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Dreams & Extremes for Nakamura in Norway Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
May 16, 2013
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Photo Cathy Rogers

Kjell Madland had a dream - to bring the world's best players to his corner of the world - Fjordland; the west coast of Norway.

Fast forward to Thursday May 16 and World Champion Viswanathan  Anand could be found at the wheel of a speedboat, traversing the Lyse Fjord at speeds of up to 30 knots, with the World Champion knowing that one false turn could send tournament leader Sergey Karjakin into the freezing water and hand the tournament to his resting rival Magnus Carlsen. Meanwhile Peter Svidler was trekking to the top of the Pulpit Rock. Clearly the organisers of Norway Chess didn't only believe in over the board competition - they prepared an Extreme Rest Day as well.

Madland admitted that finding sponsors to fulfil his dream had been rather more difficult than expected - the budget of an elite  tournament exceeds $300,000. However with the support of world number one Magnus Carlsen and a large team of enthusiastic organisers, one of the tournaments of the year, Norway Chess, came to Sandnes (and Stavanger and Algard and other venues around the neighbourhood - the tournament hall was a movable feast).

Stavanger, the largest town in the region and regularly listed as one of the most expensive cities in the world, is a centre for shipping, fishing and, most of all, Norway's share of the North Sea oil industry. However the tourism industry is also significant and the tournament has been used a showcase for the region. This was a factor which came into consideration when considering which players to invite, so having Anand and Wang Hao attend - the top representatives of the two most populous countries in the world  - was a no-brainer.

One of the players targeted was Hikaru Nakamura, though he needed to miss the US Championship to take part. The US number one was seeded fifth, behind Carlsen, Anand, Levon Aronian and Veselin Topalov. (Vladimir Kramnik was on the original entry list, which at one time included the top eight players in the world, but he withdrew after his London Candidates disappointment - with the organizers' agreement - and was replaced by Peter Svidler.
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Photo Cathy Rogers

Nakamura had a mixed start to the tournament - including "One of the absolute worst games I've played in a very long time" in round two against Aronian - but by the end of round four Nakamura was in clear second place thanks to a fine win against the World Champion.

Bryne 2013

White: V.Anand
Black: H.Nakamura
Opening: Spanish

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5 7.c3 d6 8.d4 Bb6 9.Be3

A sideline with which Anand had already lost a game to Caruana earlier this year.
9...0-0 10.Nbd2 Re8
Caruana played the more common 10...h6.
 dxc5Anand.jpg

11.Re1 Na5 12.Bc2 c5 13.dxc5 dxc5
White exchanging pawns in the centre is considered toothless in most lines of the Spanish and this does not seem like a position where the d5 or f5 squares look particularly weak.
14.Qe2 Ng4
A risky plan, since exchanging the bishop on e3 will only help the White knight to reach its best square.
15.Nf1 Be6 16.Ng5 Nxe3 17.Nxe6 fxe6! 18.Nxe3 c4
The only consistent follow-up by Nakamura, who correctly judged that "the bishop on b6 should provide more than enough compensation for the doubled pawns."
19.Qh5 Qc7 20.Ng4 Rf8 21.Re2 Rad8 22.Rd1 Rxd1+ 23.Bxd1 Rd8!?

More ambitious than 23...Qd6 24.Bc2 Nc6 with boring equality. 24.Bc2 b4!? 25.cxb4
Both players believed that Black was taking over the initiative and failed to notice the computer suggestion 25.Rd2! which causes Black some inconvenience.
25...Nc6 26.Ba4 Nxb4 27.Qxe5 Qe7 28.Qh5?!
Nakamura was expecting 28.Qc3 though after 28...Rd4 29.a3 Nd3 30.Bc2 Qg5 he believed that Black had ample compensation for the sacrificed pawn.
28...Nxa2 29.g3?
29g3.jpg
29.Ne5 Nc1 30.Rc2 hangs on.
29...Nc1!
Anand appeared visibly shocked by this move, and proceeded to go downhill quickly.
30.Rc2 Nd3 31.e5 Rf8! 32.Rxc4 Bxf2+! 33.Kg2
33.Nxf2 is strongly met by 33...Qa7.
33...Bc5! 34.Bc6 Rf5! 35.Qh4
Desperation, but 35.Qe8+ Qxe8 36.Bxe8 simply loses a piece after 36...h5 and the knight is trapped.
35...Ne1+ 36.Kh3 Qf7! 37.Rxc5 Rh5 38.Bg2 Rxh4+ 39.gxh4 Qf5
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0-1

Nakamura may have been in second place after four rounds, with games against Carlsen, Aronian and Anand already out of the way but he was a point and a half off the pace as Karjakin had won his first four games.

Karjakin was brought back to earth by Carlsen in the fifth round but Nakamura knew that his dream of winning the Norway Chess depended on his winning with Black against Karjakin in the seventh round.
 
The fateful seventh round was played in an extraordinary venue, the island of Flor & Fjaere.

Flor & Fjaere was a typically windswept island on the Rodne Fjord until a family who ran a nursery on the mainland moved in. Since then the island has been populated by trees, flowers, cacti and in summer months is a riot of colour which attracts 30,000 visitors per year. With winter hanging around a month later than usual in western Norway, the flowers were struggling through wind and rain but the island was nonetheless an oasis of colour in the fjord.

