and presumably would have had a playoff against Nakamura. Instead, Oparin won, giving Nakamura his third consecutive victory in Zurich.

    Final Combined Standings:

    • 1. Nakamura 15/21
    • 2. Nepomniachtchi 14
    • 3. Anand 13.5
    • 4. Svidler 12
    • 5. Kramnik 11
    • 6. Gelfand 9
    • 7. Oparin 5.5
    • 8. Pelletier 4

    Grenke: This tournament got off to a bang when Hou Yifan won her first two games, over Fabiano Caruana and Georg Meier, to take a full point lead over a field that also included Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Levon Aronian as well. Incredibly, she was close to winning in round three against Carlsen as well, but psyched herself out and let him escape his bad position rather easily with a draw.

    Her punishment was deserved and came in the very next round. Vachier-Lagrave had a much smaller advantage against her than she had against Carlsen, but he kept prodding and testing until she finally cracked. It took 68 moves, but he got the full point, pushing her out of first. The next day she gave up a draw to one of the two players in the event who are lower-rated than she is, so she has fallen out of contention for tournament victory.

    And yet...she is still tied for second, with Carlsen and Caruana, with 3/5, a point behind Levon Aronian. Aronian drew with Meier and Carlsen in the first two rounds, and then went on a tear, winning three in a row. He has defeated MVL, Mathias Bluebaum, and Arkadij Naiditsch. In the next round he plays Hou Yifan, with White. Will he make it four in a row, or will she bounce back and turn this into the tournament of her life?

    Carlsen also has an interesting pairing, with Black against Naiditsch. Carlsen is a favorite, of course, but in the last few years Naiditsch has given him trouble. Naiditsch upset the world champion in the 2014 Olympiad, with Black, and took a couple of games off of him in the same tournament two years ago. As for Caruana, he'll have Black in the next round against Bluebaum.

    Friday
    Apr142017

    Zurich: Four Lead After Three Rounds

    The slow rapid/pseudo classical (G/45 minutes + 30 second increments per move) tournament in Zurich has been very entertaining so far, and after three of seven rounds four players are tied for first place with 2/3 (or rather, 4/6, as the tournament prefers 2-1-0 scoring; perhaps they're boycotting fractions and/or decimal points in Switzerland).

    Vladimir Kramnik has a win and two draws, and was completely winning against Ian Nepomniachtchi in round 2, up a piece for two very inadequate pawns in an endgame. Nepo kept trying and Kramnik either switched off mentally or chose a poor plan, and the game finished in a draw.

    Despite that bit of good luck, Nepomniachtchi was completely winning against Peter Svidler in round 1 and botched it, so two draws instead of a win and a loss came to the same thing. In round 3 he confessed that he would have offered Viswanathan Anand a draw at a certain point, but due to the Sofia rules he had to keep playing, and it paid off when Anand blundered on move 37. (It turns out that he also blundered on move 36, but got away with that one.)

    The third amigo is Svidler, who came back from a somewhat precarious opening position against Hikaru Nakamura in round 3 to win. In a promising position Nakamura switched from plan to plan, and after one switch too many found himself under uncomfortable pressure along the c-file. Breaking it cost him a pawn, and in the resulting heavy piece ending Svidler won a second pawn and the game.

    Nakamura is the fourth player with two out of three, or four out of six, or 754/1508. He defeated tournament underdog Yannick Pelletier and Grigoriy Oparin in rounds 1 and 2, respectively.

    Boris Gelfand has 1.5 points (out of 3), Oparin and Anand have a point apiece, and Pelletier has but a single draw to his credit thus far.

    Before the main event began, the players contested a blitz event to determine pairing numbers. Nakamura and Gelfand tied for first with 4.5/7, Kramnik was third with 4 points, and Nepomniachtchi took fourth on tiebreaks over Anand; both had 3.5 points. The importance of this is that it means he - Nepo - gets an extra game with the white pieces in the main event. Oparin was sixth with 3, and Svidler and Pelletier tied for last with 2.5 points apiece. (You can watch the opening ceremony and the blitz tournament here.)

