Live commentary by Polgar and Nakamura

3/12/2005 – An extraordinary chess match between 17-year-old US champion Hikaru Nakamura and former women's world champion Susan Polgar was held in Virginia Beach recently. Both players executed their moves in separate rooms on demo boards, explaining to the audience their thoughts and their plans – during the game. Illustrated report...

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Nakamura vs. Polgar
Chess Exhibition

17-year-old U.S. Chess Champion Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura and World Women’s top-ranked Grandmaster Susan Polgar played a unique exhibition game during the Millennium Chess Festival on February 26, 2005, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA. It was called the “GM Dinner / Exhibition Match” and featured the two grandmasters playing each other from separate rooms, each before a live audience with moves relayed by radio. They played on large demo boards and, between moves, explained to the audience what they were thinking about and why they are choosing certain options. The people present had a great opportunity to gain an insight into mind of a chess grandmaster.


Virgina Beach in Virginia, USA


Close-up of the beach – on a winter morning

Hikaru Nakamura is the current US Champion and the number one ranked US player; Susan Polgar is the former Women’s World Champion and five-time Olympic Champion, and the number one ranked woman player in the US.


Crowds line up to get tickets for the event

The game started shortly after 7 p.m. local time. A large crowd of people had gathered to watch the event. There were still technical details to be managed, which the two players whiled away in different ways. Young Hikaru went straight to an Internet terminal to entertain the public on the chess servers, while Susan spoke to the people in the line, posed for pictures and gave autographs.


Hikaru Nakamura chatting on the Internet


Susan Polgar chatting and signing autographs for the public


Before the start of the game


Susan Polgar playing her game, for the audience's benefit on a demo board


Enthralled: the audience during the Polgar-Nakamura game


The Millennium Chess Festival in full action

The audiences in the two playing halls enjoyed the event tremdously, following the explanations of the players, their plans and explanations. It was a unique experience to watch two strong grandmasters maneuvering against each other, working out tactical possibilities, and explaining all of it to the audience. The game was carried live on the Playchess.com server and annotated for this report by Susan Polgar. You can replay all the analysis by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. All of the pictures were provided by Paul Truong.

Polgar,Susan - Nakamura,Hikaru [D08]
Virginia Beach, VA [Commentary by Polgar,Susan]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5. The Albin counter gambit is quite rare in today's grandmaster practice. Only very few GMs "dare" to play it. The Russian GM Morozevich is one of the very few who plays it occasionally and with success. Probably Hikaru is the second strongest player who once in a while surprises his opponents with it.

Before this game, I anticipated primarily a more solid opening. However, I psychologically was ready for the Albin. The funny part is that just in the current (February 2005) issue of Chess Life, I wrote about this very opening! Therefore, it became a psychological battle too. I was wondering did he read my article or not?! And if he did, did he find a novelty? As I found after the game, he did! It is flattering that he is not the only GM who reads my article.

3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.g3 Nge7. In earlier years, Black used to play 5...Be6 or 5...Bg4 instead. This is the new idea of Morozevich.

6.Bg2 Ng6 7.Bg5. Protecting the Pawn with 7.Bf4 allow 7.Nxf4 ruining White's Pawn structure on the Kingside. [In some games, White returned the Pawn with 7.0-0 Ngxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5

7...Qd7. A strange looking move but the best choice. After 7...Be7 8.Bxe7 Black has problems to get the sacrificed Pawn back.

8.e6. With this timely Pawn return, White forces Black's f-pawn to the e file.

8...fxe6 9.0-0 e5 10.Nbd2. Also interesting was 10.Qa4 first as I suggested in my article. Apparently, that is what my opponent was hoping for but I surprised him with Nbd2.

10...h6 11.Bh4 Bd6. In the Krasenkow-Morozevich game, Black developed the Bishop to e7. I don't think that the game continuation is an improvement.

12.c5! fine tactical way to use the Black Knight's unprotected position.

12...Bxc5. This came to me as a pleasant surprise. It also shocked the audience. A lot safer was the retreat with 12...Be7. It shows that Hikaru is not afraid of sharp games and he is not afraid of a challenge.

13.Qc2. This move forks the Black's Bishop on c5 and the Black Knight on g6.

13...Nxh4. The only way to avoid losing a piece.

14.Nxh4 Bb6. I did not even consider this retreat, only to d6, b4 or e7.

15.Ng6 Rg8. Rook could not go to h7 because of a discovery "Knight jump".

White is clearly better here. The dilemma is which of the tempting continuations to choose.

16.Qc4. This the only idea I considered (along with a different execution with 16.Qb3). However, I found an additional interesting continuation after the game with 16.Nc4 for example 16...Qf5 17.Be4 Qf6 18.Bxc6+ bxc6 19.Ngxe5.

