The solid Caro-Kann -- a weapon of many great players such as the world champions Jose Raul Capablanca, Mikhail Botvinnik, Tigran Petrosian, Anatoly Karpov and Anand. Even the young Garry Kasparov tried it for a while.
Nakamura's preparation was excellent throughout the tournament. Here he does a nice job tweeking his previous play in the Advance variation of the Caro-Kann.
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 Altough Nakamura plays almost everything against 1.e4, the Caro-Kann and the French defenses suit him better than the Sicilian.
3.e5 [The Russian champion is known for his bizzare play against the Caro-Kann, for example 3.f3 Qb6 4.a4?! ]
3...Bf5 The Advance variation gives white more space, but allows black's light bishop to jump out.
4.h4 (The legendary Paul Keres played this tricky move already at the 1932 Estonian Junior championship where he won all nine games. It prevents 4...e6 because of 5.g4 Be4 6.f3 Bg6 7.h5 and the bishop is lost. But the popularity of this move picked up after the 1961 world championship match Tal-Botvinnik.) [In the past, Nepomniachtchi preferred the more solid 4.Be3 ]
4...h5 [Weakening the square g5. Botvinnik, the great strategist, prefered to give up space 4...h6 5.g4 Bd7 6.h5 e6 7.f4 to counterattack with 7... 7...c5 ]
5.c4 e6 6.Nc3 Ne7 [Anatoly Karpov often played here 6...Nd7 and now: In a key game McShane-So, played in the penultimate round of the B-group in Wijk aan Zee, white chose 7.Nge2 (7.cxd5!? A smooth positional choice seems the best. 7... 7...cxd5 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 Ne7 10.Nf3!? gives white a space advantage: (10.Bg5 f6 ) 10...Nb8 (10...Nc6 11.0-0 Be7 12.Bg5 a6 13.Rac1 Nb6 14.Ne2 Qd7 15.Nf4 Nc4 16.b3 Na3 17.Rfd1 Rc8 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.Rc5 Rc7 20.Rdc1 g6 21.Ng5 Rd7 22.Rxc6 bxc6 23.Nxg6 fxg6 24.Qxg6+ Kd8 25.Rxc6 1-0 Short,N (2677)-Johannessen,L (2559)/Turin 2006/CBM 113) 11.Bg5 Qd7 12.0-0 Nbc6 13.Rfc1 Nf5 14.Na4 b6 15.Nc3 Rc8 16.Ne2 Be7 17.Bxe7 Qxe7 18.Rc3 0-0 19.Rac1 Qb7 20.Ng5 Nce7 21.Qf3 g6 22.g4 hxg4 23.Qxg4 Rxc3 24.Rxc3 Rc8 25.h5 Rxc3 26.bxc3 Qc6 27.Qh3 Ng7 28.h6 Nh5 29.h7+ Kg7 30.Nxf7 Kxh7 31.Ng5+ Kh6 32.Nxe6 Qb5 33.Qe3+ Kh7 34.Qg5 Qb1+ 35.Kh2 Ng8 36.N2f4 Nxf4 37.Qxf4 Nh6 38.Ng5+ Kg8 39.Qh4 Qf5 40.Nh3 Nf7 41.Qf4 Qc8 42.Qf6 Qxc3 43.e6 Qc7+ 44.Kg2 Nh6 45.Nf4 Nf5 46.Nxd5 Qg7 47.e7 Qf7 48.Qe5 1-0 Alekseev,E (2691)-Iturrizaga Bonelli,E (2609)/Khanty Mansiysk 2010/CBM 139) 7...dxc4 (In the original game in this variation, Tal created a messy position early after 7...Ne7 8.Nf4 dxc4 9.Bxc4 Ng6 10.Nxh5 Ndxe5 11.Be2 Nd3+ 12.Bxd3 Bxd3 13.Bg5 Qxd4 14.Rh3 Ne5 15.Nf4 f6 16.Nxd3 0-0-0 17.Nxe5 Qxe5+ 18.Qe2 Qxe2+ 19.Kxe2 fxg5 20.hxg5 Be7 21.Ne4 Rxh3 22.gxh3 Rh8 23.Rh1 Rh4 24.f3 Bd8 25.b3 b6 26.Kf2 Bc7 27.Kg2 Bf4 28.b4 1/2-1/2 Tal,M-Averbakh,Y/Baku 1961/URS-ch) 8.Ng3 Nb6 Novelty. 9.Be2 (9.Nxf5 exf5 10.Be2 ) 9...Bg6 10.Bg5 Be7 11.Nge4 f6 12.Bf4 Nd5 13.Bg3 Qb6 14.0-0 Nxc3 15.Nxc3 Qxb2 the Englishman went for a risky piece sacrifice a la Mikhail Tal: 16.Bxc4 Qxc3 17.Rc1 Qb2 18.Bxe6 keeping the black king in the middle. After 18...Rd8 19.d5 fxe5 20.Re1 Bf6 21.Re2 Qa3 22.Bxe5 Bxe5 23.Rxe5 Kf8 24.Qe1 the blunder 24... 24...Qd6? (24...Rh6 blunted the attack.) 25.Bxg8 Kxg8 26.Re6 Qxd5 27.Rxg6 Rh6 (27...Kh7 28.Rg5 Rhe8 29.Qb4 Qf7= ) 28.Rxh6 gxh6 29.Qe3 Rd7 30.Qxh6 Rg7 31.g3 Qd4 32.Qe6+ Rf7 33.Qe2 Kg7 34.Rf1 Kg6 35.Rd1 Qf6 36.Qe3 b6 37.Rd4 Re7 38.Qd3+ Kg7 39.Rf4 Qe6 40.Rf5 Rf7 and black resigned since 41.Rg5+ Kh6 42.Qd1 wins.]
