Ponomariov draws first blood in Saint Louis

by ChessBase
5/18/2011 – From May 17-25 there is an interesting match taking place at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis: top US GM Hikaru Nakamura plays former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov in six regular and four rapid games. The event has unprecedented live and archived video coverage – hours and hours of it. In their first game Ponomariov was forced to mate with bishop and knight.

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The first-ever international match at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, May 17-25, began at 3:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday. The marquis match-up features GM Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine against GM Hikaru Nakamura of Saint Louis. The Chess Club’s Resident GM Ben Finegold is also taking on 16-year-old GM Ray Robson, of Florida. Each match consists of six games played with a classical time control and four rapid games.

After the drawing of the colors (determined by colored pens in a wooden box), the four grandmasters answered questions at a "virtual press conference" which fielded online questions from around the world. Nakamura revealed that in the past he had played more on the Internet than classical chess. He said good things happen when a person studies “instead of playing stupid blitz games.” Players would not hold back on any “novelties” during match play, and with research and computer engines, a player has to use a novelty when given the chance. Ponomariov said he would play his normal openings “and not hold back.”

Robson pointed out he did not have much time to prepare for Finegold, as the teen was a late replacement last week for legendary GM Viktor Korchnoi. Robson also said he has not often played under a match setup and said he remembered playing Finegold only once. Showing the wit for which he is known, Finegold pointed out the ages of the other three people at the table did not add up to that of Korchnoi, his original opponent.

Here is video of the press conference (fifty minutes!)

Ponomariov, Robson Score Round-One Victories

By Ken West

Grandmaster Ruslan Ponomariov uncorked Nf3 on the fifth move against Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura’s King’s Indian Defense and went on to win the first game of their international match Tuesday at the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center. “This is what happens when you take three and a half months off classical chess,” Nakamura said during post-game comments with International Master John Donaldson and Women’s Grandmaster Jen Shahade.

Nakamura said he knew he would “get something tactical” from Ponomariov, who played 13.g4. Donaldson said the young Ukrainian also usually plays 5.f3, the Saemisch variation against the King’s Indian. Nakamura said his Nf6 on move 21 was a major mistake. “Just about everything wins here for white,” he said. Ponomariov said his move 49.Bd5 was a mistake, saying he is still fighting jet lag. Nakamura said he had technical drawing chances in the end game if he could have exchanged his dark-squared bishop for Ponomariov’s knight. Nakamura resigned after Ponomariov’s 93rd move as the young Ukrainian was weaving the knight/bishop mate.

In the other game, Grandmaster Ray Robson won on the black side against Grandmaster Ben Finegold, the club’s resident GM, who played 2.c3, the Alapin, or closed Sicilian. “At time control, I thought maybe it’s a draw,” Finegold said. However, after 42.d5, he said he was losing. Robson said he didn’t look at any lines against the closed Sicilian “and not even e4 a lot.” The young grandmaster said he thought he was winning after 43. Bc5.

Ponomariov,R (2754) - Nakamura,Hi (2774) [E98]
Nakamura-Ponomariov Classical Match Saint Louis USA (1), 17.05.2011
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.Ne1 Nd7 10.Be3 f5 11.f3 f4 12.Bf2 g5 13.g4 h5 14.h3 Rf6 15.Nd3 Rh6 16.Kg2 c5 17.dxc6 Nxc6 18.c5 dxc5 19.Nxc5 Nd4 20.Bc4+ Kh7 21.Nb3

Black is doing fine, and 21...Nb6 is a practical option. 21...Nf6? This leads to material loss since the black queen on d8 is unprotected: 22.Nxd4 exd4 23.e5 hxg4 24.hxg4 Nxg4 25.fxg4 Bxe5 26.Rh1 Qd7 27.Ne4 Rxh1 28.Qxh1+ Kg7 29.Qh5

White has a knight for two pawns and has mating threats. 29...Qxg4+ (forced) 30.Qxg4 Bxg4 31.Nxg5 d3 32.Bxd3 Rd8 33.Be2 Bf5 34.Rd1 Rxd1 35.Bxd1 Bxb2 36.Bxa7 Kf6 37.Nf3 Bd3 38.Kf2 Bc1 39.Bb3 Be4 40.Ke2 Ke7 41.Bb8 Be3 42.Be5 Kd7 43.Ng5 Bc6 44.Bc4 Bc1 45.Nf3 Be3 46.Bc3 Kd6 47.Bb4+ Kc7 48.Ne5 Be8

This is where Ponomariov believes he went wrong, but we can't find serious fault with his continuation: 49.Bd5 Bh5+ 50.Kd3 Bc1 51.Bc5 b5 52.Ke4 Bd2 53.Nf3 Bg6+ 54.Ke5 Be3 55.Bxe3 fxe3 56.Kd4 e2 57.Ke3 Kd6 58.Bg8 Kc5 59.Kxe2 Bh5 60.Ke3 Kb4 61.Nd4 Bg6 62.Kd2 Kc5 63.Nc2 Bf5 64.Kc3 Be4 65.a3 Kb6 66.Nd4 Ka5 67.Bb3 Bg2 68.Bc2 Bf1

69.Nb3+ Ka4 70.Nd2+ Kxa3 71.Bb3. White is threatening mate in one, Black must give up his last piece. 71...Bd3 72.Kxd3 Kb2 73.Be6 Kc1 74.Nb3+ Kb2 75.Kd2 b4 76.Kd3 Ka3 77.Kc4 Ka4 78.Bf5 Ka3 79.Nc5 Kb2 80.Kxb4

It's down to "can you remember how to mate with bishop and knight?" Former FIDE world champion Ponomariov can: 80...Ka2 81.Kc3 Ka1. Now White has to force the black king into a light-squared corner. 82.Nb3+ Ka2 83.Be4 Ka3 84.Bb1 Ka4 85.Nd4 Ka5 86.Kc4 Kb6 87.Nb5 Kb7 88.Bf5 Kc6 89.Bc8 Kb6 90.Bd7 Kb7 91.Kc5 Ka6 92.Nd6 Ka5 93.Nb7+

...and since it is clear that mate will follow in six more moves Nakamura resigned. 1-0.

You can watch extensive commentary of the round in the player on the tournament page – hours and hours of archived video. Live commentary by IM John Donaldson and WGM Jennifer Shahade for the next rounds can be found here. Rounds and commentary are open to club members, and memberships start at just $5/month for students or $12/month for adults.


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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