Kavalek in Huffington: US Chess Champ Hikaru Nakamura (Part 1)

5/22/2012 – They fought gallantly and when it was over on Saturday afternoon, the horse, I'll Have Another, and the chessplayer, Hikaru Nakamura, 24, were declared winners almost at the same time. Nakamura wanted the title badly. He was rated number seven in the world and it was a matter of prestige for him. GM Lubomir Kavalek annotates some of the key games.

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U.S. Chess Champ Hikaru Nakamura: I'll Have Another

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

They fought gallantly and when it was over on Saturday afternoon, the horse, I'll Have Another, and the chessplayer, Hikaru Nakamura, 24, were declared winners almost at the same time. The comparison between the Preakness Stakes horse race held in Baltimore, Maryland, and the 2012 U.S. Chess Championship in Saint Louis, Missouri, may seem out of place, but both races had a lot of things in common.

Two best U.S. grandmasters, the defending champion Gata Kamsky and the top-rated American Nakamura, went neck-to-neck in the 11-round robin, leaving others far behind them. Two best horses at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Bodemeister and I'll Have Another, trounced the competition by eight horse lengths. An exciting come-from-behind victory was featured on the chessboard as well as on the race track.

Nakamura wanted the title badly. He was rated number seven in the world and it was a matter of prestige for him, although the first prize of $40,000 wasn't bad either. He was even talking about breaking Bobby Fischer's record. A special prize of $64,000 to match Fischer's perfect 11-0 record from the 1964 U.S. Championship was out of his reach - nobody is winning all games these days. But Nakamura thought he could break Fischer's highest rating record of 2785, although what Bobby did 40 years ago is not comparable to today's ratings. Fischer still leads the all time rating list of 50 best players.

Using unusual opening schemes, attacking left and right, grinding points in very long games and trying everything possible to score, Hikaru was still a half point behind Kamsky with two rounds to go. They met in the penultimate round and the odds were against Hikaru. He had the black pieces against one of the world's best defenders with world championship experience. But Kamsky cracked under pressure, played passively and Nakamura scored the most needed victory.

In the last round, Nakamura defeated the veteran Yasser Seirawan, 52, and with that remarkable finish, Hikaru clinched his third U.S. title with 8.5 points in 11 games, a full point ahead of his main rival Kamsky. Alexander Onischuk finished third with a solid performance, scoring 6.5 points.

Irina Krush won the U.S.Women Championship in the playoff, beating the defending champion Anna Zatonskih 2-0 after both players finished the tournament with a 7-2 score.

A championship journey

Nakamura began the championship sharply, outplaying Robert Hess in the Evans gambit, the only correct gambit among real gambits according to the legendary David Bronstein.

[Event "ch-USA 2012"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2012.05.08"] [Round "1"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Hess, Robert"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C51"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2635"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4r1k1/5pp1/4n2p/p1rBP3/2P1Q3/3RR2P/q5PK/8 w - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "9"] [EventDate "2012.05.08"] [SourceDate "2012.01.12"] {Nakamura's pieces are in a huddle, contemplating the final blow. Hikaru finds a quick way to get the black king.} 29. Bxe6 $1 fxe6 (29... Rxe6 30. Rd8+ Re8 31. Rxe8#) 30. Rd7 {Sealing the victory, threatening 31.Qg6 or 31.Rg3.} Kh8 ( 30... Qf2 31. Qg6 Qf8 32. Rf3 $18) 31. Rxg7 $1 {The rook sacrifice brings the black king out and white mates soon.} Kxg7 32. Rg3+ Kf8 33. Qh7 {There is no good defense against 34.Qg7 mate or 34.Rg8 mate.} 1-0

Against the talented youngster Ray Robson, 17, Nakamura composed a beautiful king's journey, balancing on the edge.

[Event "2012 U.S. Championship"] [Site "Saint Louis, MO, USA"] [Date "2012.05.10"] [Round "3.2"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Robson, Ray"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B75"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2614"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4k3/pR2N2R/5bp1/2P5/6K1/1Pr5/P3p3/1n6 w - - 0 43"] [PlyCount "13"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [SourceDate "2012.01.12"] [WhiteClock "1:21:20"] [BlackClock "0:00:57"] {The black king is almost in a mating net, but Robson threatens to queen with a check.} 43. Nd5 $3 {Nakamura allows black to queen.} Rg3+ 44. Kf4 (44. Kxg3 e1=Q+ {wins for black.}) 44... Bg5+ 45. Ke5 $3 {A study-like finish. The white king is going to hide on d6.} e1=Q+ 46. Kd6 {The white knight is an incredible defender, blocking all possible checks.} Bf4+ ({Robson now gives away two pieces, but his desperate effort does not help. After} 46... Be7+ 47. Rbxe7+ Qxe7+ 48. Rxe7+ Kf8 49. c6 {white wins.}) 47. Nxf4 Rd3+ 48. Nxd3 Qg3+ 49. Ne5 { The knight covers all checks and black gets mated with one of the white rooks.} 1-0

Nakamura overpowered Gregory Kaidanov with another amazing king's walk, squeezing life out of the black pieces.

[Event "ch-USA 2012"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2012.05.12"] [Round "5"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Kaidanov, Gregory"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E04"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2594"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "7r/2kb1p2/2p1p1p1/p2nP1K1/P4P1P/1P3B2/5B2/2R5 w - - 0 61"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "2012.05.08"] [SourceDate "2012.01.12"] {With the bishop pair, Nakamura's chances are better. But who could have envisoned the positional squeeze working so perfectly. Watch:} 61. f5 $1 Rg8 ({ Black decides to let the f-pawn march on. He didn't see good prospects after} 61... gxf5 62. h5 f6+ (62... Be8 63. Bxd5 exd5 64. h6 Bd7 65. Rh1 $16) 63. exf6 Rg8+ 64. Kh4 Nxf6 65. Bg3+ Kb6 66. Bf4 {and the h-pawn advances slowly but surely.}) 62. f6 $1 ({Creating a potential passed pawn, Hikaru only needs to clear the way for his king. There is one thing he shouldn't do:} 62. fxg6 $4 Rxg6+ 63. Kh5 Nf4#) 62... Rh8 63. Rc5 Ra8 64. Kh6 {Nakamura's king moves in decisively.} Nf4 65. Be3 Nh5 66. Bxh5 gxh5 67. Kg7 {Tying up Kaidanov's bishop to the pawn f7, Nakamura is giving black less and less space.} Be8 68. Kf8 $1 Kb7 (68... Kd7) 69. Ke7 {Black can hardly move.} Kc7 70. Bd2 (70. Bd2 Kb6 71. Rxa5 {and white wins.}) (70. Rc1 Rb8 71. Rg1 {threatening 72.Rg1-g8, also wins. }) 1-0

– Part two to follow soon –

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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