Nakamura wins Opening Blitz in Zurich

by Alejandro Ramirez
2/12/2016 – With a dashing 3-0 start, there was no doubt that Nakamura was the best blitzer out there in the opening tournament. The event did not count for points, it was held as part of the opening ceremony and to determine who has more whites and who has more blacks in the rapid portion. We bring you a round by round report of an exciting opening in Zurich!

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5th Zurich Chess Challenge 2016

From 12 to 15 February 2016 the world chess elite will arrive again in Zurich for the fifth edition of the Zurich Chess Challenge at the Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville.

The oldest chess club in the world and its honorable member Oleg Skvortsov have suggested a most important innovation for the future of new classical chess: a new time control of 40 minutes per game with additional 10 seconds for each move.

Today was the opening blitz as well as the opening ceremony. Today's blitz tournament doesn't count for the final tally, but it does determine which players have more whites than blacks in the classical portion of the tournament (or rapid portion, depending on how you want to see things). The time control for the blitz was four minutes with two seconds increment.

The evening started with a friendly game between Boris Gelfand and Oleg Skvortsov, the sponsor of the event.
Picture by Vladimir Barsky for

Players almost ready for the blitz to begin

Round One

From the get-go it was Hikaru Nakamura that lead the event. His win against Aronian was the only decisive result in the first game.

Early leader with his first round win: Nakamura

[Event "5th Zurich Opening Blitz"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.12"] [Round "1"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Aronian, L."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2787"] [BlackElo "2792"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bd6 5. c3 O-O 6. O-O Re8 7. Nbd2 a6 8. Ba4 b5 9. Bc2 Bf8 10. Re1 d5 11. a4 Bb7 12. h3 h6 13. exd5 Qxd5 14. b4 Qd7 15. Ne4 Nd5 16. Bb3 $16 {White's position is already very comfortable. He has pressure all around the board, including the a-file, some tricks on the kingside and Black's pieces need to keep constant protection over squares such as c5.} Rad8 17. axb5 axb5 18. Bxh6 $1 {A very nice trick. It doesn't win a pawn, but it gives White a great position.} Nxc3 (18... gxh6 19. Bxd5 {and the bishop is taboo due to Nf6+.} Bg7 20. Bb3 Qxd3 21. Qc1 $1 {Looks almost winning for White.}) 19. Nxc3 gxh6 20. Ne4 Be7 (20... Bg7 21. Nc5 {also looks annoying.}) 21. Nh2 $1 Nd4 22. Ng4 Kg7 23. Nxe5 Qf5 24. Ng3 {Aronian's position simply collapses.} Qg5 25. Nxf7 Qg6 26. Nxd8 Bxd8 27. Rxe8 1-0

Kramnik was unable to create real problems against Giri and that game ended in a draw, while Shirov and Anand repeated moves in a Sicilian to also split the point.

A solid draw to start the tournament for these two

Round Two

In the game Giri vs. Anand the Dutch player underestimated the danger to his king in severe time pressure.

[Event "5th Zurich Opening Blitz"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.12"] [Round "2"] [White "Giri, A."] [Black "Anand, V."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B52"] [WhiteElo "2798"] [BlackElo "2784"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2q1bk1/5p1p/2RNp1p1/4P3/p4P2/1P4P1/5K1P/2Q5 w - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "10"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] [EventType "blitz"] 29. bxa4 Rxa4 30. Qc2 $6 (30. Kg2 $1 Qa5 31. Kh3 $1 {and with the king tucked in h3 White should be doing ok.}) 30... Qa5 $1 31. Kf3 $2 {Losing on the spot.} Qd5+ $1 32. Ne4 Ra2 $1 {suddenly there is no good place for the queen. She has to keep an eye on too many squares: d3, d1 and the rook on c6.} 33. Qc1 (33. Ke3 Rxc2 34. Nf6+ Kg7 35. Nxd5 Rxc6 {doesn't work either.}) 33... Qd3+ { White will soon be mated.} 0-1

