Saint Louis 03: Entertaining Draw

by Alejandro Ramirez
11/24/2014 – The Nakamura-Aronian Showdown in Saint Louis keeps providing us with entertaining games! This time Aronian stayed away from his more normal openings and "threatened" to play a Grunfeld. The resulting position seemed risky for Aronian, with pressure quickly mounting against his king, but alas it seemed that tactics worked for him and he got the better end of a draw.

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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

An interesting and somewhat unpredictable affair. Aronian came out with 1...Nf6 and 2...g6 against Nakamura's 1.d4 and 2.c4, which signaled a probable Grunfeld, with the slight risk of it actually being a King's Indian Defense. Nakamura played the anti-Grunfeld 3.f3 and a strange position arose on the board, where Aronian's risky but accurate play was rewarded when he obtained good play across the board and pressure against an isolated pawn. However, he was too cautious, and he traded off into an equal endgame instead of trying to push for an advantage.

Nakamura pondering how to use his
powerful-looking queen on h6.

[Event "Nakamura-Aronian m 2014"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.11.23"] [Round "3.1"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D70"] [WhiteElo "2767"] [BlackElo "2797"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2014.11.21"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 {Even though Aronian isn't the world's greatest expert in the Grunfeld, Nakamura surely had something in store against it. The anti-Grunfeld with f3, trying to gear the game towards a Saemisch King's Indian, has become a hot topic in the past few years.} d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Bb5 (8. d5 {is more popular but the move in the game has also since its fair share of top level games.}) 8... O-O 9. Nge2 Qd6 { Even though this specific position has never been seen in top-level chess, the ideas surrounding the structure remain unchanged. White is struggling to finish his development as he does not want to advance his d or e pawns just yet, but he somehow has to retain defense of d4. Black on the other hand is short on space and pawn breaks, but is solid and has that pressure on d4.} 10. e5 (10. h4 $5 {Is a very typical way of dealing with the position.}) 10... Qd8 11. h4 Nb4 {Black will use the d5 square for counterplay; this is why White tries to refrain from e5.} 12. Nf4 N6d5 13. Nfxd5 Nxd5 14. Qd2 Be6 (14... Nxe3 15. Qxe3 {is probably ok but why exchange that powerful knight from d5 so soon? }) 15. Bh6 Bxh6 16. Qxh6 f6 {Aronian's play seems bold, but he has everything under control for now. White cannot play h5.} 17. Bc4 (17. h5 g5 {leaves White's queen stranded on h6.}) 17... Qd7 18. Ne4 {mounting some pressure, but Black's counterplay comes right on time.} Nb4 $1 19. Rc1 (19. Nc5 Nc2+ {and White would win if he could move his king somewhere where Black cannot give a check to it, but that is impossible!}) 19... Bxc4 20. Rxc4 Nd5 21. Rc5 b6 22. Rc4 (22. h5 g5 23. Nxg5 Qf5 {is "equal" according to the computers.}) 22... Qb5 23. exf6 exf6 {if anything Black already enjoys a good position. His king is safe and he can start working on the long-term advantage against the isolated pawn.} 24. b3 Qa5+ $2 {Letting White off the hook too soon.} (24... Rae8 $1 25. Kf2 Qd7 $17) 25. Qd2 Qxd2+ 26. Kxd2 Rad8 27. Rc6 $11 f5 28. Nc3 Nb4 29. Rxc7 Rxd4+ 30. Kc1 Rf7 31. Rxf7 Kxf7 32. a3 Rd3 33. Nb5 a6 34. axb4 axb5 35. Kc2 Rd6 1/2-1/2

It turned out to be a really good idea!
Black's position here is already slightly superior.

Aronian simplified too quickly, and reached this drawn endgame

A typical small post-mortem

What can you do? A draw is a draw! Aronian finishes the classical
portion of the match tomorrow with the white pieces.

GM Norm Tournament

Meanwhile in the GM Norm section Samuel Sevian continues his reign of terror by drawing against Priyadharshan, a young Indian International Master that attends Lindenwood University in Saint Louis, and defeating grandmaster Ben Finegold, a Saint Louis resident also. Sevian is gaining so much rating that he is the only person in the entire event winning rating; everyone else is either even or losing.

GM Norm Tournament Standings

Round Five and Six - 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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