The games were played in the island restaurant which looked out on to the fjord. After the game Karjakin spoke in superlatives of the views; "It was brilliant; watching the sea was amazing. I would like to play all the tournament here!"
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GMs Karjakin and Nakamura, Photo Cathy Rogers

Karjakin's mood was no doubt improved by the game which had gone beforehand - the game which ended Nakamura's ambitions for first place.

Flor & Fjaere 2013

White S.Karjakin
Black H.Nakamura
Opening: Sicilian Najdorf

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7

A few years ago Nakamura won a fine game against this move (replying 8.f4) and went as far as to claim that computer analysis had made lines such as this almost unplayable for Black. Clearly he is no longer so convinced.
7.Qe2!? g6 8.0-0-0 Bg7 9.f4 Qa5 
9Qa5Karj.jpg
10.g3?! h6! 11.Bxf6
"Clearly it was not my intention to take on f6," said Karjakin, "but after 11.Bh4 I couldn't find a good answer against 11...Nh7, e.g. 12.g4 g5 13.fxg5 hxg5 14.Bg3. I can play this, but I think Black is fine.
"Clearly 10.Nf3 was the critical move."
11...Nxf6 12.Bg2 Bg4 13.Bf3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 0-0

"Now Black is completely fine, maybe even slightly better," admitted Karjakin. "The position I had after the opening was very stupid."
15.Rhe1 Nd7 16.Nb3 Qc7 17.Nd5 Qd8 18.h4 Rc8 19.h5 e6

"Now I was happy," said Karjakin. "After 19...g5! I can easily be much worse." The tactical point is that White cannot immediately occupy the f5 square because 20.Ne3 can be met by 20...Qc7 21.c3 e6.
20.Nc3! Bxc3 21.bxc3 Qf6 22.hxg6 fxg6 23.Rxd6 Ne5?
"I cannot understand this move," said Karjakin. "After 23...Rxc3 24.Qd1 Nc5 the position is just equal."
24.Qh1! Nc4 25.e5 Qf7
Karjakin thought that the depressing 25...Qe7 was a better chance, hoping to hold the endgame after 26.Qxh6 Nxd6 27.Qxg6+ Qg7 28.Qxg7+ Kxg7 29.exd6. It is not an inspiring prospect.
26.Rd4
"Now I am just a pawn up," said Karjakin.
26...h5 27.Qe4 b5 28.Red1 Rc7
Rc7Karj.jpg
 

29.Nc5!! Rxc5
Karjakin was hoping for 29...Nb6 after which he planned the spectacular finish 30.Nxe6! Qxe6 31.Rd6 Qc4 32.Rxg6+ Kh7 33.Rh6+! Kxh6 34.Rd6+ Kg7 35.Qg6+ Kh8 36.Qh6+ Kg8 37.Rg6+ Kf7 38.Rf6+ with mate to follow.
30.Rd7 Rc7
The queen cannot be saved because 30...Qf5 loses to 31.Qb7! g5 32.Rg7+ Kh8 33.Rdd7.
31.Rxf7 Kxf7
"This should be easily winning for White, but it is not that simple," said Karjakin having an each-way bet.
32.g4! hxg4 33.Rh1 Kg7 34.Qg2 Rh8 35.Rxh8 Kxh8 36.Qxg4 Rh7 37.Qd1 Rf7 38.Qd4 Kg7 39.Kd1 g5
The best chance, but Karjakin reacts patiently and accurately. 40.fxg5 Kg6 41.Qh4 Nxe5 42.Qh3! Kxg5 43.Qxe6 Rf5 44.Qxa6
Now White needs to arrange the c4 advance under suitable circumstances.
44...Nc4 45.Ke2 Re5+ 46.Kf2 Ne3 47.Qa7 Ng4+ 48.Kf3 Rf5+ 49.Ke2 Re5+ 50.Kd2 Rd5+ 51.Kc1

Back again, but now the Black knight is misplaced and c4 will follow soon.
51...Kf4 52.Qf7+ Ke4 53.Qh7+ Kf4 54.Qh4 Re5 55.Kb2 Kf3 56.c4 Ne3!? Setting up one last swindle.
57.Qf6+ Ke4 58.Qc6+ Kd4
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59.Qd6+! 1-0

Not the careless 59.cxb5?? Nc4+ when Black turns the tables.

Karjakin is not quite home and hosed; local hero Carlsen has gone on a three game winning streak and sits just half a point behind the 22-year-old Russian. (Karjakin started his life as a Ukrainian but the biggest transfer fee in FIDE history saw him change federations in 2009.)

For Nakamura, a respectable third place finish is still a realistic possibility though adjusting to a lesser goal than first place will be tricky. (He passed on the Extreme Rest Day excursion.)

In any case a new opportunity awaits next week, when Nakamura will join new US Champion Gata Kamsky at a Grand Prix tournament in Thessaloniki. The GP tournament - a last minute replacement for the planned event in Madrid - is certain not to match Norway Chess for atmosphere, organization or spectators but it is a part-qualifier for the next Candidates tournament so having momentum as Norway Chess finishes will be important.

The biggest reason for finishing well may be to ensure an invitation to Norway Chess II. The first venture into top level chess went so well, the organizers are already planning a second edition. Dreams can come true - though the biggest dream-come-true for the organizers will be to have a Norwegian World Champion in the 2014 tournament.
 
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