The Hikaru Nakamura Blog

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    San Sebastian Rounds 4,5,6

    July 13, 2009 • General

    Since I finished my sixth round in relatively quick fashion today, (more below) I figured now would be another good time for a blog as we have progressed from 33% to 66% of the way there. Before I get into the actual blog itself, I would just like to thank everyone on ChessNinja, ICC and my blog here for the well wishes and congratulations (premature) which I have received thus far. Such inspiration greatly motivates me and keeps me going onwards as I try to push for world champion. So once again, thanks to everyone out there for the positivity.

    Round 4: “Play To The Death”

    In round four, I was paired with White against the Spaniard, Paco Vallejo Pons. Oddly enough, in a weird sense of pre-destiny, we first played on an airplane waaaaay back in 1996. I am not sure if Paco remembers this event at all but back in 1996, my brother, Asuka was playing in the World Youth Chess Championship in Menorca. While my brother played in the U10 for the US, Paco played for Spain in the U14 section. When my family left Menorca on the short flight back to Barcelona, I remember having the misfortune of ending up seated next to a random person at the time. For some reason, I took out my chess set and was looking at some stuff, when the guy next to me asked if I wanted to play. Although I was obviously not any good at the time, I figured why not. I should still be able to win as I was already about 15-1600 strength at the time. In the following two games which we played, I got completely blown off the board which left me terribly confused. I think it was only after we were on our way back to the US that it dawned on me that my opponent must have been someone who was playing in one of the higher up sections.

    As far as the game was concerned, Paco seems to have a style much like mine in that he plays a little bit of everything. Despite the fact that I had a rest day after the third round, the task of preparation was not an easy one. Kris and I devised some basic stuff on pretty much of all of his openings except what he played! Paco made a very good choice by playing the Scandinavian with 3…Qd6 against me. After playing a highly conservative variation which led to a queenless middlegame, I declined an early draw offer as I felt there were some minimal chances of Paco going wrong. Nevertheless, I didn’t see any real risk so I proceeded to continue with the middlegame. The position was roughly equal until Paco started trying to play on the kingside instead of simply exchanging bishops on d6. After I got the bishop to e3, there was always some hope for me. But it was only once I was able to exchange the queenside pawns and push it down to b6 that the winning chances became quite realistic. Also, not to be forgotten was the time control which hurt Paco considerably as we both neared time pressure. In the end though, I was able to avoid any real danger and pick up the full point after a few miscues around move 30. After this rather unexpected (after the opening) win, I was pretty thrilled as this gave me a chance to really rack up the points.

    Round 5: “The Art of Surprise!”

    In the fifth round, I got Black against local Spaniard GM, Pablo San Segundo who at 2577 is the lowest rated player in the group. Although, San Segundo has not had an inspiring event overall, he has played quite solidly and were it not for an unfortunate oversight and a flag against Granda in a very complicated position, he would be undefeated. Over the past few years, I have a penchant of finding ways into trouble against lower ranked players in round robins. Case in point was back in 2007 when I was leading the Magistral event in Barcelona by 1.5 points after seven rounds only to go and lose to GM Oms who was the bottom seed. This led to a lot of unnecessary drama although I managed to win a highly dramatic last round game against GM Narciso to take the title. This time around, I really wanted to avoid such drama. Nevertheless, I decided to play the Cambridge-Springs for the first time (in a rated game) in my life. After the first nine moves of standard theory, I chose to play something off the beaten path when I chose 9…e5. Although this occurred in Kasparov-Smyslov, 1984, I was not particularly impressed with White’s play. That being said, the first surprise was when San Segundo allowed queens to come off the board with 14.cxd4. Even if he had chosen to play 14.exd4 0-0 15. 0-0 b5!? I thought that I was better. In the end, we went into a long endgame which I probably was winning in a much simpler way than how it actually went. Luckily though, I never was in any real danger of losing. With this monster win it put me on 4.5/5 and a point clear of the lead as Ponomariov was only able to draw against Movsesian in a Catalan.

    Round 6: “Take Advantage of Your Chances When You Have Them”

    In the sixth round, I had White against former Fide World Champion and current number 1 Ukrainian player, Ruslan Ponomariov. There really is not a whole to report here other than the fact that it was a rather quick, theoretical variation leading to a draw. No doubt, there are those who will ask why I took a quick draw when I have generally taken an anti-draw attitude towards events like Dortmund. In certain situations such as today where I have easier opponents at the end, and a clear lead, it is smart to avoid any potential disasters. Also, make no mistake about this much: IF WE WERE TIED GOING INTO THIS SIXTH ROUND GAME, I WOULD HAVE 99.9% PLAYED FOR A WIN. As is, the situation dictated that I did not need to be overly aggressive and that was my rationale behind the quick draw. In equally good news, Peter Svidler took a quick draw today with White despite having what I felt was more play than what I won with against Vallejo two days ago. Therefore, I maintain my one point lead as we head into the final stretch. That being said, I will now go and prepare for my game tomorrow and leave the internet sphere for the time being….

    San Sebastian Rounds 1,2,3

    July 10, 2009 • General

    Greetings once again to the cyber world. As most people know, today is the rest day, so I will attempt to recap the first three rounds and their respective outcomes thus far.

