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Whirlwind Rapid Play Ends International Matches in Saint Louis Print E-mail
By Ken West   
May 27, 2011
Tornado warnings sent the four grandmasters in the international match to the basement more than once at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis Wednesday, but the unusual had already hit the boards.

GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Ray Robson each won with black in the first of their two rapid games on the final day of competition. Nakamura finished with a 6.5 to 3.5 score against former world champion Ruslan Ponomariov and Robson had a 6 to 4 score over Ben Finegold.

In the first of two rapid games, Nakamura played the Slav against GM Ruslan Ponomariov’s d4, and GM Ben Finegold played d4 followed by Nc3 on his second move, the Veresov, according to commentator WGM Jen Shahade.



Ponomariov may have been thrown off his game briefly as he had never experienced a tornado. As the games were halted, he joined others and watched as the weather maps lit up red, which signified tornado warnings. In the meantime, his second, GM Ivan Salgado Lopez of Spain and GM Alejandro Ramirez played blitz during the delay. Once play resumed, Nakamura was able to quickly dispatch the former FIDE World Champion.

But Ponomariov provided tornado action in the final rapid match, busting out the Benko, an opening IM John Donaldson said was one of the Ukrainian’s childhood favorites.


“I wanted to have some fun because I already lost the match,” Ponomariov said. “Why not have fun?”

He said he thought it would be an easier line for him to play since he knew it.

“Somehow even in this game, Hikaru played faster than me,” Ponomariov said.

The young Ukrainian expressed thanks for “such an opportunity to play such games.”

Discussing about what he learned from the match, Ponomariov talked about Nakamura’s play.

“It’s interesting to see Hikaru fights in every game and finds ways to put pressure on the position,” he said.

He also will talk about his experience and the organization of the match when he returns to Ukraine. He asked about DVDS “to show, not just tell” about the club and the event.

Nakamura also complimented the former world champion on his play. The Saint Louis grandmaster noted he was usually the one dealing with jet lag and time zone changes to play such matches.

“I think Ruslan was better prepared than me in general,” he said. “I think I was a bit fortunate, especially game three.”

Finegold said the weather break gave the GMs a rare opportunity.

“We got to chat a little bit,” the club’s resident GM said.

But the chatting did not get in the way of chess. In their first game, Finegold and Robson played 97 moves before the game settled.


“The candidates matches—the players should be ashamed of themselves,” Finegold said about several short draws. “Hikaru played for wins, Ruslan played aggressive chess and Ray played for the win.”

Finegold pointed out there were draw offers in their games, but there also was a draw by the 50-move rule and repetition of the position.

Asked about what he learned from the match, the young Robson said he had to improve every aspect of his game.

See all the games from the classical and rapid matches, featuring annotations by IM John Donaldson, on the official website. The next event at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is the U.S. Junior Closed Championship from June 15-25.