Zurich Rd3: The bluff pays off; Nakamura 2800!

by Alejandro Ramirez
2/16/2015 – It was only yesterday that the World saw its ninth 2800 as Giri crossed that magical barrier, but already Nakamura makes it old news by becoming the first player from the Americas to be 2800 by beating Karjakin. A gamble paid off handsomely as the Russian was unable to remember his opening preparation in a massively complicated position. The American wins, and leads!

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Round Three

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

Arturo Perez-Reverte is one of the most influential contemporary Spanish novelists and journalists. His book, The Flanders Panel, deals with a mystery hidden in an art masterpiece named The Chess Game. He is currently in Zurich spectating the games, and he tweeted the above, which translates to:

For those that substitute chess for God, being at the Savoy hotel in Zurich only one meter away from Viktor Kortschnoj, is the equivalent of attending mass.

Sagar Shah will be bringing us the results of the Kortschnoj-Uhlmann match momentarily!

The Skvortsovs discussing the current positions

The playing hall at the Savoy hotel

Aronian, Levon ½-½ Kramnik, Vladimir
The Catalan is an interesting opening in chess fashion. Sometimes it seems like it is the only 1.d4 opening that is being played, while at other time it seems completely abandoned. The Catalan is not exactly at its peak of popularity, mainly because Black has figured out more than one way to nearly equalize (most prominently these ideas of a quick Bb4+ followed by Be7 instead of trading bishops on d2). That being said, if there are two people in this World that can bring new spice into the Catalan, they are Aronian and Kramnik... it just so happens that they faced each other today!

It's clear that Big Vlad did not equalize fully from the opening; Aronian's pressure kept mounting all over the board and his control over the d-file was more than annoying. With a good sequence he placed his pieces in perfect squares, first winning a pawn and then trading it for domination over the board and good chances to attack the enemy king.

Levon Aronian pressed hard against Vladimir Kramnik

Kramnik defended cleverly; he sacrificed his pawn again and traded queens. The resulting two pawns against one on the kingside gave White some chances to win, but not many. The Russian defended comfortably and earned his draw.

Caruana, Fabiano ½-½ Anand, Viswanathan
What is happening to Caruana? The talk of the town back in September during the Sinquefield Cup has slowly shed away rating. Some attribute it to the massive amount of games he has been playing recently, other say that the Sinquefield was just a fluke and he is back to his usual level. This doesn't seem true, however, as Caruana consistently shows good preparation and excellent technique - but as of late he has been faltering at some point during the game. Blunders or minor errors are costing him half points and sometimes full points here and there.

Viswanathan Anand got outplayed for a bit, but came back into the game with a nice tactic

Today was one of those cases. A complicated opening idea netted Caruana an extra exchange, but Anand had a pawn and excellent piece placement for it. The Italian defended valiantly, pushing Black back step by step. Just when Caruana was getting everything under control, the blunder 24.Nc2?! allowed Anand to jump back into the game with the excellent 24...Ne3! Luck was on Caruana's side in that the move wasn't quite lethal, and that Anand was in serious time pressure. Instead of suffering for a long time, as he should have, Caruana escaped with an easy draw - and even had some very slight pushing chances near the end.

