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San Sebastián 09 r4: Running of the Bull

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Smallville, H-Bomb, Star Wars -- those are a few of the names that US champion Hikaru Nakamura goes by, at least online. But with the proximity of San Sebastian to Pamplona, where the annual Running of the Bulls is currently underway (with one fatality), and the way Nakamura is trampling the field, perhaps El Toro, or more in Spanish style, El Torito, should be another. In round four it was Paco Vallejo's turn to play matador as Nakamura charged with the white pieces for the third time. The Spaniard held his ground for a while, but in the end the pressure was too much and he was as badly gored as Karpov and Vachier-Lagrave before him. The win put the American on 3.5/4 and a 3030 performance rating. The next five rounds aren't going to be easy, of course, and maybe overconfidence will be a problem after how casually he has destroyed his opponents so far. If so, it's not a bad problem to have!

The game was a Scandinavian Defense that I believe transposed into a ..Nd7 Caro-Kann, or at least something that looks a lot like one. The queens and knights came off and GM Nick de Firmian on Chess.FM didn't think White should have great winning chances with his minimal space advantage. But Nakamura played his usual game of pushing until the wheels fall off and he turned very little into something when Vallejo slipped up in complications. 32.Bc5! is a surprising and nasty move to deal with when you're down to little more than the 30-second increment. The natural reaction 32..Rec8 lands Black in a very bad endgame after 33.Rxe5! fxe5 34.Bd6+ Rxd6 35.Rxd6. Black needed to find 32..Bf5 to have holding chances and he failed. With 32..Kc8 Vallejo was probably hoping for 33.Bb5? Bc3+! and Black is has some chances. But after 33.Re3! Nakamura was lethally precise and he wrapped things up quickly. Can El Torito be stopped or will every matador and picador in San Sebastian be trampled?

Ruslan Ponomariov was the only immediate pursuer to keep the pace. Movsesian played the topical 6.h3 against Pono's Scheveningen and they followed several recent and well-known games for around a dozen moves. Like Dominguez did against Topalov at MTel a few months ago, Movsesian castled queenside. He burned his bridges with a piece sac on d5 that netted him a rook for a rook and two pawns for a bishop and a knight. White also got time to push his kingside pawns into the attack. An incredibly complicated middlegame arose, one that seemed to go back and forth on nearly every move as the black bishop pair dueled with the white rooks and pawn army. Finally White broke through with a nice queen retreat, 35.Qe1! and broke through with 36.f6! Ponomariov's toughness is legendary and he needed all of it to survive this one. It paid off when Movsesian blundered with 39.Qe6?, allowing a nasty shot against his king. Just about any other move would have left Black helpless. Even the amusing 39.a3, making a2 available for the king, was killing. But after White's move Ponomariov pounced with 40..Ba3+! and the tables were well and truly turned. The king hunt was on an the Ukrainian finished off cleanly. A wild and wonderful slugfest that puts Ponomariov into clear second place.

Speaking of being slugged, Vachier-Lagrave's chin is probably still sore after the haymaker Peter Svidler landed on him in the Russian's favorite Marshall Gambit today. Apparently the young Frenchman, who has yet to draw a game, mixed up his opening line and walked right into a pretty sacrificial series that totally destroys the white position. In the final position mate is forced on h1, really pretty stuff. The Russian champ barely used any time at all as he chalked up his first win in just 29 moves. After draws of 22, 24, and 24 moves and now this you have to wonder if Peter has set himself a personal 30-move limit.

Kasimjanov was outmaneuvered in the opening by San Segundo in a typically dense and messy Bb5 Sicilian. But the former FIDE KO champion held on and gradually liquidated into a roughly equal position. Just when it looked like a draw was imminent an unusual exchange of blunders occurred. Neither player noticed that 37.g6+! cleared the g5 square for a knight check and so created just the breakthrough neither player had been able to achieve. After 37..Kg8 38.gxh7+ Kh8 39.Ng5 White has both pawn and position. Instead it fizzled to a draw five moves later. Karpov-Granda quickly turned into a maneuvering endgame that was right up Karpov's alley. You get the feeling that 20 years ago he would have won such a position against just about anyone in the world. Or maybe that's just nostalgia talking. Regardless, they fought it out down to the bitter end before splitting the point.

