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    Entries in Unive 2012 (4)

    Saturday
    Oct272012

    Unive Crown Group Update: Nakamura Wins

    This four player, six round event (a double round-robin) has just finished, and Hikaru Nakamura was the convincing winner.

    When we left off after four rounds, Hikaru Nakamura led with three points, good for a half-point lead over Sergei Tiviakov. In round 5 Nakamura drew with Black against Hou Yifan with slight, but only slight, difficulty. Tiviakov was unable to defeat Anish Giri with White, leaving him the unenviable task of needing to defeat Nakamura in the last round with the black pieces in order to achieve tournament victory.

    It didn't happen. Nakamura played a very good game, keeping control throughout, and when Tiviakov's sickly d-pawn finally dropped he resigned. Giri-Hou Yifan finished in a draw, and so the final standings of the Unive Crown Group look like this:

    1. Nakamura 4.5 (out of 6)
    2. Tiviakov 3
    3. Giri 2.5
    4. Hou Yifan 2

    Thursday
    Oct252012

    Unive, Round 4: Tiviakov Wins, Gains Ground on Nakamura

    The second cycle of the Unive Crown Group in Hoogeveen got underway today, and round 4 just finished. In the first cycle Hikaru Nakamura defeated Anish Giri in their game (as he had in the London Grand Prix), but this time Giri "held" with White. It was a pretty interesting Catalan, and those of you shopping for an anti-Catalan line with Black may wish to consider Nakamura's approach.

    Meanwhile, Sergei Tiviakov showed that while his opening choices are ludicrously predictable, they aren't automatically easy to handle. On this occasion, however, his opponent, women's world champion Hou Yifan, was well prepared. She came out of the opening in good enough shape, and thanks to 21...d4! 22.Bxd4 Nxd4 23.Qxd4 g5! stood better. Unfortunately for her, 25...Bf4 was an error. It's understandable that she was concerned about the threat of Qxf7+, but it turns out that 25...Ng3! was very strong. Black stands clearly better, and in case of 26.Qxf7+? Kh8 White has so many tactical liabilities that Black is winning.

    Instead, Hou played 25...Bf4?, and after the obvious and strong 26.Ne4! Tiviakov was in charge. There were plenty of mistakes the rest of the way - some of them huge - but Black was never able to get all the way back into the game, and White eventually won in a rook ending.

    After four rounds, Nakamura leads with 3 points. Tiviakov has 2.5, Giri 1.5 and Hou Yifan 1. Tomorrow's pairings are Tiviakov-Giri and Hou-Nakamura, and in the last round it will be Giri-Hou and Nakamura-Tiviakov.

    Tuesday
    Oct232012

    Unive, Round 3: Nakamura Wins Again

    Hikaru Nakamura finished the first cycle of the Unive Crown Group in Hoogeveen with his second win in three games. Today he defeated Hou Yifan with the white pieces in a very sharp Schevingen line. After 5...e6 6.g4 h6 7.Rg1 Hou uncorked the new move 7...e5. It looks horrid at first sight, but in fact the concept is known from some similar positions (for example, on move 6). Nakamura went for a standard recipe (8.Bb5+ Nbd7 9.Nf5), and a few moves later the position took on a Perenyi-like character (compare the game sequence 11.g5 Nxe4 12.Nxg7+ Bxg7 13.Nxe4 with the variation 5...a6 6.Be3 e6 7.g4 e5 8.Nf5 h5 9.g5 Nxe4 10.Nxg7+ Bxg7 11.Nxe4).

    Resemblances notwithstanding, the position was very tactical and had to be played on its own merits. For a time both players handled the position well, but Hou made a fatal error with 19...Bxc2. There was no way to avoid some sort of material loss, but the right way was 19...Rah8. There Black loses the exchange, but she'll win a pawn and will have a pretty stable position once White's knight is gone. The game continuation netted Black two pawns for a piece, but it wasn't enough - or at least shouldn't have been. Both players handled the subsequent play inaccurately, but the "normal" result came to pass.

    The game between Anish Giri and Sergei Tiviakov was a Rubinstein French that finished in an unusual draw. Tiviakov's 22nd move may have looked like a blunder, but his superior minor piece together with White's brittle queenside gave him fully equal chances. If anything, Black could have continued at the end, as a line like 30...Qxe3 31.Rxe3 exf3! 32.Rxe8 fxg2 33.Rg1 (or 33.Rb8+ Kc6 34.Rc1+ Kd7 35.Rxb5 Rxb5 36.Rg1 Rb4 37.Rxg2 Rxd5) 33...Bf1 34.Re1 Kxc6 35.Rgxf1 gxf1Q 36.Rxf1 Rxd4 is marginally in Black's favor. I can't really see Giri losing that, but in the age of Carlsen it's getting a little tougher to know when a position is trivially drawn.

    I believe the players are taking tomorrow off, and then finish up on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. After three rounds, only Nakamura has won a game, while only Tiviakov has drawn all his games. (That should suffice to allow anyone to reconstruct everyone's score.)

    Sunday
    Oct212012

    Unive Starts, Nakamura Wins

    Every year for some time now in Hoogeveen, their chess festival includes a four-player double round robin event. The usual formula called for a world champion, the world junior champion, a Dutchman and a woman*. (Preferably the women's world champion or the highest-rated woman.) They got the last two, but not the first two. Top dog in this year's Unive Crown Group is Hikaru Nakamura, who may have been #5 or #6 in the world when he got the invitation. Anish Giri is the #2 player in the world among those under 21, so I guess he's the ersatz world junior champ, though he also counts as a Dutchman, obviously. However, that status probably goes to Sergei Tiviakov, as he doesn't come close to fitting any of the other categories. Finally, they've usually invited Judit Polgar, but this time it's women's world champion Hou Yifan filling the role.

    Round 1 took place earlier today, and Nakamura got to work on repairing the damage done to his rating in his recent events by grinding down Giri on the White side of the 5.Re1 anti-Berlin. For a long time it had a (deserved) reputation as a deadly dull, non-threatening system (when White plays 7.Bf1, that is; 7.Bd3 lines are much sharper), but in recent years White has found ways to pressure Black. So it was here: Giri never quite managed to equalize, and finally went down after a lot of suffering. In the other game, Tiviakov had to suffer a little with Black in a Rubinstein French, but not too much. Hou Yifan wound up with the better half of an opposite-colored bishop ending, but it wasn't enough to win (or even close).

     

    * I have to admit, that formula always reminds me of former U.S. Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt's infamous remark about the diversity of an advisory panel. That was back in 1983, before the need for politically correct speech was as stifling as it is now, but by practically any standard his remarks were stratospherically impolitic.