Huffington: Nakamura Conquers London Classic

12/20/2013 – On the day the Washington Redskins fumbled six times and threw one interception, Hikaru Nakamura's performance in England seemed almost flawless. Last Sunday, the top American GM won the London Chess Classic, a rapid chess competition, leaving many world class players behind, including two former world champions. Huffington Post columnist GM Lubomir Kavalek comments.

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Hikaru Nakamura Conquers London Chess Classic

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

On the day the NFL team Washington Redskins fumbled six times and threw one interception, Hikaru Nakamura's performance in England seemed almost flawless. Last Sunday, the top American grandmaster won the London Chess Classic, a rapid chess competition, leaving many world class players behind, including two former world champions Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik.

It has been a good year for Hikaru. In classical chess, he moved to the third place on the January 2014 FIDE rating list behind Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, and ahead of Kramnik. The faster the time control, the better Nakamura plays. The rapids in London were made for him.

The London organizers used the FIFA World Cup formula, dividing 16 participants into four groups with two players from each group advancing to the elimination rounds. Nakamura and Boris Gelfand were in the same group and ended up playing the final.

Nakamura eliminated Nigel Short in the quarterfinals, Kramnik in semifinals and beat Gelfand in the final, all with the score 1.5-0.5. His match with Kramnik was shaky, but the Russian played as if under a spell. No matter what the position, Kramnik tends to trip up and becomes Hikaru's victim.

At the World Team Championships last month in Antalya, Turkey, Nakamura outplayed Kramnik in a positional masterpiece, using the square c6 as an outpost and winning a tactical skirmish in the end. With this victory, the U.S. team beat Russia with the score 3-1, although the Russian team eventually took first prize ahead of China and Ukraine. The U.S. team finished fourth.

[Event "World Teams 2013"] [Site "Antalya TUR"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E36"] [WhiteElo "2786"] [BlackElo "2793"] [Annotator "lk"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/3N2p1/1p2pp2/pP5p/P2n1P1P/6P1/4PK2/8 b - - 0 38"] [PlyCount "24"] [EventDate "2013.11.26"] [WhiteTeam "USA"] [BlackTeam "Russia"] [BlackTeamCountry "RUS"] 38... Nxb5 {With the white knight deep in black's territory, Kramnik unleashes a spectacular combination. It sets the a-pawn into motion, seemingly uncatchable.} 39. axb5 a4 40. Nc5 $1 {An astonishing refutation. Nakamura returns his knight and his b-pawn runs faster.} a3 ({White wins with a check after} 40... bxc5 41. b6 a3 42. b7 a2 43. b8=Q+ $18) 41. Nb3 {White is a piece up. Game over. Kramnik made 10 unnecessary moves before he resigned.} a2 42. Ke3 Kf7 43. Kd4 Ke7 44. e4 e5+ 45. fxe5 Ke6 46. Na1 fxe5+ 47. Kc3 g5 48. Kb2 gxh4 49. gxh4 Kd6 50. Nb3 1-0

In the quarterfinals in London, Kramnik eliminated Anand and initially played well the first game against Nakamura, reaching a winning position. But imprecise play left him few options and he blundered.

[Event "London Classic "] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D35"] [WhiteElo "2786"] [BlackElo "2793"] [Annotator "lk"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/4r3/1B4k1/7p/4K3/5NP1/8/8 w - - 0 65"] [PlyCount "3"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] {After 64 moves the players reached the diagram position. It is difficult to imagine the game ending in two moves. Sometimes mishaps happen even to world champions.} 65. Ne5+ Kf6 $2 ({One move blunder. After} 65... Kh7 {white can still play, first trying to win the h-pawn. It could be a long torture, but Kramnik ends it at once, walking into a pin.}) 66. Bd8 1-0

The sharp Grünfeld defense game turned out to be decisive in the Nakamura - Gelfand final. Both players knew where they were headed, having played the Hungarian line recently. It seemed that the 45-year-old Israeli had Hikaru on the ropes. Although being an exchange sacrifice down, Gelfand's pieces cavorted all over the place. Nakamura had to tread carefully. Finding difficult moves, the American eventually put his opponent in a bind and Gelfand succumbed to the pressure.

