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Nakamura Wins Cap d'Agde!

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America's Hikaru Nakamura saved his best for last and won his first rapid game of the ko phase against Ivanchuk to take the title. Ivanchuk had white in the first game of the final and they drew a sharp knight vs bishop endgame (foreshadowing). In the second game it looked at first like Nakamura was swapping down into a tame draw and the blitz tiebreaks he has dominated so far. Perhaps world blitz champ Ivanchuk was lulled into thinking the same and was already looking ahead to the tiebreaks. [Nakamura says Ivanchuk offered a draw after 19..Rxd5 but by then he realized he could play on with no risk. He also confirms my general impression he (Nakamura) was understandably content with taking the match to blitz at the start.]

But instead Nakamura was headed for a completely winning knight vs bishop endgame that he finished off with precision to take the title. The black king is sealed off beautifully on the kingside and the bishop is helpless on its own. Not often you see Ivanchuk look this bad, losing without a serious blunder. This was only the fourth decisive rapid game of the 14 in the KO stage. (Carlsen beat Bu and Karpov and Caruana swapped wins.)

Vidcap from the Europe Echecs Cap d'Agde site, which doesn't tell us how much that giant check is worth. Perfect size to slip under your mattress in this economy though.

Though he didn't face other favorites Carlsen and Radjabov (both eliminated by Ivanchuk) in the KO phase, Nakamura has again staked a claim to a piece of the fastest chessplayer title. Why isn't he playing in Almaty next week? Was he invited? It's going to be very hard to get his rating up to the top-20 level required to get automatic invites playing in opens. He's currently #30. Let's hope this big win opens some more doors.

Nakamura blogs about his Cap d'Agde victory (h/t FBX). JFern thinks that's a 16,000 euro check.


Yeah, imagine that: Igonnachoke storming his way to a title match and then falling apart. The guy should get a sponsorship from Smuckers 'cause he's got nerves of jelly.

All credit to Naka. A huge win for him, both the match and the tourney. Here's to more Americans challenging in the big leagues!


Where are all the Nakamura naysayers now?

Oh... Nakamura (2704) did face both Radjabov and Carlsen with a loss and a win.

lost to GM Teimour Radjabov (2751)
beat IM Sébastien Feller (2526)
drew GM Magnus Carlsen (2786)
beat GM Humpy Koneru (2618)
beat WGM Hou Yifan (2578)
beat IM Almira Skripchenko (2455)
beat GM Anatoly Karpov (2651)
beat GM Maxime Vachier Lagrave (2716)
beat GM Vassily Ivanchuk (2786)

I meant loss (Radjabov) and a draw (Carlsen). This is a sign of things to come. I watched the Nakamura-Radjabov game live... wild King's Indian. He then went on a hot streak.

Nakamura is a beast!


Nakamura lives in Canada, and became a 2700 while living here. :)

How does Mig get the entries for the "Tag Cloud" (on the right side of the page)? It's interesting to see an entry like "mainstream", yet there is no entry for "Nakamura". He deserves better.

It's time Nakamura starts receiving invitations to major tournaments. While I wonder whether his style/preparation is not more condusive to blitz than regular time controls, his results in both now demand that he be given some chances in the premier tournaments to see how he performs.

Nakamura will have a wonderful chance (albeit not in world blitz champ) in the chess olympiad. If his form is on he could move up on fide rating list so invites would be forthcoming.

Very little coverage on chessbase news - strange. There was superb live commentary which I only stumbled across for the final. The only place I found to get all the games is Europe echecs. http://www.europe-echecs.com/articles/a-la-une-8e-rencontres-du-cap-d-agde-1451.html

Incidentally, perhaps its just me, but I really hate the new format of TWIC - and I couldnt find the games posted there. It looks like the free access to playchess broadcasts is gone forever although they kept on stating that access could be had through chessbase light during the WCC this was not true aftre the games 1 and 2.

Where can I find the games?

Nakamura had an invite to Corus B and turned it down because he knows he ain't all that once the time control > 25min. He's destined to be a brilliant amateur forever.

You forgot to check the official site (in French). I find that many people only check a few sites and give up. There are several sites with mention and links to the event.


I'm not sure how you are rationalizing your comments. There is a correction... he is a professional and not an amateur. He's 2700 and it's pretty obvious how he got there.

Naka deserves credit for beating Ivanchuk... and winning the overall tournament.

He is now on the radar screen of the chess world more so then ever.

very impressive.


Regarding Nakamura's lack of invites ... he's not the only one with this problem. Maybe the views here are a little skewed since he's American? But I wouldn't worry - he's got the talent, and it will eventually translate into a high enough rating.

