Home Page Chess Life Online Nakamura Sleeps Soundly at Last in Transylvania
|Nakamura Sleeps Soundly at Last in Transylvania
|By GM Ian Rogers
|June 16, 2011
Hikaru Nakamura's win of the Tata tournament in
Wijk aan Zee in January opened many doors, one of which led to the Medias Kings
tournament currently underway in central Romania.
In five years the Kings tournament has gone from being a place for retired legends to chat about the good old days to one of the elite events on the world calendar.
Medias, five hours of mountain roads northwest of Romania's capital Bucharest, is a Transylvanian town of 60,000 surrounded by idyllic rural villages, in one of which, Bazna, the players are accommodated.
Transylvania has a foreboding reputation - and indeed Medias is not far from the supposed birthplace of Dracula - but the rolling green hills, the Germanic architecture, the roads shared by cars, tractors and horses and carts, all create a feeling of calm rather than fear.
Medias is also the corporate home of Romgaz, the company that has been extracting natural gas from the region for more than a century and is the tournament sponsor. The players compete in the newly built Natural Gas Documentation and Information Centre, also known as the Romgaz Museum. The venue is quiet and comfortable and between moves players can wander around a private garden. (At nearby Bazna, the village where the players are staying and where the early Kings tournaments were played, Ivanchuk has his own forest to walk in; a forest to which he credited his success at the 2009 Kings tournament.)
The only thing missing in Medias is spectators - apart from arbiters and competitors, the playing hall is generally empty. The virtual audience on the net is of course huge but however many top level tournaments are played far away from the public - Nanjing is another audience-free Grand Slam event that comes to mind - it still seems odd.
In any case, the 2011 Kings tournament is the highest category tournament of the year and Nakamura is in action alongside other members of the elite - a six player tournament which includes four of the world's top 8, with Nakamura nowadays one of those top 8.
The tournament is a double round-robin, with each player having White and Black against each opponent. Contrary to what some CLO readers might have been led to believe, the round-robin is the best chess tournament format; it is rare for such an event not to have a worthy winner.
At the halfway mark of the 2011 Kings tournament, Magnus Carlsen is leading by half a point from another 20-year-old star, Sergey Karjakin, with Nakamura half a point further back in clear third place.
Carlsen has regained the world number one spot he briefly lost to World Champion Viswanathan Anand and has looked the class player in the field, never in trouble.
Karjakin, on the other hand, looked very shaky until a round five victory over Ivanchuk, hanging on to inferior positions in many games.
Nakamura's score is a fair reflection of his play but the American has been playing with one hand tied behind his back due to inconsiderate scheduling of various US sporting events.
With the NBA finals - watched closely by Nakamura's Maverick second Kris Littlejohn - and the Stanley Cup finals both starting games at 3am Romanian time, hockey fan Nakamura has been suffering interrupted sleep for the first week of the tournament.
Catching a few hours sleep, waking at 3am, going for breakfast after watching a game and then sleeping again, hardly seems like a recipe for successful chess but "fortunately I have only had one long game, against Nisipeanu, though that was very tough" admitted Nakamura.
Luckily for Nakamura, the first rest day has come immediately after the final Stanley Cup game, which was a major disappointment for Vancouver-fan Nakamura. After a day of rest on Thursday, Nakamura will have a chance to gain revenge for his disastrous first round game against leader Carlsen.
Medias Kings 2011
Opening: Queen's Gambit Declined
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 c6 6.Qc2 Bg4!?
The rebirth of an old Lajos Portisch opening idea, which took Carlsen by surprise.
7.e3 Bh5 8.Bd3 Bg6 9.Bxg6 hxg6 10.0-0-0 Nf6 11.f3 Nbd7 12.Nge2 b5!?
Played after half an hour's thought. "It seems that he had not analysed 0-0-0 plans," said Carlsen. "Black's move is logical - he has to make some activity."
13.e4 b4 14.Na4 dxe4 15.fxe4 Qa5 16.Kb1
Carlsen was not willing to stick his neck out with 16.e5 Nd5 17.e6 because "I thought he might play 17...fxe6 18.Qxc6 Kf7! and if 19.Qxd7 he has 19...Rhd8," explained Carlsen.