[Event "London Classic"] [Site "London"] [Date "2013.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Gelfand, Boris"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D97"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "1976.??.??"] [EventType "game"] [EventCountry "ENG"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 {The Russian system, one of the most complicated and dynamic lines against the Grünfeld Defense.} dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 a6 {The Hungarian answer, planning a quick expansion on the queenside.} 8. e5 {An old attempt to refute the line by sharp, forcing play.} ( {Most positional players simply develop with} 8. Be2) 8... b5 9. Qb3 Nfd7 {A critical starting position from which the line either rises or falls.} 10. Ng5 {In his extensive 400-page treatment "The Grünfeld", David Vigorito calls it extravagant. "But it supports the break e5-e6 and the knight may come to the e4-square.," he writes. The new Mega 2014 database shows only 22 games with this knight leap. It was also played nearly four years ago by Magnus Carlsen against Lenier Dominguez, Wijk aan Zee 2010. Black replied 10...Nb6. Gelfand and Nakamura faced two other possibilities recently:} (10. e6 {used to give black fits, but not anymore. Black is fine after} fxe6 11. Be3 (11. Ng5 Bxd4 12. Qxe6+ Kg7 13. Be3 c5) (11. Qxe6+ Kh8) 11... Nf6 12. a4 b4 $1 13. Qxb4 Nc6 14. Qa3 Qd6 15. Be2 Nb4 16. Rc1 Bb7 17. h3 Bxf3 18. gxf3 Nbd5 19. a5 Rfb8 20. Bd2 Qxa3 21. bxa3 Nxc3 22. Rxc3 {1/2-1/2 (22) Moiseenko,A (2699)-Gelfand,B (2764) Tromso 2013}) (10. Be2 c5 11. e6 fxe6 (11... cxd4 {Larry Kaufman's interesting piece sacrifice that Nakamura was willing to test.} 12. exd7 (12. exf7+ Kh8 13. Ne4 Nc6 $11 (13... Bb7 14. Nfg5 Bxe4 15. Nxe4 Ne5 16. Qh3 Qd7 $11 )) 12... Bb7 (12... Nxd7 13. Ne4 Bb7) 13. Nd5 Nxd7 14. Bg5 Nf6) 12. Qxe6+ Kh8 13. dxc5 Ne5 14. Qd5 Qxd5 15. Nxd5 Nxf3+ 16. Bxf3 Bb7 17. Be4 Rd8 18. Nf6 Nc6 19. Ng4 Na5 20. Bxb7 Nxb7 21. c6 Nd6 22. O-O Rac8 23. Bg5 Nf5 24. Ne3 Nxe3 25. fxe3 Rxc6 26. Bxe7 Re8 27. Rac1 Re6 28. Bc5 Bxb2 29. Bd4+ Bxd4 30. exd4 R8e7 { 1/2-1/2 (30) Nakamura,H (2786)-Giri,A (2732) Antalya 2013}) 10... Nc6 $5 {The attack of the d-pawn is rather recent. Black also like to force the white queen from the diagonal a2-g8 with Nc6-a5.} ({But black may have time to undermine white's center with the c-pawn:} 10... c5 {Houdini 4 Pro provides the most of the following variations:} 11. Nxf7 (11. e6 cxd4 12. exd7 (12. Nce4 Nf6 13. exf7+ Kh8 14. Bd3 (14. h4 Nxe4 15. Nxe4 Bf5 16. h5 Bxe4 17. Qe6 $1 Qd5 $2 18. hxg6 h6 19. Qg4 Nd7 (19... Qf5 20. Bxh6 $1 Qxg4 (20... Rxf7 21. gxf7 Qxg4 22. Be3+ Bh7 23. Bd3 $18) 21. Bf4+ Bh6 22. Be5#) 20. Bxh6 Bxh6 21. Qh4 Kg7 22. Qxh6+ Kf6 23. g7+ Kxf7 24. gxf8=Q+ Rxf8 25. Rh5 $18) 14... Nc6 15. h4 Ne5 16. h5 gxh5 (16... Nxh5 17. Nxh7 $18) 17. Nxf6 exf6 18. Rxh5 h6 19. Nf3 Bg4 $11 ) 12... Nxd7 13. Nce4 Bb7 14. Nxf7 Rxf7 15. Ng5 e6 $15) 11... Rxf7 12. e6 Nc6 13. exf7+ Kf8 14. Ne2 cxd4 $11) 11. Nxf7 $6 {Nakamura makes a risky decision to win the exchange. Otherwise, black is fine:} ({After the bizarre} 11. Ne6 Na5 $1 {is the best.