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    Entries in Nakamura (31)

    Wednesday
    Apr112012

    Nakamura's Hypocrisy?

    So says Peter Zhdanov (HT: Brian Karen). The context was Hikaru Nakamura implicitly but obviously tweeting that Fabiano Caruana was cherry picking by playing in the Reyjkjavik Open, looking for easy rating points. So said Nakamura when Caruana passed him on the live rating list, although when in a subsequent open event Caruana fell back Nakamura didn't change his tune. Now, however, Nakamura himself has played in an open event and not just any open event, but a very weak one (by his exalted standards). Five rounds against players rated 1900+ to -2300+ netted him four rating points, extending his lead over Caruana and enabling him to pass Sergey Karjakin on the live list.

    It's much ado about very little, but for me it makes me happy that a real sportsman like Viswanathan Anand holds the crown. A little smack talk among friends is one thing, but unless one's rivals are doing something unethical it's best, I think, to keep one's negative opinions to oneself.

    As an aside, it's also wise, most of the time, as the talker runs the risk that one's opponents will be more motivated than before. Veselin Topalov tried it on Vladimir Kramnik, and it didn't work, and the normally classy Kramnik was taught a lesson in his match with Anand a couple of years later. I've experienced it at my own (considerably less exalted) level. Some years ago I had a match with an opponent who thought he would intimidate me with his bluster, but it didn't work. There were two results of this attempt: first, I decided I would never have anything to do with him again if I could help it. Life is too short to waste on people whose primary mode of interaction is belligerence. Second, I determined to do everything possible - ethically possible - to triumph, and I did.

    I'm sure others have other opinions, but please, express them without bellicosity!

    Sunday
    Dec112011

    London 2011, Round 7: Leapfrogging Leaders

    Going into the round Hikaru Nakamura enjoyed a two-point lead over Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik and Luke McShane. Not a bad place to be, and although they had already had their byes and he was about to take his in round 7, you'd still expect him to be in good shape by round's end, right?

    Nope! After yet another massacre of the British (McShane counts as an honorary foreigner in this tournament), Nakamura dropped to fourth place with just two rounds to go. Magnus Carlsen was engaged in a tough tussle with Michael Adams, and despite having Black it was Adams who had the initiative much of the way. At some moment, however, Adams' queenside initiative came to an end, and in the meantime he underestimated Carlsen's sneaky threats on the kingside. Ultimately, Adams blundered with 35...Nc4, when 36.Rxd5 basically put an end to the proceedings.

    Vladimir Kramnik had his way with David Howell in a QGA sideline. Howell followed theory and made natural moves, but somehow - and even Kramnik wasn't really sure what went wrong - the former world champion had a nice edge. Howell's 19...Bc6 may have been the decisive error, costing him a pawn and eventually the game.

    Finally, McShane also won, and unlike his co-leaders he did it with Black. Nigel Short essayed the good old King's Gambit, but at some point got a bit too conservative. The compensation dried up and McShane took his extra material to the bank, eventually winning.

    Finally, Levon Aronian failed to get anything from the opening against Viswanathan Anand, and their game was soon drawn.

    Standings After Round 7 (on 3-1-0 scoring; note that Adams and Howell have played 7 games; everyone else only 6):

    1-3. Carlsen, Kramnik, McShane 12
    4. Nakamura 11
    5-6. Aronian, Anand 7
    7. Short 4
    8-9. Adams, Howell 3

    Round 8 Pairings:

    • Anand - Carlsen (already drawn)
    • Howell - Aronian
    • McShane - Kramnik
    • Nakamura - Short
    • Adams - bye

    Here's the tournament site for the London Chess Classic, and here are the round 7 games (without notes). Let me recommend ChessBase's report on the round, as it includes videos of the post-game press conferences. (Kramnik's was especially entertaining, and should prove a real eye-opener to fans who think that a super-GM's solidity has anything to do with his ability to imagine and calculate tactics!)

    Perhaps even more noteworthy in that report is the brief transcript (and audio clip) of Nakamura answering questions about his working relationship with Garry Kasparov. One doesn't suspect it's going in a fantastic direction - especially after this interview.

