Zurich Rapid and playoff: Nakamura clinches!

by Alejandro Ramirez
2/19/2015 – What an interesting rapid! It was incredibly cutthroat, with advantages being wasted and counterattacks sprouting out of nowhere. Anand kept is advantage until the decisive game against Nakamura in the fourth round leaving them tied. A late change in rules left the title to be decided by Armageddon, which Nakamura took to win the 2015 Zurich Challenge. Pictures, analysis and results!

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Rapids

Viswanathan Anand came into the rapid portion with a relatively comfortable lead; one full point over Hikaru Nakamura, and a full three points ahead of the bottom three players: Sergey Karjakin, Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian.

The beautiful city of Zurich

The organizers, Natalia and Oleg Skvortsov, ready to get this show on the road

Round One

The first fight was a solid one for the Indian player. Playing black against Kramnik he chose to use a sort of reversed Pirc/King's Indian Attack, After any trades the players reached an endgame that was clearly drawn. Unusually, Karjakin-Aronian was also a KIA. (King's Indian Attack, not the car). Aronian's exchange sacrifice might have been enough for a draw in classical chess, but in rapid it was clear that Karjakin was facing real practical problems. He could not cope and Aronian won a nice game. Caruana also sacrificed an exchange against Nakamura, but here the American defended very nicely against the threats and proved that his material advantage was winning!

A solid draw to start the day for the leader

Aronian outplayed Karjakin in complications

Nakamura started with an important win when Caruana lost patience

[Event "4th Zurich CC Rapid"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2015.02.19"] [Round "1"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A36"] [WhiteElo "2776"] [BlackElo "2811"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "101"] [EventDate "2015.02.19"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. c4 c5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. d3 d6 6. a3 e6 7. Nf3 Nge7 8. Rb1 b6 9. O-O Bb7 10. Qd2 a5 11. b3 O-O 12. Bb2 d5 13. Ne1 Nd4 14. Qd1 Rb8 15. Na4 e5 16. Nc2 Bc6 17. Ne3 Ne6 18. Nc3 d4 19. Ncd5 dxe3 20. Nxe7+ Qxe7 21. Bxc6 Nd4 22. Bd5 Bh6 23. f3 Bg5 24. Bc3 h5 25. b4 axb4 26. axb4 h4 27. g4 Bf4 28. Kh1 h3 29. b5 Rbd8 30. Rg1 Kg7 31. Be4 {Black's position is good, but with every blocked off there doesn't seem to be many chances for either player. Caruana tries to change the status quo by sacrificing an exchange.} Ra8 {Trying to prove that this bishop on e4 is more valuable than a full rook! Caruana will certainly have compensation, but it is not clear that it will be sufficient, the power of a rook should not be underestimated.} 32. Bxa8 Rxa8 33. Ra1 Rxa1 34. Bxa1 Qh4 35. Rf1 {The problem is that Caruana can't answer the question "now what?". He has no useful move to make progress on the offensive. On the other hand, White is very passive.} Qh8 36. Bc3 Qa8 37. Re1 Qb7 38. Rg1 Qa8 39. Bxd4 exd4 40. Qa1 Qb8 $6 (40... Qh8 {was necessary, to try to keep the rook locked in. For example} 41. Qa7 Qh4 42. Rf1 Be5 $1 (42... Qf2 43. Rxf2 exf2 44. Qa1 Be3 45. Qf1 {doesn't work since h3 is hanging.}) 43. Qa8 $11 (43. Qxb6 Qf2 $3 {is not possible, so the queen must stay on the a-file.})) 41. g5 $1 {The rook comes into play, and suddenly Caruana has no attack.} Bxh2 42. Rg4 Bd6 43. Rh4 h2 44. Qf1 Qa8 45. Kg2 Qb7 (45... f5 {was the last hope.}) 46. Qe1 Qa8 47. Re4 Qh8 48. Qh4 Qxh4 49. Rxh4 f6 50. gxf6+ Kxf6 51. Rh7 {Notice how powerful the rook is! It single handedly wins the b-pawn and the game.} 1-0

Some seats might have been available during the classic portion, but definitely not for the rapid!

