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    Entries in Hikaru Nakamura (53)

    Monday
    Oct272014

    Tashkent Grand Prix, Round 6: Andreikin, Nakamura Lead

    It was another day of aggressive chess in Tashkent, and those who started the game with an advantage didn't necessarily finish it that way.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave came up with an interesting but possibly dubious novelty in the Gruenfeld, and Boris Gelfand seemed to have a significant advantage. It soon slipped away though, and later it was "MVL" who stood better and could have obtained a rook ending with a solid extra pawn. He missed his chance too, and the game wound up drawn. Another drawn game with shifting fortunes was the battle of the Americans (thinking hopefully here): Fabiano Caruana had an extra pawn, and while Hikaru Nakamura had some compensation Caruana probably could have extinguished it with a sufficient stretch of precise play. By the end, however, Nakamura was even pressing a little, though it wasn't enough.

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played an offbeat Vienna against Rustam Kasimdzhanov and was worse, but as the game grew more complicated and time grew short it was hard for Kasimdzhanov to keep Mamedyarov's initiative under control. A couple of serious errors later, Kasimdzhanov lost.

    The other decisive game was won by Dmitry Andreikin, against Sergey Karjakin. Andreikin went for a sharp line of the Torre Attack, and while his opponent's initial reaction was good the decision to play 15...Ke7 and 16...g5 was not. Between the light-squared weaknesses and the exposed king plenty could go wrong, and after 28.c5! Black soon collapsed.

    Jobava-Jakovenko and Giri-Rajdabov were more stable draws, and you can replay all the games, with my comments, here.

    Round 7 Pairings:

    • Caruana (2.5) - Gelfand (2)
    • Kasimdzhanov (1.5) - Nakamura (4)
    • Radjabov (3) - Mamedyarov (3.5) (count on a draw)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Giri (3)
    • Jakovenko (3) - Andreikin (4)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (3.5) - Jobava (3.5)

    Sunday
    Oct262014

    Catching Up On The Tashkent Grand Prix: Nakamura Leads After Round 5

    As the say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Boris Gelfand and Fabiano Caruana shared first in the Grand Prix tournament in Baku a couple of weeks ago, but just shy of the halfway point of the Tashkent Grand Prix they are at the bottom of the pack. Gelfand is tied for last place with Rustam Kasimdzhanov, while Caruana is only half a point ahead of him. On the other hand, Hikaru Nakamura tied for third in Baku, and this time he's doing even better - he is in clear first with 3.5 points out of 5.

    Let's recap a round at a time, starting with round 3.

    Teimour Radjabov - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: A deeply theoretical Byrne Attack Najdorf with a novelty by Black on move 26. White obtained some edge in the endgame, but MVL had surely worked in advance that it was a draw. That was made official on move 41.

    Sergey Karjakin - Dmitry Jakovenko: A sort of reversed Gruenfeld gave Karjakin a slight pull that Jakovenko never managed to extinguish. He tried to sac a pawn in the hopes of drawing a Marshall Gambit-style ending with the bishop pair vs. bishop and knight (plus a pair of rooks), but to no avail. Karjakin won quickly and convincingly.

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Boris Gelfand: A somewhat strange game. When Mamedyarov avoided a normal Gruenfeld with 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.e3 Gelfand steered the game towards a kind of Modern Benoni, which isn't a typical opening for the classically-oriented grandmaster. Mamedyarov took control and seemed on the way to victory until he traded queens. (31.Qb6 would have kept Black in serious trouble.) Afterwards Mamedyarov kept practical chances, though a draw would have been the correct result. The decisive moment came when Gelfand played 47...Rxg2?, losing; 47...Kd6! would have held the balance. Mamedyarov played the remainder perfectly and won by a single tempo.

    Hikaru Nakamura - Anish Giri: A 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian that saw Black suffer from the get-go. Nakamura was better throughout and made Giri suffer all the way until he stalemated him on move 79. Very impressive defense by Giri!

    Fabiano Caruana - Dmitry Andreikin: A Berlin ending. Caruana tried to improve on his game with Nakamura from the Sinquefield Cup with the near-novelty 15.Nge4. I don't know if he missed anything or forgot part of his preparation, but Andreikin managed to equalize and even press a little (very little) by the end. No revenge for Caruana for the defeat he suffered at his opponent's hands near the end of the Baku event.