    Thursday
    Dec082011

    London 2011, Round 5: Nakamura, Kramnik and Anand Win

    The London Chess Classic is shaping up very differently from some recent tournament I'm remembering to forget - there are wins in every round, and the overall percentage of draws is very low: just 35%. This is partially but not completely due to the abysmal form of 3/4 of the British contingent: Nigel Short, Michael Adams and David Howell have already lost three games apiece, while no other player has lost more than once. And so it was today.

    Hikaru Nakamura defeated David Howell in a way characteristic of both players. Nakamura applied constant pressure on the white side of an English, and Howell played pretty well until his time trouble got too severe, and then collapsed.

    Vladimir Kramnik has gone back to playing more solidly in this event; wisely, I think, as he needs to maintain a rating lead of more than seven points over Sergey Karjakin to assure himself of a spot in the next Candidates' cycle. Against Michael Adams today he didn't get anything from the opening or the early middlegame, for that matter, but Kramnik gradually wore him down. His successful use of the minority attack (culminating in 28.b5 cxb5 29.Rxb5) left Kramnik with plenty of targets to aim at with no risk at all, and eventually some of them fell. Kramnik went to +2, Adams to a startling -3.

    Viswanathan Anand has been on a terrible run: absolutely uninspired play in the Tal Memorial, and a winless -1 here through four rounds. Today, at last, he took a step back to health, defeating Nigel Short with the black pieces. Short got nothing from his 3.Bb5+ Anti-Sicilian, but wasn't in any trouble either until he sent his knight out of play with 34.Na6. Its extraction cost him a pawn, and Anand had no trouble converting his advantage in the technical phase.

    Finally, heirs apparent to the chess throne Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen played the round's only draw. Aronian had an edge, and perhaps 20.Nd6 or 27.b3 (among other possible improvements) would have given Carlsen more challenging problems to solve before he could save the point.

    Standings After Round 5 (totals are based on the tournament's 3-1-0 scoring; the second number indicates the number of rounds played):

    1. Nakamura 10 (5)
    2. Carlsen 9 (5)
    3-4. Kramnik, McShane 8 (4)
    5-6. Aronian, Anand 5 (4)
    7. Short 3 (4)
    8. Adams, Howell 2 (5)

    Round 6 Pairings:

    • Adams - Aronian
    • Anand - Kramnik
    • Howell - Short
    • McShane - Nakamura
    • Carlsen - bye

    Today's games, with my comments, are here.

    Monday
    Dec052011

    London Chess Classic, Round 2: Kramnik and Nakamura Join Carlsen in First

    Magnus Carlsen started the day in clear first at the London Chess Classic, but was precariously close to ending it in third. Luke McShane gave him all he could handle and then some, but an error on move 60 allowed Carlsen to save the game. Carlsen chose the Neo-Archangelsk against McShane's Ruy and was the first player to make a new move, but that didn't stop him from getting into big trouble and a serious time disadvantage by move 20. White was up a pawn with a positional advantage, and he maintained both deep into the endgame. The difficulty was in finding a breakthrough, and his careless 60th move allowed Carlsen to reach a pretty easily drawn rook ending.

    Theirs was the last game to finish, and by that point it was Carlsen catching up to Vladimir Kramnik and Hikaru Nakamura. Kramnik was the beneficiary of a terrible opening by Nigel Short. Short miscalculated once or twice, and his reward was a (White) bishop on b3 permanently locked out of the game by the arrangement of his and Kramnik's queenside pawns. Kramnik was effectively a piece up, and had little trouble bringing in the point.

    Nakamura's road was much rockier. He played very aggressively against Levon Aronian's Queen's Gambit Declined and was worse, even in trouble. Fortunately for Nakamura, Aronian got into serious time trouble and lost first his advantage and then the rest of his chances. He made the time control, but by then it was just a matter of mopping up for the American.

    Finally, David Howell and Michael Adams drew in an Anti-Marshall line where Black sacrifices the d-pawn anyway. Maybe both players missed some small chances, but overall it seemed like a "correct" and well-fought draw.

