08 Dec

Naka’s Gift


This was an excellent positional squeeze from Nakamura, who calmly kept total control of the board against one of the world’s best players, as he converted the win to increase his lead to 7-1 in classical games against Anand. Pundits often cite Nakamura’s horrific minus score against arch-rival Magnus Carlsen, but not many highlight the American’s one-sided score over Anand.

Is there a secret behind Nakamura’s success against Anand? “I don't think there's a secret. It's just that for whatever reason certain people do well against certain people,” said Nakamura in his post-game comments. “I don't think my style is that much different from Vishy's but I seem to find a way against him.”


The crunch for Nakamura will come with his eagerly-awaited match-up on Friday with Carlsen, who dominates 11-0 against the American title-hope — and the World Champion could well need the incentive of facing his favourite “regular customer”, as he squandered a golden opportunity to join Nakamura, Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the joint lead, after he failed to convert the win against UK No.1 Michael Adams who, granted, is notorious for saving bad positions against the top elite.

Round 4:

Giri draw Aronian
Carlsen draw Adams
Nakamura 1-0 Anand
Topalov draw Caruana
Grischuk draw Vachier-Lagrave

Round 4 standings: 1-3. Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Anish Giri (Netherlands), 2.5/4; 4-8. Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Michael Adams (England), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Fabiano Caruana (USA), 2; 9. Vishy Anand (India), 1.5; 10. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), 1.

There’s live online commentary throughout at the official site from GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade throughout, with play starting on weekdays at 16:00 local time (11am EST - 8am PST); and on Saturday and Sunday starting at 14:00 (9am EST - 6am PST)

Hikaru Nakamura - Vishy Anand
7th London Chess Classic, (4)
Catalan Opening
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 d5 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.Qc2 More usual in the Catalan is first castling; but this is another good option - but Anand reacts correctly, as he tries to take advantage of the Nakamura's king still in the centre. 6...c5 7.O-O cxd4 8.Nxd4 Qb6 9.Rd1 Nc6 10.Nxc6 Qxc6 11.Bg5 h6 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.Na3 Bd7 You would think that with the bishop-pair and a solid pawn structure, Anand would be safe here. He is, but he falls into a complicated position. 14.Rab1 Rac8 15.Qd3 Rfd8 16.cxd5 Qa4 17.Rd2 b5?! Hindsight is always 20:20; but Anand would have been safer here with 17...exd5 18.Bxd5 Be6 19.Qf3 (This time, after 19.e4 Rc5 20.Qf3 Bxd5 21.exd5 Rd6 the d-pawn is surrounded and contained.) 19...Bxd5 20.Rxd5 b6 with equal play. 18.Rbd1 exd5 19.Bxd5 Bc6 20.e4 a6 21.h4 Bxd5 22.exd5 Qb4 23.Rb1 Qa5 24.b4 Qa4 25.Rb3 Be7 26.Re2! Very clever from Nakamura, as Anand can't take the pawn: 26...Bxb4 27.Re4 a5 28.Kg2 Rd7 29.Qe2! Rcd8 30.Nb1! - and with the big threat being Nc3, Black is going to lose material, as the queen is trapped on a4. 26...Rc7  27.Kg2  This is one of those prophylactic moves that is the hallmark of a strong player. With Anand's queen entombed on a4, and this rooks tied to the strong d-pawn, Nakamura is in no hurry to rush things, and simply move his king off the backrank to avoid any helpfull checks Black may well have later in the game. 27...Bf6 (See Diagram) 28.Qf3 Nakamura could have opted instead for the stronger 28.Qb1! Rcd7 29.Rd3! where he frees his rook, while still entombing the queen, and the Qb1 indirectly defends the d-pawn as there's a backrank mate. 28...Re7 29.Rd2 Red7 30.Qe2 g6? Anand could have offered greater resistance with 30...Re7.  31.h5 It's easy to see what Nakamura was going for here, but the clinical wins was 31.Nc2! (threatening Ra3 winning the queen) 31...Qxa2 32.Nd4 Qxd2 33.Qxd2 Rxd5 34.Rf3 Bxd4 35.Qxh6 and White will eventually crash through with g4-h5 etc. 31...g5 32.Qd1 Bg7 33.Nc2 Qxa2 34.Ne3! And this was the reason Nakamura played 31.h5, as f5 and g4 become wonderful outposts for his knight. 34...Qa1 35.Qxa1 Bxa1 36.Ra2 Bd4 37.Nf5! Taking full advantage of the fact that Anand can't take the d-pawn, as there's a knight fork on e7. 37...Bg7 38.Rxa6 Bf8 39.d6 Bxd6 40.Nxh6+ Kh7 41.Ng4 1-0 Anand resigned, not just because he was a pawn down, but in fact a whole position down on the board! If 41...Kg7 42.Rf3 Bxb4 43.h6+ Kf8 (No better is 43…Kh8 44.Nf6 Re7 44.Rd3 Re6 45.Ng4 Bc7 46.Rxd8 Bxd8 47.Ra8 Re8 48.Rb8 f5 49.Nf6 Rf8 50.Nd7 Re8 51.Rxb5 hoovering up all of Black’s pawns) 44.Rg6 safely sees the h-pawn running in for a touchdown. And if 41…Re7 42.Rd3 Bc7 43.Rxd8 Bxd8 44.Rd6 Re8 45.Rd5 easily wins.


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