Round Two

Three decisive games! What more can you hope from the rapid battles? Nakamura-Kramnik shows how quickly things can change in this time control. The American was outplaying his opponent, but he overestimated his chances; when he 'won" a pawn it was already clear that Black had become too active. One more mistake and Kramnik brought the point home Caruana-Karjakin was an example of the same: in a completely winning position Karjakin had two choices: block with the bishop and win, or get mated. Let's just say he did not block with the bishop. Aronian-Anand was a thing of beauty. A powerful pawn sacrifice exposed Black's king in the Meran and Aronian won with a brilliant attack.

Nakamura felt pressure to keep winning, but Kramnik had his own ideas!

[Event "4th Zurich CC Rapid"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2015.02.19"] [Round "2"] [White "Aronian, L."] [Black "Anand, V."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D47"] [WhiteElo "2777"] [BlackElo "2797"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2015.02.19"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. O-O a6 10. e4 c5 11. d5 c4 12. Bc2 Qc7 13. dxe6 fxe6 14. Ne2 Bd6 15. Ned4 Nc5 16. b4 {A dangerous initiative that has been seen before, though Anand must have not been familiar with it.} cxb3 (16... Ncxe4 {looks scary but might be the way to go.}) 17. axb3 e5 18. Nf5 Ncxe4 19. Bxe4 Nxe4 20. Ng5 $1 { Very nice! This distraction of the knight on e4 causes serious problems.} Bc5 ( 20... Nxg5 21. Nxd6+ Kf8 22. Bxg5 $18) (20... Bf8 {is the computer move, but it is too sad to be played, especially in a rapid game.}) 21. Ne6 Qc6 22. Nxc5 Nxc5 23. Nd6+ Ke7 24. Bg5+ Ke6 {It's hard to believe that the king on e6 will survive for long, but there was no choice.} 25. Nxb7 Qxb7 26. b4 (26. Re1 $1) 26... h6 27. Bh4 Ne4 28. Qg4+ Kf7 29. Rad1 {Sometimes simple moves are the best. Rd7+ is a huge threat and because of the bishop control on d8 the black rooks cannot challenge that file.} Ra7 30. Qf5+ Nf6 31. Bxf6 gxf6 32. Rd6 Qe7 33. Rfd1 {Black is still up a pawn, but it is clear his king will not survive. It is impossible to stop Rd7.} 1-0

A word of encouragement from family never hurts!

Round Three

Kramnik again turned around a worse position when he defeated Aronian. A serious mistake by the Armenian not only destroyed his own positional advantage that he had nurtured for many moves, but gave his opponent the win. Anand-Caruana was extremely one-sided. Playing for a win the Italian chose a version of the Modern defense that somehow landed his knight on g4. This knight was trapped by move 20 and by move 22 Caruana had resigned. Karjakin-Nakamura was actually just a solid draw, the exception rather than the rule in this time control!

Oops! Caruana got crushed on round three against Anand

[Event "4th Zurich CC Rapid"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2015.02.19"] [Round "3"] [White "Anand, V."] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B06"] [WhiteElo "2797"] [BlackElo "2811"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2015.02.19"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. d4 d6 2. e4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. f4 c6 5. Nf3 b5 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. e5 Nb6 8. O-O Nh6 9. a4 b4 10. Ne4 {These type of positions are not so uncommon. Many grandmasters use it in must win positions against lower rated players, the game is certainly unbalanced and there are chances for both sides. However, White's spacial advantage and superior development will be used to deadly effect.} O-O 11. c4 Bg4 12. Nf2 Bf5 13. Bxf5 Nxf5 14. g4 {A mark of grandmasters is that they are very greedy. Anand sees nothing wrong with taking as much space as possible, so he goes for it.} Nh6 15. b3 f5 16. g5 $1 Ng4 (16... Nf7 17. e6 Nh8 {makes the knight on h8 just about the saddest knight that ever was.}) 17. Nd3 {However this is no improvement... the knight on g4 is still trapped! h3 is unstoppable.} c5 18. h3 h5 19. hxg4 fxg4 20. Nh4 cxd4 21. Nxg6 Qd7 22. a5 {If you gift Black a knight and put it on c7, he has a really bad, almost losing position. Since that knight doesn't even exist rising is the only move.} 1-0

Anand still kept his lead going into round four

Round Four

Kramnik at this point had 2.5/3 in the rapid, but still trailed Anand by a full point, same as Nakamura. The crucial duel was then the match Nakamura-Anand. The American played great. He pushed his advantage with an advancing c-pawn that always looked like it was hanging, but somehow was always tactically defended. Anand took the fantastic decision of sacrificing his queen for a rook and a bishop, trying to hold a fortress.

