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    Entries in Hikaru Nakamura (167)

    Tuesday
    Jul022019

    Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History Podcast, Guest-Starring Hikaru Nakamura and Puzzle Rush

    Malcolm Gladwell's "Revisionist History" podcast is always extremely interesting, whether one agrees with his (occasionally sweeping) claims or not, and the new episodes of season 4 are no exception. It's a two-part episode on the LSAT (the Law School Admissions Test required for those hoping to attend law school in the U.S.) and on what he takes to be the misplaced emphasis placed on solving the LSAT's questions especially quickly.

    In the first episode (see the link above and scroll down), after setting up the issue, he takes a digression into the world of chess. He interviews Hikaru Nakamura, asking him how he would rate his chances against Magnus Carlsen if both players had 30 minutes a move, in ordinary classical chess, in blitz chess and in (original recipe) bullet chess (1'+0"); and then there's some discussion of Nakamura's prowess at Chess.com's Puzzle Rush as well.

    You'll enjoy the episodes, I think, altogether aside from the chess cameo, but you'll probably be frustrated by the end of the second episode. (And Gladwell's after-credits tease rubs it in. The stinker.)

    Thursday
    May232019

    Moscow Grand Prix, Round 3, Day 1: Two Draws

    Both games were drawn, but they were not perfunctory exercises in make-believe on the way to the blitz tiebreaks. They had genuine content.

    With Black in a Giuoco Piano against Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Grischuk found a nice pawn sac in the opening that gave him excellent play with the bishop pair. At some point late in the game Grischuk obtained an advantage that was bordering on something serious, but it never quite consolidated into something tangible, and they called it a day shortly before the time control.

    In the second game, Ian Nepomniachtchi went for the 6.Bd3 sideline against Radoslaw Wojtaszek's Najdorf, and was pressing for an edge throughout. As far as I can tell, both players performed very well. Maybe 16...Bf8 is a little more accurate, and perhaps White could pressed a little with a move other than 26.h3 at the end. Najdorf players should have a look at this line: it's not a barn-burner, but it isn't completely toothless, either.

    Tomorrow they do it again with colors reversed; in the meantime, here are today's games, with my notes.

    Thursday
    May232019

    Moscow Grand Prix, Round 2, Day 3: Down to the Final Four

    It was tiebreak time in the quarterfinals of the Moscow Grand Prix, and all three tiebreakers were settled after a pair of rapid games. The smoothest winner was Hikaru Nakamura, who ground out a win with Black against Daniil Dubov in the first game and coasted to a draw in the rematch, having enjoyed a large, even winning advantage almost from start to finish.

    The next match was between Wesley So and Alexander Grischuk. Grischuk achieved an easy draw with Black in the Sveshnikov - and could have played for more at the end - and then ground out a win in the endgame in his white game. He will play Nakamura in the semi-finals.

    That leaves the tiebreaker between Wei Yi and Ian Nepomniachtchi, to see who would face Radoslaw Wojtaszek (who won in the classical portion of the match). Wei Yi had some winning chances in game 1, as his extra piece was more valuable than Black's three scattered pawns. He couldn't find a way to convert his advantage, and in the rematch he lost badly. Within four moves after Nepo improved on an earlier game played against Wei in that same line, unforced errors left him with a completely lost position.

    The tiebreak games, with my annotations, are here. The semi-finals will be played tomorrow/today at the usual time; the only guaranteed rest day comes before the final match.

    Sunday
    May122019

    Abidjan Concludes: Carlsen Wins, Nakamura and MVL Share Second and Third

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the coming man on Saturday, riding an eight-game win streak at one point to put some pressure on Magnus Carlsen and the significant lead he build up in the rapid portion of the Grand Chess Tour event in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Could he come even closer on Sunday?

    In a word: no. In a few more words: he did manage to defeat Magnus Carlsen once again in their head-to-head matchup, but Carlsen played well the rest of the day. He scored 6.5 points from his other 8 games, outscoring Vachier-Lagrave by a point today and finishing three and a half points ahead of MVL and Hikaru Nakamura. His form was more impressive today, and with four dominant days out of the five he was a very deserved winner with 26.5 points out of 36.

    MVL played extremely well on days 3 and 4 and deserved his high placement, as did Nakamura. Vachier-Lagrave wound up the overall winner of the blitz, finishing half a point ahead of Carlsen and a point ahead of Nakamura. (He did end up a hair behind Carsen in the blitz ratings though - 1.4 points behind Carlsen, which will be two points when their ratings are rounded off at the end of the month.) Aside from his entirely unnecessary loss to Bassem Amin on day 2 he performed extremely well in the rapid, and while the first day of the blitz was a disaster by his standards he played very well in the second day of the blitz. He started today with 6.5/8, including a victory over Vachier-Lagrave in the day's third round, and was only stopped by Magnus Carlsen in the last round.

