Caruana, So, Svidler and Nakamura best in Chess 9LX

by Venkatachalam Saravanan
9/6/2019 – Hikaru Nakamura made a strong comeback in his match against Levon Aronian to score 6-2 and clinch his match with a margin of 14½:11½ in a remarkable comeback after a disastrous first day. Caruana and So completed the formalities in their matches against Kasparov and Topalov respectively to win with wide margins, while Peter Svidler too prevailed against Dominguez with a 4½:3½ margin. IM VENKATACHALAM SARAVANAN reports all action from Saint Louis. | Photo: Austin Fuller / Saint Louis Chess Club

Typical Mistakes by 1000-1600 Players Typical Mistakes by 1000-1600 Players

After the success of the Typical Mistakes videos aimed at higher rated players, I have decided to focus on mistakes that are made by players rated from 1000-1600.


Nakamura completes epic comeback

With a scoreline of 8½:9½ going into the last day of eight blitz games, there were lots of supporters for Nakamura, who has 'Speed Demon' and similar phrases prefixed to his name. And he didn't disappoint blitz aficionados. He scored a whopping 6-2 to win his match against Aronian, in a day of complete domination after a disastrous ½:7½ start. At least that's what it looks, if you go by the sheer scoreline.However,r the games will tell you a different story.


19.ed5 White is targeting Black's bottled up queen. A good move? Aronian actually missed a great move here: 19.♘fd5! and white wins immediately as he threatens 20.♗a6 and 21.b5. There is nothing better than 19...exd5 20.♗a6 d4 21.xb7 ♝xb7 22.c6! and white wins. Instead, 19...g6 and Black got counterplay.

As the game went on, the ever tricky Nakamura found a brilliant way to outfox Aronian:


37.xh5 xg2+!! It is amazing that Nakamura spots such resources in a flash, even in blitz games 38.xg2 xg2 39.h8 d7 40.h4 e4 and Black's pawns proved too strong, ultimately enabling him to win in about ten more moves. 


Though short of time, the win is very simple here: 38.♕f3 and there is no way black can prevent mate. Aronian went wrong with 38.♕xb5?? and was outfoxed by Nakamura in the ensuing endgame 38...g1+ 39.b2? xb5 40.axb5 d3+ and white pieces are terribly cramped. Black won in seven more moves. 


Black has a mild edge, but Aronian blundered horribly with 26.d5?? c5+ 27.f1 xh3! and Black went on to win. 


Black could have salvaged at least a draw here with 40...♛xb4! 41.♕xb4 ♜b7. But Aronian blundered with 40...b7?? 41.c2+ f7 42.xb7+ xb7 43.xh7+ f8 44.xb7 and White went on to win in a few more moves.

It was not just Aronian's tactical mistakes. Nakamura's blitz prowess was the main reason for his convincing result.


36.b5 A typical Nakamura blitz 'hustle'! 36...axb5?? and Aronian falls for it! 37.xe4 and White wins!

Nakamura - The Speed Demon? | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Saint Louis Chess Club

Needless to say, Nakamura was delighted with his performance. EEmphasizingthat the start didn't exactly reflect his play with many missed opportunities on the first day. Nakamura felt that he played extremely well in a few games after that. “I was lucky to win the first game, ...but once I won that there was no way Levon could come back”. He credited his victory in the match to handling the clock on the last day, always keeping his pieces on the right squares, even though he was worse in many games.

I was doing it in the Nepo style (!) making a lot of moves quickly and getting relatively mediocre positions! In about 3-4 games I was definitely worse but I won them all, moving very quickly. Take some risks, but move quickly! ...Levon was trying too hard to find the best moves at the start...In chess960, it is pointless finding the best moves and spending way too much time!

Note that this is not the first time that Nepomniachtchi gets mentioned when talking about moving quickly using intuition at the same time dynamically — the Russian's ghost seems to be hovering over a lot to be used as a yardstick for many top players!

The omnipresent Nepomniachtchi? | Photo: Crystal Fuller / Grand Chess Tour

Fantastic philosophy — moving quickly in Blitz is much more important than finding the best moves especially in the initial phase of the game. Have you ever heard of that?!

Try to apply this yardstick to Peter Svidler, who was playing quickly, but at the same time with dynamism — his core strength — from the very beginning of the game thus trusting his intuition rather than calculating deeply. 



Svidler played this move rather quickly over the board, which struck me as bold, intuitive, and sticking to core principles of how one perceives oneself. In the case of Peter Svidler, the necessity to play active chess. Further on, the game had another interesting moment


8.c5!? bd5 9.c6 d6 10.cxb7 xb7 11.b3

Though the position remains level, Svidler got what he wanted - dynamism. And he was playing the whole game quite fast. As in the words of Nakamura, important pre-conditions for playing the blitz?

Further on...


White's pieces enjoy a likeable dynamism, and they seem to be working as one unit, whereas Black's pieces are hopelessly uncoordinated. Svidler reached a winning position effortlessly: 20.d4 e5 21.c5 c6 22.c3 a5 23.b4 a6 24.e4 with a winning position.

Though he didn't succeed entirely in every game, it was just enough for Svidler to outwit Dominguez 4½–3½ on the last day, enough to prevail 15½–10½ in the final score.