While this was happening Karjakin got an easily winning position against Kramnik by shutting out his opponent's bishop on g7. It was simply dead, unable to participate in the battle on the queenside! And yet Kramnik showed how resilient he can be! By some miracle Kramnik held the position and even had a win, but time trouble started to kick in. After missing the winning shot Kramnik started erring and Karjaking regained his winning advantage.

Caruana and Aronian finished in a draw in the most classical way: a king vs. king final position!

Nakamura had to try to break Anand's defenses... and he did so successfully! His excellent f5 break and the attack with his queen and knight was just sufficient to collapse his opponent's fortress.

[Event "4th Zurich CC Rapid"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2015.02.19"] [Round "4"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Anand, V."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A15"] [WhiteElo "2776"] [BlackElo "2797"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "113"] [EventDate "2015.02.19"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] {For all the marbles! Nakamura had to win to keep his chances alive.} 1. c4 Nf6 2. g3 c6 3. Bg2 d5 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. O-O b5 6. a4 Bb7 7. b3 b4 $5 {Returning the pawn to obtain a passer on b4 and close down the game.} 8. bxc4 c5 9. d3 e6 10. Nbd2 Be7 11. Nb3 a5 12. Bb2 Nbd7 13. e3 O-O 14. d4 Qc7 15. Qe2 Ne4 16. Rfc1 Rfc8 17. Ne1 Nd6 18. e4 cxd4 $6 {Probably the start of Black's problems. This passed c-pawn proves to be much more devious than it looks at first.} 19. c5 Ne8 20. Bxd4 (20. c6 Bxc6 21. Nxd4 Qb6 22. Nxc6 Rxc6 23. Rxc6 Qxc6 24. e5 Qa6 $1 $11) 20... Ne5 21. f4 Nc6 22. Bb2 Nf6 23. e5 Nd5 24. Nf3 Rab8 25. Nfd2 $1 { A nice maneuver. The knight is headed to that sweet d6 square.} Nc3 26. Qe3 Nd8 27. Bxc3 bxc3 28. Rxc3 Bxg2 29. Kxg2 $14 {The passed pawn on c5 is a real problem, black has no clear way of eliminating it yet.} Rb4 30. c6 Rb6 31. Nd4 Bb4 $6 (31... Nxc6 32. Rac1 Qb7 33. Qf3 (33. Kh3 $1 Bb4 34. R3c2 Bxd2 35. Qxd2 {White is still a bit better, but after} Rd8 36. Qc3 Nb4 {Black has clearly solved some problems.}) 33... Rd8 $1 $11) 32. Nb5 Rxc6 {The idea to sacrifice the queen for the pawn, rook and knight is clever but insufficient.} 33. Nxc7 Rxc3 34. Qe4 (34. Qb6 $1 R3xc7 35. Ne4 $16) 34... R3xc7 35. Nf3 Nb7 36. Rd1 Nc5 37. Qc2 Nd7 38. Qd3 h6 (38... g6 {was worth considering, to make f5 more difficult.}) 39. h4 Nc5 40. Qc2 Nd7 41. Qd3 Nc5 (41... Rc6) (41... Nb6 $1 { with the idea of Nxa4 or Nd5.}) 42. Qc4 Nd7 43. Qb5 Nf8 $2 {Too passive.} 44. h5 Rc5 45. Qb7 R5c7 46. Qe4 Nd7 47. Kh3 Nb6 48. f5 $1 {Striking when the iron is hot. Nakamura senses weakness on the kingside and immediately goes to exploit it.} exf5 49. Qxf5 Nxa4 50. Rd7 $1 Rxd7 51. Qxd7 Nb6 52. Qb7 {Black doesn't have the coordination to keep all his pieces alive and protect the king at the same time.} Bc5 53. e6 fxe6 54. Ne5 Rf8 55. Qc6 Bd4 56. Qxe6+ Kh7 57. Qd6 1-0

Round Five

In the fifth round of the rapid games, Vladimir Kramnik finished his comeback with yet another win, defeating Sergey Karjakin in emphatic fashion. A superb effort, but not quite enough to catch up to the two leaders Vishy Anand and Hikaru Nakamura, both of whom drew their final games. The end the tournament tied for first, and will decide the title in a blitz playoff. 

