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    Wijk aan Zee Part I

    January 19, 2011 • General

    Greetings from sunny (DID I REALLY JUST SAY THAT??) Wijk aan Zee. After four tough rounds of chess, we finally reached our first rest day. What can I say about Wijk aan Zee that has not already been said. The organization and conditions continue to remain flawless despite the various name and company changes during its illustrious 73 year history. Without further ado, here is my recap of the tournament thus far! I hope everyone enjoys it!

    Round 1

    In the 1st round, I had White against Alexander Grischuk. This match served as a grudge match after our recent encounters in the Tal Memorial and World Blitz Championship. After his escape in the classical tournament, I got too overconfident and was soundly beaten in our mini match during the World Blitz Championship. Therefore, I resolved to give it my all to try and return the favor this time. In the game itself, we played the Ragozin variation of the Queens Gambit Declined. The game seemed fairly balanced until I started attacking on the kingside with 15.f3 and 16.g4!? Alexander did not handle the complications well and prematurely sacrificed a piece 18…Bxg4. After some accurate defense, I achieved a completely winning position only to make it more complicated when I played 32.Ke2? not 32.Ke4. Nevertheless, in our time scramble, I was able to simplify into a winning endgame with a knight for three pawns. A huge win regardless of when it occurred. Although nothing will completely erase the debacle in Moscow, this game served as a bit of a consolation for that.

    Round 2

    In the 2nd round, I had Black against current number 2 in the world, Levon Aronian. Much to the surprise of most commentators, I chose to play the Dutch because we are in Holland after all! I really cannot think of a better way to honor the Dutch people for their hospitality! The game itself was surprisingly dull as I chose a minor sideline with 7…Nc6 and 8…Na5 in the Leningrad variation. Levon was unable to achieve anything tangible and the game was drawn after 15 moves. No doubt many of my fans were disappointed that I took such a quick draw, but with Black it is hard to expect more against such a strong player.

    Round 3

    The 3rd round featured a classic rematch with Alexei Shirov from last year here in the 7th round of the tournament. Last year, Alexei got off to a red hot start with five straight wins! Unfortunately, after his loss to me, the wheels completely came off and he failed to finish at the top. This time around, we dueled in the Arkhangel variation of the Ruy Lopez instead of the Sicilian Sveshnikov. After reaching a middlegame up a pawn and probably significantly better, I became rather lazy and allowed some completely unnecessary counterplay. Right around time control the position was close to equal until Alexei blundered with 39…Ree8 and 40…Re5. This allowed me to come up with a very nice resource in 41.Nd2! After this clever knight manoeuvre I obtained a small advantage in the endgame. Alexei probably had one last chance to salvage a draw with 52…Ra4 instead or Ra3. After this costly oversight, I converted the endgame for a second win and clear first place after three rounds!

    Round 4

    The 4th round featured a matchup with rising Dutch star Anish Giri. In the 3rd round, Anish shocked the world when he crushed Magnus Carlsen with Black in a mere 22 moves! After a relatively bizarre set of transpositions we ended up in a Nimzo/Queens Indian hybrid. Eventually we transposed into the Aronian-Karjakin game from Moscow this past November. However, I came up with an improvement in 12…d6 and 13…Qa5. Oddly enough, I had looked at this variation recently, but I then had a complete brain freeze and miscalculated 14…Be6 and chose 14…Rd8 instead. After this one disastrous move, I suffered for the rest of the game. I suspect Anish missed something in the middlegame as I think it should have been winning at some point. We reached a classic rook and pawn ending where I had to suffer for 20 moves before salvaging a draw. This challenging draw left me on 3/4 and tied for first place with the current World Champion, Viswanathan Anand heading into the rest day.

    It is hard to ask for a better start, but there are still 9 more rounds of booby traps and bombs which I must navigate before I can claim a victory. Tomorrow I have White against former Fide World Champion, Ruslan Ponomariov and hopefully it will be another day of exciting if not bloody day of chess here in Wijk aan Zee!



    Wijk aan Zee



    1. Hikarua,

      As an American talking to a fellow comrade..GO WIN & REPRESENT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and leave your mark as someone to fear! 🙂

    2. Go USA! Great start. We are cheering for you during the live coverage on chess.com/tv. Keep the tweets and blog coming.

    3. Lots of luck, it’s exciting to watch the action live on Tata’s site. I hope you don’t regret that 15 move draw, I’m sure you could have won that game.

    4. Go, go, go,,,

    5. Thanks for keeping us informed. Way to represent the Red White and Blue !!! Take it too them bro !!! Be the Tiger Woods of Chess as we know you can be!!!

