Zurich Rd1: Caruana errs, Nakamura wins!

by Alejandro Ramirez
2/14/2015 – The Italian was putting pressure on his rival, controlling his opponent's initiative and creating some positional threats. It seemed as if Caruana had good chances to at least make Nakamura uncomfortable, when out of nowhere the American came up with a mating attack! Caruana underestimated the threats against his f2 pawn and everything collapsed. Round One Report.

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Round One

Round 01 - February 14, 2015, 15:00
Anand, Viswanathan 2797
Kramnik, Vladimir 2783
Aronian, Levon 2777
Karjakin, Sergey 2760
Caruana, Fabiano 2811
Nakamura, Hikaru 2776

The sponsor and organizer Oleg Skvortsov...

Started the event with a friendly game against Nigel Short

Natalia on photograph duty...

leaving New In Chess editor Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam without anything to do

Anand, Viswanathan ½-½ Kramnik, Vladimir
Once upon a time, maybe five or six years ago, the Queen's Gambit Declined was considered a dubious opening when played with the move order 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 or 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5, mainly because of the Exchange Variation, which was supposed to give White good chances for an advantage... but how theory changes!

A solid draw between the two veterans of the tournament

Rather recently the idea of playing this solid opening for Black has risen in popularity - largely due to the resurgence of an old idea, to trade the dark-squared bishops quickly with a fast Nh5 and then castle on the queenside, as opposed to the kingside. Black's position seems to be very difficult to break and White's normal plans (such as minority attack or a quick kingside expansion) seem to fall short in this set-up. Kramnik had no problems out of the opening against Anand today in this variation and eventually the game was solidly drawn.

During their post-mortem they realized that Caruana had blundered badly!

Caruana, Fabiano 0-1 Nakamura, Hikaru
It is clear that in such a top level tournament a few Najdorfs will be seen, and that is something that is quite welcome! The sharp nature of this opening adds interest to any game. The h3 variation chosen by Caruana is the result of a fashionable trend from a few years back, and although it has relatively died down it is still a very positionally sound idea.

Caruana started out with a nice edge

For the majority of the game, up to about move 35, Caruana held a small advantage. His pieces were just a little better placed, and it was awkward for Black to regain a pawn he had sacrificed to weaken his opponent's structure. However things started to go wrong. Almost out of nowhere Nakamura obtained strong initiative against his opponent's f2 pawn. Things were already going wrong for the Italian player when f2 dropped, but he made things even worse by running into a sudden mating attack. Nakamura is not the type of player to forgive such a situation: his rooks swiftly came down to the second rank and checkmated his opponent.

Nakamura with a wonderful start: a win with black against the highest rated player

[Event "4th Zurich CC Classical"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2015.02.14"] [Round "1"] [White "Caruana, F."] [Black "Nakamura, H."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2811"] [BlackElo "2776"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2015.02.14"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 h5 {The evolution of chess. The move h5 helps defend d5 by preventing g4-g5. Not something that is easy to explain to an amateur, and it looks like it is going against every opening principle out there, but that is the Najdorf for you.} 8. g3 Nbd7 9. Bg5 Be7 10. a4 Nc5 11. Bg2 Be6 12. a5 {White has a nice bind on both d5 and b6, which means that Black will have to break out of it with a sub-optimal pawn push.} b5 (12... Nfxe4 {Is an interesting tactical solution, but it falls short.} 13. Nxe4 Bxg5 14. Nxg5 $1 Qxg5 15. b4 $1 Nd7 16. Qxd6 { doesn't look good for Black; notice how active the bishop on g2 has become.}) 13. axb6 Qxb6 14. b3 O-O 15. O-O a5 16. Qd2 {Caruana's position seems to be slightly more pleasant. He has some pressure against d6 which is more valuable than Black's potential pressure on the queenside once he breaks with a4.} Rfc8 17. Rfd1 a4 $5 {The pawn sacrifice clears the c4 square for the bishop and gives Black real targets on the queenside. However it is not immediately obvious how Nakamura will recover this pawn.} (17... Ra6 {was more passive, simply defending the d6 pawn, but was also playable.}) 18. bxa4 Bc4 19. a5 $1 { A nice solution; the pawn is still untouchable.} Qd8 (19... Rxa5 20. Bxf6 $1 ( 20. Nd5 {immediately doesn't work} Nxd5 21. Rxa5 Bxg5 {and the queen cannot recover material without losing the defense of the a5 rook.}) 20... Rxa1 (20... Bxf6 21. Nd5 Bxd5 22. Qxa5 $16 {wins an exchange.})) 20. Bxf6 Bxf6 21. Qxd6 Qxd6 22. Rxd6 Nb7 23. Rd2 Rxa5 24. Rb1 Nc5 {Black is still down a pawn, but he retains compensation. His pieces are active, White's are slightly awkward.} 25. Nd5 Bd8 26. h4 Ra3 27. Nec3 Rca8 28. Rdd1 Ba5 29. Nb5 {steadiyl White has made progress; his knights are in better squares, Black has not created any immediate threats.} Ra2 30. Bf3 g6 31. Ne7+ (31. Nd6 $1 Bxd5 32. Rxd5 Rxc2 33. Ra1 $1 {This nice detail would have led to a position whre only White can win. Black has great chances to hold the position, but with e5 hanging and some pressure dowdn the a-file it is not an easy practical task.}) 31... Kg7 32. Nc6 Na4 33. Nd6 Be6 34. Rb7 (34. Nxa5 Rxa5 35. Rd2 Rc5 $11) 34... Rxc2 35. Nxe5 $6 (35. Nxf7 $1 {This pawn was more valuable and White could have taken it without problems. For example:} Bxf7 (35... Nc5 $8 36. Rb5 $1 {attacking on a5 saves the f7 knight.} Bxf7 37. Rxa5 Rxa5 38. Nxa5 {and White is far from a win, but he can push forever.}) 36. Nxe5 Rf8 37. Rdd7 $18) 35... Nc5 $1 36. Re7 { The problem with Caruana's solution is that this rook on e7 starts to feel very uncomfortable as it is running out of squares.} Kf8 37. Nc6 $6 (37. Rxe6 Nxe6 38. Ndxf7 Bc3 39. Nh8 $1 $13) 37... Nb3 {Suddenly Black has a real threat: Bb6 is coming! Also the knight on c6 is currently hanging.} 38. e5 Bb6 $17 39. Rb7 $2 (39. Rxe6 $1 fxe6 (39... Bxf2+ 40. Kh1 fxe6 41. Nb4 $14 {and now it is Black's rook that feels uncomfortable. Well, both of them, as a8 and c2 are hanging.}) 40. Nd4 $1 Bxd4 41. Bxa8 Bxf2+ 42. Kg2 Bd4+ 43. Kh3 Bxe5 {and Black is better, obviously, but very far from winning.}) (39. Nd4 Nxd4 40. Bxa8 { leaves the rook on e7 unprotected, which is why 39.Rxe6 is good.}) 39... Bxf2+ 40. Kg2 $2 (40. Kh1 Bxg3 {is winning for Black too}) 40... Bc5+ 41. Kh1 Raa2 { and now it is very obvious that Black has nowhere near a perpetuatl and Black will checkmate on h2.} 0-1