Meanwhile, in the B Group, or the "Kutxa Tournament" in Ewok, van Wely is outdoing Nakamura with 4/4. He outrates the field by a huge margin but it's still nice to see him getting his swings in after he had such a miserable 2008. In the women's event, or the "Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa Tournament," one of the lowest-rated players, Yana Melnikova, is leading with 3.5/4.

Round 5: San Segundo-Nakamura, Svidler-Karpov, Vallejo-Vachier-Lagrave, Ponomariov-Kasimjanov, Granda-Movsesian.


Great report. (If anyone is wondering what Pamplona looks like during the festival:

Aha, little bug here; hyperlink not finished. Remove the ')'.

I have been to Pamplona two times during San Fermines, and I never got to see a bull.... :p

Good pictures, Peter.

I have a personal signature of Kramnik. I hope he will win world championship. Author`s website is http://www.grossclub.com

I really like the way Nakamura charges ahead in all phases of the games. It seems way to common for players to agree to a draw if neither gets an advantage out of the opening. Nakamura says, "Hey, there's still a middle game and end game. If you want a draw, you need to keep up with me in those parts of the game to." Kudos to the US champ.

Kramink is being Kramnik again today, or is it Naiditsch being Naiditsch? :-). Another nice game by Kramnik.

Another really gutsy win by Nakamura! Maybe the answer to the short draw problem ... is the H-bomb.

Fun chess by Nakamura. Hope he keeps rolling!

Go, Naka!

This is not good for US-Europe relations and for Obama's plan for arms control.

We dropped the H-Bomb on San Sebastian!

Go Naka!

So let's see if ChessBase can continue the Anti-Nakamura slant now...

Nakamura with black beats GM San Segundo to go 4.5/5

His performance was 3030 before this win.

Is there an Anti-Nakamura slant on chessbase? Point out some articles please, that'd be interesting to read about.

Not a slant, it just really seems that they go out of their way to not cover events Hikaru is in, and when they do, he basically gets only as much attention is truly necessary. Donostia has been covered only once so far, with Nakamura's name only mentioned 3 times, no photos, and he was 2/2 at the time.

It just really seems that if Hikaru is in an event, it doesn't get a lot of coverage on ChessBase. Could just be some weird concidence because he's not in Germany often, but it really does feel that way.

With all these sorts of conspiracy theories (JFer vs. Chessbase) don't you need to provide (a) a mechanism by which these things happen, and (b), more importantly, a rationale?

My theory: Nakamura doesn't get much coverage at chessbase.com because he doesn't play in very many superpower events. However, that is beginning to change with Donostia, London, and Corus.

It is strange that Chessbase is not covering the Donostia tourney. It's a very interesting, highly-rated field, and the chess has been much less dry than that at Dortmund.

I have been wondering the same thing. That is, the lack of coverage by Chessbase.com of Donostia. It is not like this is just another event. Half of the field is rated over 2700 and another player who is not, is a former World Champion. We still have a few rounds to go, so we will see what happens...

In the last five rounds of Dormund, all but three games have been draws. Perhaps that makes for better coverage...

You just need to read Spanish :)


Nakamura has told me about the slight from ChessBase, but my view is there are other sites. ChessBase cannot cover all the major tournaments and typically does not. They are select in their coverage of events as are most sites.

Ah...eso lo explica! Gracias!

When you're in uncomfortable position and have got no cash to get out from that, you would require to take the loan. Just because that would help you emphatically. I take financial loan every time I need and feel myself good just because of it.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 12, 2009 1:23 AM.

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