    Even before that there was another event - but stay tuned for the next post.

    Sunday
    Feb262017

    Catching Up: Gibraltar

    Yes, it's almost ancient history by now, but not quite. I'd mentioned the Gibraltar tournament when it started and never intended to provide daily coverage, but at least three things are worth addressing: the final results, the master classes, and Hou Yifan's protest.

    First then, results: Hikaru Nakamura came from behind to win the main tournament in a playoff over Yu Yangyi and then David Anton Guijarro. Anton led the field by half a point going into the last round, and after a draw with Mickey Adams he was caught by Nakamura and Yu. Anton had the highest TPR of the event, so the format for the playoff required Nakamura and Yu to play a pair of rapid games for the right to play another pair of rapid games with Anton for the title.

    The rapid games were both drawn, so they went on to blitz, and there Nakamura defeated Yu 2-0. The final went more smoothly for Nakamura, drawing with Black and defeating Anton with White to win the title.

    Second, master classes: Hou Yifan and Veselin Topalov gave special, prepared lectures during the tournament; this is a tournament tradition. They (and the 2016 master classes as well) can be accessed here.

    Third and finally, Hou Yifan's protest. Judit Polgar decided in her earliest teenage years to forsake the world of women's chess and to focus only on playing in the best events she could. Her decision paid off, as she became not simply the strongest female player in the world by a significant margin, but one of the best players in the world, period, peaking at #8.

    Hou Yifan took longer to come to the same point, but her dissatisfaction with how FIDE conducts the women's world championship and the realization that she has to play stronger opponents to improve has recently brought her around as well. So imagine her surprise and dismay when after nine of the 10 rounds at Gibraltar, seven of her games were against women. She had complained about it earlier in the event, but she made her displeasure even clearer in the final round, uncorking this immortal game:

    Hou Yifan - Lalith Babu M R:

    1.g4? d5 2.f3? e5 3.d3 Qh4+ 4.Kd2 h5 5.h3 hxg4 0-1

    What's wrong with this, you ask? Plenty.

    (1) Protesting in the last round comes too late to fix the problem.

    (2) Protesting when facing a male opponent, the "kind" of opponent she expected to play, doesn't make any sense.

    (3) The loss costs other players money. Given the reasonable likelihood of a draw in the course of a normal game, the players who tied for a prize with Lalith were potentially cheated out of some money.

    (4) Throwing a game, as opposed to forfeiting (a la Fischer in game 2 in 1972 or Kramnik in game 5 of the 2006 world championship match) is unethical.

    (5) No proof or even evidence was supplied to show that the pairings had been rigged by the organizers. As they pointed out, and no doubt pointed out to her if she raised the issue earlier in the tournament, they are done by computer. Pairing programs have been around for decades, and it would be easy to replicate their results.

    (6) The organizers have been fans of Hou Yifan's for years, and as noted above had invited her to give one of this year's Master Class lectures. Why would they suddenly act antagonistically towards her? It doesn't make much sense.

    I add that I'm a fan of hers, and approve wholeheartedly of her decision to eschew the women's world championship cycles to focus on becoming the best player she possibly can. Her frustration was understandable, but the protest doesn't seem to be defensible.

    Friday
    Dec162016

    2016 London Chess Classic, Round 7: Four Draws and a Spectacular Nakamura Win

    There was only one decisive game in round 7, but it was a very good one. After losing with Black in a Delayed Poisoned Pawn in round 6, Hikaru Nakamura decided to try things from the white side against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Like Fabiano Caruana the day before, he too was successful, winning a spectacular (though slightly imperfect) game.

    The other four games were drawn, three of them in the Queen's Gambit Declined with 5.Bf4. Two of them (So-Kramnik and Aronian-Anand) were short draws, of interest only to those concerned with making short, comfortable draws with Black. In the third game, Anish Giri managed to get a position where he could bother Veselin Topalov forever, and given Topalov's extremely bad form in the tournament the situation seemed exceptionally promising. Unfortunately for Giri, when Topalov did give him chances he didn't do anything with them, and eventually Giri stopped trying after 67 moves. That stopped the bleeding for Topalov, while giving Giri his seventh consecutive draw in the tournament.

