Nakamura is the Ultimate Blitz Champion!

by Sagar Shah
4/30/2016 – Hikaru Nakamura came all guns blazing on day two of the Ultimate Blitz. He scored 11.0/18 and finished a full point ahead of others. Wesley So took the second spot with 10 points and Garry Kasparov was right behind him on 9.5. Caruana was able to muster only 5.5 points. The event was a huge success as it attracted a lot of attention from fans all over the world. By having a look at few of the games in this report there is only one thing we can say, "Garry you must play more often!"

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Photos by Lennart Ootes

As the day two began, and we looked forward to nine rounds of blitz, just about everyone had a chance to win the title. After the first day of nine rounds of blitz this is how things stood:

The playing hall

Prominent spectators included US Women's Champion Nazi Paikidze (right) and runner-up Tatev Abrahamyan

The day began with a bang when Wesley So played a brilliant game against Garry Kasparov in the tenth round. This is what the commentators and Garry had to say about the game:

  • Maurice Ashley: "The day started with a thunderbolt: Wesley So playing one of the finest attacking game since Morphy!"

  • Yasser Seirawan: "Wesley's game against Kasparov will go down in history as one of the greatest blitz games ever played. I will remember that game for the rest of my life."

  • Garry Kasparov: "It reminded me of games Morphy played against amateurs."

Both the players saying their prayers before the game?!!

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "10.2"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Kasparov, Garry"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A41"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "49"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. Nf3 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Bg4 $5 {Garry doesn't go for his favourite King's Indian.} 5. Be2 Nc6 6. Nbd2 $5 {A very interesting move. The d4 pawn is taboo.} e5 7. d5 Nce7 8. h3 Bd7 9. c5 $1 {Way to go! That's the first pawn sacrifice.} dxc5 10. Nc4 $1 {Attacking the e5 pawn.} f6 {A very ugly move but necessary.} 11. d6 $1 Nc8 12. Be3 b6 13. O-O Bc6 14. dxc7 Qxc7 15. b4 $1 { Pawns don't really matter for Wesley in this game!} cxb4 16. Rc1 Nge7 17. Qb3 $1 {Look at the White pieces. So co-ordinated! And the black king is completely stranded.} h6 {A completely atypical move for Garry. But he just couldn't come up with a move.} 18. Rfd1 b5 19. Ncxe5 $1 {Two pawns and now a knight!} fxe5 20. Bxb5 Rb8 21. Ba4 $3 {A very hard move to make in blitz, keeping all the threats alive.} Qb7 22. Rxc6 $1 Nxc6 23. Qe6+ N8e7 24. Bc5 Rc8 25. Bxe7 {What a power packed game by Wesley. To beat Garry in this manner is highly commendable.} 1-0

Retired or not retired, this man doesn't like to lose!

Just have a look at the board posiiton to see how dominant White's position was!

The gift for a superb win over Garry Kasparov: Lotis Key gives a kiss to adopted son Wesley So

Wesley scored another win in the next round and was a full point ahead of Nakamura

Fabiano Caruana had a completely horrid day at the event. He started with 3.5/9 and ended with 5.5/18. He scored just two points and was surely out of sorts. As an example have a look at this position:

Fabiano Caruana - Garry Kasparov, Round 12

Garry has just played his bishop to d3. Now Fabiano could have just picked up the rook on c8. Instead he went Qg3 allowing Black to pick up the c2 pawn. Here's the exciting end of the game for you to play over:

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "12.1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Kasparov, Garry"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B90"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e6 7. g4 Be7 8. Bg2 Nfd7 9. Be3 Nc6 10. Qe2 O-O 11. O-O-O Nxd4 12. Bxd4 Qc7 13. f4 b5 14. g5 b4 15. Na4 e5 16. Be3 exf4 17. Bxf4 Ne5 18. Qf2 Rb8 19. h4 Bg4 20. Rd2 Rfc8 21. b3 Qa5 22. Bh3 Be6 23. h5 {Diagram [#]} Nc4 $1 {Garry doesn't miss a chance like this. } 24. Re2 Bxg5 25. bxc4 Bxc4 (25... Bxf4+ 26. Qxf4 Qxa4 27. Bxe6 fxe6 28. Rg1 $13) 26. Bxg5 Qxg5+ 27. Re3 Bd3 $2 28. Qg3 $4 (28. Bxc8 $1 {Fabiano doesn't see that he could pick up this rook. This just explains his form at the event.}) 28... Rxc2+ 29. Kd1 Qxh5+ 30. Qg4 Qe5 31. Rxd3 Rxa2 32. Rd2 Qa1+ 33. Ke2 Rxd2+ 34. Kxd2 Qxh1 {Black has just too many pawns!} 35. Nb2 Qh2+ 36. Bg2 h5 37. Qg5 Qe5 38. Qxe5 dxe5 39. Bf1 a5 40. Bc4 h4 0-1

