Nakamura Takes Mainz 960
By By Harry Schaack and Eric van Reem   
August 1, 2008
Nakalead.jpgHikaru Nakamura took first place on tiebreak ahead of Alexander Motylev and Sergei Movsesian in the Finet Open in Mainz, Germany. They all scored 9/11. The event features chess 960, a variant in which the pieces are scrambled in the back row. The following onsite report covers the first five rounds and should give you an idea of how the game is played. Look for more soon, including games from Nakamura and a video by Macauley Peterson.

At 12.30 the FiNet Open started on time, with 235 players battling it out for the Chess960 title. In the exquisite field, we find 44 grandmasters and altogether 83 players with an international title. The average rating of the top 10 players is 2687! After the first five rounds on Thursday only Hikaru Nakamura and Rustam Kasimdzhanov still have a 100% score. To honor and to remember the inventor of Chess960, Robert James Fischer, organizer Hans-Walter Schmitt asked players and public to keep a minute of silence before the start of the first round. 

In the top field we find some of the best players in the world, like Sergei Movsesian and Pavel Eljanov, who have a 2700+ rating and once again some players came to Mainz who have a 2650+ rating like Sasikiran, Najer, Kasimdzhanov, Almasi, Motylev, Fressinet, Tregubov and Bareev. The best German player Arkadi Naiditsch ist a regular in Mainz. A secret favourite ist the American rapid chess ace Hikaru Nakamura, who won the Chess960 ICC qualifier and showed his strength on the first day.    

Since the two female stars Natalia Zhukova and Viktorija Cmilyte have no possibility to win the title in the second FiNet Female World Championship anymore, they decided to play the Open and try to qualify for the next Chess960 World Championship. For a few moments, Zhukova must have regretted her decision after the game she lost in just 11 moves to Evgeniy Najer. Najer started to blunder and lost a pawn on h2, but soon after that move, Zhukova made an ever bigger blunder and resigned.   

Najer - Zhukova

FiNet Open Chess Classic Mainz 2008 (3.4) 
Starting position in Najer-Zhukova

1.c4 c5 2.e3 Qc7 3.Nc3 Qxh2 3...Qxh2.jpg

  4.Ne2 Qc7 5.Nhg3 g6 6.b3 Nc6 7.d4 Bg7 8.d5 Ne5 9.d6 exd6 10.Nc3

Position after 10.Nc3

0-0 11.Nd5 1-0 

Despite this faux-pas Zhukova showed remarkable strength and she leads the female competition with 3.5 points. Lovely Natalia has excellent chances to qualifiy for the next FiNet Chess960 World Championship again. In the women's rapid 960 World Chess Championship, Alexandra Kosetniuk prevailed against Kateryna Lahno.

The German players seem to feel at home in Mainz and showed some impressive chess. Arkadi Naiditsch has an excellent 4,5 score and surprisingly IM Stephan Becker also has 4,5 points. Georg Meier and Klaus Bischoff lie in wait with 4 points, the FM from Hofheim, Stephan Buchal scored 4 points as well. He managed to win against the prominent players Motylev and Cmilyte. We should not forget the excellent performance by 13-year-old Sebastian Kaphle, who won the Mini-FiNet on Tuesday. In the first round he had his finest hour against GM Mikhail Mchedlishvili, who has a 2604 rating by scoring an easy draw!  

In the second round we could witness a hilarious mistake, when top-seed Sergei Movsesian was supposed to sit on the very last board, despite his win in the first round. Hans-Dieter Post, who is responsible for the pairings could clarify the situation and explained that some smart computer program accidentally gave the Slovak a wrong internal ID. Everything could be solved immediately. The human factor, we reported about it yesterday.

After the first five rounds, only Hikaru Nakamura and Rustam Kasimdzhanov scored 100%. The American lives up to his reputation of being one of the most dangerous players in rapid chess in the world. But also the ex-world champion is a very experienced and strong rapid chess player. But, we should be careful. Last year, Mamedyarov had a 100% score after five rounds, but he collapsed on the second day. And you can bet that the group of players with 4.5 points will stubbornly chase the two leaders.