NH: Ashes to ashes – Experience leads 13.5:11.5

by ChessBase
8/25/2009 – One was hit by a bug – the biological kind –, the other by an as yet unexplained passion for cricket. But Hikaru Nakamura managed to win a brilliancy in spite of two emergency trips to the bathroom during the game. And Peter Svidler has regained all his normal determination after England had won the Ashes and he could concentrate on chess. Report by Steve Giddins, pictures by John Nunn.

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The 4th NH Chess Tournament runs from Thursday, August 20, and runs through August 31 in the five-star NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky smack in the centre of Amsterdam. It is a double round robin team event, with five Rising Stars facing five Experienced players.

Ashes to Ashes

Steve Giddins reports on the NH tournament in Amsterdam

In all competitive sports and games, one factor plays an almost decisive part in the outcome, yet it remains a mystery: form. One day, a player will turn up and perform at the very best of his ability. Another day, despite his preparations, physical condition and mental approach all appearing to be just as before, he will be unable to put a foot right. It is all a question of "form", people conclude. If anyone could identify the key to good form, and bottle the resulting substance, he would go down in history alongside Lily the Pink, the man who, as The Scaffold's 1968 record informed us, "invented medicinal compound / Most efficacious in every way".

Hit by a bug, but fighting anyway: US GM Hikaru Nakamura

It is not always indefinables that determine form. Sometimes the cause is only too obvious. At the NH tournament, for example, the top-rated player on the Rising Stars team is US champion, Hikaru Nakamura. He started the event in the worst possible way, by contracting a version of the same stomach bug which afflicted me during the recent Staunton Memorial tournament. I will not offend you with the gory medical details, save to say that the old saying "what goes up must come down", proves to be out by 180 degrees, as a description of the bug's effects. So, you will understand that Nakamura has been in terrible form and losing all his games? Except that he hasn't. He did fail to convert a winning position against van Wely in round two, but a day later, despite having to make two emergency trips to the bathroom during the game, he won a brilliancy:

Beliavsky,A (2662) - Nakamura,Hi (2710) [E97]
3rd NH Chess Tournament Amsterdam NED (3), 22.08.2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0–0 6.Be2 e5 7.0–0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Nd2 Ne8 10.b4 f5 11.c5 Nf6 12.f3 f4 13.Nc4 g5 14.a4 Ng6 15.Ba3 Rf7 16.a5 h5. A typical King's Indian scenario, as White charges up the queenside and Black does likewise on the other flank. As Nigel Short, among others, has pointed, out, whatever the objective merits of the variation, an important practical point must be borne in mind. In such lines, if Black commits an error, he loses a pawn or two on the queenside. If White commits one, he gets mated. As a result, Black can often afford to commit the first mistake, yet still win the game, a luxury rarely available to White. Such proves to be the case here – Nakamura's treatment is not regarded as best by theory, which prefers a more prophylactic approach starting with 9...a5, and White should objectively be better, but once the complications start, one slip is enough to see him plunging over the precipice. 17.b5 dxc5 18.b6 g4 19.bxc7 Rxc7 20.Nb5

20...g3 21.Nxc7 Nxe4 22.Ne6 Bxe6 23.dxe6 gxh2+ 24.Kxh2 Qh4+ 25.Kg1 Ng3 26.Bxc5 e4 27.Ra4 Rc8 28.Bxa7

28...b5 29.Rb4 bxc4 30.Bxc4 Qh1+ 31.Kf2 e3+ 32.Bxe3 fxe3+ 33.Kxe3 Nxf1+ 34.Bxf1 Qg1+ 0-1.

Incidentally, the source of Nakamura's medical troubles remains a mystery, although given his well-known addiction to online blitz, I presume that his ancient, doddery and unworldly opponents must think he has caught one of those computer viruses...

Another member of the Rising Stars team, Hou Yifan, started the event in poor form, losing her first two games. In her case, though, I believed I had detected the cause. During the Staunton Memorial tournament a week or so ago, I had a conversation with a leading GM, in which he revealed a shocking secret. He had recently been chatting with Hou on Facebook. (If any members of the Experience team are reading this report, I should explain that Facebook is one of these internet chat sites, where youngsters spend all day talking to each other across the ether – if you're confused, just think of it as a sort of ultra-fast pony express mail system). Anyone who has ever seen photos of Hou will be aware that she is never seen without a distinctive, brightly-coloured hairpin, which looks rather like an outsized paper clip. However, during the aforementioned Facebook encounter, my GM friend jokingly told Hou that it was time she stopped wearing this fashion item, as she is now a big girl and it makes her look like a baby.