    The next finisher, Wesley So, was another three and a half points behind Nakamura and MVL. 19.5/36 is a very good score in such a field, even if it left him a full seven points behind Carlsen. Ding Liren finished another point behind, and everyone else finished with a minus score. Here are the final, combined standings:

    1. Carlsen 26.5 (out of 36)
    2-3. Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave 23
    4. So 19.5
    5. Ding Liren 18.5
    6. Wei Yi 16.5
    7-8. Nepomniachtchi, Karjakin 15.5
    9. Topalov 11.5
    10. Amin 10.5

    Sunday
    Mar312019

    2019 U.S. Championship: Nakamura Wins His 5th Title

    It's always great fun when a tournament comes down to the wire (unless one is a participant in the event and wants to win it with room to spare), and that's what happened at the 2019 U.S. Championship. Three players led going into the last round, and there was even a tiny chance that it could have been a four-way tie for first at the end of the round. Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez, and Fabiano Caruana all began the day with 7/10, with Wesley So a point behind them.

    So's chances were slim at best, and it turned out that he lost ground, losing to 15-year-old Awonder Liang, whose rating will now cross the 2600 threshold. Congratulations to the youngster!

    Caruana had Black against Sam Shankland, and he got nothing. He chose a very solid opening choice, and while it was good enough for an easy draw there was no opportunity for more.

    The race between Nakamura and Dominguez, however, did come down to the wire. On paper Dominguez had the better chances, with White against pre-round tailender Timur Gareyev, while Nakamura had Black against Jeffery Xiong. Unlike Caruana, Nakamura took some chances, playing the Dutch to create an imbalanced position. Yes, he was worse coming out of the opening, but it wasn't so bad that Xiong could coast to victory of even to a safe draw if he was so inclined. Dominguez, meanwhile, obtained a clear advantage against Gareyev, and the Championship debutant seemed on his way to the title.

    It was not to be. Nakamura maintained the tension and outmaneuvered Xiong, whose 23rd move got him into some hot water and whose 32nd move cost him the game. It was also move 32 that spoiled Dominguez's chances. Instead of 32.Qe4 he played 32.Rd2, which was met by the terrific 32...Ncd4, ultimately sacrificing a piece for a passer on b2 that tied White down. Dominguez gave it his best shot, but there was no win to be had.

    Nakamura thus won his fifth championship and continued his climb back up the rating list. Congratulations!

    Congratulations are also in order for Jennifer Yu, who won yet again to finish with a fantastic score of 10/11, a TPR of 2678, and a gain of 96 rating points. Not bad for a week and a half's work for the 17-year-old!

    The games (with my comments) are here, and these are the final standings (of the Open event):

    • 1. Nakamura 8 (of 11)
    • 2-3. Dominguez Perez, Caruana 7.5
    • 4-5. So, Sevian 6
    • 6. Shankland 5.5
    • 7-8. Liang, Xiong 5
    • 9-11. Lenderman, Akobian, Gareyev 4
    • 12. Robson 3.5

    Monday
    Mar252019

    U.S. Championship, Round 6: Nakamura Leads, Caruana Finally Wins a Game

    I was hoping to reverse jinx Fabiano Caruana in a recent post, and it looks like I succeeded: he defeated Jeffery Xiong convincingly to end his crazy 27 game winless streak in classical chess. It was just in time, too; another non-win and Caruana would have slipped behind Ding Liren into third place on the live rating list. Instead, he knocked Xiong out of the five-way tie for first in the U.S. Championship and entered the time himself...or would have, except that another pre-round leader, Hikaru Nakamura, won his game.

    Nakamura's opponent was Gareyev, and for a change it wasn't Gareyev's propensity for opening adventures that got him in trouble. He was doing fine with Black against Nakamura, but after the opening Nakamura bulldozed him, winning easily. It wasn't so many years ago that Gareyev was a serious, up-and-coming player (he was rated 2682 in February 2013), but in recent years he has been more engaged with blindfold chess and living an adventurous life in general. It's probably exactly the life he wants to live, it's just that it hasn't worked wonders for his skill in classical chess, and it has shown in this tournament. He is in last place, and his score could easily have been at least a point lower than it is.

    The day's other winner was Awonder Liang, who made better use of his extra exchange than Varuzhan Akobian did of his central pawn mass. The game was a sharp Winawer (but I repeat myself), and for a long time Black had nothing to complain about. Some players, going back to Bobby Fischer, hold Black's position in the Winawer in some contempt, but for decade after decade it has proved exceptionally difficult for White to prove a meaningful advantage against it. (That said, it's challenging for Black to prove that he's okay, too. It's tough for everyone.)