    Rustam Kasimdzhanov - Baadur Jobava: Most people play the Rubinstein French to draw or at least to head for a positional struggle where they can hope to outplay their opponents in 50 moves; most people, but not Jobava. The Georgian GM loves to go his own way in the opening, and so he did here with the very unusual 8...g6. This served as a provocation to Kasimdzhanov, the nominal home player, and he went for blood with 9.c4 and 10.d5. He enjoyed some compensation for the sacrificed pawn, but nothing too special. By his 24th move it has mostly dried up, but he was probably counting on 24.Bxa7 to recover his material. He might have missed that after 24...b6 25.Bxd5 Black had the zwischenzug 25...Nd4!, but it's even more likely that after 26.Qa4 Rxd5 27.Qa6 it was 27...Qd7! that eluded his vision. This threatened both 28...Nf3+ and 28...Ra8 (27...Ra8 would have been met by 28.Bxb6), and forced White to give up the exchange without any compensation, and soon Black won.

    Round 4 was calmer. Gelfand - Jakovenko and Andreikin - Kasimdzhanov were both short QGD draws. Giri - Caruana was also a short draw, in an unusual Catalan, but White had a little something and put Caruana under more pressure than Jakovenko and Kasimdzhanov experienced in their games. Continuing with the theme of short draws in the Queen's Gambit complex, Mamedyarov and Nakamura split the point in an Exchange QG with 5.Bf4. Mamedyarov went for 9.h5, which hasn't been achieving much lately on account of Karpov's 9...Nh6; my impression is that 9.g5 is, and is considered, the more dangerous move these days. Whatever the truth is in the opinion of super-GMs these days, Mamedyarov got nothing from the opening. A good fight ensued, with a peaceful conclusion.

    The other games were also drawn. Jobava pressed a little against Radjabov in a 4.Bg5 Gruenfeld, but never came too close to winning. Vachier-Lagrave was the only near-winner in the round. He won a pawn against Karjakin and had him under heavy pressure, but couldn't couldn't strike a decisive blow in an ending with queens and opposite-colored bishops.

    That brought the players to their first rest day, and today they showed themselves ready to rejoin the fight. The shortest game was a decisive one, seeing Karjakin fall quickly against Jobava. Karjakin's 16.Bd2 invited his opponent to sac a bishop on h3 and Jobava obliged - correctly. White had no advantage whatsoever, but plenty of chances to go wrong. His first misstep was 20.c5, and other inaccuracies ensued from both players - though in every case the variance was from equality to a significant but non-decisive Black advantage. The end came only with 30.Ne2?? (30.Nh3 was forced), possibly in time trouble. That allowed 30...Rxe2, and Karjakin resigned a move later. The rook couldn't be taken because of 31...Qg1#, but not taking it wasn't much help either.

    The second winner was Jakovenko, who was able to torture Vachier-Lagrave on the white side of a Gruenfeld sideline. MVL sacced first one pawn and then another for play, but in the end he was just down a couple of pawns for nothing. In the end Jakovenko returned the material with interest, but in so doing ensured himself of an easy victory, as the Black rook couldn't deal with the two connected passed pawns supported by White's king and knight.

    The big winner was Nakamura, who ground poor Gelfand down in a 97 move game. Gelfand never quite managed to neutralize White's tiny initiative, which by move 46 became an extra pawn in an ending with rook, knight and four kingside pawns vs. rook, knight and three kingside pawns. In such an ending the trade of knights would generally result in a manageable draw while a rook trade would result in a likely win for Nakamura. So each player avoided his unfavorable exchange whlie Nakamura tacked here and there, and he finally broke on move 87. 87....Kg8 88.Rxf6 Ra4 would have saved the game (or at least kept it going indefinitely), but 87...Ng5 88.Rxf6+ Kg8 89.e5 was winning.

    This post is in danger of taking as long to read as Nakamura-Gelfand took to play, so I'll be very brief about the drawn games: Kasimdzhanov - Giri (first Giri and then Kasimdzhanov had some chances), Caruana - Mamedyarov (Caruana quickly worse with White but Mamedyarov let him off the hook relatively easily) and Radjabov - Andreikin (an easy hold for Black in a Berlin ending). All the games (a few with pretty trivial notes) can be replayed here.

