GM Rogers on NH Chess: Nakamura on a Roll
By GM Ian Rogers   
August 19, 2010
Hikaru Nakamura is back in contention for the major prize at the NH Youth versus Experience tournament in Amsterdam.

After two consecutive wins and with three rounds to play, Nakamura is only half a point from the lead, currently held by veteran Boris Gelfand.

GMs Loek Van Wely and Hikaru Nakamura, Photo Cathy Rogers
More importantly toward earning the coveted Melody Amber (blitz/rapid/blindfold) spot, Nakamura is tied for first place amongst the five youngsters, equal with local star Anish Giri and half a point ahead of Italy's Fabiano Caruana. In case of a tie between youngsters for the Amber spot, a blitz tiebreaker will be held prior to the Closing Ceremony.

Overall the youth team is dominating, three points ahead of the oldsters who have only Gelfand above a 50% score.

Nakamura's sixth round win against Ljubomir Ljubojevic was a regulation fight-back with Black from a difficult opening position, but his round seven game was extraordinary, both for the moves and the back story.


Opening: Sicilian Najdorf
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6
Van Wely has been faithful to the Sicilian Najdorf throughout his career despite many set-backs. For example in Wijk aan Zee this year he lost three games with the Najdorf; according to his second of the time Vladimir Chuchelov, all three games featured van Wely playing a line they had analyzed and rejected as bad for Black!
6.Bg5 Nbd7!?
A surprise from van Wely, who almost invariably plays 6...e6 here. Computer analysis has greatly enhanced White's prospects in many of the main lines so it is not surprising that Najdorf players are starting to look in other directions.
On an adjacent board, Giri was facing the same line against Gelfand and preferred the more common 7.Bc4 putting the top seed under considerable pressure.
7...Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3
"I have to play this," said Nakamura, "otherwise I have a bad version of a normal Poisoned Pawn variation." (The Poisoned Pawn variation, favoured at various times by World Champions from Fischer to Kasparov to Anand,  runs 6...e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2, etc.)
10...Nxf6 11.e5 dxe5 12.fxe5
Shortly before the NH tournament began, van Wely had written an article for New in Chess on the World Open. In it he had analysed a game by the winner, Laznicka, against Brian Smith. That game had continued 12...Ng4! 13.Nd5 Qc5 14.Nb3 Qc6 15.Na5 Qd7 16.Nc4!? and White won the exchange via Nb6 but ultimately lost the game.
"I had analysed all this, of course," said Nakamura. "12...Ng4 is still pretty dangerous for Black. After 13.Nd5 Qc5 14.Nb3 Qc6, I wasn't sure whether I would play 15.Na5 or 15.Qa5."
13.Nd5! Qc5 14.Nb3! Qc6 15.Na5 Qc5
"I had analyzed the game Smith-Laznicka for New in Chess," explained van Wely, "and I remembered that White had played Na5-c4-b6.  So I started to think - "How is this possible when Black has a knight on d7 covering b6?" But I still didn't remember that the Black knight was on g4, not d7."
"Only after he took on b7 did it start to ring a bell - but by then it was a bit late," van Wely confessed. If the knight was on g4, Black could have played Qd7 in response to Na5, defending the b-pawn.

16...Bxb7 17.Rxb7 Rc8 18.Bxa6 Qc6 19.Qa5! is also hopeless for Black.
17.Rb6!! 1-0

A pretty finish; it's mate after 17...Nxb6 18.Nf6+! exf6 19.Qd8.

Losing a game in 17 moves is bad enough, but worse was to come for van Wely when the editor of New in Chess, Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, showed van Wely a copy of his article in the as yet unpublished issue of New in Chess.

In it van Wely states "Not 12...Nd7 because of 13.Nd5! Qc5 14.Nb3! Qc6 15.Na5 Qc5 16.Nxb7 and Black loses." Never would a player have received less satisfaction from having their analysis proved correct.

After the game, which lasted less than one and a half hours, both players appeared somewhat shell-shocked. They stood outside the press room discussing how such an error could be possible and whether the line was playable at all.

"My memory started to go when I was 25," admitted van Wely, perhaps giving Nakamura pause to think that he might only have a few more years left to get to the top.
Amsterdam NH 2010
Scores after 7 of 10 rounds

Youth Team
=1.Nakamura(USA), Giri(Ned) 4.5;
3.Caruana(Ita) 4;
=4.Howell(Eng), So (Phi) 3

Experience Team
1.Gelfand(Isr) 5;
2.Svidler(Rus) 3.5;
=3. Nielsen(Den), van Wely(Ned), Ljubojevic(Srb) 2.5.

The final three rounds of the NH tournament can be watched live, with commentary, on starting at 7.30am EST.