}) ({And} 11. Be3 Na5 {is good for black.}) 11... Rxf7 ({ Forced. Black is smothered after} 11... Nxd4 12. Nh6+ Kh8 13. Qg8+ $1 Rxg8 14. Nf7#) 12. e6 Nxd4 13. exf7+ Kf8 14. Qd1 {White has the exchange, but the black pieces come quickly to life.} Nc5 ({Most engines go for} 14... Ne5 $1 {to protect the knight on d4 with c7-c5, for example} 15. Be3 (15. f4 $2 Bf5 $1 $17 ) 15... c5 {with black's advantage, for example} 16. f3 (16. Be2 Bf5) 16... Bf5 17. Kf2 Qc7 18. Qd2 Rd8 $19) 15. Be3 Bf5 16. Rc1 ({After some thought, Hikaru decided to keep the tension instead of surrendering the dark squares with} 16. Bxd4 Bxd4) 16... Qd6 17. b4 ({After the quiet} 17. Be2 Nxe2 18. Qxd6 cxd6 19. Kxe2 Nd3 20. Rb1 Nxb2 21. Rxb2 Bxc3 {black's position is preferable.}) (17. g4) 17... Ne4 $6 {Exchanging pieces is good for white. The retreat 17...Nce6 was preferable.} ({But black had a spectacular way to continue the attack:} 17... Rd8 $1 18. bxc5 Qe5 {[%csl Rd1,Gd4,Gd8,Ge5] Diagram [#] Black is a rook down, but the threat 19...Nc2+, winning the queen, can't by stopped. White would have sufficient material, but has to figure out how to develop his kingside. Something similar happened almost 74 years ago in the game between Edward Lasker and Rueben Fine. In both cases, Black has a dominant knight in the center supported by the rook and the queen is pinning the e-pawn.}) 18. Nxe4 Bxe4 {Nakamura now makes four strong consolidating moves. Interestingly, the computers would handle the situation the same way.} 19. f3 Bf5 20. Qd2 Rd8 21. Kf2 Kxf7 22. Be2 Qf6 $6 {There was no need to give up the c-pawn.} ({Gelfand could have protected it with} 22... Rd7 {before starting any action. The strong knight gives him excellent compensation.}) 23. Rxc7 {Obviously satisfied, Hikaru left the table for a few moments.} Ne6 {Gelfand probably overlooked white's next move. He could have set up a trap:} (23... h5 24. Bg5 $6 {and only now} Ne6 $1 25. Qxd8 Qxg5 26. Qd5 Bd4+ 27. Ke1 (27. Kf1 Qe3 $19) 27... Qxg2 28. Rf1 Qxh2 {and the active light pieces are as good as the clumsy white rooks.}) 24. Rd7 $18 Rc8 25. Bd3 ({Increasing the advantage, although the computers are asking for} 25. Bd1 {, followed by Bd1-b3. The light bishop would cover the square c2 and at the same time pin the knight on e6.}) 25... Rc3 26. Bxf5 gxf5 27. f4 {Preventing counterplay on the diagonal b8-h2.} ({For example,} 27. Rc1 Rxc1 28. Qxc1 Qh4+ 29. Kg1 Be5 30. h3 Qg3 {although white should win after} 31. Rd5) 27... Rc4 {Swinging the rook to the square e4 does not help.} ({White has the edge also after} 27... Qh4+ 28. g3 Qh3 29. Qd1 $16) 28. Rc1 Re4 29. g3 h5 30. h4 {Hikaru calmly stops black's activity and brings home the victory.} Qg6 31. Bc5 Bf6 32. Re1 Qg4 ({After} 32... Nxc5 33. bxc5 Qg4 34. Rd8 $1 Qh3 35. Rxe4 Qh2+ 36. Kf3 Qh1+ 37. Ke3 Qxe4+ 38. Kf2 {white should win.}) 33. Rxe4 fxe4 34. Qd1 Qf5 35. Rd5 Qh3 36. Qf1 ({After} 36. Qf1 Qg4 ( 36... Qh2+ 37. Qg2) 37. Qe2 {forces the queens off the board. White wins.}) 1-0