[Event "4th Zurich CC Classical"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2015.02.16"] [Round "3"] [White "Caruana, F."] [Black "Anand, V."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A07"] [WhiteElo "2811"] [BlackElo "2797"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2015.02.14"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 (3... Nf6 {is a different scenario!}) 4. d4 c6 5. c4 dxc4 6. Na3 {With a knight on f6 this move makes no sense. But the knight is not on f6.} b5 7. Nxb5 cxb5 8. Nh4 {White wins the exchange as a8 cannot be defended. If the knight were on f6 it could block on d5, but this is not the case. On the other hand Black has good chances of obtaining compensation as White's development is seriously compromised.} Bd7 9. Bxa8 Nc6 10. Bxc6 (10. Bb7 Qb6 {is not much of an improvement.}) 10... Bxc6 11. O-O Qd5 12. f3 (12. Nf3 Nf6 {is somewhat uncomfortable to play for White. There isn't any clear plan, e4 is firmly under Black's control, and overall it's just annoying to find a move. The move that Caruana chose loses a pawn but at least gives him a clearer direction.}) 12... Qxd4+ 13. Kh1 Qxd1 14. Rxd1 e6 15. Rb1 Nf6 16. Be3 O-O 17. Ng2 Nd5 18. Bd4 e5 19. Bxa7 {White regains one of his pawns, but Black has a very specific idea} c3 $1 {The pawn is untouchable and it causes serious threats.} 20. Ne1 (20. bxc3 Nxc3 21. Rdc1 Nxb1 22. Rxc6 {can only favor Black; White's knight on g2 is too far away from the action.}) 20... e4 $6 (20... Ra8 {was certainly better.} 21. e4 (21. Bf2 e4 {is now a stronger version of the game.} 22. Bd4 Rxa2 $13) 21... Nf6 22. Be3 Nxe4 $1) 21. Bd4 (21. fxe4 Nb4 { thereatening Bxe4 and c2.}) 21... exf3 22. exf3 Re8 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. Nc2 $2 ( 24. Rd3 $1 {This move would have put some serious problems for Anand. The rook move threatens bxc3 and covers f3.} Re2 25. bxc3 Ne3 (25... Rxa2 26. Kg1 $16) 26. Kg1 $1 {And Black retains compensation, but it is not clear if it is enough.}) 24... Ne3 $1 25. Re1 (25. Nxe3 Rxe3 26. Rdc1 Rxf3 $1 27. Kg1 Be4 28. bxc3 Bxb1 29. Rxb1 Rxc3 {with an endgame that is probably drawn, but only Black can win.}) 25... Nxc2 26. Rxe8 Bxe8 27. bxc3 {The two pieces are superior to the rook. Anand does not show the best technique from now on, and Caruana easily draws, but without time pressure it is possible that the Indian could have put White in a serious bind.} Na3 28. Rd1 Nc4 29. Kg1 Kf6 30. Rd4 h5 31. Kf2 Ne5 32. h3 g5 (32... Ke6 $15) 33. f4 gxf4 34. gxf4 Ng6 35. c4 bxc4 36. Rxc4 Bd7 37. a4 Bxh3 38. a5 Be6 39. Rd4 Ne7 40. a6 Nc8 41. Kg3 Bg4 42. Rc4 Kg6 43. Rc7 f6 44. a7 Nxa7 45. Rxa7 Bf5 1/2-1/2

Nakamura, Hikaru 1-0 Karjakin, Sergey
Talk about throwing the dice! Or perhaps The American went for a line that should be a forced draw; even though the drawing line has never been played, it is a variation that has been considered by several grandmasters. It seems as if Karjakin entered massive complications without a sure footing - he did not know (or more accurately, he did not remember) the drawing line and was forced to try to calculate it over the board.

The first player in the Americas to cross 2800: Hikaru Nakamura!

However, this proved to be an impossible task! The drawing variation (which you can find below on the game annotations) is a series of computer moves that don't make that much sense. White's king is in the middle of nowhere, getting mated in several instances, but White is up a massive amount of material. A specific sequence forces a perpetual and it is the only way for both sides to survive.

Since Karjakin did not find this variation, he ended up down the exchange and also down a tremendous amount of time on the clock. Nakamura did not forgive such a situation and won very easily; he had over an hour left on the clock when the game ended!