    Round 1: The Living Legend Named Karpov

    At the opening ceremony, I drew the number 1 which I seem to pick fairly often. Despite the fact that it is supposed to be a huge advantage due to starting off a tournament with double whites, I have found that it is very much a double edged sword. For instance, if you fail to convert in the first two games, there will be huge pressure to win with Black. Also, I was not overly thrilled about this drawing due to a certain uncertainty involving my performance as I was coming straight from the World Open in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, it is supposed to be an advantage and you just have to deal with it.

    Onto the round itself, I got White against the 12th World Champion, Anatoly Karpov who is, in my opinion, the second best player to have ever lived (Kasparov is first). The game turned into a Queens Gambit Declined and I chose the 5.Bf4 variation. I am not quite sure whether Karpov was expecting this or simply unsure which line to choose as he has played this with both colors more times than I ever will. Nevertheless, he went for the 7…Na6 variation and obtained a slightly worse position out of the opening phase. Due to the time control, I was able to get a big advantage as he neared time pressure. From here, I proceeded to completely blow it as I missed about 3-4 easy wins. However, I was still winning at the end when Karpov flagged on the 61st move. In all likelihood, I would have been forced to mate him with bishop and knight. I have been paying a bit of attention to Mig’s blog on ChessNinja, and I completely disagree with his assessment that none of the younger generation are aware or scared of Karpov. I am pretty sure that the reason I nearly blew the win is because the thought of beating such a legend made me nervous.

    Round 2: More Familiar Faces

    In round two, I got my second white in a row against French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. We are both quite familiar with each other having played in the rapids at Cap D’Agde last year and being teammates on Evry in the French League this year. Overall, our score has been pretty even as we drew all four games of rapid. However, I completely destroyed him in both blitz games and won a third one in Gibraltar earlier this year. In our game, I decided to play the English Attack against his patented Najdorf. Fortunately it all worked out for me, although Maxime had 21…Qb7 22.Ng3 Nd4 23.Bc4 with an unclear position. After 21..e5 I was able to get into a very comfortable ending in which I converted without any problems. I certainly was hoping to have a shot at being 2-0, but realistically, I did not expect it. Nevertheless, it was a pefect start.

    Round 3: The Big Russian

    In the third round, I got my first black against GM Peter Svidler. As most people are aware, I have played Peter quite a few times recently and seem to see him a bit too often for my liking. We last played in the Gjovik Rapids in Norway last December when he beat me 1.5-.5 in the rapids and 1-0 in the blitz. Coming off this dreadful performance and leading this event as well, this was definitely an uphill task. Fortunately, I seemed to be up to the task for at least one day. Repeating much like we did in our first rapid game back in Norway, the opening was an advance Caro Kann. I am not sure if Peter improvised with Nh4, f4, Ndf3 or if this was all part of his plan. Nevertheless, I obtained a comfortable position and was able to equalize relatively quickly. However, upon second glance, it now appears that 17…Qb3 would have yielded me an extra pawn. Albeit, I would have given him a strong kingside attack. Therefore, I cannot complain with the result of the game as a draw with Black against Peter is nothing to be disappointed with. Now it is onto the second half of the tournament.


    July 07, 2009 • General

    Due to the fact that the first round is in approximately 3 hours time, I am not going to blog right now. That being said, here are my pairings for the tournament.

    Round 1: Nakamura-Karpov

    Round 2: Nakamura-Vachier Lagrave

    Round 3: Svidler-Nakamura

    Round 4: Nakamura-Vallejo Pons

    Round 5: San Segundo-Nakamura

    Round 6: Nakamura-Ponomariov

    Round 7: Granda-Nakamura

    Round 8: Nakamura-Movsesian

    Round 9:Kasimdzhanov-Nakamura

    2009 World Open, Onwards to San Sebastian!

    July 05, 2009 • General

    Greetings to everyone out there. This will have to be a rather short blog as I am running quite behind schedule on getting ready for San Sebastian due to the epic 5 set match in Wimbledon which occupied my whole morning. Overall, it is safe to say that I made the right decision playing in the World Open as I chose to play the 3-day and had only one difficult game against GM Yudasin which eventually led to a draw. In the 2 slow games which I played, I had a routinely quick draw with Black against GM Smirin in 14 moves. My goal was to score 1.5/2 in the slow games, and I figured draw with Black, take chances with White. However, in the 7th round I got a rude awakening when instead of getting White, I got Black against GM Najer from Russia. The game was extremely complicated and although I felt that I must have been close to losing at a certain point, I was able to outmanouver him with my two knights against his rooks and bishop. Although the game was not clean at all, (I haven’t had a chance to analyze it in depth yet) I came out ahead at time control and was able to duly convert it without any issues. This put me on 6/7 and with my two byes in rounds 8 and 9, I figure I should get a tie of first, but who knows. I will definitely add more about the World Open from Spain when I get the chance.

    On a complete sidenote, before the round yesterday, I heard the very sad news that former Titans quarterback Steve McNair was shot and killed. As some of you know, since early in 2000, I have been a diehard Titans fan, and I have always been a huge fan of McNair’s style of play. In many ways, I feel that my style of chess fits with the way he played football in that he always tried to play through injuries and kept fighting on. This style of toughness is something I have always strived for and I felt that the game last night fit very much in that style as I refused to give up and kept fighting against Najer. Therefore, in honor of McNair, I will certainly be wearing my McNair Titans jersey in San Sebastian.

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