"I was very happy after this move," said Carlsen. "This is why it was important to exchange on g6 - I have a target."
17...Rfe8 18.e5! Nd5 19.h5 g5 20.h6!
The h-pawn drives a stake through the heart of Black's kingside, with the f4 bishop untouchable in view of 20...gxf4 21.hxg7 N7f6 22.Qf5 with a decisive attack.
20...g6 21.Bc1 N7b6?
After 21...N5b6! Carlsen intended 22.Nc5!? Nxc5 23.dxc5 Qxc5 24.Qe4 but then 24...Qc4 looks fine for Black. However White should be able to keep an edge after 21...N5b6 with the simple 22.Nxb6 axb6 13.b3.
22.Nc5! Bxc5 23.dxc5 b3!? 24.Qxb3 Qxc5 25.Nd4 Rxe5 26.Nf3 Re2?!
"This looks active but the rook is hanging in many lines," said Carlsen. "I thought 26...Re7 was the best."
27.Nxg5 Qe7 28.Qd3! Rf8 29.Rdf1 f5
"A really ugly move but forced," said Carlsen. "30.Rxf7! is the big threat."
30.g4! Na4!? 31.Qd4?!
Carlsen thought he was winning but this inaccuracy allows Nakamura to bat on. After 31.Ka1! Black is barely alive; 32.Qd4 becomes a huge threat and if 31...Qe5, 32.Qa3! wins.
Suddenly Nakamura is back from the dead. "I had missed that after 32.Qxa4? Nc3+! 33.bxc3 Rb8+ 34.Qb3+ Rxb3+ 35.axb3 Black has 35...Qd5!," admitted Carlsen, who nonetheless stayed sanguine and forced a favourable endgame
32.Qxe5 Rxe5 33.gxf5 gxf5 34.Nf3 Re7
"A blunder, but he was short of time and the position is very difficult," explained Carlsen.
In any case after 34...Re6 35.Nd4 Ref6 36.h7+ Kh8 37.Bh6! Black won't survive for long.
By now Carlsen sensed blood while Nakamura was shaking his head in annoyance as his clock ticked down. 35...Kh8 loses even more quickly to 36.Nh4!.
36.Rg7+! Kh8 37.Rhg1! Rfe8 38.Nh4 Rxg7
Played with 2 seconds remaining on the clock but Nakamura resigned before Carlsen could reply. After 39.Rxg7 Ne7 40.Rxe7+ finishes the struggle.
Nakamura bounced back immediately with a victory over local hope Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu in a game where it seemed that Nisipeanu was the player suffering from lack of sleep. The first part of the game was dead equal, but then Nisipeanu erred on moves 40, 50 and 60 to hand the game to Nakamura.
Position after 60...f3?
On the final move of the time control and short of time, Nisipeanu abandons passive defence tries a tactical trick but instead loses a pawn and the game.
"If I didn't have this move, I might be losing," admitted Nakamura. "In any case I am not sure if he could hold even if he didn't play 60...f3."
61...f2 62.Nf3+ Kh6 63.g5+!
Possibly the sting in the tail that Nisipeanu had missed.
63...Kh5 64.Kxf2 Be8 65.Ke3 Bf7 66.g6 Bxg6 67.Bxg6+ Kxg6 68.Ke4 Kf6 69.Nd2 Bf8 70.Nb1 Bh6 71.Na3 Bc1 72.Nxb5 Bd2 73.Nd6 Bxc3 74.b5 Ke7 75.Nxc4 Be1 76.Kxe5 Bg3+ 77.Kd4 Bf2+ 78.Kc3 1-0
Nakamura's next three games were draws, but two of them showed some sensational opening preparation.
Medias Kings 2011
Opening: Sicilian Najdorf
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4
Avoiding the English Attack (7.f3, 8.Qd2, 9.0-0-0, etc).
7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Bg7 10.h3 Ne5 11.f3 Nbc6 12.Bf2 Be6 13.Qd2 Rc8 14.Nd5!?
A new move by Karjakin in a position where 14.0-0-0 is standard.
Nakamura comes well prepared, however.
