STL Showdown goes to the blitz!

by Alejandro Ramirez
11/25/2014 – After a close call for Nakamura in game four, where his risky but precise defense yielded him a draw, the winner of the match will be determined in a blitz match! Sixteen games of chess, a true marathon, will pitch two of the top blitz players of the world. The difference between losing and winning the match is a very sweet $20,000! A great finish for spectators from Saint Louis.

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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 Four

The return of the Catalan did not provide Aronian such a good position as it did on game two, but he still had pressure throughout the game. Nakamura, however, was able to put an end to it by taking some risks:

[Event "Nakamura-Aronian m 2014"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.11.24"] [Round "4"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A14"] [WhiteElo "2797"] [BlackElo "2767"] [PlyCount "60"] [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 dxc4 7. Qc2 (7. Ne5 { brought Aronian a win in game two, but not necessarily an opening advantage.}) 7... b5 {A move that has sprung as viable alternative to the more traditional 7...a6, preparing b5.} 8. a4 b4 9. Nfd2 (9. Nbd2 {is a line.}) (9. Ne5 Qxd4 10. Bxa8 $6 Qxe5 {simply does not score well in practice.}) 9... c6 10. Nxc4 Qxd4 11. Rd1 Qc5 12. Nbd2 Ba6 13. b3 {In exchange for the sacrificed pawn White has obtained a nice blockade down the c-file that he will use to put pressure on c6. Black's development also becomes somewhat uncomfortable. If anything Black is still trying to equalize, but with precise play he might not be far from doing so.} Nbd7 14. Bb2 Rad8 15. Rac1 Nb6 {Challenging the knight on c4 breaks the hold that White has against Black's pieces, but it forces Black to recapture on f6 with the pawn.} 16. Bxf6 gxf6 (16... Bxf6 17. Ne4 Qf5 (17... Qe7 18. Na5 {gives White too much play.}) 18. Nxb6 axb6 19. Qxc6 $16 Rxd1+ 20. Rxd1 Rc8 21. Qxb6 Bxe2 22. Re1 $18 {and, unlike the variations in the game, b4 is not defended.}) 17. Ne4 Qf5 18. Nxb6 axb6 19. Qxc6 Rxd1+ 20. Rxd1 Rc8 21. Qxb6 Bxe2 {Now Black has sufficient resources to hold equality. His pair of bishops compensates for the passed pawn as it cannot advance right away. But surprisingly, Aronian still has a resource.} 22. Qb7 Bxd1 23. Qxc8+ Bf8 24. Qd8 Bxb3 25. a5 (25. Nxf6+ Kg7 26. Ne8+ Kg8 $11) (25. g4 $1 {This strong intermediate move has a couple of subtle points, but the main idea is that the queen is forced to g6 where it cannot catch the a-pawn so easily.} Qg6 (25... Qe5 26. Nxf6+ Kg7 27. Qxf8+ Kxf8 (27... Kxf6 28. Qh8+) 28. Nd7+ $18) 26. a5 { now Black's pieces are not so quick to stop the pawn.} Bc4 27. h4 $1 {Another important resource, maybe harder to find than the previous, and yet even here Black has good chances to equalize.} (27. Nxf6+ Kg7 28. Nh5+ Kg8 29. h3 Qb1+ 30. Kh2 b3 $1 {And Black holds the balance.}) 27... Kg7 $1 {and Black's position seems to be sustainable.}) 25... Kg7 26. a6 Qe5 $1 {Now Black's queen activity is enough to stop the a-pawn. White has to be a little careful.} 27. h4 Bd5 ( 27... Qa1+ 28. Kh2 Bd5 29. Qxf6+ Qxf6 30. Nxf6 Kxf6 31. Bxd5 Bc5 {wins the f-pawn but does not change the result of the game.}) 28. Nxf6 Qxf6 29. Qxf6+ Kxf6 30. Bxd5 Bc5 {The bishop stops the pawn right on time and the opposite colored bishops make the endgame a complete draw.} (30... Bc5 31. Ba2 Ke5 32. Kf1 Kd4 33. Ke2 Kc3 34. g4 b3 35. Bb1 {and Black is starting to lose control over the White pawns. It is much simpler to just keep the king near the kingside.}) 1/2-1/2

With this draw everything will be settled in the blitz portion of the match!

Nakamura's defense was risky but precise

Aronian pushed hard in his Catalan but couldn't convert this time

GM Norm Tournament

Samuel Sevian continues to rake in points and he sits as the tournament
winner with a round to spare with 7.0/8.

Ronald Burnett hides from his position in the IM-Section

Sammy Shoker had a good day and he is now second with 5.0/8. Also with a successful day grandmaster Ben Finegold is now on "+1" with 4.5/8 and good chances of finishing third. Priyadarshan, who was in clear second yesterday, is now tied for last. That is how quickly things change in round robins!

GM Norm Tournament Standings

Round Seven and Eight - 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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Karbuncle Karbuncle 11/27/2014 08:09
Since no update has been posted yet, Namakura ended up winning the blitz section fairly handily. Aronian kept wanting to "stew" over positions and got himself into bad time trouble in almost every blitz game. You just can't do that against Nakamura, even with a 2-sec increment.