Meanwhile Kramnik was a little too aggressive against Nakamura:

[Event "5th Zurich Opening Blitz"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.12"] [Round "2"] [White "Kramnik, V."] [Black "Nakamura, Hi"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D03"] [WhiteElo "2801"] [BlackElo "2787"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bg5 c6 4. e3 Qb6 5. Bd3 Ne4 6. Nbd2 Nxg5 7. Nxg5 e6 8. Qh5 g6 9. Qf3 Qc7 10. h4 Qe7 11. O-O-O Bg7 12. c3 e5 $1 {Despite White's apparent lead in development, he isn't well placed to deal with this e5 break.} 13. e4 h6 $1 14. Nxf7 $6 (14. Nh3 exd4 15. cxd4 Bxd4 16. exd5 O-O $17) 14... Qxf7 15. Qg3 exd4 16. exd5 O-O $1 {A beautiful defense, castling right into it. After this there is no longer any attack and Black is completely winning.} 17. Bxg6 Qxf2 18. Qxf2 Rxf2 19. Ne4 Rxg2 {Kramnik could have resigned at any point after this.} 20. Rdg1 Rxg1+ 21. Rxg1 cxd5 22. Nd6 Nc6 23. Bf5 Bxf5 24. Nxf5 Kh8 $1 (24... Kf7 $1 25. Rxg7+ Kf6 {has a similar idea}) 25. Rg6 (25. Rxg7 Rf8 { attacks the knight and wins the game.}) (25. Nxg7 Rg8 {is a deadly pin.}) 25... Bf8 26. cxd4 Re8 27. Kd2 Re4 28. Kd3 Rxd4+ 29. Ke3 Re4+ 30. Kd2 Rf4 31. Rf6 Bg7 32. Rf7 Bxb2 33. h5 Bg7 34. Ke3 Re4+ 35. Kd2 Rf4 36. Ke3 Rf1 37. Kd2 Ne5 0-1

Finally Aronian was unable to hold a position that I was certain would end in a draw. He missed a clever trap from Shirov:

It all looked heading towards a draw, but Aronian didn't sense the danger

[Event "5th Zurich Opening Blitz"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.12"] [Round "2"] [White "Aronian, L."] [Black "Shirov, A."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A11"] [WhiteElo "2792"] [BlackElo "2684"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/5k2/2q5/p4p2/P4R2/5PBK/8 b - - 0 55"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] [EventType "blitz"] 55... Kg5 56. Bh3 Qd4 57. Kg1 $2 (57. Bf1 $11) 57... Qd1+ $1 58. Kg2 Qd5 $1 59. Bc8 Kh4 $2 (59... Qc6 60. Bh3 {leads to the game.}) 60. Bh3 $2 (60. Ba6 $1 { Aronian didn't realize his bishop was in danger!}) 60... Kg5 61. Bc8 Qc6 $1 62. Bh3 Kh5 $2 {the triangulation idea is cool, with a zugzwang, but the execution was not correct} (62... Kg6 63. Bg4 Kf6 {is the correct triangulation, not letting the bishop out.}) 63. Bf5 Kh4 64. Bh3 $4 (64. Bd3 $11) 64... Kg5 { suddenly White is completely stuck!} 0-1

With these results Nakamura was well in the lead. Aronian's 0/2 start was a bit surprising, and Shirov was the one showing good form! Things didn't quite stop there for the American player, though.

Round Three

Nakamura won yet again, this time against Giri. After exploiting a weakness in Giri's opening, Nakamura collected one pawn and went on to a much better endgame. Pawns started dropping like flies for Giri and the game was soon over. Shirov chose a very boring anti-Berlin against Kramnik which was only good enough for a draw, while Anand misplayed his attack against Aronian.