    6. Way to go Hikaru! But don’t go easy on Pono even though he is a nice guy and is funny. Take it to him!

    7. Lou Thurston

      The draws against aronian and pono show the respect they have for you. Very satisfying for your fans.

    8. Phil Ferguson

      Thank you for taking time on your rest day to let your fans know something about your experiences in the heat of battle. I am following your every game and am inspired by your continuing growth and mastery of the game. Keep playing your game! You are the champion…and you have 7 games to still play (after 1/21). Be “champion” from here on out. And have fun while you are at it!

    9. Great start! So amazing to see an American playing so well.

    10. Rock Star Chess!! You have always been the actual world champion, in terms of ability, but the top talent always successfully dodged you for years, to protect their ratings. Well, those days are gone and now the only thing between you and becoming the actual world champion is your own mind. Like Michael Jordan said, “They can’t beat me, but I can beat myself.”

    11. Indoleplayer

      Keep it going Hikaru!! From your biggest fan in snowy Vermont!!

    12. Dear Hikaru, at first I found you a bit ‘overconfident’ (not using other words…) but I know see that you are really a straightforward and honest guy. Big losses are not played down too! I have become a fan, go get these guys!

    13. Robert Spencer

      I was hoping you’d play 22. ….Nxb2 for counterplay; it was already getting tough at that point but you might be able to hold; if Kxb2, then of course Qb4+ and Rxc3. good luck the rest of the way.

    14. There is no time to get down on yourself because you loss one game. You are still in the lead and you have good chances to win the entire tournament. Always remember that you are getting stronger because you are getting the chance to play the best in the world. Perhaps this will be the tournament that put your name with the best to ever play. Stay focus

    15. PharmD in training

      Stellar performance so far! Now time to recoup and fight off the remaining players. On the live ratings, it seems you are already at #8! We are rooting for you and one day, you’ll have the white pieces against Carlsen.

      One thing for sure, the world knows Hikaru Nakamura fights back!

      Carlsen lost to Giri and that made headlines. You had a bad day, no big deal. You are still in the lead!

    16. @Robert Spencer,

      Hikaru is #10 in the world. He doesn’t need your advice. (BTW, just so you know, your suggestion is an immediate loser. I’ll let you figure out why.)

    17. Best of luck! I’ve been very impressed by your uncompromising play for most of this tournament, particularly your decision to keep playing on in positions where some GMs might think an early draw would be preferable. I hope that you wll win this tournament as this would also be a great inspiration for chess players back in the United States. Please let us know more of your thoughts about your games and your reflections if you can as this helps promote interest in the game and is very invaluable, especially for those of us who are not GMs. I think if you play on when some think a draw would be best, you might be able to capitalize on an opponent’s error.

    18. Seong Je Park

      I don’t know if you are going to be World Champion, but I really love your aggressive game, it’s very exciting. Anand’s game are very boring, many draws & few wins.

    19. Another win today against Nepo! Congrats. Fantastic display of attack and defense. 2 more rounds to go. Keep pushing. My favorite hobby these days is checking out your games after a long grueling work day. As an aside, I’d be interested in knowing what you thought about the final position in your game vs. Ponomariov. Seemed like he didn’t want to let you create complications against his kingside and called it a day. How’s it feel to have a former Fide World Champion fear your attacking prowess?

    20. Hikaru — Amazing performance bud. As a fellow American, you are making the United States proud! Way to represent us! GO USA!!

    21. Lou Thurston

      Reminds of Fischer in 1972. US chess will be the big winner.

    22. People only remember who finished in 1st place..GO ALL THE WAY BABY, ALL THE WAY!!!!! SHOW THEM WHY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS THE #1 WORLD POWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    23. Seong Je Park

      Hikaru, maybe you are the best american chess player after Bobby…

    24. I predict draws for you and Vishsy in the last round, giving you the win!!!!!!!!!

      Congratulations on your success

      Is Kris Littlejohn your 2nd? Is he in with you?

    25. Grats Hikaru No Chess! WEEEEE!!

    26. stephenbrady

      CONGRATULATIONS HIKARU on this MAJOR MILESTONE in your career. keep up the good work and you will be world champion in the future!

    27. Ken Chamberlain

      Excellent tournament! I’ve been enjoying following your games in the Tata Steel tourney on ICC.