Replay Rapid Games

Armageddon

There was a bit of uncertainty prior to the start of the playoff, since the official site displayed tiebreak scores, suggesting there would be none. Shortly before the last rapid game was over, the playoff was confirmed and here too it was not clear the shape it would take as the clocks on the video feed showed times suggesting a normal blitz game, possibly more than one. Finally the chief arbiter came over, switched the clock that now displayed five minutes for White, and four for Black. The conclusion was clear: Armageddon!

Nakamura always with some caffeine in hand

Nakamura strolled in and sat at the black pieces, followed by Anand who sat at the white side. The game started and the Indian immediately went on the attack in a QGD with Bf4 by responding to 7...Nh5 attacking the bishop with Be5 and g4. Although White tried to 'shove his opponent off the board' with aggressive kingside pawn advances, Black kept his cool and ripped open the queenside for a counterattack to take advantage of the king still stuck in the center. Punishment came swiftly and Hikaru Nakamura avenged his classical loss by snatching the title right at the finish line.

And they are off, for the title!

[Event "Zurich Challenge Playoff"] [Site "Zurich"] [Date "2015.02.19"] [Round "1"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2797"] [BlackElo "2776"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "SUI"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. c5 Nh5 8. Be5 c6 9. g4 Nhf6 10. Rg1 Nxe5 11. Nxe5 Nd7 12. Nxd7 Bxd7 13. f4 b6 14. b4 a5 15. a3 axb4 16. axb4 Qb8 17. g5 bxc5 18. bxc5 Qb4 19. Rc1 Ra3 20. Qd2 Bd8 21. Nd1 Qxd2+ 22. Kxd2 Ba5+ 23. Ke2 Rb8 24. Kf3 e5 25. fxe5 Bf5 26. Rg2 Be4+ 27. Kf4 Bxg2 28. Bxg2 Ra2 29. Bf3 Bd2 0-1

Though he won't be happy for having come in second in the classical part of the tournament, the event had always been designed to reward play in all time controls, and with his win Hikaru Nakamura has already started the year with two spectacular wins, first at the Gibraltar Open and now the Zurich Chess Challenge.

As to Vishy Anand, despite being edged out in the photo finish, he cannot but feel good about a great tournament throughout, effectively wiping away the poor result at Grenke, and setting a positive tone for the season ahead.

Photos by Eteri Kublashvili

Combined Final Score

Name Pts
Nakamura, Hikaru 9.0
Anand, Viswanathan 9.0
Kramnnik, Vladimir 8.5
Aronian, Levon 7.0
Caruana, Fabiano 6.0
Karjakin, Sergey 5.5

Rapid Final Standings

Classical Final Standings

Note: Games played in the Classical will count for double

Blitz Final Standings

Note: Blitz points do not count for the final tally

Schedule

Round 01 - February 14, 2015, 15:00
Anand, Viswanathan 2797
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir 2783
Aronian, Levon 2777
½-½
Karjakin, Sergey 2760
Caruana, Fabiano 2811
0-1
Nakamura, Hikaru 2776
Round 02 - February 15, 2015, 15:00
Kramnik, Vladimir 2783
½-½
Nakamura, Hikaru 2776
Karjakin, Sergey 2760
½-½
Caruana, Fabiano 2811
Anand, Viswanathan 2797
1-0
Aronian, Levon 2777
Round 03 - February 16, 2015, 15:00
Aronian, Levon 2777
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir 2783
Caruana, Fabiano 2811
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan 2797
Nakamura, Hikaru 2776
1-0
Karjakin, Sergey 2760
Round 04 - February 17, 2015, 15:00
Kramnik, Vladimir 2783
½-½
Karjakin, Sergey 2760
Anand, Viswanathan 2797
1-0
Nakamura, Hikaru 2776
Aronian, Levon 2777
½-½
Caruana, Fabiano 2811
Round 05 - February 18, 2015, 15:00
Caruana, Fabiano 2811
½-½
Kramnik, Vladimir 2783
Nakamura, Hikaru 2776
½-½
Aronian, Levon 2777
Karjakin, Sergey 2760
½-½
Anand, Viswanathan 2797

Links

The games will be 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 13 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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