Some time to joke between rounds

[Event "5th Zurich Opening Blitz"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.12"] [Round "3"] [White "Anand, V."] [Black "Aronian, L."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2784"] [BlackElo "2792"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nf5 8. Nf3 O-O 9. d4 d5 10. g3 Re8 11. Nc3 Be6 12. Ne2 Bd6 13. c3 f6 14. Bf4 g5 15. Bxd6 Nxd6 16. Nc1 Qd7 17. Bg2 Ne7 18. Nd3 b6 19. h4 h6 20. hxg5 hxg5 21. Nxg5 $5 fxg5 22. Ne5 Qd8 23. Qh5 Nef5 $1 {White has compensation, but I don't think it is sufficient for an advantage. He simply lacks pieces to attack with.} 24. Ng4 $6 (24. Qg6+ Ng7 25. Re2 $11 {the pressure is still mounting and Black has to find some way of not losing too much material:} Nf7 $1 26. Rae1 Nh8 27. Qh6 Nf7 {with a computeresque perpetual.}) 24... Ng7 25. Qh3 {This is a clear sign that the attack has failed.} Bxg4 $6 26. Qxg4 $2 (26. Bxd5+ $1 $15) 26... Rxe1+ 27. Rxe1 c6 28. f4 Nf7 {Now its smooth sailing for Aronian's extra knight.} 29. c4 dxc4 30. fxg5 Qxg5 31. Qxg5 Nxg5 32. Bxc6 Rd8 33. Re5 Nf7 34. Re7 Rxd4 35. Rxa7 Nf5 36. Kf2 Ne5 0-1

Round Four

Giri was absolutely killing Aronian in the fourth round, but anything can happen in blitz! He managed to not only let go of his advantage, but he was slowly outplayed in a knight and queen vs. bishop and queen endgame. Aronian showed good technique once he had the advantage and won his second game in a row.

Kramnik had a small edge throughout the game against Anand, but was unable to do much with it. Finally Shirov managed a miracle escape against Nakamura:

[Event "5th Zurich Opening Blitz"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.12"] [Round "4"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Shirov, A."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B34"] [WhiteElo "2787"] [BlackElo "2684"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "121"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Nb3 Nf6 7. Be2 a6 8. O-O b5 9. Re1 b4 10. Nd5 d6 11. Bf3 Rb8 12. Bg5 Nxd5 13. exd5 Ne5 14. Be2 h6 15. Be3 Bb7 16. a3 bxa3 17. Rxa3 O-O 18. Na5 Ba8 19. f4 Nd7 20. Nc6 Bxc6 21. dxc6 Nf6 22. b3 a5 23. Bf3 d5 24. c4 Qd6 25. Rxa5 Qxc6 26. Bxd5 Nxd5 27. Rxd5 e6 28. Rd3 Rb7 29. Qf3 Qa6 30. h4 h5 31. Bf2 Rfb8 32. Red1 Qa2 33. Rd8+ Kh7 34. Rxb8 Rxb8 35. Rd3 Qc2 36. Kh2 Ra8 37. Qxa8 Qxd3 38. Qf3 Qc2 39. c5 Bf8 40. b4 Qc4 41. Qb7 $1 {Very nice move from Hikaru. The f4 pawn is not that important as long as the bishop can cover the diagonal.} Qxf4+ 42. Bg3 Qf5 43. c6 $2 { But this is a big mistake!} (43. Qf3 {is simply 1-0. The pawns are too powerful and Black must exchange queens.}) 43... g5 $1 44. hxg5 (44. c7 gxh4 45. c8=Q hxg3+ 46. Kxg3 Bd6+ 47. Kh4 Qg4# {gets White mated.}) 44... h4 45. Bb8 Bg7 {Suddenly things are not so easy.} 46. Qb6 Be5+ 47. Bxe5 Qxe5+ 48. Kh1 Qe1+ 49. Qg1 Qxb4 50. Qc1 Qe4 51. Kh2 (51. Qc3 $1 $18) 51... Qe5+ 52. Kg1 Qd4+ 53. Kh1 Qe4 54. Qf1 Qxc6 55. Qxf7+ Kh8 56. Qf6+ Kg8 57. Qg6+ Kf8 58. Qh6+ Kg8 59. Qg6+ (59. g6 Qb7 {is not very dangerous for Black.}) 59... Kf8 60. Qh6+ Kg8 61. Qg6+ 1/2-1/2

