|Nakamura and Kamsky looking for a WaZ win
|By Macauley Peterson
|January 18, 2012
Six years ago, Gata Kamsky came to the tiny seaside village of Wijk aan Zee (often abbreviated WaZ) for the first super tournament of his return to professional chess.
Last year, Hikaru Nakamura scored his biggest achievement to date by winning clear first.
Now, together for the first time, both are back in the top ‘A group' and on the first rest day, both still looking for win with 1.5 out of 4.
For Kamsky, it's the first strong round-robin tournament since Bazna 2009. There he "got killed", as he put it, finishing joint last place with just 3 points from 10 games.
"It's a special tournament," he says of Wijk aan Zee, now in its 74th year, the second under the Tata Steel name. "It's very strong, you can feel this pressure. So you know just take it easy, slowly," -- was his advice for the early rounds.
Starting slowly he did with three draws against van Wely, Gashimov and Ivanchuk, before losing to the new world number two Levon Aronian. Only against van Wely did he have any advantage.
Nakamura arrived on 1.5/4 via a similar route -- three draws and the loss to Aronian. Aronian took the early lead in fact by beating Nakamura in the second round, and his win over Kamsky allowed him to rejoin the lead, with Carlsen, a half point clear of Fabiano Caruana and Teimour Radjabov.
Last year at this time, Nakamura's two wins and two draws placed him in first. "Just being back here in and of itself after a very up down year -- a very up and down end to the year even -- it's quite nice being back somewhere familiar where I have good memories," he told me before the start of the tournament.
2011 was up, down, busy and eventful for Nakamura. He had major events nearly every month of the year, -- over 100 tournament games. Even so, he doesn't think the year was too busy, and a major regret remains skipping the U.S. Championship on the advice of Garry Kasparov. While Kasparov advocated playing less and instead trying to pick and choose top level events, Nakamura maintains that in order for him to play well it's important to play as much as he can handle.
In October he decided to play in Reggio Emilia, against Kasparov's wishes, and by the end of November, the training relationship was over, which became evident in at the London Chess Classic.
"In London I was definitely keeping my distance. I guess in many ways I felt that towards the end of our work together that Kasparov wasn't trying that hard. I felt that, especially in Moscow. I know that during the tournament he was in Moscow, and he never came by the playing site. He never actually spoke to me in person, and it sort of rubbed me the wrong way, and when the tournament went south, then finally I decided that I was done working with him. It really left this bad taste in my mouth and then going to London pretty much right after Moscow, it's very hard to just change the whole mindset. That's why I didn't speak with him there, but I've had a few conversations with him on Skype since them and I think now we're on speaking terms."
Nakamura expects to play fewer events in 2012, although he is already booked for the Italian league in April. Interestingly, he says his decision whether or not to play in the U.S. Championship will be governed in part by his final results here in Wijk aan Zee. "I feel that if I have a very good result here it becomes less likely, whereas if I have an average result or a bad result it becomes a near certainty that I'll play."
"I certainly will never be able to play as much as [Ivanchuk] does, but within reason I enjoy playing as much as I can."
Speaking of Ivanchuk, after their first round draw, Nakamura tweeted that it seemed they were both "still on tilt," following rocky performances in Reggio Emilia.
After a poor opening by Ivanchuk, Nakamura said, "I intuitively knew it was winning, but then I played one or two bad moves, and then once I realized that I'd let the win slip, I completely lost control...I was probably losing at the end." Instead, Ivanchuk allowed a move repetition.
Ivanchuk's fourth round draw with van Wely certain seemed to upset him far more. As he exited the playing hall he banged the door loudly enough to disturb other players. The incident was captured on video by the "house crew", but you won't find it in their daily video report. The organizers asked that it be omitted!
Against Aronian, Nakamura once again played the Dutch Defense (as he had in Wijk aan Zee last year, drawing the Armenian in just 17 moves), but this time around, a complicated middlegame ensued, and Aronian opted for a material imbalance: Queen versus rook, bishop and pawn.
25.Qc2 exchanging bishop for knight is equal, but Aronian went for 25.Bxa6 forcing 25...Nc3 26.Bxc3 Rxb1 27.Rxb1. Black should be fine, but after the time control Nakamura went astray, allowing Aronian's forces to coordinate nicely in attack.
The next day Nakamura got little against Caruana's Grünfeld, and Fabiano even passed up a move repetition, although the game was always level.
"I thought I had some initiative," said Caruana, "especially after I played [27...]Bd5, but really I don't think I was ever better."
Finally, on Tuesday, Hikaru faced Anish Giri, who is coming off a breakout performance in winning Reggio Emilia.
He had expected Giri to play 1.d4, but shortly before the round he realized that Giri also plays 1.e4, and so prepared a line in the Sicilian Dragon, which quickly simplified to total equality, and a draw was agreed on move 18.
Nine more rounds to go in this marathon event, but it seems the rating favorites, Carlsen and Aronian, are right where they ought to be. Kamsky has no particular ambitions and will be happy with a small plus. Nakamura on the other hand will be working hard to bounce back with white, as he faces David Navara, in last place. He expects to win.
Find more information on tatasteelchess.com and look for a final wrap-up by GM Ian Rogers.