    28. Congratulations! Great tournament!

    29. jim butler

      Congratulations on a brilliant performance. The top 4 are clearly in view and you must now set your sights on the WC….Soon enough….keep working hard. I would love to see you do a barnstorming tour across the US, ala Fischer in ’64 (I would love to coordinate it with you :). The mainstream media needs to wake up and give you some attention as its long overdue. Bravo!!!!

    30. and the winner is…….Drum Roll! they say he was a blitz player and new they say he is the champion of:

      2011 Tata Steel Chess Tournament!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    31. A big congratulations to you on winning this prestigious tournament ahead of Anand, Aronian, Carlsen, Kramnik, and many others. If nobody believed it before, they believe it now. You’re definitely in the WC-hunting pack now, and I hope you don’t stop until you get it. Easily the best American WC prospect since Fischer.


      Way to play. Great decision making at the board. Way to shrug off all negative thoughts and focus on the games day by day…one round at a time. Hard work paid off. Looking sharp in the suit like a real champion. Can’t wait for your next book.


    33. Jan Fadnes

      A fantastic tournament!!

      As a Norwegian I’ve been following the top players for some years now. Finally you are up there where you belong. However, more than your stellar performance OTB I have been impressed with the chessvibe videos and tweets, revealing a hard working, sympathetic and deserving champion.


    34. Ed Elizondo

      Your games are the most interesting to play over and study. American chess will benefit from you as it did from Bobby Fischer. I hope that you will continue to enjoy playing because you are truly blessed.

    35. Congratulations Hikaru! Good see a North American finally joining the chess elite. Keep kicking 64-square butt.

    36. 10 000 COMPLIMENTS!
      And I don’t know if the money prize is high enough to override the proud trip in winning against such a parterre de rois!
      Don’t damage one shoulder to pat the other one though, but keep it up, as fans are doing the clapping for you:
      sky is the limit…

    37. Rob Hughes

      Congratulations to you Hikaru. Your games are a delight to play through, and your endgame play, in particular, is inspirational. You mention that you do not play 2. Qh5 anymore and you take the game more seriously. Your results reveal your new seriousness, and if your happiness and succes requires that you put your speculative past behind you then so be it. Your ascension is deserving and your pay is just as entertaining, albeit in a different way. I look forward to your continued exploits and wish you all the best. Of course the occaisional 2. Qh5 (metaphorically speaking of course) would not disappoint, regardless of the outcome.

    38. Phil Irwin

      What a great win for the ages. Bravo! When chess history eggheads look back on this one 50 years down the road or so and you’re sitting on your back porch taking it easy, I believe they’ll refer to this as just the start of things for you. A huge milestone. Cheers! uurp. Phil Irwin

    39. I thought that the true Northern Americans are in reserves?

      For all those who say “go America!” Hikaru is from Japan, Japan! Are you blind?

    40. I thought that the true Northern Americans are in reserves?

      For all those who say “go America!” Hikaru is from Japan, Japan! Are you blind?

    41. Pineau Jacques-Marie

      Big Congrats to you Nakamura I enjoy a lot yours games and superb victory in Tata Steel Tournament! I’m French living in Japan… can I say “Go America!”?

      Hikaru I will wrote to you directly about a little event I would organize in Paris during the next 27~29th October with shogi top players. I will be happy if you could be there.

    42. PharmD in trainng

      Hikaru!!!!! Dude you are awesome!I want to play chess like you. I started playing the Caro-Kann and I won some beautiful games in blitz 🙂 I hope to get stronger in chess (A modest 2000 here).

      American chess really needed a boost and you certainly have given Americans cause to consider chess again. But, in my book, you were always an inspiration! How does someone like you reach elite chess by merely working alone and with no serious GMs as seconds?

      Look there’s nothing I can say but only, if I was rich I’d sponsor your chess so that you could achieve your dreams of this most intellectual of games and travel the world and meeting beautiful women throughout.

      BTW seems like these girls in your ( twitpic.com/3lhybf) gave you a dose of inspiration. LOL

    43. Daryn Moran

      GM Hikaru Nakamura,

      They can never take this away from you. It goes with you forever now. We do appreciate your dressing very sharp and respectfully with good taste. Please don’t go insane like our poor champ Bobby Fischer did. May you give us a United States World Chess Champion who is a normal person, such as you are today! Good luck.

    44. Congrats Hikaru! I’ve followed you since 2002 and it has been great to read about you! Please continue as you are and don’t mind the naysayers! You are awesome and inspire me!

      Trinidad and Tobago/USA

    45. From Belgium,I am your fan for ever!!!(61 year old or jong)
      Congrats Hikaru….

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