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H-Bomb Rocks Foxwoods

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US Champion Hikaru "H-Bomb" Nakamura just won clear first place in the mighty Foxwoods Open in Connecticut. A last round draw locked up first with a tremendous 7.5/9 score (actually 7/8 with a bye). He started with five straight wins, including consecutive victories over Shabalov, Stripunsky, and Smirin. A win over Becerra in the eighth was the margin of victory over Ibragimov.

[Update: His 22-move win over Smirin is annotated in the best chess column you'll find, Lubomir Kavalek's in the Washington Post. Thanks, Lubos!]

From what we can tell, this adds around 20 rating points for Nakamura. Combined with his many other recent successes he should be well inside the top 50 in the world on the next FIDE list. Before Foxwoods his expected rating gain was 43 points. A 55-point gain is practically unheard of on a single list, especially within the top 100. (Unless your name is Morozevich, who seems to do this every few years.) This would about catch him up with Teimour Radjabov on the top junior list.

It's already time to stop talking "if" with the 17-year-old and switch to "when". The transition from the wild American opens to category 16+ invitationals might require some chess adjustments, but the winning take-no-prisoners attitude is already in place. Or maybe the 2700s will have to adjust to him?

Gata Kamsky will still be the clear US #1 at 2700 after the US Championship is rated. He may play in Ashley's HB Global Chess Challenge in Minnesota. (I feel I should link to them because I feel sort of sorry for the "1,000,000 hits!" animation they have up. I get more hits here in a week and hits is a useless metric anyway.) If Kamsky stays active, US chess fans can drool about a serious one-two punch in the next Olympiad.

Hikaru is probably going to want a pay raise after all this, but I'll mention that he is a monthly contributor to the ChessNinja Black Belt email newsletter. (Just $5 a month for four weekly issues! Buy something, dammit! It supports US chessplayers as well as my cats.) Last week he annotated his interesting Albin Countergambit game against Susan Polgar. Jennifer Shahade is our other expert annotator. She'll be commenting a game or two from Melody Amber in a week.


I would be more than pleased to see GM Nakamura play very strong tournaments.
We could all be in for a surprise.

I certainly hope that Star Wars (HN) achieves success both in the US and abroad. He might have some work to do to solidify his play though. See his recent performance in the MCF VI - http://www.geocities.com/millenniumchessfestival/MCF6_Std.html.

I hope this born-in-Japan chess player and his Japanese fans don't mind the "H-bomb" nickname.


It is good to see Hikaru finally getting his due. People have treated him for a long time as some local sensation, but it is now being recognized that he truly is one of the best players in the world. Witness his 22-move win against Smirin, who a few years ago was 2702 on FIDE lists. There is room for improvement in his game, but think about how scary he will be once he acquires that knowledge base to accompany his phenomenal creativity and affinity for mind-bending solutions. BTW, he got stiffed out of points against Karjakin, as the final game of the match was not rated due to the fact that the match was already decided. This is apparently some obscure FIDE rule, except that there are cases in recent times (after this measure was on the books) where the final game of a match apparently did count, even though the match was decided. One of these situations involves none other than Karjakin himself! Thus, Hikaru should be over 2660 on the next list instead of the likely 2657. He picked up exactly 20.4 points from Foxwoods (note that he did not actually play to a 7.5/9 score, but rather to a 7/8 score against 2523-point-something, with one half-point bye after beating Smirin), but I am not sure how many he gives back from the Millenium festival, so I am guessing that he will land somewhere around 2670ish at the moment. This is certainly a level at which people should take notice that a 17-year-old has what it takes to hit the next level.



There is no shortage of teens with talent, but the willpower and work ethic required to hit the top ten are even more rare. There is usually a plateau. It took Bacrot four years to go from wunderkind to 2700 pro. Radjabov raced to 2650 and has basically stopped for two years. Ponomariov is the last one I can remember who made it to the top ten as a teen, although Radjabov, Nakamura, and Karjakin are all well on course to do so.

Yah, saw the bye on the crosstable but forgot to mention it. Thanks.

Hikaru picked the nickname (it's part of his email address), so I guess he's not as sensitive as you are, Greg. Unless of course you were trolling based on the usual lack of information. Perish the thought.

