Showdown in Saint Louis goes to Nakamura

by Alejandro Ramirez
11/27/2014 – Nakamura fell back on his instincts Tuesday afternoon, peppering Armenian heavyweight GM Levon Aronian with 9.5 points across 16 games of Blitz chess in the fifth round. The speed attack tipped the Showdown’s scorecard just before its last bell, after the match had entered Tuesday’s final round tied after four Classical games of chess. Report of an exciting blitz match.

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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.

Blitz Match

American super Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura stood victorious in his nation’s centerpoint, using a furious blitz offensive in the final round of the Showdown in Saint Louis to earn its $60,000 winner’s purse.

Nakamura fell back on his instincts Tuesday afternoon, peppering Armenian heavyweight GM Levon Aronian with 9.5 points across 16 games of Blitz chess in the fifth round. The speed attack tipped the Showdown’s scorecard just before its last bell, after the match had entered Tuesday’s final round tied after four Classical games of chess. Nakamura and Aronian traded wins in the first two rounds, then fought to a pair of draws.

In his post-game interview, Aronian admitted the 3-minute, 2-second-increment time control had often served as kryptonite in his blitzing history, perhaps revealed by his clock falling tragically behind in nearly every game played at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The American, however, looked comfortable in his zone on Tuesday, upholding his reputation as one of the chess world’s fastest thinkers.

The blitz ready to kick-off

The match could be summarized by saying that Aronian kept finding himself in good, advantageous positions, but always somehow managing to lose or draw at the end due to time pressure. His time management was very bad compared to his opponent's. A clear example of that started already from game number one:

[Event "Nakamura vs Aronian Blitz"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.11.25"] [Round "1"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A45"] [WhiteElo "2767"] [BlackElo "2797"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5k2/4R2p/2q5/p2N4/2pn1Np1/1P4P1/5K2/8 w - - 0 49"] [PlyCount "9"] [EventDate "2014.11.25"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 49. Rc7 {Black has winning the entire game. He won a queen early in the game for a rook and a knight for basically no compensation. The advantage kept growing until this point.} Qb5 $6 (49... Qxc7 50. Nxc7 cxb3 {and the two passed pawns cannot be stopped on the queenside, but ok let's say that this is difficult to calculate.}) (49... Qd6 50. Rxc4 Nxb3 $19) 50. Rxc4 Nxb3 $2 { Aronian is not aware that his king is in danger.} 51. Rc8+ $6 {objectively bad, but it pays off!} (51. Ne6+ Kg8 52. Rxg4+ Kh8 53. Rf4 $11) 51... Kf7 $4 (51... Kg7 {and the king can escape to the kingside, with a winning position.}) 52. Rc7+ {And now Black is getting checkmated by force!} Ke8 53. Nf6+ 1-0

After four games Nakamura found himself in a nice 3-1 lead. He forgave his strong advantages in game five and six which ended in draws.

[Event "Nakamura vs Aronian Blitz"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.11.25"] [Round "7"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D44"] [WhiteElo "2767"] [BlackElo "2797"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2kr3r/pb2qp2/n1p1p3/1p6/2pPN3/6P1/PP3PBP/R2Q1RK1 w - - 0 17"] [PlyCount "25"] [EventDate "2014.11.25"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 17. a4 $1 {The Botvinnik Semi-Slav setups are so dangerous for both players. Nakamura goes for the offensive, but Aronian also has tricks up his sleeve.} f5 $1 18. axb5 cxb5 19. Rxa6 $1 Bxa6 20. Nc5 Qxc5 $1 {The saving grace. Now the game enters a sharp endgame.} 21. dxc5 Rxd1 22. Rxd1 b4 23. Ra1 Rd8 $2 { Based on a miscalculation.} 24. Bf1 (24. Rxa6 $1 Rd1+ 25. Bf1 c3 26. bxc3 b3 27. Rd6 $1 {This hard move to find would have been the key to the position.}) 24... Bb5 {Now Black's positions is superior.} 25. b3 c3 $4 {Again based on a miscalculation, and now Nakamura does not forgive.} (25... a5 $1 26. bxc4 Bc6 { and the pawns are nearly unstoppable.} 27. Rxa5 Rd1 {is very ugly for White.}) 26. Bxb5 c2 27. Be2 {Aronian must have missed this simple retreat.} a5 28. Rc1 Rd2 29. Kf1 1-0

The layout of the transmissions and the commentary provided was absolutely top-notch

After two more draws Aronian struck back with another win on game ten, but it was already late. On game eleven Aronian again achieved a great position from the opening only to lose the game in time pressure. The draw in game 14 sealed the deal for Nakamura as the winner, but they played two more games that were split 1-1.

Nakamura won the match with six wins, besting Aronian’s three. They drew seven times.

Aronian, ranked as the World No. 4 Blitz player, earned $40,000 for his efforts in the Showdown.

Kapow! Nakamura has just played Bxc4, a poisoned bishop due to Qb7.
The match was full of interesting and unusual tactics.

Watch the Showdown in Saint Louis' Tuesday Blitz, and each of the match's first four classical games with Grandmaster commentary, on the event's video replay page

We will be bringing you a separate report on the conclusion of the GM-Norm tournament and Samuel Sevian's rise to success as the youngest American grandmaster in history.

Replay Blitz Games

Select from the dropdown menu to replay the games

Schedule

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)

Links

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 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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Rama Rama 11/28/2014 05:08
Perhaps 5 + 3 would suit Aronian better?

re: "The match could be summarized by saying that Aronian kept finding himself in good, advantageous positions, but always somehow managing to lose or draw at the end due to time pressure."
jhoravi jhoravi 11/28/2014 06:15
I don't like that the Board on the video is shown sideways instead of white at the bottom.
Igor Freiberger Igor Freiberger 11/28/2014 01:45
How lovely to see a table of results for a match with 16 games! So rare these sad days.
jcaleb jcaleb 11/28/2014 01:07
It is great to have variety of events. Makes chess look sporty and not too traditional and boring
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