US Championship Round 1 Annotations

May 22, 2009 • General

Hikaru Nakamura (2701) – Alexander Shabalov (2569), US Championship Saint Louis 8.5.2009

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e6 (Diagram 1)

7.0-0 Be7 8.a4 0-0 9.f4 Qc7 10.Be3!? (The main line here is 10.Kh1, but I saw that Karpov had played this before, so there cannot be anything wrong it either!) 10…b6 11.Bf3 Bb7 12.f5!? (Other interesting tries are 12.g4,12.Qe1 and 12.Qe2. Each of these variations has its own flavour to it, but to put it simply it is a matter of taste. 12…e5 13.Nb3 Nbd7 14.g4!? (14.Qe2 was tried by Anand rather unsuccessfully in the game Anand–Wojtkiewicz, GMA Baleares Open 1989 and continued 14…Rfe8 15.Rfd1 Rac8 16.Nd2 Nc5 17.Bf2 d5! 18.exd5 e4 19.Bxe4 Bd6 20.Qf3 Bxh2 with a very complicated middlegame.) 14…h6 15.h4 d5!? (Diagram 2)

16.exd5 e4 17.Bg2 Qg3 18.Qe1N (Previously, 18.Bf2 Qxg4 19.Nxe4! Qf4 20.Bg3 Qe3 21.Kh2 Nxe4 22.Rf3 was winning in Browne-Winslow, New York Open 1986. However, when I saw 18.Bf2 over the board, I did not see a clear solution to the potential problems posed after 18…Qe5.) 18…Qxe1 (18…Qxg4 19.Rf4 Qh5 20.Nxe4 and Black is going to have some queen issues very shortly.) 19.Rfxe1 Nxg4 20.Bxb6! (Diagram 3)

20…Nxb6 21.Rxe4 Nxd5! (During the game I simply thought this position was close to winning. Other variations such as 21….Bf6 22.Rxg4 Bxc3 23.bxc3 Bxd5 24.a5 and 21…Bf6 22.Rxe4 Rac8 23.Rb4 both are clearly winning.) 22.Nxd5 Bxd5 23.Rxe7 (23.Rxg4 Bxg2 24.Kxg2 Rab8 is roughly equal due to the lack of coordination of White’s pieces.) 23…Rfd8?! Although Rybka says this is best, I used a lot of time before playing 23.Rxe7 because I was not 100% convinced that the variation after 23…Bxg2 24.Kxg2 Rfd8 25.Kf3 h5 was that clear, especially for a human.) 24.Bf1! (Diagram 4)

24…Kf8 25.Ree1?! (25.Rae1 was better despite allowing 25…Be6. As 26.Rc7 Bxf5 27.Ree7 Bg6 (27…Be6 28.Nc5) 28.Bd3 and White has a significant advantage.) 25…Rdb8 26.Ra3 Nf6 27.Rd1 Ra7 28.Rd2 Be4 29.Rf2 (Diagram 5)

At this point in the game, I had about 3 minutes for 12 moves, while Alex had 2 minutes. If he had chosen either 29…Bd5 or 29…Ba8, it would have been really hard for me to come up with a plan to untangle my queenside in the time scramble. Fortunately for me, he panicked and blundered badly here with 29…Ng4?? 30.Rf4 Nf6 31.Nc5! Bxc2 (31…Bd5 would probably have given Alex more of a chance to survive, but the prospects are still quite bleak after 32.b4.) 32.Rf2! This was obviously the move Alex missed when he went for the whole variation. After this very nice move, Black is probably just losing. 32…Bd1 33.Nxa6 Rb6 34.b4! (Diagram 6)

34…Rbxa6 35.Bxa6 Rxa6 36.a5 Go pawns, go! 36…Ne4 37.b5 Rd6 38.a6 Nxf2 39.a7 Nh3 40.Rxh3 (Diagram 7)

1-0 Alex resigned here in view of 40…Rd8 41.b6 followed by the inevitable 42.b7.

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