    The remaining four games were drawn, with the most noteworthy case being Leinier Dominguez's inability once again to convert a serious advantage, this time against Wesley So. Dominguez still seems to be suffering from his long absence from tournament play, an absence occasioned by his transfer of federation from Cuba to the U.S.

    Having passed the halfway point, the players finally get a rest day on Tuesday, and resume action on Wednesday. Here are today's games, with my comments, and here are the pairings for round 7 (of 11):

    • Gareyev (2) - Caruana (3.5)
    • Akobian (2) - Nakamura (4)
    • Shankland (2.5) - Liang (2.5)
    • Robson (3) - Sevian (3.5)
    • Dominguez (3.5) - Lenderman (3)
    • Xiong (3) - So (3.5)

    Monday
    Feb252019

    The Champions Showdown: The Rapid Leaders Keep Their Leads to the End

    The Champions Showdown was a fun event with lots of decisive results. The play was entertaining and the openings were lively. It was everything a fan could hope for - except for the almost complete lack of drama. Some of the blitz matches were close, taken just as blitz matches, but with the exception of a brief flurry near the end of the match between Veselin Topalov and Leinier Dominguez, there was hardly a stich of doubt about who would win what match shortly after the start of the blitz portion.

    The match between Fabiano Caruana and Pentala Harikrishna was exceptionally lopsided, with Caruana keeping his foot on the gas throughout the first day. Caruana stumbled a bit on day 2, but still won the blitz portion 17.5-6.5 and won overall with an enormous 35.5-12.5 victory.

    Hikaru Nakamura's lead over Jan-Krzysztof Duda was only 14-10 after the rapid games, but when he began the blitz with a 5.5-1.5 run it was pretty clear that the player who has generally been considered the best player in the world, barring only Magnus Carlsen, was going to stroll to victory. He won the blitz 15.5-8.5 and finished a 29.5-18.5 winner overall.

    Wesley So led David Navara by a very comfortable 16-8 margin after the rapid games, and led the blitz portion past the halfway point of that part of the competition. Navara went on a nice run to almost win the blitz, but So won the last two games to tie the blitz 12-12 and take the match with an overall score of 28-20.

    Veselin Topalov led Leinier Dominguez 15-9 after the rapid games, and went +1 in day 1 of the blitz (6.5-5.5). But then Dominguez caught fire. After a draw to open day 2 he won, drew, won twice more, drew again and scored another win. That brought the score to 23-20 in Topalov's favor, and when Topalov won game 44 he was just a draw away from sealing match victory. Dominguez won game 45, but Topalov drew game 46 and the last two games as well to sneak home with a 25.5-22.5 victory despite losing the blitz by a 13.5-10.5 score.

    Finally, Richard Rapport entered the rapid with a crushing 18-6 lead over Sam Shankland. Shankland was much more competitive in the blitz, but Rapport won that as well, 13.5-10.5 to win the match 31.5-16.5.

    A good time was had by all, especially since the winners made $36,000 each and the losers were consoled with $24,000 checks. Not bad for a week's work!

    Friday
    Feb222019

    The Champions Showdown: Mostly Blowouts After the Rapid Stage

    After three days and 12 rapid games, four of the five matches of the Champions Showdown in St. Louis are practically over, barring major comebacks from those who are trailing. The rapid games count double, and the 12 games are equal in value to the 24 blitz games coming over the next two days. Here are the standings so far:

    Caruana 18 - Harikrishna 6

    Nakamura 14 - Duda 10

    So 16 - Navara 8

    Topalov 15 - Dominguez 9

    Rapport 18 - Shankland 6

    Fabiano Caruana came out smoking against Pentala Harikrishna the first two days, going 3.5-.5 (7-1) each of the first two days. His first (and so far only) win in the rapid came in the first game today, but Caruana won in game two and drew the remaining games to maintain an enormous lead.

    Richard Rapport won the first three games of the match against Sam Shankland to put heavy pressure on the American. Shankland stopped the bleeding for a while, (barely) drawing the last game on day 1 and the first three games of day 2. He suffered a very unnecessary loss in the last game of day 2, but started day three with a win. Unfortunately for him, the series of six games with even results was punctuated by three more losses, bookending the start of the match.

    The match between Wesley So and David Navara was closely contested at first. Navara won game 1, and although So finished the first day at +1 Navara struck back at the start of day 2 to equalize the scores. But then So took over, winning four in a row (= an eight-point lead), setting the margin that is present going into the blitz.

    Veselin Topalov and Leinier Dominguez were equal after two days, with one win by each player and six draws, but day three was a disaster for Dominguez and a triumph for Topalov. Dominguez drew the second game and lost the rest, and trails by six points heading into the blitz.

