Home Page Chess Life Online 2010 July The Kids are Alright in Amsterdam
|The Kids are Alright in Amsterdam|
|By GM Ian Rogers|
|August 16, 2010|
Last year, Hikaru Nakamura had a nightmare
outing at the annual Youth v Experience tournament in Amsterdam, suffering from
illness and, apart from one sensational win over Beliavsky, playing well below
his normal form.
In 2010 Nakamura has returned to the plush Hotel Krasnapolsky but at the halfway mark his chances have already taken a big hit.
The fifth edition of the tournament is the strongest in the series, with Beliavsky being replaced in the old codgers by a top 10 player, Boris Gelfand, and a powerful new crop of youngsters joining 2009 attendees Caruana and Nakamura - the American now proudly sporting a 2700+ rating.
Conditions for the youth players are lavish, including expenses and a fee for a second; the older players make do with a wife or girlfriend. The players also have a dress code; suits for the opening and closing ceremonies and smart dress - no jeans - during the games.
As well as the modest cash prizes, the juniors are also playing for some bonus prizes, the most prestigious being that the winner qualifies for the lucrative and elite Amber exhibition tournament, to be held in Nice next March. For Nakamura, the chance to compete against the world's best in rapid and blindfold games would be particularly attractive, though a blindfold bullet tournament would probably be his dream gig.
Better promotion and signage has resulted in the NH tournament - played in the centre of the Dutch capital at one of the city's most historic hotels - no longer being Amsterdam's best kept secret, although the 80 seat commentary room has yet to be more than half full. Those who have turned up have been treated to some spectacular chess, with Nakamura and Howell drawing only one game each to date.
The chess press have come out in some force, from as far afield as Russia and Greece, plus ICC's Macauley Peterson who, with Chessvibes' Peter Doggers, is producing videos for the organizers at http://www.nhchess.com/. The press room may be small but with living legends like John Nunn and Vlastimil Hort sitting in the front row discussing variations, there is no shortage of informed opinion on the games. Even better, when watching a post-mortem in the VIP room the journalists are forced to wave away (or not) waiters offering delicacies such as sweet chili prawns or Dutch croquettes.
John Nunn is the tournament oracle. For example, when Svidler suggested that a particular hypothetical endgame from his third round loss against Caruana might be a draw, he was contradicted in no uncertain terms, and told exactly how White should win.
And when Nunn discovered a winning rook sacrifice on move 17 for Caruana in his fifth round game against Ljubojevic, he marched into the commentary room and showed the wonderful winning variations to the assembled masses. Caruana was shown the error of his ways after the game and readily accepted Nunn's conclusions.
The Nakamura Rollercoaster
Nakamura, playing against the lowest rated oldster in the first round, started the tournament impressively.
Amsterdam NH 2010
White: H. Nakamura
Black: L. Ljubojevic
Black had emerged from the opening with slight pressure but had unwisely allowed Nakamura a queenside majority and now the American, despite slight time trouble, finds an effective breakthrough.
31.b5! Qxb5 32.Qxb5 axb5 33.Rfb1 Be3 34.Bxe3 Nxe3 35.a6 Kg7 36.Nd4 b4?
"A blunder," said Nakamura. "36...Ra8 gives Black better chances to draw the game but it is still slightly worse and he would have had to suffer quite a bit."
37.a7 bxc3 38.Rb8 R8e7 39.a8Q Ng4 40.Nf3 c2 41.h3 1-0
The next day Nakamura looked like a different player, misplaying the opening against van Wely and barely surviving into a lost rook endgame. Then something strange happened...
Amsterdam NH 2010
White: L. van Wely
Van Wely saw that 45.h3 Rxa5 46.Rh7 Ra1+ 47.Kh2 f4 48.Rxh5+ Kf6 49.h4 followed by Rg5-g4 and h5 would be a slow but sure win, but decided to play something ‘cleaner'.
