Saint Louis 02: Aronian strikes back

by Alejandro Ramirez
11/23/2014 – In a beautiful and strategical endgame that is reminiscent of the the great Jose Raul Capablanca, Aronian was able to transform his slight edge in the finale into a winning zugzwang that destroyed Nakamura's defenses. In the GM norm section America has a good reason to celebrate: by winning his first four games Samuel Sevian has become America's youngest grandmaster in history.

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The United States’ super Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura is set to square off against GM Levon Aronian, the World No. 4, in the Showdown in Saint Louis, a five-round contest for the lion’s share of a $100,000 purseThe special head-to-head exhibition will include four classical games of chess and a final round featuring 16 games of Blitz. The event will run from Friday, Nov. 21 to Tuesday, Nov. 25, with each round’s first move made at 2:00 p.m. daily.

Alongside the Showdown are two specialized invitational tournaments designed for up-and-coming players attempting to earn chess’ elite master titles: International Master and, the superior, Grandmaster. The 2014 GM/IM Invitational events are two 10-player, round-robin tournaments designed to award title “norms,” or superior performances required by FIDE for player titles.

Round Two

Aronian wasted no time in getting back into the match! After being outplayed by Nakamura yesterday, Aronian took things into a tricky endgame that seemed harmless, but after the result of the game it was clear that things were not so easy. The technique used in the game resembles that used by the young Jose Raul Capablanca in his 1901 match against Juan Corzo, specifically that of game nine.

[Event "Nakamura vs Aronian Match"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.11.22"] [Round "2"] [White "Aronian, L."] [Black "Nakamura, Hi"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A14"] [WhiteElo "2797"] [BlackElo "2767"] [PlyCount "99"] [EventDate "2014.11.21"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 1. c4 e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 {The specific move order chosen by Aronian allows him to side step one of the more popular variations nowadays against the Catalan, which is to check on b4 and only then retreat the bishop to e7, arguing that White's bishop is worse placed on d2 than on c1.} dxc4 7. Ne5 (7. Qc2 {is another major line.}) 7... Nc6 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. Na3 c5 12. dxc5 Qxc5 13. Be3 Qb4 (13... Qh5 {was Kramnik-Anand from the Candidate's earlier this year. Though Anand managed to draw that game 13...Qb4 might actually be more precise.}) 14. Qc1 ( 14. Qd4 Ba6 15. Rfd1 Nd5 16. Bd2 Qb6 17. Qxb6 axb6 18. e4 {was a tiny bit more pleasant for White, who managed to win the game, in Ju Wenjun-Zhao Xue, Sharjah Grand Prix 2014.}) 14... Ba6 15. Bd4 Rfd8 16. Rd1 {The position is strategically dangerous for Black. If does not get rid of his weakness on c4 it might become a problem in the long run, even if a few pieces come off the board. On the other hand, he still has the opposite colored bishops, a resource that will allow him to draw a plethora of endgames.} Rac8 (16... c3 $5 17. bxc3 (17. Bxc3 Qe4 $11) 17... Qa5 18. c4 (18. Bxf6 Rxd1+ 19. Qxd1 gxf6 $11) 18... e5 19. Bb2 Rxd1+ 20. Qxd1 Rb8 {was interesting, Black's activity might compensate for the pawn.}) 17. Qc3 Qa4 18. Qc2 Qxc2 19. Nxc2 c3 $1 {Nakamura wants to get rid of his weakness at once. He has very little to fear now as his bishop gains scope and his main problem has vanished.} 20. Bxc3 Rxd1+ 21. Rxd1 Bxe2 22. Re1 Bc4 23. Ne3 Nd5 24. Nxc4 Rxc4 25. Bd2 Kf8 26. Rc1 Rxc1+ 27. Bxc1 {The bishop is dangerous in positions with pawns on both flanks. However Black's knight is superbly placed and his king is joining the battle very quickly. White's winning chances look slim, but Aronian is far from giving up.} Ke7 28. Kf1 e5 29. Ke2 e4 30. Kd2 f5 31. Kc2 {It's hard to say exactly where Nakamura goes wrong and this endgame, which currently seems harmless for Black, starts turning ugly. That being said, his maneuver with the knight to d3 might be a good place to start looking.} Nb4+ 32. Kb3 Nd3 33. Be3 a6 34. Kc3 Kd6 35. h4 {Black's structure on the kingside is stuck, which allows White to create the threat of passing his pawn on the queenside and then gobbling up all the others on the kingside. To the historians out there, this endgame is reminiscent of the ninth game of the Capablanca-Corzo match, more than 100 years ago.} g6 36. b4 Kd5 (36... Kc6 $1 37. a4 Ne5 38. Bd4 Nf3 39. Kc4 Nd2+ { is a very artificial way to keep the king out, and it seems to draw according to a quick engine analysis.}) 37. a4 Ne5 38. b5 a5 (38... axb5 39. axb5 Nd3 40. Kb3 {is also very, very bad for Black.}) 39. Bb6 Nc4 40. Bd8 {Now Black's position has become hopeless. Black's knight is the only thing that stands in the way of White's bishop capturing the a5 pawn, but due to zugzwang it is not easy to sustain that piece there.} Kc5 41. Bc7 $1 {The point. Black will start to run out of moves.} h5 (41... Kd5 42. b6 Nd6 43. Bxd6 Kxd6 44. Kd4 {is a losing endgame:} Kc6 45. Ke5 Kxb6 46. Kf6 Kc5 47. Kg7 Kb4 48. Kxh7 Kxa4 49. Kxg6 Kb4 50. h5 {and all it takes is one tempo for White to win the pawn race, preventing Black from queening on a1.}) 42. Kc2 Kd5 43. Kb3 Nd2+ 44. Kc3 e3 ( 44... Nc4 45. b6 $18) 45. fxe3 Ne4+ 46. Kb2 Nc5 47. Bxa5 Nxa4+ 48. Ka3 Nc5 49. Bb4 Nb7 50. Ka4 (50. Ka4 Ke4 (50... Ke5 51. b6 Ke6 52. Kb5 Kd7 53. Ba3 Kc8 54. Kc6 {is a basic win for Aronian.}) 51. b6 Kxe3 52. Kb5 Kf3 53. Kc6 $18) 1-0

Aronian contemplating how to deal with 13...Qb4, a
move that deviated from Kramnik-Anand this year.

Maurice Ashley always has lively and relevant
commentary at hand to help Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan.

The scoring system for the event

Aronian's strategical approach paid off

Nakamura was not too pleased with the result, but he will have an
opportunity to take the lead again tomorrow with the white pieces

GM Norm Tournament

The GM Norm tournament has made history for American chess. Samuel Sevian has started on fire with a perfect 4.0/4 and this prodigy has fulfilled all of the requirements necessary to become a grandmaster. With his latest win his live rating crosses 2500, the last step he needed for the coveted title. This makes Sevian the youngest grandmaster in America's history.

Andranik Matikozyan (left) is playing the tournament, but he must be more interested in this event in another way: Matikozyan is Sevian's coach!

GM Norm Tournament Standings

Round Two and Three - GM Norm

Select from the dropdown menu to replay the games


Friday, November 21, 2:00 p.m. Classical Round 1
Saturday, November 22, 2:00 p.m. Classical Round 2
Sunday, November 23, 2:00 p.m. Classical Round 3
Monday, November 24, 2:00 p.m. Classical Round 4
Tuesday, November 25, 2:00 p.m. Blitz Round (16 games, one every 15 minutes)


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 12 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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Steven E DuCharm Steven E DuCharm 11/23/2014 10:55
Kudos to Sam :)