Naka= Kasim, Khalifman? Killing the play in the rapids to wipe out everyone in the blitz.

Hikaru has posted on his blog about his performance in Cap d'Agde:


Isn't Hikaru going to school? That's why he's not playing in so many tournaments, or am I wrong?

I didn't expect Nakamura to win a game against Ivanchuk - at least not in rapid chess. So, congratulations to him! Big success.

Congratulations to Hikaru! Let's wish him luck leading our team to glory in Drezdden!

this shouldn't come across as surprising for anyone who's been on icc last few years

Great news for Naka. Way to go. I was rooting for Carlsen, but am happy for Naka.

Judging from his conversation in the past few months on ICC, Hikaru really loves Canada. Maybe he will make that his home. Though he should move to Europe and start playing in a lot of strong round robins there. His rating would climb.

btw of Nakamura&Carlsen,
where is Karjakin ? is he scheduled to play in any major tournaments ?

Andy wrote:
I really hate the new format of TWIC

Maybe it is just me, but the new TWIC font is almost unreadable to my eyes.

Naka has not yet stalled in his improvement arc. It will be interesting to see how much further he can go. He is young, but he is no longer young enuf to be called a wunderkind.

Naka's skill a Blitz may serve him very well in the brave new era of speed tie-breaks. Hope he practices draw-odds chess.

Well, that's a real shame if it's true.
It's more than a mistake, it's a crime. Where have you read this data ?

Ain't no amateur 2700s, that's for sure. That's for dang sure.

The check is worth 16,000 Euros, I believe.

Re Nakamura's blog: Has Hikaru lost his marbles? In a mere two days he's had a go at a whole bunch of fellow GMs - as far as I can tell, without any real justification. It was already pointed out in Chess Today that the stuff concerning Radjabov was nonsense. As far as Vachier-Lagrave is concerned, I can testify that in the whole broadcast he never said what he's alleged to have said. And even if he had said it, why call him "arrogant"? And Karpov is entitled to express his opinion, isn't he?

I think I begin to understand why most organizers won't have Nakamura in their tournaments. A high rating isn't everything.


My thoughts exactly. There is something peculiar about his personality. He finds fault easily but is totally innocent himself always...

I feel sorry for these young people who are not allowed to be free to grow up before we tear them apart and try to pick them apart, Reminds me of a bunch of army ants attacking a small animal)

I don't set the tag cloud and can't edit more than its appearance without hacking the widget. It automatically takes the most common tags. Since the blog focuses largely on international chess and elite events the 'Nakamura' tag hasn't cracked the list, apparently.

When I upgraded to the system last month and added the cloud I was rather surprised myself at a few of the ones that were there. I'd much rather have it reflect the most-used tags of the last six months, for example. A bit silly having the 06 WCh there but not this year's, for example, or Turin (26 and obviously never increasing) instead of Nakamura (21). I'll see about fiddling with the formula.

Touching on Mattovsky's remarks: As noted in the comments to the new Timman interview item, there is something close to a code of silence when it comes to discussing controversial topics and the personalities and off-topic statements of top chessplayers. They generally get the benefit of the doubt times ten, roughly. (For the extreme of this, it's what allowed Fischer to live in a bubble surrounded by worshipers for as long as he did.) The "he's a great player and so a great person" theory and its cousin "he's 2700 and you're just some patzer so how dare you criticize anything he says or does?" are the general rules.

There's some blowback of the typical internet sort with the (mostly) anonymous haters of anyone successful. Then there's a small minority on both sides with sincere and reasoned criticism and support. Message boards and chat rooms (like the ICC) are rife with both sorts. The difference is that some of the subjects of these currents, Nakamura in particular, are active participants in the conversation and exponentially raise the amount of both kinds of attention.

Public figures have to be careful because when they are jerks they are doing it under close public scrutiny. That's the down side to diving into the mosh pit to enjoy the adulation. You have to take the bad with the good when it comes to exposing yourself, so to speak, in public. Hikaru would probably be the last person to deny that he has crossed over into jerk territory on various occasions with his behavior online and off. Of course that's just a small part of his person, but the part that's going to get most of the attention. (And few players make themselves so open and available online.) To Nakamura's credit he has acknowledged his struggles with his dark side. Most reasonable observers realize that he'll mellow with age and that the most important thing is that he stay engaged instead of cutting off all critics (a la Fischer), which usually leads to a further distancing from reality.

