Nakamura Ends Dortmund on an Upswing
By Macauley Peterson   
August 1, 2011
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Over an hour after the final round of the Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund, Germany on Sunday, Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Kramnik were still puzzling over the complications of their game in front of an ad hoc audience of around thirty fans, journalists and tournament officials. 

"It was a very weird game," Nakamura said immediately afterward. "There's a lot more play for white than I originally thought, so it was a fun post mortem."

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Kramnik sacrificed a piece for two pawns with 23.Nfxg5!?, taking his chances to beat the struggling Nakamura, who just two days ago was staring at a minus-three score. The Russian ace had already clinched his tenth Dortmund tournament victory with a round to spare, so he could well afford to take a risk, but the long-term positional composition ultimately failed to crystallize into an attack.

"When he got down to about thirty minutes I had a feeling he was going to play something off the wall like Nxg5," Hikaru said, citing a similar scenario in London last December, in which Kramnik used a large chunk of time before sacrificing material. Even a rook down, Kramnik was still finding positional nuances to continue the fight.



For Hikaru, it was a relief to successfully navigate the complications and score his second straight win. After losing to Ruslan Ponomariov for the second time in the event on Friday, Nakamura was actually in danger of handing over his spot at the top of American chess back to Gata Kamsky, whose impressive run in St. Louis, Kazan, and especially the World Team Championship in Ningbo, catapulted him back in to the world's Top 10 on the unofficial "live rating" list.

But Nakamura recovered on Saturday, scoring his first win against the German invitee and lowest seed, Georg Meier. Meier, who will join the chess team of Texas Tech in Lubbock this fall, had been tied with Nakamura for much of the event.



Nakamura opted for a rare system beginning 1.g3, after being frustrated by his results and lack of success in the opening phase earlier in the tournament. The new found poker aficionado, even let luck play a role in his first move selection, as he explained following the ninth round win:

 
 
Against Kramnik with black, however, he relied upon a tried and true weapon, the King's Indian, which served him well for his last black game against the former world champion back in March during the final round of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid, in Monaco.

The win on Sunday, which was greeted by a significant round of applause from the audience in the Dortmund theatre, brought Nakamura's final result back to a lackluster but respectable minus-one score -- the same number of points with which he finished the Bazna King's Tournament in June.

"Certainly to end the tournament the way that I did -- even though it was still quite a disappointing result -- it softens the blow quite a bit."

Next up on the super-tournament schedule for Nakamura is the Grand Slam "Final Masters" to be played in São Paulo and Bilbao, September 26 to October 11. Before that, Hikaru will participate in the "K v. Q: Battle of the Sexes" rapid event in St. Louis, in conjunction with the opening of the new World Chess Hall of Fame.

Macauley Peterson will next head to Sheffield, England, for the conclusion of the British Championship. Don't miss a special episode of  The Full English Breakfast, which will be released the week of August 8th.