Nakamura Evens Score in Saint Louis
By Ken West   
May 20, 2011
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Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura evened the score at 1.5 in his international match against GM Ruslan Ponomariov Thursday at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Ben Finegold and Ray Robson drew their second straight game.

Nakamura won but was the first to say it was not because of his opening play with the King’s Indian. His position had doubled a and c pawns at one point, and his decision to play Na6 on move seven was a deviation from his preparation.


“I spent all day preparing a line…but at the last minute decided to play Na6,” he said after the game.


During postgame comments with International Master John Donaldson and WGM Jen Shahade, Nakamura said he was worse out of the opening. On Ponomariov’s Qd6 on move 16, Nakamura said he was “significantly worse.” He was concerned about Ponomariov then playing Qa3, hitting the a6 pawn.

Ponomariov also played an exchange sacrifice after Nakamura played Bg4 on his 19th move. Ponomariov took the bishop on g7 and Nakamura took the rook on d1. Ponomariov retreated his bishop to f6 and Nakamura’s bishop jumped back to g4.

“I think I have a nice position,” Ponomariov said about the resulting position after the exchange sacrifice. “After Qc5 check I started sinking,” he told Donaldson and Shahade. He said he had to improve his calculation.

After the exchange sac happened, Donaldson said Ponomariov’s bishop on f6 was “like a bone in the throat—white has a tremendous grip on the dark squares.”

But at some point, the game shifted. Both Donaldson and Shahade said they weren’t sure when the game shifted or if the exchange sac was the problem. After Ponomariov’s Qb6 on move 30, Shahade said it appeared Nakamura was playing for the win. The Saint Louis grandmaster got the win but said it was a learning experience.

The King’s Indian may be “a bad opening to play in a match format,” Nakamura said. “It’s pretty much all or nothing. But that’s why I’m playing this match. I get experience and learn something from it.”

The Finegold/Robson match ended in a draw after Finegold forced perpetual check. Instead of forcing the perpetual check, Finegold could have played Bd2.


“Bd2 is a way to try to win or lose,” Finegold said.

He played 3.Bb5 against Robson’s Sicilian. The choice didn’t surprise the young grandmaster.

“No, I expect him to play something different every day,” Robson said.

Luckily, Robson said, Finegold played a line with which he was familiar.

This is the first time Finegold has played under a match system. Robson said his previous matches were only two-game affairs.

“We both had issues,” Finegold said about preparing for this match. Finegold prepared to face legendary Viktor Korchnoi but health issues forced him to withdraw. Robson came in as a late replacement.

“So we are doing our preparation day by day,” Finegold said.

Robson leads their match 2 to 1.

To follow the games live, visit saintlouischessclub.org/nakamura-v-ponomariov-robson-v-finegold/live
Live commentary by IM John Donaldson and WGM Jennifer Shahade can be found atlivestream.com/uschess. Rounds and commentary are open to club members, and memberships start at just $5/month for students or $12/month for adults.