7.Nge2 [White goes chasing the bishop, aiming for the pawn on h5. There is no doubt Nepo's choice was influenced by Svidler's victory over Nakamura in Amsterdam last year. The more popular 7.Bg5 can be best met by 1... 7...Qb6 ]
7...Bg4 [Nakamura learned his lesson and came up with an unsual maneuver. Last year in Amsterdam, he lost to Peter Svidler, playing 7...dxc4 8.Ng3 Bg6 9.Bg5 Qb6 10.Qd2 Qb4 11.a3 Qb3 12.Nge4 Nd5 13.Rh3 Qb6 14.Bxc4 Qa5 15.Nd6+ Bxd6 16.exd6 Nd7 17.Rc1 Nxc3 18.Rcxc3 Nf6 19.b4 Qd8 20.Qf4 Kd7 21.Rhe3 Re8 22.b5 Qa5 23.Bxf6 gxf6 24.Kf1 Bf5 25.Be2 Rac8 26.Rc5 Qa4 27.Rec3 a6 28.b6 Bg6 29.Qxf6 e5 30.Rxe5 Rxe5 31.dxe5 Re8 32.Re3 Re6 33.Qg5 Qd4 34.Kg1 Be4 35.Qxh5 Rxe5 36.Qxf7+ Kxd6 37.Qxb7 1-0 Svidler,P (2734)-Nakamura,H (2729)/Amsterdam 2010]
8.f3 Bf5 9.Ng3 Bg6 True, black lost time, but the pawn on f3 blocks the diagonal d1-h5 and makes the knight on g3 unstable. This becomes important after black breaks in the center.
10.Bg5 Qb6 11.Qd2 Nd7 12.a3 f6! Black has to fight back before he is smothered.
13.Be3 Qb3! 14.cxd5 Nxd5 15.Nxd5 Qxd5 16.Rc1 Nb6 [Preventing 17.Bc4. After 16...fxe5 17.Bc4 Qd6 18.Ne2 white's pieces are more active than in the game.]
17.Ne2 The threat 18.Nf4 forces black to take the pawn. Other moves allow black to castle long with a good play: [17.f4 0-0-0 ; 17.Bd3 Bxd3 18.Qxd3 0-0-0 ]
17...fxe5 18.dxe5 Qxe5 19.Bd4 Qc7 20.Qg5 Bf5!? [Hikaru defies gravity and doesn't drop his bishop back. After 20...Bf7 21.Be5 Bd6 22.Bxd6 Qxd6 23.Qxg7 Rg8 24.Qd4 white is only slightly worse.]
21.g4? Nakamura's provocation worked. Going all out, the Russian champion overextends himself a should have been punished quickly.
21...hxg4 22.fxg4 Be4? [Too slow. The computers spit out the winning line fast: 22...Be7! 23.Qxg7 Rh7 24.Qg8+ Kd7 25.Bxb6 Rxg8 26.Bxc7 Be4 27.Rh3 Kxc7 and white can't protect his kingside pawns.]
23.Rh3 Be7 24.Qxg7? [A mistake, giving black a clear advantage. White had to try 24.Qe3 Bd5 25.h5 with some fighting chances.]
24...Rh7 25.Qe5 [25.Qg8+ Kd7 ]
25...Qxe5 26.Bxe5 Bxh4+ 27.Ng3 Nd7 [The hitting begins. The alternative 27...Bg5 28.Rxh7 Bxh7 29.Rd1 Nd7 30.Bc7 Rc8 31.Bd6 Bc2 32.Rd4 b5 makes the white rook vulnerable.]
28.Bd4?! [Leaving the knight on g3 unprotected. After 28.Bf4 Bg6 29.Be2 black has to avoid 29... 29...0-0-0 30.Rxc6+ bxc6 31.Ba6# ; 28.Bc7 Bg6 29.Be2 Bf6-+ ]
28...Bf3! A relentless pursuit of the g-pawn nets more material.
29.g5 [After 29.Bd3 Bxg4 30.Bxh7 Bxh3 black is two pawns up, but giving up the exchange also leads to a lost position.]
29...Bg4 30.g6 Rh6 31.Rxh4 [White didn't have a choice. After 31.g7 Kf7 black wins.]
31...Rxh4 32.Rc3 Bf3 An acrobatic way to centralize the bishop. There was nothing wrong with the simple 32...e5.
33.Rxf3? [White misses a chance for a little swindle on the diagonal a2-g8: 33.g7 Ke7 34.Re3 Rxd4? (34...Kd6! 35.Bc3 Bd5 36.Kd2 Rg8 should win for black.) 35.Nf5+ Kf6 36.Nxd4 Bd5 37.Nxe6! Bxe6 38.Rxe6+ Kxe6 39.Bc4+ Ke5 40.g8Q Rxg8 41.Bxg8 with good drawing chances.]
33...Rxd4 34.Bh3 Ne5 35.Rf6 Nd3+ 36.Ke2 Nf4+ 37.Ke3 e5! Sealing white's fate.
38.Rf7 [After 38.g7 Nd5+ 39.Ke2 Nxf6 black wins.]
38...Rd3+ 39.Ke4 Rxg3 40.Bd7+ Kd8 41.Bf5 Nxg6 42.Rg7 Rb8 43.b4 b5 44.Bxg6 Rg5 Threatening 45...Rb6 and 47...c5. 0-1