    World champion Viswanathan Anand had the bye, so in the following standings remember that his score, like Short's, is based on only one game and not two:

    1-3. Nakamura, Carlsen, Kramnik 4 (they're using 3-1-0 scoring)
    4-5. Adams, McShane 2
    6-8. Anand, Aronian, Howell 1
    9. Short 0

    Today's pairings are as follows:

    • Aronian - Short
    • Carlsen - Nakamura
    • Adams - McShane
    • Anand - Howell
    • Kramnik - bye (and thus helping with the commentary)

    Games, with notes to McShane-Carlsen and Short-Kramnik, here.

    Tuesday
    Nov012011

    No Longer Mere Rumor: Nakamura Is Working With Kasparov

    Not that I would ever stoop to telling my readers "I told you so" - that would be childish. It's official, though, from at least one of the horses' mouths, as Hikaru Nakamura acknowledges the collaboration and has lots to say about it in an interview coming out in the current issue of New in Chess Magazine. (There's also more about the story here, including a timeline of the now ex-rumor's progression.)

    Monday
    Oct102011

    More Information On Nakamura's Loss

    According to ChessVibes (HT: Ken Regan) Hikaru Nakamura had 25 seconds left on his clock to make his 40th move, and claims to have asked the arbiter if they had reached the time control. According to Nakamura, the arbiter nodded his head, so Nakamura got up to get some orange juice, only to come back and be forfeited. Needless to say, Nakamura filed a protest, but as no one else saw the fateful nod (and obviously neither the arbiter nor Vallejo [if he saw it] felt like admitting anything) it was denied.

    So did Nakamura get, well...the short end of the stick and treated unjustly? IF the arbiter did nod "yes" and then denied it, he deserves to be excoriated and should be barred for life from anything having to do with FIDE chess. (Having him make financial reparations to Nakamura wouldn't be a bad idea either.) However: According to FIDE's laws of chess, Nakamura had no business asking the arbiter anything in the first place:

    13.6 The arbiter must not intervene in a game except in cases described by the Laws of Chess. He shall not indicate the number of moves made, except in applying Article 8.5, when at least one flag has fallen. The arbiter shall refrain from informing a player that his opponent has completed a move or that the player has not pressed his clock.

    The bottom line is that Nakamura's loss, while unfortunate and altogether undeserved from a purely chess point of view, is ultimately his own fault.

    Saturday
    Oct082011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, Round 8: Ivanchuk Draws; Carlsen, Nakamura Win

    In the first cycle, Magnus Carlsen was winning against Francisco Vallejo, but first missed the win and then lost on a blunder. This time, Vallejo came out of the gate in good shape, but Carlsen gradually improved his position, exploited Vallejo's ever-present time trouble and pulled out a win. This kept Vallejo in last, while Carlsen gained some ground on Vassily Ivanchuk.

    Also gaining grounds and maintaining a tie for second with Carlsen is Hikaru Nakamura. Not all was clean and clear in the first part of the game, but in the ending Nakamura beautifully outplayed Levon Aronian to take the full point. (Or rather, three points!) Aronian played on longer than etiquette would normally dictate, and it almost worked! Nakamura got a bit sloppy in the piece up ending, but at the key moment played 71.Nd7 (after serious thought), and it was good enough.

    Finally, Ivanchuk had some pull against the world champion, but Viswanathan Anand is a great defender and managed to use Ivanchuk's time trouble to equalize and perhaps a tiny bit more. It wasn't enough to play for a win though, and the game was drawn in a longish knight ending.

    Standings After Round 8 (of 10) (Remember, it's 3-1-0 scoring, traditional scoring is given in parentheses):

    1. Ivanchuk 14 (5)
    2-3. Nakamura, Carlsen 11 (4.5)
    4. Anand 9 (4)
    5. Aronian 8 (3.5)
    6. Vallejo 7 (2.5)

    Round 9 Pairings (on Monday; tomorrow is a rest day):

    • Carlsen - Ivanchuk (obviously a huge game for the final standings!)
    • Vallejo - Nakamura
    • Aronian - Anand

    Official site here, games (without comments today - sorry!) here.

    (Blog note: You'll see if you click on the games link that they are numbered 3999, 4000 and 4001. That's how many games and fragments (mostly games) I've presented since I started blogging in 2005. Most of the games have been annotated, so that's a lot of work over the years!)