45.h4?! Rxh4! 46.a6 Ra4 47.a7 Kf4
"Now I saw he had counterplay and I was in shock," said van Wely. "If my king comes to the queenside he will have ...h4-h3 and a passed f pawn.
Had van Wely recovered his equilibrium he would have been able to calculate that
48.Kf2 Ra2+ 49.Ke1 h4 50.Kd1 h3 51.gxh3 Kxf3 52.h4! f4 53.h5 Ke3 54.h6 f3 55.Re7+ Kd3 56.Ke1 wins quite simply for White. The alternative attempt to hang around the g pawn and give up the Black rook for the a pawn also fails, e.g. 50...Ke3 51.Kc1 Kf2 52.Kb1 Rxa7 53.Rxa7 Kxg2 54.f4! and the White king gets to e5 or in front of the Black pawns in plenty of time.
48...Ra2 49.Rb7 Ra6 50.Kh3 h4 51.Rh7 Kg5 52.g3?
It was not too late to head back with the king.
52...hxg3 53.Kxg3 Ra2 54.Rg7+ Kf6 55.Rb7 Kg5 56.f4+ Kh5 57.Rg7 Kh6 58.Rf7 Kg6 59.Re7 Kh5 60.Rh7+ Kg6 61.Rc7 Kh5 62.Kf3 Ra3+ 63.Ke2 Kg4 64.Kd2 Kxf4 65.Kc2 Ke5 66.Kb2 Ra6 67.Kc3 Kd6 68.Rf7 Kc5 69.Rxf5+ Kb6 70.Rf6+ Kxa7 71.Rxa6+ Kxa6 Draw
An amazing escape by Nakamura, though van Wely injected a note of realism when he said "Nakamura wants to get to the top and if you want to get all the way to the top you can't gamble like this."
A visiting Greek journalist was more complimentary; "I admired his concentration - even though he was completely lost he kept fighting."
Round 3 saw the bright side of Nakamura's optimism; if at first you don't succeed, try again.
Amsterdam NH 2010
White: H. Nakamura
Black: P-H Nielsen
Rather than play the natural 23.Reb1, Nakamura found a tricky tactical idea...
Now Nakamura examined all White's attacking ideas such as Qf4 and Nf6+ and correctly calculated that they didn't work. (Remember that Black is now threatening 24...Ba5.)
So, showing a maturity beyond his years, Nakamura simply retracted his last move, doing no lasting harm to his position.
Nielsen was thereby encouraged to try to take the initiative with
"I just didn't know what to do," admitted Nielsen; 26.Ba4 is coming and if 25...R3a7 26.Ba4 is again strong. However Black's choice just makes matters much worse.
There is no law against going to the same square twice!
"Probably the only chance," said Nakamura, who clearly viewed the position after 26...Ba5 27.Rb8+ Kg7 28.Qc1 Bc7 29.Rxa8 Rxa8 30.Nd6 as far too passive for Black.
27.Rxc4 e3 28.fxe3 Qg5 29.Bd3 h5
"29...Qh6 makes more sense," said Nakamura, who was nonetheless confident that his extra pawn would prevail.
30.Rcb4 h4 31.Kg2 Kg7 32.Rb7 Ra2 33.R1b2 Ba5 34.Qf2 Rxb2 35.Rxb2 Ra7 36.Qf4 Bd8 37.Be4 h3+
38.Kxh3 Qh5+ 39.Kg2 Qd1 40.Rf2 1-0
Suddenly Nakamura was leading the tournament, although his two highest rated opponents were to come in the next two rounds.
Peter Svidler, coming off a bad loss to Fabiano Caruana, was in no mood to give the front-runner an easy time...
Amsterdam NH 2010
Opening: Advance Caro-Kann
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.c4 e6 6.Nc3 Ne7 7.Nge2 dxc4 8.Ng3 Bg6 9.Bg5 Qb6 10.Qd2 Qb4 11.a3 Qb3
Svidler picks up the story; "I was using some old line I had worked on [as Kramnik's second for the world title match in 2004] in Brissago, while Hikaru is following a game between Adams and Karpov from 1994 - some decent players, I must admit. However my plan here is very strong."