14...Nxd4 15.Bxd4 Bxd5 16.exd5 Qc7
Analysing after the game, Karjakin suggested 17.c4 and was stunned when Nakamura replied that 17...Nxc4! is a forced draw. They analysed 18.Bxc4 Bxd4 19.Qxd4 Qxc4 20.Qxh8+ Kd7 and now Karjakin tried 21.Qxh6? only to have Nakamura point out that 21...Qd3! "actually wins for Black."
A bemused Karjakin sat back while Nakamura showed him that 21.Qg7 f6 22.Qg6! would hang on, forcing Black to take a perpetual check along the dark squares.
The rest of the game sees Black gain a symbolic advantage in an endgame but, unlike Nisipeanu, Karjakin refuses to crack under pressure.
17...Qa5 18.Be3 Nc4 19.Bxc4 Rxc4 20.0-0 Be5 21.Qd3 Qb5 22.Rac1 Ra4 23.Qxb5+ axb5 24.a3 Kd7 25.Kf2 Rc8 26.Rcd1 f5 27.Ke2 Rg8 28.Kd3 h5 29.Rde1 h4 30.Bf2 Bf6 31.Rh1 Rh8 Draw
Round four was a slightly disappointing draw against Ivanchuk, an advantage cashed in prematurely for an extra pawn, which was not enough to force a win.
Then came another stunning display of opening homework.
Medias Kings 2011
Opening: Sicilian Najdorf
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.f4 e5!?
A trendy anti-positional system that has suffered a couple of big hits in 2011, in the games Ganguly-Speelman and Kotronias-Xie. Those games finished with such spectacular winning combinations for White that critical comment about the opening was limited - the games were 'too good to be untrue'. Such an opening is well suited for revival using computer-aided homework especially since "I hadn't looked at this variation too hard and didn't expect it today," admitted Radjabov.
8.Nf5 Qb6 9.Qd2
Kotronias, in the above-mentioned game, sacrificed two pawns via 9.Qf3 Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qxc2 11.Bc4.
9...Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qa3 11.Be2 h6 12.Bh4 exf4 13.0-0 g6 14.Rxf4! g5!
On 14...gxf5 15.Rxf5 threatens 16.Rb3.
15.Rb3 Qa5 16.Nxd6+!
Radjabov must have been unnerved at the speed with which Nakamura was playing - he had used only 9 minutes to Radjabov's 51 to this point - but the 24-year-old Azeri trusts his own calculation and is not reluctant to give up material.
16...Bxd6 17.Qxd6 gxf4 18.Ra3 Qb6+ 19.Qxb6 Nxb6 20.Bxf6 Rg8 21.Rb3 Nd7 22.Nd5 Rg6 23.Bd4
"The first move that was new for me," said Nakamura who then proceeded to show White's best line, leading to a forced draw after 23.Nc7+ Kf8 24.Bb2!? Ra7! 25.Ba3+ Kg7 26.Ne8+ Kh7 27.Nd6 Ra8 28.Bh5 Rg7 29.Bxf7 Ne5 30.Bd5 f3 31.g3 Bh3 32.Bb2 Rf8! 33.Nf5 Re7!!! 34.Bg8+! Kh8 35.Bd5! with a repetition!
When Radjabov postulated after his round 3 game that all openings lead to a draw - but that some gave more opportunities for mistakes than others - his comment was viewed as a joke. After seeing Nakamura's preparation in what is one of the sharpest of all opening lines leading straight to a draw by repetition, one is inclined to suspect that Radjabov had a point!
23...Rc6 24.c4 b5 25.cxb5 axb5 26.Nc3 Ba6 27.Kf2 Rd6
Radjabov feared 27...Nc5 more but decided that he would be safe enough after 28.Bxc5 Rxc5 29.Nxb5. Nakamura was not 100% convinced.
28.Rb4 f6 29.Kf3 Rc8
"I wanted to play 29...Ne5+ 30.Kxf4 Nc6 but then 31.Bc5 is very dangerous," said Nakamura.
30.Nxb5 Bxb5 31.Bxb5 Ke7 Draw
Scores after 5 rounds:
=4.Ivanchuk(Ukr), Nisipeanu(Rom), Radjabov(Aze) 2.
Games may be watched live from 8.30am EST on http://www.turneulregilor.com/