In blitz when you are not in great form and your opponents are strong, one mistake follows another.
Have a look at the endgame between Caruana and Nakamura below:

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "16.1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A07"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "134"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. O-O Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 c5 7. c4 d4 8. e3 Nc6 9. exd4 cxd4 10. Re1 Ne8 11. d3 f6 12. Nbd2 e5 13. Ne4 Nc7 14. c5 Be6 15. Nfd2 Bd5 16. Nc4 Ne6 17. Ba3 b5 18. Ncd6 Bxd6 19. cxd6 b4 20. Bc1 Bxe4 21. Bxe4 Qxd6 22. Qh5 g6 23. Qf3 Rac8 24. Bh6 Rf7 25. Rac1 Ne7 26. Rxc8+ Nxc8 27. Rc1 Ne7 28. h4 Kh8 29. Ba8 Nc5 30. Bd2 a5 31. h5 Kg7 32. h6+ Kh8 33. Rc4 Rf8 34. g4 f5 35. Bg5 Ne6 36. Bd2 e4 37. dxe4 fxg4 38. e5 Qxe5 39. Qe4 Qxe4 40. Bxe4 Rc8 41. Rxc8+ Nxc8 42. Bd5 Nc7 43. Bc6 Ne7 44. Bd7 Kg8 45. Bxg4 Kf7 46. Kf1 Nc6 47. Ke2 Ne5 48. Bh3 Ke7 49. f4 Nf7 50. f5 g5 51. Kd3 Nb5 52. Kc4 Nc3 53. Kxd4 Kf6 { Diagram [#]} 54. Bxc3 bxc3 55. Kxc3 {The position should be a draw but both sides have to play carefully.} Nxh6 56. b4 g4 57. Bg2 axb4+ (57... a4 58. b5 Nxf5 59. b6 Nd6 60. b7 Nxb7 61. Bxb7 Kg5 $11) 58. Kxb4 Nxf5 59. a4 Ne3 60. Be4 $4 {Just about any other bishop move would have drawn. Now Black wins a crucial tempo with Ke5.} (60. Bb7 $1 Ke5 61. a5 Kd6 62. a6 Kc7 $11) (60. a5 $2 Nxg2 61. a6 Nf4 62. a7 Nd5+ $19) 60... Ke5 $19 61. Bh1 Kd6 62. a5 Kc7 63. Kc5 g3 64. Kd4 g2 65. Bxg2 Nxg2 66. Ke4 Nh4 67. Kf4 Ng6+ {This game quite accurately showed how Fabiano was botching up in quite simple positions.} 0-1

Meanwhile Wesley continued to show that his practice sessions with Aleksandr Lenderman had helped him, as he defused this highly dangerous position against Garry Kasparov:

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "13.2"] [White "Kasparov, Garry"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A13"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. b3 Nf6 4. g3 d4 5. Bg2 Nc6 6. O-O e5 7. d3 Bc5 8. b4 Nxb4 9. Nxe5 O-O 10. a3 Na6 11. Nd2 Re8 12. Nef3 Bd6 13. Nb3 c5 14. e3 dxe3 15. Bxe3 Qc7 16. Bg5 Nd7 17. d4 Nb6 18. dxc5 Nxc5 19. Nxc5 Bxc5 20. Bf4 Qd8 21. Qc2 h6 22. Rad1 Qf6 {Diagram [#] From here on starts an excellent sequence of moves.} 23. Be5 Rxe5 (23... Qe7 {was also possible.}) 24. Nxe5 Qxe5 25. Rfe1 (25. Rd8+ Bf8 $19) 25... Bf5 $1 {The only move or else Re8 and Rd8 would have ended the game.} 26. Rxe5 Bxc2 27. Rd2 Nxc4 $1 {Quickly blitzed out by Wesley. What an accurate defence.} 28. Rxc5 Nxd2 29. Rxc2 Rd8 30. Bxb7 {The position is almost drawn now. Good defense by Wesley.} Rd7 31. Ba8 g6 32. f4 Nb3 33. Kf2 Re7 34. Bd5 Nd4 35. Rd2 Nf5 36. Rd3 Kg7 37. Bb3 h5 1/2-1/2