    The fourth draw was an English Opening between Mickey Adams and Fabiano Caruana, a correct draw where Adams enjoyed a slight pull throughout. Caruana found an elegant way to eliminate his problems by sacrificing a pawn to reach a drawn opposite-colored bishop ending.

    (Today's games are here, with my annotations.)

    Caruana thus remains in second place, half a point behind So, and they play tomorrow with Caruana getting the white pieces. Nakamura is a further half a point behind, and will need everything to go right for him and wrong for So in the next two rounds if he is to have a chance of overtaking him in the overall standings for the Grand Chess Tour. Here are tomorrow's pairings:

    • Nakamura (4) - Aronian (3.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (3) - Adams (3)
    • Caruana (4.5) - So (5)
    • Kramnik (4) - Giri (3.5)
    • Topalov (1) - Anand (3.5)

    Thursday
    Nov102016

    Champions Showdown, Starting Now!

    It's Veselin Topalov vs. Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand vs. Hikaru Nakamura, starting now in St. Louis. As mentioned a few days ago, this is a three-part tournament: two classical round robins, followed by a double round robin in rapid, concluding in a quadruple round robin in blitz.

    Official site here.

    Friday
    Nov042016

    2016 Champions Showdown in St. Louis

    There is that little match in New York coming up, it's true, but in St. Louis there will be a very strong and entertaining event overlapping for part of the world championship match. The 2016 Champions Showdown in St. Louis runs from November 10-14, a three-stage tournament featuring Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, and Veselin Topalov. The first three days are for a classical round robin, day four will feature a double round robin with a rapid time control, and the last day will be a quadruple round robin in blitz.

    It'll be a great few weeks for chess fans - especially in the United States. (Apologies to European readers and others who will stay awake to crazy hours of the morning following all the action.)

    Friday
    Sep302016

    Carlsen vs. Nakamura Blitz Battle Set for October 27

    More info here.

    Wednesday
    Aug242016

    The Grandmaster Blitz Battle Continues: Carlsen-Grischuk Yesterday; Nakamura-MVL Coming Up

    No spoilers here for those of you who missed yesterday's action, fear not. You can watch the semi-final match between Magnus Carlsen and Alexander Grischuk here (the report is here, for those who don't care about spoilers); while the second semi-final in Chess.com's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship, between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura, will start at 1 p.m. ET. (Viewing instructions here.)

    Thursday
    Jul142016

    Bilbao, Round 1: Nakamura Beats Carlsen!

    Good news, Chicago Cubs fans: anything is possible! In round 1 of the Bilbao Final Masters Hikaru Nakamura finally did something he hadn't done in his entire career: defeat Magnus Carlsen in a game with a classical time control. The game didn't get off to an auspicious start, as Carlsen obtained a very pleasant advantage on the white side of a Fianchetto Dragon, but when Carlsen chose a badly flawed plan Nakamura seized the advantage, increased it, and - most importantly - kept it. Carlsen resigned shortly after the time control was made, and the impossible dream proved possible after all.

    That puts Nakamura in first with three points on Bilbao's 3-1-0 scoring system, two points ahead of Sergey Karjakin, Wesley So, Anish Giri, and Wei Yi. The Karjakin-So game was a well-played game where White did most of the pressing but not to the point where Black was in serious trouble, while Giri did have a serious advantage for a while against Wei Yi, but didn't manage to convert.

    The games, with reasonably substantive notes to Carlsen-Nakamura, are here. The round 2 pairings are:

    • So - Nakamura
    • Wei Yi - Carlsen
    • Karjakin - Giri

    Monday
    Jul042016

    Dates Set for the Grandmaster Battle Blitz Championship

    The semi-final matches Magnus Carlsen vs. Alexander Grischuk and Hikaru Nakamura vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave have been set; they will take place on August 18 and August 24, respectively.