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    Entries in Hikaru Nakamura (60)

    Tuesday
    Nov252014

    St. Louis, Final Day: Nakamura Defeats Aronian in Blitz

    The "Showdown in St. Louis" between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was tied after four classical games, so the winner in tonight's best-of-16 blitz match would win the event and $60,000, while the loser would "only" get $40,000. After a shaky first couple of games, Nakamura felt he got in the zone, while Aronian kept getting into time trouble and all the difficulties it tends to generate. Afterwards Aronian opined that while he's a good blitz player when it's 4'+2", 3'+2" - the time control used in this match - was a bit too fast for him. In the end Nakamura won 9.5-6.5, clinching match victory with two games to spare.

    In the GM norm event Sam Sevian drew his last game (a long game, not a quick handshake deal as in his previous game with the black pieces) and finished in clear first with 7.5/9, a ton of rating points and the grandmaster title. He is the youngest U.S. player to achieve the title, and the sixth-youngest of all time.

    Congrats to him, to Nakamura, and also to Michael William Brown who made norm in the concurrent IM norm event as well!

    Monday
    Nov242014

    St. Louis News, Day 4: Just Like Day 3

    In brief: game 4 of the match between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was drawn, and thus they finished the classical portion of the match 2-2 - or rather, 8-8. (Classical games were worth 4 points each, while each blitz game tomorrow will be worth a single point.) That means that whoever wins the blitz part of their competition (16 games!) tomorrow will take match victory.

    Meanwhile, in the GM norm event 13-year-old Sam Sevian continues to make a mockery of the field. He took a very quick draw with Black in the morning round before dragging another bamboozled opponent to his death in his white game in the evening. His score is 7-1 and his TPR 2801. It isn't quite Fabiano Caruana at the Sinquefield Cup, but it's incredibly impressive all the same. With the white pieces he has been brutal, winning all five of his games; four with smashing attacks that went fewer than 40 moves.

    Sunday
    Nov232014

    St. Louis News: Nakamura-Aronian Draw Game 3, Sevian Keeps Rolling

    After a couple of wacky match games Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian drew game 3, leaving their match tied 6-6 with one more classical game to go before the blitz battles on Tuesday. Even this game had some ups and downs though, with first Nakamura and then Aronian briefly enjoying a strong plus before equality was restored.

    In the concurrent GM norm tournament, 13-year-old Sam Sevian was slowed down briefly in the morning round, drawing a tough game with an IM before beating GM Ben Finegold in the evening round in yet another tactically flashy game. He has blown past the 2500 rating level he needed to achieve his GM title, and right now has a fantastic 2873 TPR. (It's amazing to think that's pretty much just another day at the office for Magnus Carlsen.) It will be exciting to see if he can maintain and increase the level of tactical savagery he has displayed in this tournament as he grows as a player.

    Saturday
    Nov222014

    Ongoing & Completed Events: St. Louis (x3), Ukrainian Championship, Tal Memorial Blitz

    The ongoing world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand has drawn the lion's share of the chess world's attention the past couple of weeks, but some other interesting events have taken place in the meantime as well. Let's take a quick tour of the landscape.

    1. Aronian - Nakamura. This is the main event in St. Louis, a five day match with four classical games (worth four points apiece) followed by 16 blitz games (worth one point per game). Game 1 was won by Hikaru Nakamura, when Levon Aronian got into time trouble and lost what would normally be considered a very drawish position. Today the reverse happened: it looked like Nakamura wanted to squeeze blood from a stone, and to his surprise wound up in an ending that should still have been drawn but turned out to be more challenging. He lost, and so the match is tied 4-4.

    2. There are concurrent GM and IM norm tournaments in St. Louis, and the big story is taking place in the GM event, where 13-year-old Sam Sevian is about to earn - or perhaps, has now earned - his grandmaster title. He already had the three norms needed, and simply had to get his rating over 2500 at some point. He entered the tournament rated 2484, and his 4-0 start, including two wins over GMs, has brought him to the promised land. He won't be awarded the title on the spot, but he has now become the youngest American player in history to achieve the grandmaster title. Have a look at these two wins from the tournament, and you won't find his accomplishment at all surprising. Congratulations to him!

    3. The Ukranian Championship finished earlier today (yesterday now, for the Ukranians themselves), and after a dramatic last round Yuriy Kuzubov and Pavel Eljanov finished tied for first with 7.5 points out of 11, with Kuzubov finishing first on tiebreaks.

    4. Tal Memorial Blitz. This took place a week or so ago, but deserved to be mentioned. It was a 12 player double-round robin event spread over two days, and on day 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a fantastic score of 10/11, giving up just two draws. He received enough gifts for a couple of Christmases, and not all of them could be chalked up to his very great tactical resourcefulness. He had a big lead, but the next day he had only normal luck and scored just 6 points out of 11, but Alexander Grischuk couldn't quite catch up and finished half a point behind. Alexander Morozevich, Boris Gelfand and Sergey Karjakin tied for third. Video coverage links: day 1, rounds 1-6; day 1, rounds 7-11; day 2, all rounds.

    Friday
    Nov212014

    Aronian - Nakamura: Nakamura Wins Game 1 With White

    A good game for Hikaru Nakamura, but Levon Aronian will be disappointed by how many mistakes he made - including a blunder on the last move. More here.

    Thursday
    Nov202014

    Aronian - Nakamura Starts Tomorrow (Friday) (Updated)

    As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura are playing a five "round" match consisting of four classical games and a 16-game "round" of blitz chess. The action starts tomorrow at 2 p.m. local time (= 3 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CET) at the St. Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center and runs through Tuesday. The prize fund is $100,000 and will be split 60-40.

    Predictions? Since they're calling it a five round match, I assume that even if one player wins the blitz 16-0 that still only counts as one point for match purposes. I think it's a coin flip, and will go out on a limb and say that the coin will land on its edge: the match will be drawn.

    Update: My assumption about the scoring system was wrong. Here's how it works: each classical game is worth four points and each blitz game is worth one, meaning the two stages are worth a total of 16 points each.

    Friday
    Nov072014

    Aronian - Nakamura at the End of the Month

    Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura will play a five "round" event consisting of four classical games followed by 16 blitz games in St. Louis in a few weeks, from November 21-25.

    More info here.

    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.