The Hikaru Nakamura Blog

Musings by Hikaru Nakamura on life, chess, and travel. Don't forget to subscribe to receive timely updates.

European Club Cup Championship Impressions

October 24, 2009 • General

Hello to everyone once again, my apologies for not blogging recently, but I have been extremely busy on many fronts. A few weeks ago, I finished competing in the European Club Cup Championship. At the start of the tournament, I got off to a rather bumpy start as I lost a marginally worse endgame against Peter Svidler with Black. To be fair, he played the endgame very precisely while my attempts at setting up a fortress failed. After this disappointing loss, I beat a 2400 IM and then followed this up with a draw against Czech Grandmaster, Viktor Laznicka in the Kings Indian. at this point, having scored 2.5/4 I was not doing very well. Luckily, I started to regain my form as I followed this up with a nice wins against GM Sergei Zhigalko (2601) and GM Milos Pavlovic (2533). Having recovered from the bad start, I more or less played a forced drawn line against GM Alexander Grischuk in the last round. Overall, I was more or less satisfied with my play except for the game against Svidler. Thus, I cannot complain as I felt the event served its purpose and I put on a solid showing in my last event before London in December.

In terms of the general tournament, I was pretty amazed to see that outside of Svidler’s excellent performance (wins over me,Ivanchuk,Mamedyarov and Motylev) no one escaped the event unscathed. Aronian for instance trounced Grischuk, but then got steamrolled by Mamedyarov in the following round. Other notable American players in the event were Kamsky and Onischuk, but neither performed very well as they both lost two games. In the end, the super strong teams finished at the top of the event as it ultimately comes down to the board 4s, 5s, and 6s. When one team has players like Adams or Petrosian on board 6 against a 2300, it makes the odds impossible to overcome. All in all, a fun event and I hope to play several leagues next year and the European Club Cup as well.

That’s all for now, stay tuned for more updates shortly!

Oh How Sweet It Is To Be Back!

October 04, 2009 • General

Good morning to everyone out there from Macedonia, where it is approximately 4 AM local time. After having a nearly a perfect September, it is time to return to chess. As most everyone knows, I fell violently ill right from the start in Amsterdam and never recovered. Thankfully, this happened at the end of my long streak of traveling as I am pretty sure I would have gone and dropped more points in any following tournaments ala Ivanchuk. After this long recovery time, I feel quite rested and fresh. Since I noticed some people clamoring for my thoughts on other chess events, I will oblige the fans and talk about some chess for a change!

A few weeks back, there was the 25th anniversary match between Kasparov and Karpov. In general, other than the obvious importance of it having been 25 years since their legendary match in 1984, I did not really see any point as I thoroughly expected Karpov to get thrashed. Having seen and played against Karpov in a few tourneys over the last year, I have nothing but respect for him. The fact that he continues to play chess even though he is well past his prime is incredible. In comparison, I do not think Kasparov ever could do the same as he would simply get too upset losing games to players who he would have crushed 10-15 years ago. At the start, I expected Kasparov to roll over Karpov. I figured that 1 draw in the four rapid games would be good, and in blitz…anything. The main reason for my thinking was that Karpov had major time issues in his last tournament in San Sebastian, Spain.

The match itself started much like San Sebastian with Karpov being unable to manage his time and losing both games in a horrible manner. However, he played a great third game and won which shocked me completely. Clearly, these few years of retirement have made Garry a bit rusty. Nevertheless he returned to form and won the final game to win 3-1 at rapid. The blitz games were not really anything to write home about either as Kasparov won 6-2. Overall, I found the games to be extremely dry and did not enjoy having to watch the Queens Indian Declined every other game. The irony for me is that Kasparov played like Kramnik despite his constant remarks about Kramnik’s style being too dry. I had some mild expectations for the match, but it certainly did not do it for me. A fun match for the general chess observer/enthusiast, but no real pertinance to modern day chess.

The other tournament I will make a few comments about is the Pearl Spring tournament in Nanjing,China. Obviously the major story is Carlsen and his great results there. However, I do think the field is particularly suited to his advantage as all the other players are extremely solid with the exception of Topalov. In terms of Topalov, I do not really know what to make of his play as it would seem he is trying to save his preparation for the match with Anand when and if it happens. As is, a great result for Carlsen and I can’t wait to get a crack at him in December in London.

Now, onto the European Club Cup which is why I am in Ohrid, Macedonia. Having never played in this tournament before, it is interesting and a bit different than the norm. They style of the event is essentially a mini olympiad without the weaker teams. This definitely makes for a more exciting event when it comes to the quality of chess as almost all teams have 1-2 GMs at the top and some, have 2600’s on board 6! My team, Husek Wien which I played for in the Austrian League is reasonably strong with me on one, Georgiev and Chernin on board 2 and 3. Compared to the very top teams, we will probably get crushed on the bottom boards, but it should be a fun experience anyway. In the first round, we played a team from Denmark which had only 1 IM and a couple FMs on the preceding boards. Despite our massive rating advantage, it took a lot of endgame technique from myself and Chernin tricking his opponent for us to win on these boards. We won on boards 2,4 and 5 pretty easily while losing the toss up on board 6. A solid 5-1 opening round is nothing to complain about. It gave me a chance to shake off the rust from a 1 month break while serving as a tuneup to future rounds. In the second round, it appears that I will be facing Svidler on board 1 and now that I am not sick, I will try to play better than I did in Amsterdam.

That is all for now, time to go rest and study for the second round!