Showdown in Saint Louis!

by Alejandro Ramirez
11/22/2014 – The United States' Hikaru Nakamura is set to square off against 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 purse. The special head-to-head exhibition will include four classical games of chess and a final round featuring 16 games of Blitz. Nakamura took an early lead with a nice round one victory!

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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.  

Nakamura, the top American player ranked No. 9 in the world according to FIDE’s November 2014 rating list, is in the hunt for his first Candidates Tournament appearance and today holds second place, halfway through the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix cycle. Aronian, a veteran to the world ranks, has long-been regarded as the main rival to World Champion Magnus Carlsen and reached his career-peak rating of 2830 earlier this year. Along with providing both players with elite head-to-head match experience, the Showdown in Saint Louis will also settle the score from the players’ last meeting: drawing twice at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup in the U.S. Capital of Chess last September.


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)

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.

Of special focus in the GM norm event is Samuel Sevian and Ashwin Jayaram, two players who have already collected three Grandmaster norms and need just a handful of rating points to pass the necessary FIDE watermark of 2500. If Sevian clears the mark, the 13-year-old will become the youngest American Grandmaster in the history of chess.

The Showdown in Saint Louis will be streamed live in its entirety on, featuring live play-by-play commentary and analysis from the renowned commentary team of GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Live spectators may take in all the action as it unfolds in the upstairs tournament hall of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, with admission free-of-charge for annual, monthly and day members.

Aronian played a warm-up blitz session yesterday against Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, one of the three commentators that are doing a live broadcast of the event at the official website. He is joined by WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley. The three have worked together in many top level events, including both Sinquefield Cups and many US Championships, and they never disappoint! As far as the blitz question, we can only quote the Saint Louis Chess Club's Facebook page:

Levon Aronian in the hizzouse! The World No. 4 arrived early for the Showdown in Saint Louis match against Hikaru Nakamura, which begins Friday -- and last night he got some pre-game warm-up against Yasser Seirawan. The two played 11 games of Blitz in front of a crowd: Yasser jumped out to an early 5-2 lead... but the former World Blitz Champion buckled down and won the next four straight!

Or, even better, you can see it for yourself:

Round One

Round one started with an unusual opening but it completely evolved in Nakamura's favor. Aronian must have underestimated the power of White's initiative and he was unable to find the precise continuation to control it. Once Nakamura seized the advantage he played a flawless game and he took home game one.