Nakamura showed the audience why he is considered as one of the best blitz players in the world

Hikaru scored 2.5/3 against Fabiano and 2.0/3 against Wesley. It speaks a lot about Kasparov's strength as a chess player that he managed to beat Hikaru with a score of 2.0/3. Here is one of their games where Garry was able to put up a staunch defence and hold the draw.

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "14.2"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Kasparov, Garry"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A50"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "98"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 c5 4. d5 d6 5. Nc3 e6 6. e4 Bg7 7. Nge2 exd5 8. cxd5 a6 9. a4 Nbd7 10. Ng3 h5 11. Be2 h4 12. Nf1 Nh5 13. Be3 f5 14. exf5 gxf5 15. Nd2 Ne5 16. f4 Ng4 17. Nc4 O-O 18. O-O {Diagram [#] Black can take the bishop on e3, but Garry, of course couldn't resist the temptation of plonking his knight to g3.} Ng3 $5 19. hxg3 hxg3 20. Bxg4 fxg4 21. Ne4 $1 {Great defence by Hikaru who gets ready to sacrifice his knight for the g3 pawn.} Qh4 22. Nxg3 Qxg3 23. Qe1 $1 {The queen has to be exchanged and White would clearly be better.} Qxe1 24. Raxe1 Bd7 $6 (24... Rf6 {was the best.}) 25. Nxd6 Bxa4 26. Bxc5 b6 27. Ba3 (27. Bxb6 Rfb8 28. Bc5 Rxb2 29. f5 $18) 27... Bb3 28. Kh2 (28. f5 $5 g3 29. Rf4 $18) 28... Bxd5 29. Kg3 b5 30. Rd1 Ba2 31. Kxg4 Rab8 32. Bc5 b4 33. Rd2 a5 34. Ra1 b3 35. Re1 Rxf4+ $1 {Great alertness shown by Garry.} 36. Kxf4 Bh6+ 37. Kg4 Bxd2 38. Re7 Bb4 39. Bxb4 Rxb4+ 40. Kg5 Bb1 41. Ra7 a4 42. Ne8 Kf8 43. Nf6 Rd4 44. g4 Rd2 45. Rxa4 Rxb2 46. Rb4 Kf7 47. Nd5 Rd2 48. Rb7+ Kf8 49. Rb8+ Kf7 1/2-1/2 

The crucial game of the tournament in round 15 where Nakamura was able to beat So

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "15.2"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D37"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. c5 c6 8. h3 b6 9. b4 a5 10. a3 Ba6 11. Bxa6 Rxa6 12. O-O Qc8 13. Qc2 Qb7 14. Rab1 axb4 15. axb4 Ra3 16. Rfc1 Rfa8 17. Ne1 b5 18. Qb2 Ne4 $1 {An excellent move by Nakamura getting his knight to the e4 square, the moment the White queen left that square.} 19. Nxe4 dxe4 20. Ra1 R3a4 21. Nc2 Nf6 22. Rxa4 Rxa4 23. Ra1 Qa6 24. Rxa4 Qxa4 {Black has a small edge but it is not at all easy to breakthrough.} 25. Kf1 {This is not yet the critical mistake but in the game this move turns out to be the reason why Wesley lost.} Nd5 26. Be5 $6 (26. Ke2 {was better.}) 26... f6 27. Bg3 Nxb4 $1 {Great alertness shown by Nakamura.} 28. Qxb4 (28. Nxb4 Qd1#) 28... Qxc2 29. Ke1 Bd8 30. Qa3 Qa4 31. Qxa4 bxa4 32. Kd1 Ba5 33. f3 exf3 34. gxf3 Bb4 35. Kc2 Kf7 36. Kd3 e5 37. dxe5 Bxc5 38. e4 a3 39. exf6 {Diagram [#] And now comes the cute finish!} Bd4 $3 (39... Bd4 40. Kxd4 a2 {and the bishop cannot stop the pawn from queening.}) 0-1