Eventually, and this is, sadly, likely the case, as Nakamura's profile continues to rise it will become increasingly unfeasible for him to stay so plugged in with the online community of haters/fans. Aside from the massive time suck (of which all of us are aware) it's also hard to keep such things out of your head. That's why most directors/actors, etc. don't read all their reviews, let alone participate in message boards about their works. (Reading them anonymously is perhaps a good way to work out frustrations.) It just tends to bring out the worst and such negativity is going to be a drain on anyone, perhaps excepting Korchnoi and a few others who seem to feed on it.

Of course staying grounded by critics and keeping it real with the peeps is also a good thing, as far as it goes. The danger is getting too obsessed with the critics or, the other extreme, filtering them out so you hear only positive voices. Navigating these waters can be labor intensive, which is why most famous people don't try. They instead retreat and rely on intermediates, which chessplayers generally don't want and couldn't afford. A once-removed status may be essential to staying sane. It would be great to have Hikaru stick around though, precisely because there are so few unfiltered first-person voices available in elite chess. That's why I created the players' blog at the US championship site a few years ago. Of course that was slightly filtered and without comments.

Radjabov's remarks about Armenia are a good example of how far the chess community will bend over backwards to make excuses for things that would lead to sanctions, or at least a minor scandal, in a major sport. The chess world is too incestuous and small for players, organizers, and journalists to call people on their occasional BS in public. If the Armenia remarks that got the press had been an isolated incident I would have had more sympathy to the standard "the journalist done me wrong" story. But stating that Radjabov is not much loved by his colleagues is pointless hearsay when nobody will go on the record about it. You just get dumped on by those eager to imagine their chess heroes are also wonderful individuals. (Most of them are, actually.) And again, since such things are fairly rare, everyone is happy and eager to sweep them under the carpet asap. Not that there's anything wrong with that, necessarily. Since such incidents are fairly rare, you end up judging someone on one or two bad moments for the rest of their lives.

The perspectives I bring to this are of 1) seeing the difference between what the players say and do in private and what they say and do in public, and what's "reported." (There is very little real reported journalism in chess; it's too small.) 2) Working partly in PR and media management for a famous sportsman and also seeing how others do it. 3) My own decade in a small online world as someone known to many people I do not myself know.

The best we can hope for is to get the benefit of the doubt when we are wrong. That is, instead of assuming someone is an evil bastard who is obviously out to get you, maybe he was mistaken. Instead of reading everything thinking, "how is this person trying to insult me?" realizing that you might actually be wrong on occasion, or at least that other people can be insightful and even right. Realizing that someone can disagree with you, even criticize you, without being out to get you or an idiot. This is particularly important when you are starting to sound like you think *everyone* is out to get you! (Even when some of them are. Even paranoids have enemies, as the saying goes.) Being right is the best reward and you have to learn to accept that convincing everyone you are right is absolutely impossible. It's also good to remember that even the confirmed idiots have a right to their opinions. Trolls, not so much...

I again refer everyone to two relevant strips of the greatest web comic around. (Hon. mention to http://wondermark.com/445/ on occasion.)



I have the first one printed out and stuck to the wall next to my desk. It still takes considerable energy sometimes, but I realized a few years ago that I felt much better about myself and my head was much clearer when I stopped feeling the need to outduel every dissenting opinion on the internet. I would hate to stop reading them entirely because most people are knowledgeable and interesting. It's hard to just say your piece and let it go, but it does wonders for your peace of mind if you're the sort who would otherwise obsess!

I just read through Naka's blog about Agde, and his comments seem . . . nice. Nothing offensive. Sure, the guy's a little brash. But that quality is not unheard of among the chess world's elite.

Mig--I don't share your taste in comics. But you might like to take a
look at www.katchor.com; it's strange and often brilliant.

I don't know Nakamura so I can't really judge him but I do feel he kind of played his cards wrong in the past. Carlsen, Radjabov, Karjakin, Cuarana have taken the publicity as being very young and already very strong to get invited to strong tournaments and have prospered. I think Nakamura has created the wrong kind of buss around him in the past and has now realised he isn't special anymore because of his age/talent combination. The only thing he has to do now is to get results and to get his elo-rating high in to the 2700.

So his blog comments really just feel like he missed a real opportunity to just shut up and let his results do the talking.

Ben Katchor! I was there for the world premier of his musical extravaganza, The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island.

MIG's wall of text crits you for 10,000. You die. LOL!

Seriosuly it was a good read though, and I agree to the majority of it.

Call me nutty, but I actually like Nakamura's rather brash in-your-face attitude. Its like much like a bad-guy wrestler that you love to hate or hate to love. Its also entertaining to watch all the eurotrash complain about and belittle him online during games. Very few chess personalities can say they stir that much emotion up out of people.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 1, 2008 5:25 PM.

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