[Event "Nakamura-Aronian m 2014"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.11.21"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E51"] [WhiteElo "2767"] [BlackElo "2797"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "95"] [EventDate "2014.11.21"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bd2 {This seemingly unambitious move is far from popular, but it does present Black with some problems. The first and most obvious issue is what Black's bishop is doing on b4 if it will not take on c3, and if it does, White is ready to recapture with his own bishop without damaging his structure.} O-O 6. e3 Re8 {This passive-looking move is far from popular. Black usually either strikes at the center with c5 or attempts to finish his development by playing b6. The idea behind the rook move is to vacate f8 for the bishop for its retreat while deterring White from taking on d5 as the rook would then be well placed. The move isn't bad, and practically it looks like a good choice, though theoretically it is hard to believe it can be the strongest.} 7. a3 Bf8 8. Rc1 Nbd7 9. Be2 a6 (9... b6 { was another way to develop. With the move played in the game Aronian is hoping to take on c4 and push b5 and c5, obtaining a very nice structure. Nakamura will not sit back and let that happen.}) 10. c5 {well timed.} c6 11. Na4 Ne4 12. O-O Nxd2 13. Nxd2 e5 {At the end of the day it seems as if Black should be satisfied with the outcome of the opening. He has the pair of bishops, has managed to break on e5 and doesn't have any weaknesses.} 14. e4 {Trying to spice things up a bit, but Black is well prepared.} dxe4 (14... exd4 15. exd5 cxd5 16. Nf3 b5 17. cxb6 Nxb6 $15 {wasn't really better for White either. If anything Black's bishops give him something to play for.}) 15. Nxe4 Qh4 16. f3 {Necessary. If White doesn't at least keep his powerful knight on e4 then his play doesn't make sense. Here Black does have to be a little careful as he has not finished developing and the position is clearly opening up quickly.} exd4 ( 16... Rb8 $5 {asking White what he was planning was also possible.} 17. Bc4 exd4) 17. Bc4 Nf6 18. Nb6 Rb8 19. Nxc8 Rbxc8 20. Qxd4 Nxe4 21. fxe4 {The opposite colored bishops, as it happens so often in chess, give the advantage to the side that has the initiative. In this case that is without a question White, but Black has just about enough to hold down the position.} Rc7 (21... Rxe4 $2 22. Qd7 $1 {Leaves Black in an almost impossible situation.} Bxc5+ 23. Kh1 Rd8 (23... Rf8 24. Bxf7+ Kh8 25. Rxc5 $18) 24. Qxf7+ Kh8 25. Bd3 $1 {And the rook does not have enough time to retreat as c5 is also hanging. Tactically White will win an exchange and the game.}) (21... Kh8 $1 {Was an interesting try since} 22. Bxf7 Rxe4 {is relatively harmless.}) 22. Rce1 Rd8 ( 22... g6 $11) 23. Qe3 Qh6 $6 24. b4 $1 {Nakamura is always an accurate calculating machine! This pawn push saves a tempo compared to Qxh6, despite not ruining Black's pawn structure, which makes the f7 pawn difficult to defend.} (24. Qxh6 gxh6 {is slightly better for White but nothing special. The more pieces come off the board the harder it will be to win.}) 24... Qxe3+ 25. Rxe3 Rd4 26. Bb3 g6 (26... a5 $1 27. Ref3 axb4 28. Rxf7 Rxf7 29. Rxf7 g6 $1 30. Rxb7+ (30. Rd7+ Kh8 31. Rxd4 Bxc5 {is not good for White.}) 30... Kh8 31. Rxb4 Bxc5 (31... Rd2 $1 {is maybe more accurate.}) 32. Rxd4 Bxd4+ {should somehow be drawn, but White has some winning chances.}) 27. Ref3 Rdd7 $2 {Passive defense simply will not hold. Black had to let go of f7 and try to create something on the queenside with a5, trying to revert to the 26...a5 lines.} 28. e5 {Black cannot stop e6 and his position is falling apart.} Re7 29. e6 h5 ( 29... f5 30. g4 $18) 30. Rf6 $1 {Black still has no moves.} Kg7 31. h4 a5 32. R1f3 axb4 33. axb4 {Black does not have a single useful move in this position.} Kh7 34. Bc2 Kg7 35. exf7 {Thanks to White's maneuvers now Black loses g6 and his king is exposed.} Rxf7 36. Rxg6+ Kh8 37. Rfg3 (37. Bf5 $1 $16) 37... Bg7 38. R3g5 Rf4 39. Rxh5+ Kg8 40. Bf5 Kf8 41. Be6 Ke8 42. g3 Rxb4 43. Kg2 {The extra passed pawns and Aronian's exposed king make Black's defensive task impossible.} Rb2+ 44. Kh3 Kd8 45. Rhg5 (45. Rh7 $1) 45... Bc3 46. Rg8+ Ke7 47. Bc4 Rf2 48. Rh5 {Black's king is so weak that mate is hard to prevent, and the rook on c7 is not playing. A nice win from Nakamura that exploited some very minor mistakes.} 1-0

Nakamura in his standard thinking pose

Aronian had to think as early as move five, but he solved his opening problems

However he was unable to cope with the pressure later in the game

The GM-norm tournament has, of course, a different playing schedule. Today they played two fighting rounds and the star and hope of the tournament, IM Samuel Sevian, is off to a dashing start as he won both of his games. This puts him as the sole leader and he is quickly gaining the rating points he needs to completely his GM title at the tender age of thirteen!

Sevian started the tournament as the second-highest rated player with 2484 and with his two wins against Boros and Shoker he only needs six more points to fulfill the grandmaster title requirements. It could happen as soon as tomorrow if he wins both of his games again!

GM Norm Tournament Standings

Round One and Two Games - GM Norm

Select from the dropdown menu to replay the games


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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