"H-bomb" is fine with me. I'm glad it's fine with HN. Hopefully it won't cause him trouble with sensitive Japanese folks down the road. Let's hope that by the time Nakamura's ready to compete for the World Championship there'll be a clear path for him.

There seem to be a few ways in which an U2700 player can get an invite to play in a serious tournament with the big boys. You can be 15 years old, FIDE World Champion or a national of the country where the event takes place.

Pono and Grischuk made the elite level by travelling around playing in second-line tournaments, in fact Grischuk in particular still doesn't appear in as many of the top ones as he should. Looks like Hikaru may have to wait a little longer.

By the way, someone said HK was "stiffed" out of rating points for the dead game of his match against Karjakin. That is absurd, the "obscure" FIDE rule described is in fact ( unlike some of theirs ) 100% clear and sensible.

I have checked the history and it does appear that the final game of the 2003 Karjakin Kosteniuk match was rated erroneously, since he had already achieved a winning 3.5-1.5 margin. The game was drawn, so Karjakin, as the higher rated player, did indeed suffer a small but unjust rating loss. I expect he's got over it.


Lev Milman's 6th-round win over Joe Fang, which involved successive sacrifices of a Bishop, Rook, and Queen (!) for mate, might be good fodder for a WhiteBelt or BlackBelt quiz.


I'm sure Hikaru will do away with or pick another nickname. It's not like most chessplayers have one, although we could probably do worse than imitate professional wrestling. Wasn't someone talking McMahon around here? (I had to look him up, admittedly.)

Wow, that Milman game is very nice. What a finish! Don't recall seeing a queen sac quite like that one before.

HNs next tournament will be the Sigeman tournament in Malmö, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark from April 15 to April 29.

The first 4 rounds in Malmo and the last 5 rounds in Copenhagen. The tournaments are played in 2 countries but Malmö and Copenhagen are nabours placed on each side of a small strait.

GM Hikaru Nakamura USA 2645
GM Krishan Sasikiran Indien 2642
GM Curt Hansen Danmark 2633
GM Viorel Iordachescu Moldavien 2618
GM Jan Timman Holland 2607
GM Sune Berg Hansen Danmark 2553
GM Tiger Hillarp-Persson Sverige 2533
IM Davor Palo Danmark 2525
GM Jonny Hector Sverige 2513
IM Emil Hermansson Sverige 2431


I think there was also a Nigel Short match in which the final game of the match was rated. It may be that most matches are simply terminated before this rule becomes an issue, but it is clear that there are cases in which such a rule has not been applied. In any case, Hikaru was not made aware of this beforehand and had full expectation that all six games would be rated. He played to win the last game with this in mind. At the very least, players should be made aware of such things beforehand, and only then shall they choose whether or not to play for meaningless spectacle. It should not be the case that a player gets to a point when he looks questioningly at his crosstables and is only then told by rating authorities "See here, this rule is in existence somewhere about." I feel that Hikaru deserves his points and that the last game should be rated in the same way that the Karjakin-Kosteniuk game was rated and the short game was rated.



Why is Hikaru not a member of ACP? He could have picked up some ACP points.

Congratulations to Hikaru! It's good to see him doing well as he seems a vibrant force on the rise. Hope to see him playing in the big leagues or I should say, those preseason games.

Hikaru failed to acquaint himself with the FIDE regulations which inevitably governed the rating of the match. This is his fault, or possibly that of his backup team, if he has one. The fact that he cannot accept this shows one way in which he needs to develop if he is to progress to the next level.

Two years ago I lost a won game in a big US Open Swiss because I did not realise that the USCF rules about keeping score, which of course applied there, were different from the international rules I was used to. I was mad, and it ruined my whole weekend, but there was no-one to blame but myself. Any poker player will tell you that you don't enter a game without making sure that you understand the rules being played.

How can you possibly argue that a rule which was passed by the FIDE Assembly in 2000 and fully published should be waived just because one of the players hadn't read it?