    Round 6 Pairings:

    • Gelfand (1.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3)
    • Jobava (3) - Jakovenko (2.5)
    • Andreikin (3) - Karjakin (2.5)
    • Giri (2.5) - Radjabov (2.5)
    • Mamedyarov (2.5) - Kasimdzhanov (1.5)
    • Nakamura (3.5) - Caruana (2)

    Tuesday
    Sep092014

    Nakamura Defeats Aronian 3.5-2.5 in Chess960 Match

    This year's Sinquefield Cup festivities finally came to an end today with a six-game rapid (15' + 2") Chess960 match between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura, both of whom are former Chess960 world champions.

    There are some starting positions that favor White far more than is the case in regular chess, so each starting position in the match was repeated so that both players would have a chance to have White. To further ensure a fair match, the player starting each two-game series switched: Nakamura had White in game 1, Aronian White in game 3, and Nakamura White again in game 5. (I suppose there should have been eight games so that each player got to start two series, but perhaps time constraints got in the way.) The funny thing is that fears of an excessive advantage for the white pieces turned out to be unfounded, and one could jokingly say that Nakamura won the match by drawing game 1 with White; after all, Black won the next five games!

    As for a link...I couldn't find the games on the St. Louis website, and they didn't seem to have any video coverage today; likewise Chess24. You can download them from TWIC (go to the very bottom of the linked page), but whether you'll be able to replay the file depends on your chess software. If you're an ICC member you can replay them there (they're in the library Naka-Aronian960). Finally, while I was able to replay the games from the TWIC download to ChessBase, my attempt to upload the games to the web didn't work - their upload program isn't designed to handle Chess960's castling rules.

    Saturday
    Sep062014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 10: Three Draws Finish The Tournament

    And fairly peaceful draws at that, but after nine very exciting rounds at the Sinquefield Cup it's hard to begrudge the players the relative day off.

    The first game to finish went only 19 moves and featured two of the most combative players in the world and a situation where one might normally expect a big fight, but it was not to be. Veselin Topalov was apparently surprised by the particular line of the Berlin Magnus Carlsen chose, and without making a dent on theory the game ended in a quick repetition. If Topalov had won he would have taken clear second and jumped to #3 on the rating list, but in the final position the players agreed that playing on would have entailed more risk for White than for Black.

    The second game to finish was Levon Aronian vs. Fabiano Caruana. Even in this game it was Caruana who had what slight chances there were for a decisive result, but fatigued and possibly a bit undermotivated he didn't play energetically enough and Aronian managed to equalize. Concerned he might even be getting a little worse, Caruana offered a draw at the first available moment, on move 30, and Aronian accepted, happy to put a very unsuccessful tournament behind him.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave made it to the time control and a bit further, but the game was equal all the way (but with play) and the draw was a normal result there too. (All three games here, with some comments and game citations for the first two.)

    An anti-climax, yes, but what an amazing tournament for Fabiano Caruana! His final score of 8.5/10 put him three points ahead of the second-place finisher (Carlsen 5.5, Topalov 5, Aronian & Vachier-Lagrave 4, Nakamura 3). He gained 35 rating points to take second on the rating list by a massive 43 point margin, has reached a rating level previously achieved (and surpassed) by only Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov, and his 3097 TPR is unsurpassed in the history of chess (in events of this sort). Speaking of Kasparov, he himself said that this was the most amazing tournament performance he had seen, better than anything he achieved and even than Anatoly Karpov's 11/13 in Linares 1994. While I don't think it breaks his heart to put someone else's performance ahead of Karpov's, it is true that the players are getting better and better, and on top of that Caruana really had no lucky games; if anything, he was a bit unlucky against Carlsen in round 8 and Nakamura in round 9. (On the other hand, Karpov was close to winning three of the four games he drew in Linares, so we shouldn't be too quick to bury that event in the sands of time.) At any rate it was a fantastic performance by Caruana. Bravo!

    And now for dessert: rumors are floating that he may switch back to representing the USA. He was asked about it in the post-game press conference, and his "I don't want to say anything about this" seems like the kind of remark that suggests that it may in fact be in the works. (Yessssss!)