    Saturday
    Oct012011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, Round 5: Ivanchuk Loses to Carlsen, Still Leads at the Halfway Point

    It wasn't a good end to what had been a great first cycle for Vassily Ivanchuk. Already near the end of the opening he was struggling with White against Magnus Carlsen, and it was the relative strengths of the players' c-pawns that made the difference. White's pawn on c2 was weak and eventually dropped off; Black's pawn on c3 was a pillar of strength that diverted almost all of White's army. In the end Ivanchuk eliminated that pawn, but at the fatal cost of abandoning his kingside. That was Ivanchuk's first loss and Carlsen's first win; we'll see in a few days whether it marks the beginning of a new trend or just a bump in the road for one or both players.

    Viswanathan Anand has often had trouble against Levon Aronian, even with White, and decided to play 6.d3 rather than face the latter's beloved Marshall Gambit. For a while play was quiet, and after a brief tactical flurry it again calmed down. Aronian reached a pawn up rook ending, but with rook + g & h-pawn vs. the same several moves away the players called it a draw.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura did his duty and beat Francisco Vallejo Pons. Unusually for the English Opening, Nakamura (with White) castled queenside, and Vallejo went on a sacrificial journey. It was exciting, but it never looked like it should work. Eventually Nakamura gave back almost all of the material, reaching a position with an extra pawn, better pieces and some attacking chances. Vallejo sacrificed some more, but to no avail: this time his opponent kept the material and the attack, and won.

    Now play stops until Thursday, giving the players time to pack their bags and travel from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Bilbao, Spain, where they'll play the second cycle of the double round-robin.

    Standings After Round 5 (on 3-1-0 scoring; normal scores given in parentheses):

    1. Ivanchuk 10 (3.5)
    2. Nakamura 7 (3)
    3-5. Anand, Aronian, Carlsen 6 (2.5)
    6. Vallejo 3 (1)

    Round 6 Pairings (on Thursday):

    • Ivanchuk - Nakamura
    • Carlsen - Anand
    • Vallejo - Aronian

    Official site here, games here.

    Thursday
    Sep292011

    Nakamura (Is? Was?) Working With Kasparov: Confirmation

    Have a look here, and scroll down to the section on Dortmund, paragraph two, which reads

    For this ChessBase Magazine the serial victor of Dortmund has chosen to annotate his win against Hikaru Nakamura. The American went into a theoretical duel in the Nimzo-Indian and chose an unfashionable variation with 8.Qb3. However, Kramnik points out in his analysis that in his day Kasparov championed this move. And especially since Kramnik knew that Nakamura had been working with Kasparov recently, he would probably not have been all that surprised at the choice.

    HT: "anonymous coward"

    Monday
    Sep262011

    The Daily Update: European Club Cup, Day 1; Sao Paulo/Bilbao Pairings (And An Interesting Rumor)

    While I don't have time to cover it, I'd be remiss not to remind everyone that the European Club Cup got underway Sunday. Whether or not you're interested in it as a club competition, it's hard for a chess fan not to notice an event with 2700s participating. Some of them were nicked for draws in round 1, but I didn't notice any grand upsets. Anyway, if any of you notice any games that look like compelling, must-see chess, please let us know!

    Meanwhile, in Sao Paulo/Bilbao, we have the first round pairings for this double round-robin event:

    • Hikaru Nakamura - Vassily Ivanchuk
    • Viswanathan Anand - Magnus Carlsen
    • Levon Aronian - Francisco Vallejo

    The games start Monday (as in today or tomorrow, depending on your time zone) at 8 p.m. CET/2 p.m. ET.

    And now, rumor time. Emphasis on rumor: the information is at least three people away from an original source, so cum grano salis and caveat lector. It is...that Nakamura is working with Garry Kasparov. If true, I'll repeat what I said when it came out a few years ago that Carlsen was working with Kasparov: it's good news for Nakamura and his fans, and very bad news for his competitors. Will they manage to make it work? (Assuming they are working together!) Time will tell - it's not hard to imagine some massive ego clashes - but if they can I think it will be great for Nakamura. Kasparov's discipline and deep researches nicely complement Nakamura's talent and fighting spirit. My prediction is that if the story proves true and they make it work, the American will reach 2800 within a year.