Svidler had an entirely different viewpoint to present.

My feel for dynamism, where my pieces are supposed to be in the position, is reasonably good in general. (Intuitive treatment of positions in chess960) really translates my way of approaching chess, why I am reasonably good at this version. It plays very well into my strength, the feeling for dynamics of the position. Where things are supposed to be in (any) position.

And then he reveals a great secret,

Not having to beat my head against the Berlin, Petroff and the rest of it(!), is obviously a tremendous bonus at this stage of my life! So, all in all a very enjoyable event! It is a form which allows me to showcase my stronger sides a lot better than classical chess right now,... where it is extremely rare that I get a position that I like, and would like to just play out of the opening. People just don't let me play anymore!

The 'Dynamic' Peter Svidler | Photo: Austin Fuller / Saint Louis Chess Club

Applying this same principle to one of the most dynamic and explosive player in the history of the game, we would expect Veselin Topalov to win every complicated position that he encounters. At Saint Louis, the former world champion wasn't really able to show his strength, as it was Wesley So who was playing sharper in their match


10.xg7!? b7 11.f3 xg7 12.xf6 g8 13.xd8 xd8 and this is the kind of imbalance that Topalov used to thrive, in his best days, but his form was obviously not optimal at Saint Louis, mainly because of tactical oversights


The best chance to defend here was 40...♜e1+ 41.♔g2 ♝xg3!? 42.♖xe1 ♝xe1 with a complicated ending. However, Topalov went wrong with 40...d5? 41.xe5 xe5 42.c7 e7 43.c8=Q xc8 and White went on to win the ending.

And the one in the very first game of the day, was the most painful


52.d6?? e8+ 53.e7 c7 54.f6 b4 and suddenly the game was drawn. In the diagrammed position, White was simply winning with 52.♔b7 ♞e8 53.a5.


White is simply winning with 33.♖xd5 exd5 34.♗d3. Topalov fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book with 33.de1?? xe4 34.xe4 d1+ 35.c2 xe4 36.xe4 xg1 -+.

So had clear ideas of how he dominated the match and won with a 18:8 margin.

About 80% of the time I was ahead on the clock. Generally I like this kind of chess, and (was) enthusiastic about every game. Feels like we are in the good old days without any computer! Also, Veselin is semi-retired these days...

A simple kid who concentrates on his strengths.

Wesley So - Enjoyment? | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Saint Louis Chess Club

Away from all this debate about playing fast, dynamism, blunders and enjoying the format, supposedly the most interesting match did live up to its expectations, as Kasparov did manage to land a few punches back. The number two player in the world, playing against a retired legend, almost never was one of competitive interest, as Caruana scored a thumping 19:7 win.

Kasparov had major problems with the clock, and made too many errors when down to his last seconds. E.g.:


White has an overwhelming position after 30.♘f4, but Kasparov blundered with 30.a4?? b8 and White allowed black to capture on b3 and allowed the b-passer to queen. He later said that losing this game upset his mood completely.

The worst disaster happened in the very next game:


Black could get an equality with the amusing 9...♞xh5 10.♕xh5 0-0! when, by the conventions of chess960, the black king gets to g8 and king's rook gets to f8. But Kasparov went for the same amusement at the other side: 9...e7?? Caruana froze for several seconds here, as if he couldn't believe Black's move. When he finally convinced himself that the move was indeed the blunder it looked, he played 10.xf6 gxf6 11.g4 0-0-0


In spite of this being the fourth day and fifteenth game of the event, it was still funny seeing how the kings and rooks react at the time of castling in chess960. But in this particular position, it was more of a head-shaking variety than a smiley face. 12.gxf6 Rh8 13.b4 and unable to stand the looks of his position, Kasparov resigned.

To his credit, he managed to win back three games in the day.


12.f5! Blasting open the kingside 12...xf5 13.xf5 gxf5 14.h4 e6 15.df3 and the position is vintage Kasparov — all personnel reporting for the war, none sleeping behind in their quarters.


16.g5 Watch that knight! 16...g7 17.xh3 f6 18.f4! h7 19.fg6! and White had an overwhelming position, which he converted after a few hiccups.


24.xg4! xe6 25.xe6 xg4 26.xh6+ g8 27.g1 and Caruana resigned.

Caruana termed the games as 'drunken boxers trying to land the blow but not really managing to'!

I was playing very carelessly in the opening, and was getting bad positions...We (the modern players) have one thing which Garry doesn't have, which is practical experience. We are used to get good positions and bad positions and we know how to handle them. Defensive skills are one of the most important in bad positions, which you get all the time. In this tournament itself, one of the reasons that Hikaru managed to win his match because of the ability to fight back from bad positions.

Fabiano Caruna - The Defiant Defender | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Saint Louis Chess Club

How did Kasparov feel? “I know my limitations, I fought hard was not my strongest suit today” is how he summed up his feelings.

Garry Kasparov – No delivery? | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Saint Louis Chess Club

Commentary webcast

Commentary by WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan & GM Maurice Ashley


Saravanan is an IM from Chennai, the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu, India. He has been an active chess player in the Indian circuit, turning complete chess professional in 2012, actively playing and being a second to strong Indian players. He has been consistently writing on chess since late 1980s and is a correspondent to national newspapers and news channels.


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