Galia Karjakina is not thrilled with her husband's memory

[Event "4th Zurich CC Classical"] [Site "Zurich SUI"] [Date "2015.02.16"] [Round "3"] [White "Nakamura, H."] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A33"] [WhiteElo "2776"] [BlackElo "2760"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2015.02.14"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. g3 Qb6 7. Ndb5 Ne5 8. Bf4 Nfg4 9. Qa4 {Modern theory at its best. Taking on f2 is considered to be rather dangerous, so no one does it.} g5 (9... Qxf2+ 10. Kd2 Qb6 11. h3 g5 12. Bxg5 Nf2 13. Rh2 {and Black is somehow very discoordinated: his pieces are all hanging, Be3 is a real threat.}) 10. Bxe5 Qxf2+ 11. Kd1 Nxe5 12. Nc7+ Kd8 13. Nxa8 Qd4+ 14. Kc2 Nxc4 15. e4 (15. Kb3 Nd2+ 16. Kc2 Nc4 $11 {has been a draw a few times, most notably Carlsen-Dominguez, 2009.}) 15... Ne3+ $2 {The first new move of the game, and already a blunder. Perhaps Karjakin should have checked this line more carefully. It is impossible to find your way through the maze of variations in this position without knowing them beforehand. Karjakin is well known to have very deep opening preparation, so at least to me, the fact that he did not know the opening comes to me as a surprise.} ( 15... Qd2+ 16. Kb3 Qxb2+ 17. Kxc4 Bg7 $1 18. Qa5+ $1 {anything else leaves White in real problems; his king is too weak.} b6 19. Qxg5+ f6 20. Qb5 { absolutely forced, or White gets mated.} (20. Qxg7 Ba6+ 21. Kd4 Qf2#) 20... Ba6 $1 {A forced move again!} 21. Qxa6 f5 $1 {And now White can't avoid losing his c3 knight and allow a perpetual. You can check the variations if you like, but it is not the type of situations where a silicon monster would lie.}) 16. Kb3 Qd2 17. a3 Qc2+ 18. Ka2 {White's king is safe, and he is upa rook for two pawns. Black has the time to trade queens and regain some material by trapping the a8 knight, but it is not sufficient.} Qxa4 19. Nxa4 Nxf1 20. Rhxf1 b5 ( 20... b6 21. Rac1 Bb7 22. Nc7 $18) 21. N4b6 axb6 22. Nxb6 Bb7 23. Rxf7 {Black is basically just down the exchange.} Bc6 24. Rd1 Be7 $6 (24... Ke8 {was more resilient, but still hopeless.} 25. Rdxd7 $1 $18) 25. Rf3 Kc7 $6 (25... Ke8 26. Rfd3 h5 $1 {is technically winning, but White would have a long road ahead of him before converting.}) 26. Nxd7 Rd8 (26... Bxd7 27. Rc3+ Kd8 28. Rcd3) 27. Rc3 (27. Rc3 Rxd7 28. Rdc1 Rd6 29. e5 $18) 1-0

To confirm the suspicions that the position was indeed a draw, Nakamura showed the variations in the press conference, while Karjakin tweeted about it...

Photos by Eteri Kublashvili

Replay Round Three Games

New Live Ratings

Thanks to the different results in Tbilisi and in Zurich, the live rating list keeps shuffling widly! Here is the latest update, courtesy of 2700chess. This already takes into account the Tbilisi Grand Prix round of today and today's games in Zurich.

# Name Classic +/− Age
1 Carlsen 2862.9 −2.1 24
2 Grischuk 2812.6 +2.6 31
3 Caruana 2803.1 −7.9 22
4 Nakamura 2802.5 +26.5 27
5 Giri 2802.5 +5.5 20
6 Topalov 2798.1 −1.9 39
7 So 2788.0 0.0 21
8 Anand 2786.7 −10.3 45
9 Kramnik 2783.0 0.0 39
10 Vachier-Lagrave 2770.1 −4.9 24
11 Aronian 2769.4 −7.6 32
12 Mamedyarov 2758.4 −0.6 29
13 Karjakin 2756.1 −3.9 25
14 Ding Liren 2755.0 0.0 22
15 Gelfand 2747.0 0.0 46
16 Adams 2744.5 +6.5 43
17 Navara 2743.9 +8.9 29
18 Vitiugov 2742.6 +7.6 28
19 Wojtaszek 2738.0 +4.0 28
20 Andreikin 2737.9 +0.9 25

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 on www.playchess.com

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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