Hikaru showed his determination to win the event as he would usually be
the first person to come to the board before the games began

Wesley So - Garry Kasparov, Round 16

In the above position Wesley agreed to a draw with Rg6+ followed by Rh6.
But there is a way he can win. Can you spot it? Hint: It is not so easy!

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "16.2"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Kasparov, Garry"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A41"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r1r2k1/2R5/3P3R/8/6P1/1p6/5PK1/8 w - - 0 43"] [PlyCount "7"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] 43. Rg6+ {This is what Wesley played.} ({Instead} 43. Rhh7 $1 {was completely winning. It is not so obvious at first sight though} b2 44. Rcg7+ $1 Kf8 45. Rb7 $1 Kg8 46. Rhd7 $3 {This move is really not so easy to see.} Rdc8 (46... b1=Q 47. Rxb1 $18) (46... Re8 47. Rg7+ Kh8 48. Rh7+ Kg8 49. Rbg7+ Kf8 50. Re7 $1 Kg8 (50... Rxe7 51. dxe7+ $18) 51. Rxe8+ Rxe8 52. Rb7 $18) 47. Rg7+ (47. Rdc7 Rd8 48. Rg7+ Kh8 49. Rgd7 Rdc8 50. Rh7+ Kg8 51. Rbg7+ Kf8 52. Rc7 Kg8 53. Rxc8+ Rxc8 54. Rb7 $18) 47... Kf8 48. Rh7 Kg8 49. Rbg7+ Kf8 50. Rc7 Kg8 (50... Rxc7 51. dxc7 b1=Q 52. cxb8=Q+ Qxb8 53. Rh8+ $18) 51. Rxc8+ Rxc8 52. Rb7 $18) 43... Kf8 44. Rh6 Kg8 45. Rg6+ Kf8 46. Rh6 1/2-1/2

While Nakamura was running away with the tournament with a two-point lead after 16 rounds, Garry Kasparov handed the American his first and the only defeat of the day.

Garry's expression says it all: Nakamura had blundered!

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "17.2"] [White "Kasparov, Garry"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C45"] [PlyCount "125"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Be3 Qf6 6. c3 Nge7 7. Bc4 Ne5 8. Bb3 Qg6 9. O-O d5 10. Bf4 Bg4 11. Qc2 Bxd4 12. cxd4 N5c6 13. Qd2 Qxe4 $2 { A very odd decision by Nakamura giving up a piece.} (13... Bf3 $5 14. Bg3 Bxe4 15. Nc3 $44) 14. f3 Bxf3 15. gxf3 Qxd4+ 16. Qxd4 Nxd4 17. Bxc7 {Black has only two pawns for a piece and that is not enough compensation. Garry manged to win the game although not as smoothly as he would have liked.} Kd7 18. Bg3 Nxb3 19. axb3 Nf5 20. Nc3 d4 21. Rfd1 Rhd8 22. Rd3 Kc6 23. Ne2 Rd5 24. Rad1 Rad8 25. Bf2 Kc5 26. Rc1+ Kb5 27. Rc4 b6 28. Ng3 Nh4 29. Kf1 Ka6 30. Rc7 Rf8 31. b4 g6 32. Ne2 Nf5 33. Nxd4 Nxd4 34. Rxd4 Rf5 35. Rd3 Rf4 36. Rb3 Kb5 37. Rxa7 Re8 38. Rb7 Re6 39. Re3 Ref6 40. Kg2 Rxb4 41. b3 Kc6 42. Ra7 h5 43. Rc3+ Kb5 44. Re7 Rf5 45. h4 g5 46. hxg5 Rxg5+ 47. Kh3 Rf5 48. Rb7 Ka6 49. Re7 Rbf4 50. Ree3 Kb5 51. Bg3 Rd4 52. Re5+ Rd5 53. Rxd5+ Rxd5 54. Rc4 Rd3 55. Rf4 Rxb3 56. Rxf7 Kc4 57. f4 b5 58. f5 Kd5 59. Rd7+ Ke4 60. f6 Rf3 61. f7 b4 62. Kg2 b3 63. Re7+ 1-0

This game opened up the tournament. Wesley was now trailing Hikaru only by one point. The two were paired against each other. But in the middlegame neither sides wanted to take a risk and hence agreed to a draw, thereby securing the first and second spot. The real excitement was going on in the game between Caruana and Kasparov.