"Of course he has to try to hang onto the pawn; otherwise the whole plan makes no sense. He had to try 12...Bxe4 13.Nxe4 Nd5 14.Rh3 Qa4 when I have wonderful compensation for the pawn but it is not so easy to break through."
"13...Bxe4!? was still possible because after 14.Nxd5 Black can try 14...Bxd5! 15.Rxb3 cxb3."
14.Bxc4 Qa5 15.Nd6+ Bxd6 16.exd6 Nd7 17.Rc1 Nxc3 18.Rcxc3 Nf6 19.b4 Qd8?! 20.Qf4!
and White won convincingly.
"I think he just doesn't feel comfortable playing me," said Svidler, whose score against Nakamura is now overwhelming. "Of course one day he will beat me and you won't see games like this. It was a disastrous opening for him but also I saw quite a lot today."
Nakamura, who remained tied for first place, accepted the defeat as deserved but worse was to follow.
Opening: Caro-Kann, Panov Attack.
1.c4 c6 2.e4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 0-0 10.0-0 a6 11.Bd3 b5
The action started here, when Nakamura, a tempo down on a fairly standard queen's gambit position, decided to gambit his d-pawn with
and Gelfand took up the challenge...
12...Nxd4! 13.Nxd4 Qxd4 14.Be4! Rb8 15.Bf4 Nxe4! 16.Bxb8 Bb7
Gelfand was more concerned about 17.Rfd1 Nxc3 18.bxc3 Qxc3 19.Be5, although 17...Qxf2+ 18.Qxf2 Nxf2 19.Rd7, which he had thought to be unplayable, might yet work out for Black after 19...Nh3+!.
17...Nxc3 18.bxc3 Qd5 19.f3 Qc5+ 20.Bf2 Qxc3 21.a4! Bd5 22.Rfc1 Qb3 23.axb5 axb5 24.Bc5!
Nakamura is consistently liquidating the right pieces and one might expect a draw to be agreed soon but Gelfand, with no weaknesses in his position, is happy to keep the game going.
24...Bxc5+ 25.Rxc5 Qb4 26.Qe3 Qb2 27.Rcc1 Bc4 28.Qc3?!
Now Black's options expand; White could simply push the Black queen back with 28.Rcb1.
28...Qxc3 29.Rxc3 g5! 30.Rca3 Bd5 31.Rb1 Rb8 32.Rb4 Bc4
Handing over a pawn for no reason. "I played like a complete idiot," said Nakamura. "I shouldn't be making blunders like that. If I [organize to] take on c4 instead of play 33.h4, it's a complete draw. I blundered inexplicably. Yesterday I deserved to lose but today I should have drawn. I played a good game until 33.h4??"
Gelfand agreed, but with reservations. "At some moment White must exchange on c4 and play the 3 v 4 rook endgame. But because White cannot get the f2, g3, h4 pawn structure it is not trivial - White must find some good moves to draw. Najdorf lost a similar endgame to Botvinnik once."
33...gxh4 34.Kh2 Rd8 35.Re3 f5! 36.Re5 Kf7 37.Kh3 Kf6 38.Rc5 Kg5 39.Rcxc4
Too little, too late.
39...bxc4 40.Rxc4 Rd1 41.Kh2 e5
and Gelfand won easily.
So at the halfway mark, although the youth team is leading, Nakamura is back on 50%, trailing two of his teammates in the race for the trip to Melody Amber.
Local hero Anish Giri, just 16, leads the field alongside Gelfand, with Caruana just behind on 3/5, the only other player ahead of Nakamura. The rest day could not have come at a better time for Nakamura but to regroup and start winning again against a field of this class is a big ask.
Follow the action, including videos, live games and pgn files on the tournament website, http://www.nhchess.com/index.html.