    The closest match is the one between Hikaru Nakamura and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and if Duda had won the last game instead of losing it it would have been tied. With Duda having finished as the runner-up in the World Blitz Championship a couple of months ago, it would be premature to claim that the match is over - though I'd still expect Nakamura to pull out match victory.

     

     

    Thursday
    Feb142019

    The Next Big Event: The 2019 Champions Showdown

    Hopefully everyone is enjoying Valentine's Day with someone they love. (Unless you're a little kid, in which case all that romantic stuff is icky. For you, be happy - the day is almost done!) Here's some good chess news to go along with your romantic bliss: a very high-level rapid & blitz event starts in less than a week.

    It's the 2019 Champions Showdown in St. Louis, and it features the United States' Fab Five (note the extra pun, free of charge) taking on five challengers from the rest of the world (ROW). There will be three days of rapid play and two days of blitz, and these are the matchups:

    • Fabiano Caruana vs. Pentala Harikrishna
    • Hikaru Nakamura vs. Jan-Krzysztof Duda
    • Wesley So vs. David Navara
    • Leinier Dominguez vs. Veselin Topalov
    • Sam Shankland vs. Richard Rapport

    I'm pretty excited about the event, and it will be nice to see Caruana and especially the long inactive Dominguez back in action. I think the Americans will be favorites on every board, though I wouldn't be shocked to see the ROWers win one or two of the first, fourth, or fifth matches.

    Here are the specifics:

    The event runs from February 20-24, and play each day starts at 1 p.m. local time (= 2 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CET). The first three days will be devoted to rapid chess, the last two to blitz. There will be 12 rapid games - 4 per day - and 24 blitz games - 12 per day. The rapid time control is 15' + 10" (an increment, thankfully, not the abominable Bronstein delay) and the blitz control is 3' + 2". The rapid games are scored 2-1-0, the blitz games 1-.5-0, with the prize money in each match awarding $36,000 to the winner and $24,000 to the loser. If the match finishes in a tie, that's it: the money is split and there's no playoff.

    Monday
    Dec172018

    London Chess Classic, The Grand Finale: Draw, Draw, Draw, Draw, Draw...Win!

    It's becoming nightmarish, but at least we can console ourselves with the fact that five of the six games between Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian had a winner, and it wasn't a whitewash either: Caruana won three of those games and won their third-place match. At the top though, between now-former world blitz #1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and world blitz #3 (but maybe de facto #2) Hikaru Nakamura wins were harder to come by.

    Both of their rapid games finished in a draw, and so did the first three blitz games. A playoff was averted, however, as Team Nakamura found an opening wrinkle for the last blitz game, and Vachier-Lagrave was unable to cope with it at the board in the limited time afforded by that format. MVL went wrong, Nakamura won, and took the Grand Chess Tour championship title for 2018 (and a bunch of money with it). Not a bad finish to the year at all, winning this and Chess.com's Speed Chess Championship a week ago, and he can put a capstone on the end of the year at the World Rapid & Blitz Championship in a week or so. It won't be easy of course, not least because Magnus Carlsen will be playing.

    The third-place match was MUCH more interesting, partially because of Aronian's free-wheeling style and probably also because the players had less at stake. Amusingly, the most interesting game from one point of view was the draw, as Aronian put Caruana's 10...Rd8!? from game 2 of the world championship match to the test. They followed a correspondence game for 25 and a half moves before something new happened, and Caruana held the draw pretty easily. (I may have found a couple of minor improvements, but Caruana showed that the line was not a one-off bluff.) Caruana won game 2 of the rapid to take a 4-point lead going into the blitz portion of the match, and the remaining games were decisive. (A reminder: the classical scoring - which was irrelevant throughout the competition - was 6-3-0, rapid was 4-2-0, and blitz 2-1-0.)

    Caruana's win was a slight surprise, but Aronian was licking his lips at the prospect of beating up on Caruana in blitz. This optimism seemed justified when he won the first two games to level the scores. Those two games were very difficult to win, but he did it, and in game 3 he had White. A crazy and offbeat London sideline opened the game, and Aronian obtained a serious advantage, though not one where the position has resolved and the advantage is easy to convert. Missing 13.Be5, Aronian's advantage shrunk, disappeared, and then turned into a disadvantage, and Caruana played an excellent game on the way to a comeback victory. In a must-win situation with Black in the last game Aronian went for a sideline of the Modern, but wound up with a poor position. Caruana played very well, and although he might have won faster with more precise play he was in control from start to finish and won convincingly.

    The win should hearten Caruana and his fans, but I stick to what I said in the previous post: Caruana has to make a priority of improving his rapid & blitz chess. Hopefully he's playing in those championships next week as well.

    Tournament website here.