Aronian, Levon ½-½ Karjakin, Sergey
A game that could have been so much more! On move 22 Aronian sacrificed a bishop on the kingside, ripping apart his opponent's structure and exposing the enemy king - a common motif for this line of the Meran. Things were heating up and Aronian had a key decision: continue the attack with unclear consequences or take the immediate draw by perpetual. Unfortunately for spectators he took the perpetual in what was arguably a very, very strong attack. Karjakin would have been hard pressed to fend off the threats.

Aronian was surprised on move 14, but he found a good way to continue

[Event "4th Zurich CC Classical"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2015.02.14"] [Round "1"] [White "Aronian, L."] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D47"] [WhiteElo "2777"] [BlackElo "2760"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2015.02.14"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. e4 b4 10. Na4 c5 11. e5 Nd5 12. dxc5 Nxc5 13. Nxc5 Bxc5 14. O-O (14. Bb5+ Kf8 {has been considered acceptable for Black for quite some time now.}) 14... Be7 $5 {A new move in a well-known position. 14...h6 is very popular and has been played by Aronian himself as black.} 15. Qe2 Qb6 16. Ng5 h6 17. Ne4 Rd8 18. Qf3 {It is logical to add pressure on the kingside as it is the only place where White can hope to start an initiative.} Ba6 19. Rd1 O-O 20. Qg3 Kh8 (20... Bxd3 $2 21. Bxh6 $18) 21. Qh3 Kg8 $2 (21... Bxd3 22. Rxd3 Kh7 23. Rg3 { looks scary for Black, but is probably nothing} Qd4 $1 24. Rxg7+ Kxg7 25. Bxh6+ Kg6 26. Bxf8 Rxf8 27. Qg4+ $11) 22. Bxh6 $1 gxh6 23. Qxh6 f5 24. Qg6+ Kh8 25. Qh6+ Kg8 26. Qg6+ Kh8 27. Qh6+ {And the worst mistake of all: agree to a draw!} (27. Qh6+ Kg8 28. Qg6+ Kh8 29. Ng3 $1 {Black has to deal with a couple of threats. The most immediate of them is Ng5, which checkmates Black.} Bc5 $8 ( 29... Rd7 30. Qh6+ $1 Kg8 31. Bxa6 Qxa6 32. Rxd5 $1 Rxd5 33. Qg6+ Kh8 34. Nh5 $18 {Any time that Black defends on g8 with a rook he allows Qh6 checkmate.}) 30. Qh6+ Kg8 31. Nh5 Bxf2+ 32. Kh1 Qc7 33. Qxe6+ Qf7 34. Qxf7+ Kxf7 35. Bxa6 { and with two extra pawns White has some real winning chances. It's still a long way to go as Black is rather active, but it is clear that Aronian would prefer this position than drawing. It is unclear what he missed.}) 1/2-1/2

A close call! It is unclear how Karjakin planned to defend his king.

Photos by Eteri Kublashvili

Replay Round One Games

Classical Standings

Note: Games played in the Classical will count for double

Blitz Final Standings

Note: Blitz points do not count for the final tally


With the blitz finished the pairings are as follows in the classical portion of the tournament, which starts tomorrow:

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

The Rapid portion will be on February 19th.

Schedule of Commentary

Date   English
13.02.2015 Blitz Daniel King
14.02.2015 Round 1 Oliver Reeh + Dorian Rogozenco
15.02.2015 Round 2 Mihail Marin
16.02.2015 Round 3 Daniel King
17.02.2015 Round 4 Daniel King
18.02.2015 Round 5 Mihail Marin
19.02.2015 Round 6 Daniel King


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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