Like a baby? Yifan with her trademark hair clip

Shocking to relate, it seems that Hou may have taken seriously the words of this shameless grandmaster cad, since in all the pictures taken since the day of that conversation, her hair has been every bit as "unclipped", as Eric Clapton's guitar was once unplugged. When she lost her first two games in Amsterdam, I feared that we were witnessing a modern-day "Samson effect" – bereft of her magic hairpin, her chess strength had deserted her, it seemed. But then came round four:

Hou Yifan (2584) - Beliavsky,A (2662) [C41]
3rd NH Chess Tournament Amsterdam NED (4), 23.08.2009
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.0–0 0–0 7.Re1 c6 8.a4 a5 9.Ba2 h6 10.h3 Nh7 11.Be3 Ng5 12.Qe2 Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Bg5 14.Rad1 Qe7 15.Ne2 g6 16.Ng3 Kg7 17.Qe2 Nf6 18.Qd2 Nh7 19.f4 exf4 20.Bxf4 Bd7 21.Rf1 h5 22.Rde1 Bxf4 23.Rxf4 Ng5 24.h4 Ne6

25.Nf5+ gxf5 26.exf5 d5 27.f6+ Qxf6 28.Rxf6 Kxf6 29.c4 dxc4 30.Bxc4 Rg8 31.Qf2+ Ke7 32.d5 cxd5 33.Qc5+ Kd8 34.Qxd5 Kc8 35.Bb5 Bxb5 36.axb5 Kc7 37.Rf1 Rg7

38.Rxf7+ Rxf7 39.b6+ 1-0. So much for that theory of mine...

Despite the above brilliancies, it is the Ancient Ones who lead in the event at the halfway point, as we head into Tuesday's rest day. Even more impressively, the most ancient one of all, the 58-year old Ljubomir Ljubojevic, has been one of their highest scorers, with back-to-back wins against Hou and Stellwagen in rounds two and three. However, the best performer for the Fossils team is Peter Svidler, who has also been struggling with a major distraction so far. In his case, it is cricket, a thoroughly worthy cause of distraction, if ever there was one. As a man with his priorities right, Peter naturally spent the past few days concentrating on events at The Oval, where England's cricketers have been battling to regain The Ashes from Australia. As I am sure you will know, they duly succeeded in this noble task, thereby righting all the wrongs of the world in one fell swoop. Having managed only +1 =3 during the Test match, Svidler celebrated his release from the Ashes tension by handing Nakamura his first defeat, in yesterday's fifth round. No doubt, he will now go on to win game after game in the second half. You see, it's all a question of form.

Round three – Aug. 22  
Svidler – Smeets
Nielsen – Caruana
Beliavsky – Nakamura
van Wely – Hou Yifan
Ljubojevic – Stellwagen
Round four – Aug. 23  
Caruana – Svidler
Nakamura – Nielsen
Hou Yifan – Beliavsky
Stellwagen – van Wely
Smeets – Ljubojevic
Round five – Aug. 24  
Svidler – Nakamura
Nielsen – Hou Yifan
Beliavsky – Stellwagen
van Wely – Smeets
Ljubojevic – Caruana
Round six – Aug. 21  
Hou Yifan – Svidler
Stellwagen – Nielsen
Smeets – Beliavsky
Caruana – van Wely
Nakamura – Ljubojevic

Standings after five rounds (halftime)
Experience individual score
Svidler    3½
Ljubojevic 3
Nielsen 3
Van Wely 2½
Beliavsky 1½
  Rising Stars individual score
Smeets     3½
Caruana 2½
Nakamura 2½
Hou Yifan 2
Stellwagen 1

Total: 13.5


Total: 11.5

Rank, points and performance

Player portraits

By GM Dr John Nunn

Great showing: Jan Smeets, 2632, 3.5/5 performance 2804

St Petersburg GM Peter Svidler, 2739, 3.5/5, performance 2792

Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark, 2680, 3.0/5, performance 2715

Serbian GM Ljubomir Ljubojevic, 2553, 3.0/5, performance 2715

US GM Hikaru Nakamura, 2710, 2.5/5, performance 2658

Italian GM Fabiano Caruana, 2670, 2.5/5, performance 2658

Dutch GM Loek van Wely, 2655, 2.5/5 with a 2646 performance

Chinese GM Hou Yifan, 2584, 2.0/5, performance 2587

Alexander Beliavsky, 2662, 1.5/5, performance 2499

Disappointed: Daniel Stellwagen, 2630, 1.0/5, performance 2417

Remaining schedule

Free Day August 25 (Tuesday)  
Round 6 August 26 (Wednesday) 13.30 hrs
Free Day August 27 (Thursday)  
Round 7 August 28 (Friday) 13.30 hrs
Round 8 August 29 (Saturday) 13.30 hrs
Round 9 August 30 (Sunday) 13.30 hrs
Round 10 August 31 (Monday) 12.00 hrs


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. 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 PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

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