    Looking forward, it should be noted that while the Sinquefield Cup is over the festivities in St. Louis are not. First, the final press conference will begin momentarily. Second, on Monday they will have the "Ultimate Moves" competition. Here's how the tournament site describes it:

    Ultimate Moves will feature eight two-man teams made up of a GM and an amateur player each. The teams will compete in a double-round knockout bracket, with teammates alternating moves in games with a time control of 15 minutes and 2-second increments. Stay tuned for more details.

    Third and better still, Aronian and Nakamura are reportedly playing a 6-game Chess960 match on Tuesday, and as they are both former world champions at that version it should be especially entertaining to see.

    Monday
    Aug252014

    Starting Wednesday: The 2014 Sinquefield Cup

    The opening ceremonies and such begin tomorrow (Tuesday), but the real action begins on Wednesday. It's a double round-robin with six great players:

    • Magnus Carlsen
    • Levon Aronian
    • Fabiano Caruana
    • Hikaru Nakamura
    • Veselin Topalov
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

    The average rating is over 2800! More info about the Sinquefield Cup here.

    Monday
    Aug252014

    Stockfish Beats Nakamura

    And in other news: ten is greater than five and Usain Bolt is faster than I am. Still, the story is more interesting and the match was closer than one might expect.

    In fact, the match between the latest version of Stockfish and Hikaru Nakamura (currently #7 in the world; more precisely the #7 human chess player in the world*) was quite close, the 3-1 score notwithstanding. It wasn't an even fight, as Nakamura had help in the first two games while Stockfish had handicaps in all four, but it was a close battle all the same.

    In the first two games Nakamura was helped by an older version of Rybka (rated approximately 200 points lower than the version of Stockfish he was facing), while Stockfish wasn't given access to either an opening book or tablebases.  Nakamura drew game one with White, and in game two it seemed that he was headed for a draw by the 50-move rule before playing 83...Bh6. Stockfish ground that one out in 147 moves.

    In the next two games Nakamura was on his own - no Rybka - but was given White and an extra pawn. In the first game Stockfish played without an h-pawn and the game was drawn, and in the second game the computer started without its b-pawn. Nakamura wasn't in any danger when they reached the endgame, but he'd need to win to tie the match, and once he opened the board he was gradually outplayed, losing in 97 moves.

    Overall, Nakamura acquitted himself well. It's hard to remain vigilant and not miss anything when a game lasts 97 or especially 147 moves, and all four games were on the same day -  there were more 10 hours of play in all. So while the computer played with a handicap, the human did too: computers don't suffer from fatigue (or at least not in the relevant sense)!

    * Then again, as computers don't play chess (in part because they don't exist**, in part because there's nobody home "upstairs"), we can dispense with the qualifying adjective "human".

    ** In saying that they don't exist, I don't mean that they are illusions but that they aren't unities in their own right. Think of a cup sitting on a table. Is there a further entity we could call a tablecup, comprised of the table and the cup put together? Most people would say no, and I agree. The table and cup are not subsumed into a further whole. By contrast, an atom of hydrogen or a molecule of water is a genuine whole in its own right. Its parts are genuinely subsumed into the whole and are defined as parts of that whole. Those parts do not act independently, but in a behavior that's determined by their function within the hydrogen atom or water molecule.

    So is a computer more like a tablecup or a water molecule? Both, really - but it depends on one's perspective. As a purely physical object, it's like the tablecup. Its parts interact with each other, but there is no intrinsic principle of unity to the computer's constituent parts. There is a unity to the computer, however, but it comes from us, from our purposes. What the computer does it does only if there are intelligent outside interpreters to understand its results. Otherwise, it is just an unnatural collection of heterogenous parts. It is not a thing in its own right, and thus doesn't exist per se.

    (HT: Jason Childress, by way of Allen Becker.)

    Tuesday
    Jun102014

    Nakamura-Navara Match: Nakamura Wins 3.5-0.5

    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!

    Monday
    Jun092014

    Nakamura-Navara Match: Nakamura Clinches Victory With A Game 3 Draw

    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.

    Sunday
    Jun082014

    Nakamura-Navara Match: Nakamura Leads 2-0

    Two games down, two to go. (More here.)

    Saturday
    Jun072014

    Nakamura-Navara Match Underway

    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.