Personally, I blame it all on the Jews who run the FIDE rating system. ( joke )


Nick, this argument would work better if there were not two clear cases which were found in which this rule was NOT applied to the rating of the match. It is likely that there are more cases such as these, but we shalls stick to these two cases. Hikaru has a hell of an argument if those games were allowed to count, while his was not. It seems very much like FIDE applies this rule as a judgement call, and I call into question the fact that it rated two final games which were draws (probably considered harmless), but did not rate this one which was decisive. Also, to answer a previous post which contended that this rule was not "obscure", I cite the fact that Hikaru and I contacted an IA at some recent point with a question about this rule, and he had never heard of it in his life.



The rating regulations in B.02 are fairly simple. Some of them are admittedly contradictory, but this one is not. Any IA who admits not to have taken the trouble to read them should be relieved of his title forthwith.

Perhaps it was such an IA who incorrectly submitted the Karjakin Kosteniuk for rating. Or they might say they thought they just had to send in the game results without comment. Either way FIDE's quality control should have caught it, but we know they are not perfect. To be fair, the rating process is one area where FIDE generally do a reasonable job.

It does seem that Short also got credit for a dead game he won against Stefansson. That was wrong.

Yes, we need consistency, but what I do not understand is why you are aiming your fire at those ratings officers who applied the regulation correctly, rather than at the few incompetents who did not.

the game not being rated is ridiculous (or I should say the rule is). it's a real game. really either player may as well resign on move 1 if all the other games are rated but that one is not. the fact is, all the games in the match were played, even after the result was decided (unlike for example, Kasparov-Kramnik 2000). fluffy's 2 cents

Perhaps the rule is ill-conceived, you can argue either way. Is a game played after the match is decided taken as seriously as those which went before? The winner of the game will say yes, the loser will say no, so make your own choice. The point is that there has to be a rule that says yes or no, and it says no.

The real issue that has surfaced here is that FIDE, for political reasons, sprays around IA titles to people who have no intention of taking their responsibilities seriously - for instance by bothering to read the rules.

We have no reason to be upset at the nickname. For all you history buffs, it was the A Bomb that was dropped on Japan.

Nobu, thank god someone on this site is actually interested in facts. Also I think that whatever the rule is it should be followed. Karjakin should lose points back to Kosteniuk and Short back to Steffanson. The rule has some logic of course and also some negatives just like almost any rule out there. But once it is in place, the games must be rated accordingly.

DP, just a detail but in fact it was Karjakin who appears to have been badly done by against Kosteniuk ( see my earlier post ), even if Hikaru assumes the opposite.


Nick, to clarify, Hikaru does not assume that Karjakin benefitted from the rating of his sixth game against Kosteniuk. On the contrary, he is quite aware that this draw reduced Karjakin's gain by a few points. He is upset that there are several clear examples of entire matches being rated after a decisive score was reached at some early point and feels that the rule is both bogus and hurtful to him. (Note that the sentiment about it being applied arbitrarily was mine, not Hikaru's, so as not to give the impression that Hikaru is the one causing such a stir about these matters.) Nevertheless, I concede two points: A)one by DP that if the rule is in place, then it righfully should be applied as stated, even if it is an ill-conceived rule, and B) the other by Nick that I should be directing my displeasure at those who caused the confusion by not rating contests correctly rather than those who simply followed the rules. Good debaters are masters in the art of concession, and I, aspiring to be a good debater, hereby concede these points.



Thanks Maliq, point taken and I think we've finished this one off now.

There are numerous niggling anomalies in the ratings regulations, some more important than this. For instance it can cost a GM quite a lot of points to play against, and BEAT, a much weaker opponent, for instance in a small Open. With ratings now going down to 1601 this becomes very serious.

I have twice sent emails to Mikko Markkula, who is in charge of the FIDE committee, but he does not reply.

Nick, as I understand the ratings formula, it is not possible to lose points when winning a game, regardless of the opponent's rating. Please explain how a GM can lose points when beating a "much weaker opponent".

Losing points would be possible as games are tournaments are counted together for rating purposes, not the games individually, so if an opponent lowered the average rating of your opponents a lot, it would be possible to lose some rating points even in case of a win.
But there's a rule that makes your opponent's rating count at most 350 points below your own, so for a 2600 player, winning a 1600 would be the same as winning a 2250, which isn't very fair either, but some rule must be chosen.
As for replies from FIDE, don't think you'll get one. I wrote about a possible mistake in my calculations for the last period and received no response, so that seems the rule.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 28, 2005 12:08 AM.

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