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.18"] [Round "?"] [White "Grünfeld 4.Bf4"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "D84"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [PlyCount "37"] [EventDate "2013.11.26"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bf4 Bg7 5. e3 O-O 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. Nxd5 Qxd5 8. Bxc7 Nc6 9. Ne2 Bg4 10. f3 Rac8 11. Nc3 Qe6 12. Bf4 Nxd4 $5 13. fxg4 Rfd8 { [%csl Rd1,Gd4,Gd8,Ge6] The position resembles the note after move 17 in the game Nakamura-Gelfand, in which black was a full rook down.} 14. Rc1 $1 { Edward Lasker suggested this move in the comments to his 1940 game against Reuben Fine. Today, The computers concur, claiming white is winning.} (14. Be2 Nxe2 15. Qxe2 Rxc3 16. bxc3 Bxc3+ 17. Kf2 Rd2 18. Qxd2 Bxd2 19. Rhd1 Ba5 20. Kf3 Qc6+ 21. Kg3 Bb6 22. h3 Qe4 23. Kh2 Bxe3 24. Bxe3 Qxe3 25. Kh1 Qa3 26. Rd7 b5 27. Re1 Qxa2 28. Rexe7 a5 29. Rd8+ Kg7 30. g5 Qc4 31. Rdd7 a4 32. Rc7 Qf1+ 33. Kh2 Qf4+ 34. Kg1 a3 {0-1 (34) Lasker,Edward-Fine,R, Marshall Club Championship, New York 1940}) (14. Kf2 Qb6 15. Qc1 (15. Rb1 Ne6 16. Qb3 Rd2+ 17. Kg3 g5 $11) 15... Ne6 16. Bg3 Ng5 17. Rb1 Bxc3 18. bxc3 Ne4+ 19. Kg1 Rxc3 20. Qxc3 Qxb1 21. Qc7 Rd1 22. Qb8+ Kg7 23. Qf4 h6 24. Qe5+ Kh7 25. Qf4 f6 26. Bh4 Nd2 27. Kf2 Rxf1+ 28. Rxf1 Qxf1+ 29. Kg3 Qxf4+ 30. exf4 g5 {0-1 (30) Benko, P-Laszlo,D Budapest 1951}) (14. Bd3 $5 Nc6 15. Qb1 (15. Qe2 Nb4 16. Rd1 Bxc3+ 17. bxc3 Nxa2 $11) 15... Be5 {Houdini 4} (15... Ne5 {(Simagin)} 16. Be2 Nc4 17. Bxc4 Qxc4 18. Qc2 g5 19. Bxg5 b5 20. a3 {Houdini 4} (20. Rd1 Qc5 21. h4 b4 22. Rxd8+ Rxd8 23. O-O bxc3 24. bxc3 $16) 20... a5 21. Rd1 b4 22. Qe2 $16) 16. Be4 Bxf4 17. exf4 f5 18. gxf5 gxf5 19. O-O fxe4 20. f5 Qe5 21. Qxe4 $16) 14... Nc6 {The best move. The following computer line gives white a winning edge.} 15. Qf3 (15. Qb3 Qxg4 16. h3 Qf5 17. g4 $5 Bxc3+ 18. Qxc3 Qd5 19. Kf2 Ne5 (19... Qxh1 20. Bg2 $18) 20. Qxc8 Rxc8 21. Rxc8+ Kg7 22. Bxe5+ Qxe5 23. Rc3 $18 Qd5 24. Rh2 Qxa2 25. Kg1 $16) 15... Bxc3+ (15... Nd4 16. Qxb7 $18) 16. bxc3 Nb4 17. Qxb7 Rb8 18. Qxa7 (18. Bxb8 $2 Qxe3+ 19. Be2 Nd3+ $18) 18... Ra8 19. Qc5 $18 *

Photo images by Ray Morris-Hill

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post


The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over one million comments made on the site each month. According to Nielsen NetRatings, the site has around 13 million unique visitors per month (number for March 2010); according to Google Analytics the number is 22 million uniques per month.


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