Nakamura vs Ponomariov – the tiebreak games reconstructed

by ChessBase
7/20/2009 – In an earlier report we told of the 2-0 victory of US GM Hikaru Nakamura in the tiebreak blitz after he and Ruslan Ponomariov had tied for first in the Dondstia San Sebastian Category 18 tournament. Unfortunately owing to a malfunction in the sensor board all the moves of the second game were not recorded. Not to worry: David Llada filmed it all and provides us with a video document of both games.

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Donostia-San Sebastian Chess Festival

Final standings

This is how the tournament ended, with former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov and top US grandmaster (on the live rating list) Hikaru Nakamura. The SB tiebreak scores are not relevant, since in case of a tie two blitz (5 min + 0 sec) deciders were to be played. In our previous "final report" we could not give all the moves of the second game, since the sensor board had stopped broadcasting them. However both games were filmed and have now been made available by Spanish journalist David Llada on YouTube.

Nakamura,Hi (2710) - Ponomariov,R (2727) [B81]
City of Culture GM Playoff Donostia ESP (1), 16.07.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g4 h6 7.Bg2 Nc6 8.h3 a6 9.Be3 Ne5 10.Qe2 g5 11.f4 gxf4 12.Bxf4 Nfd7 13.0-0-0 b5 14.Qf2 Bb7 15.Kb1 Qb6 16.Rhf1 Be7 17.Be3 Qc7 18.Nf3 Rh7 19.Bd4 b4 20.Na4 Nc4 21.Nd2 Rc8 22.Nxc4 Qxc4 23.b3 Qb5 24.Nb2 Ne5 25.Bxe5 dxe5 26.Nc4 Rxc4 27.bxc4 Qxc4 28.Qb6 Qc6 29.Qa5 f6 30.h4 Rg7 31.Bf3 Rg8? 32.g5 hxg5

Here Nakamura plays a very nice queen sac: 33.Qxe5 Kf7. The trick is that after 33...fxe5 34.Bh5+ Rg6 35.Bxg6 is mate, and a very pretty one at that. 34.Qg3 g4 35.Bxg4 Qc5 36.Bxe6+ and mate to follow: 36...Kxe6 37.Qxg8+ Ke5 38.Rf5+ Kxe4 39.Qg4+ Ke3 40.Rd3#. 1-0. [Click to replay]

Watch the entire first tiebreak game in this YouTube video

In predatory pose: Hikaru Nakamura before the second game of the tiebreak

Ponomariov,R (2727) - Nakamura,Hi (2710) [B81]
City of Culture GM Playoff Donostia ESP (1), 16.07.2009
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Nbd7 8.0-0 Bb4 9.Qe2 Bg6 10.e4 0-0 11.Bd3 Bh5 12.Bf4 c5 13.e5 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Nd5 15.Bd2 cxd4 16.cxd4 Nb8 17.h3 Nc6 18.g4 Bg6 19.Bb5 Rc8 20.Rfc1 Nde7 21.Kg2 Nxd4 22.Nxd4 Qxd4 23.Qe3 Qxe3 24.Bxe3 a6 25.Bf1 Bc2 26.Kg3 Nd5 27.Bd2 Rc7 28.a5 Rd8 29.Ra2 Rdc8 30.Rb2 h6 31.f4 Nc3 32.Kh2 Ne4 33.Be3 Ba4 34.Rxc7 Rxc7 35.Bg2 Rc2 36.Rxb7 Re2 37.Bb6 Bc6 38.Rc7 Bd5 39.Kg1 Re1+ 40.Kh2 Re2

Black has been pressing throughout this game, but Ponomariov is okay and can hold a draw by repetition – which Nakamura offers, since it wins him the tiebreak and the title. So White deviates – after six seconds of thought, with a blunder: 41.Rc8+? Can you see why this move loses? 41...Kh7 42.Rc1. 42.Kg1 didn't work any more with the rook on c8 because of the discovered knight check: 42...Rxg2+ 43.Kxg2 Nd6+ and Black finishes a piece up. 42...Nd2 43.Rg1 Nf3+ 44.Kg3 Nxg1 and the situattion is hopeless for White. 0-1. [Click to replay]

Watch a video of the entire second tiebreak game

Hikaru with the winner's trophy and the winner's Basque beret

For those readers who are avid Nakamura fans and have been speculating that some international conspiracy has been preventing us from publishing more pictures (than just three) of their hero, here's a little present: click on both the above pictures, both by David Llada, for breath-taking larger vesions.


The games were broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse the PGN games.

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