The excitement of the final round in the hall

[Event "Ultimate Blitz Challenge"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "18.1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Kasparov, Garry"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A05"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2016.04.28"] [EventType "blitz"] {Learn from Garry how to launch an attack and how to finish off the opponent.} 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. O-O O-O 5. c4 d6 6. b3 e5 7. Bb2 c5 8. e3 Nc6 9. Nc3 Bf5 10. d4 e4 $1 {Of course Kasparov gains space. In the post game conference Garry said that this game reminded him of his battle against Webb from 1980. He was quite proud of this move Bf5 as it prepared the e5-e4.} 11. Ne1 (11. Ng5 Re8 12. dxc5 dxc5 13. Nb5 Re7 14. Qxd8+ Rxd8 15. Rad1 Rxd1 16. Rxd1 h6 17. Nh3 g5 18. Nd6 Bg4 19. Rd2 Ne8 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Kf1 Nxd6 22. Rxd6 Nb4 23. a3 Nd3 24. Ng1 Nc1 25. h3 Bc8 26. Ne2 Nxb3 27. Nc3 Be6 28. Bxe4 Na5 29. Bd5 Nxc4 30. Bxc4 Bxc4+ 31. Ke1 Be6 32. e4 Bxh3 33. f4 gxf4 34. gxf4 Rd7 35. e5 Rxd6 36. exd6 f6 37. Nd5 Kf7 38. Nc7 Bd7 {0-1 (38) Webb,S (2425)-Kasparov,G (2595) Skara 1980}) 11... Re8 12. Nc2 h5 $1 {The h-pawn moves forward to loosen up the opponent's kingside.} 13. Qd2 h4 14. Ba3 b6 15. Rfd1 Bg4 16. Rdc1 Qd7 $17 17. b4 Qf5 {The queen enters the attacking zone.} 18. Bb2 Rad8 19. Nb5 Bf3 20. d5 Ne5 (20... Nxb4 21. Nxb4 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 h3+ 23. Kf1 Ng4 $19) 21. Bxe5 Rxe5 22. Ne1 hxg3 23. fxg3 Bh6 {All the pieces are brought into the attack.} 24. Rab1 Kg7 {Yes all of them. The rook will join in on h8!} 25. Rb3 Qh5 26. h3 Nh7 27. g4 Bxg4 $1 {Of course you need to give up something to get back something bigger!} 28. hxg4 Qxg4 29. Qd1 Qg3 30. Qe2 Ng5 31. Kh1 Rh8 {The final assault!} 32. Nxd6 Kg8 $1 {Making way for the bishop to move.} 33. bxc5 Bf8+ 34. Kg1 Nh3+ 35. Kf1 Bxd6 36. cxd6 Rf5+ 37. Nf3 Rxf3+ {An emphatic victory for Garry.} 0-1

These two wins really made Garry happy!

When Garry was asked whether he would consider playing more such blitz events in future, he said, "Remembering my emotions last night, this morning, I don't know whether I will play in future or not. I proved that I can play against them. If I do take the challenge again I would do more serious preparation. There are so many things floating in your head at my age – I have family, lectures and writings. I do a lot of stuff on Twitter and Facebook, there are political appearances and then you have to think about the Scotch!"

The final standings

The rankings crosstable (click to enlarge)

A huge congratulations to Hikaru Nakamura for proving once again
that when it comes to blitz chess you cannot find someone better than him!

Hikaru's tweet after victory

Garry's excellent gesture of supporting the US chess Olympiad team

Without Jennifer Shahade, Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan this Ulimate Blitz event
would not have reached the same level of excitement as it did!

Watch the broadcast of day two


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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