Round Five

Anand won an important game and destroyed Nakamura

[Event "5th Zurich Opening Blitz"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2016.02.12"] [Round "5"] [White "Anand, V."] [Black "Nakamura, Hi"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B04"] [WhiteElo "2784"] [BlackElo "2787"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2016.02.12"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 c6 5. Be2 dxe5 6. Nxe5 Nd7 7. Nf3 g6 8. O-O Bg7 9. c4 Nc7 10. Nc3 O-O 11. Bf4 Ne6 12. Be3 Nf6 13. h3 Qc7 14. Qd2 Rd8 15. Rad1 b6 16. Rfe1 Bb7 17. Qc1 Nh5 18. Bf1 Rac8 19. b4 Qb8 20. c5 a5 21. bxa5 bxc5 22. dxc5 Qa7 23. Bc4 Nc7 24. Rxd8+ $1 Rxd8 25. Rd1 $1 {Black simply has no good way of dealing with the threat on his rook!} Re8 (25... Rxd1+ 26. Qxd1 Bxc3 27. Qd8+ Kg7 28. Qxc7 {and Black's position is completely collapsing. Both Qxe7 and a6 are huge threats.}) 26. Ng5 e6 27. Rd7 Qxa5 28. Nce4 Bc8 29. Rxf7 h6 30. Rxg7+ Kxg7 31. Nf3 {White's position is simply overwhelming.} Nd5 32. Bxh6+ Kh7 33. Nd6 Re7 34. Bf8 Rg7 35. Bxg7 Kxg7 36. Bxd5 1-0

Nakamura finished with a loss in the blitz, but won the tournament anyway! Photo by David Llada.

Shirov survived a slightly worse position against Giri, while Aronian was crushing Kramnik... in deep time pressure he blundered a queen and had to resign! A costly mistake as a win would have allowed him to tie for second with Anand and Shirov, but with that loss he finished in fifth and with more blacks than whites, same as Kramnik and Giri.

Nakamura finished first with 3.5/5. Anand and Shirov had a great showing (Shirov was undefeated, with an unusual four draws in blitz!) and will have more whites than blacks in the rapid portion.

Picture by Vladimir Barsky from

The concert on the first day was by the world renowned cellist Boris Andrianov (the first Russian cellist to become a laureate at the 6th international Rostopovich competition in Paris). Also invited was the Russian classical guitarist Dimitry Illarionov, and Ilya Gringolts playing the Stradivari (middle).

Opening Blitz Standings

Replay Opening Blitz Games


Friday February 12 6 p.m. Opening Ceremony, concert, Blitz
Saturday February 13 3 pm first round, 6 pm second round
Sunday February 14 3 pm third round, 6 pm. fourth round
Monday February 15 3 pm. fifth round, 6 pm. blitz, closing

Round 1 - Sat, February 13th, 3:00 pm

White   Black
Alexei Shirov - Vladimir Kramnik
Hikaru Nakamura - Anish Giri
Viswanathan Anand - Levon Aronian

Round 2 - Sat, February 13th, 6:00 pm

White   Black
Vladimir Kramnik - Levon Aronian
Anish Giri - Viswanathan Anand
Alexei Shirov - Hikaru Nakamura

Round 3 - Sun, February 14th, 3:00 pm

White   Black
Hikaru Nakamura - Vladimir Kramnik
Viswanathan Anand - Alexei Shirov
Levon Aronian - Anish Giri

Round 4 - Sun, February 14th, 6:00 pm

White   Black
Vladimir Kramnik - Anish Giri
Alexei Shirov - Levon Aronian
Hikaru Nakamura - Viswanathan Anand

Round 5 - Mon, February 15th, 3:00 pm

White   Black
Viswanathan Anand - Vladimir Kramnik
Levon Aronian - Hikaru Nakamura
Anish Giri - Alexei Shirov


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.

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


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