16...Qe6. The only way to save the Rook! After 16...Ne7, White would trade Knights and then simply capture the Rook on g8.

17.Bxc6+. This is one of the critical positions of the game. I had the opportunity to win an exchange with 17.Bd5 Qxg6 18.Bxg8 but with the short time control I did not want to give Hikaru counter play with 18…Bh3. Then Black has a Pawn for the exchange and the light squares around my King’s castling position are missing my Bishop (which is stranded on g8). Another option was after 17.Bd5 Qxg6 to play then 18.Bxc6, I decided against it because of 18…Kf8. To my amazement, my opponent told me after the game that he planned to sacrifice the exchange anyway with 18…bxc6. If I had known that, I would have played the Bd5 variation.

17...bxc6 18.Nxe5 Qxc4 19.Ndxc4. This is the position I was hoping for. White has better Pawn structure and the Black Bishop on b6 is really out of play.

19…c5 20.Rfc1 a5. Perhaps better was 20…Be6. On the other hand, 20…Bb7 is not good because of 21.a4 (threatening to trap the Bishop with 22.a5) 21…a5 22.Nxb6 cxb6 and 23.Nc4 winning a Pawn.

21.e3! dxe3 22.Nxe3 Be6 23.Nd3? This was the mistake that lets most of the advantage fall out of my hands. The more accurate move was 23.Rd1 not allowing Black to castle.

23...0–0–0. I was so glad to win a Pawn that I underestimated Black’s counter play. 24.Nxc5.

24...Bh3. This Bishop is becoming like an “annoying monster” constantly setting up back rank checkmate traps.

25.Rc2. Also 25.Rc3 was good.

25...Rge8 26.Rac1 Kb8 27.a3. Preparing b2-b4.

27…a4! A very good move! After 28.Nxa4, Black answers with 28…Rxe3 29.fxe3 Bxe3+ 29.Kh1 Bxc1 30.Rxc1 Rd2.

28.Rc3. According to Fritz better was 28.Rc4 Rd2 29.Rb4.

28...Rd2 29.Nxa4. A blunder would be 29.R1c2, because of checkmate in two after 29…Rd1+!.

29…Bxe3 30.Rxe3 Rf8 31.Rb3+ Ka8 32.g4! Giving up a pawn to force to bishop away from its powerful position!

32…Bxg4 33.Rxc7 Rfxf2 34.Nb6+ Kb8 35.Nd5+ Ka8 and Black offered a draw ½–½ (White had 2’25” left and Black had 4’31” left)

White is still better after 36.Ne3 Bh3 37.Rc5 Rf7 38.Ra5+ Ra7 39.Nc4] ½-½

Click here to replay the game on our JavaScript board.
Note that you can click on the notation to follow the moves.

GM Susan Polgar was a child prodigy in her native Hungary, and became the first woman to earn the men’s chess Grandmaster title. She taught her two younger sisters how to play and they also became grandmasters (the youngest, Judit, now ranked #9 on the world men’s rankings list.).

Susan won her 4th World Championship title in 1996 before retiring to have a family. Now a U.S. citizen she returned to chess in 2004 to lead the USA to a first-ever medal in the prestigious World Chess Olympiad. In addition to the team Silver medal, Susan also captured two additional individual Gold medals and one Silver medal including best overall performance of the Women’s Olympiad bringing her total medal count to 10 (5 Gold, 4 Silver and 1 Bronze).

In addition, she has a 56 consecutive Olympiad game scoring streak without a single loss (this is comparable to Joe DiMaggio's incredible 56-game hitting streak in baseball). In fact, she has never lost a single game in the Olympiads.

GM Hikaru Nakamura last month won the U.S. Chess Championship, at just age 16. He is now ranked in the world's top 100 and last year also reached the round of 16 in the 2004 FIDE World Championship matches. Nakamura broke Bobby Fischer's record of the youngest U.S. grandmaster by four months, at age 15 years 2 months. Known for his aggressive and imaginative play, many experts regard him as the first home-grown American since Fischer to have a chance to one-day challenge for the world championship.

The GM Dinner / Exhibition Match took place on Saturday, February 26, 2005, at 7:30pm, at the Millennium Chess Festival at the Ramada Plaza Oceanfront Resort, 57th & Atlantic Street, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The Millennium Chess Festival (Feb 25–27) was sponsored by the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton and is presented by Beach Events and the city of Virginia Beach. The Festival also included the main tournament, in which many GMs and other players of all strengths competed in various class sections, plus other special events including a lecture by Susan Polgar and a “Fischer-Random Chess” blitz tournament.


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