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San Sebastián 09 r5: Nakamura Keeps Rolling

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Okay, this is getting ridiculous. For the fourth time in five days, Hikaru Nakamura emerged victorious in San Sebastian. And now he's doing it with both colors. He outplayed San Segundo in a sharp line of the Cambridge Springs QGD with 9..e5, an offbeat move that didn't catch on after Smyslov lost with it against Kasparov in their 1984 candidates match. That moved the American to a spectacular 4.5/5 and a full-point lead with four rounds to play. Top seed Svidler moved up in the standings to +2 with his second straight win, adding to Karpov's woes.

Always a "show me" player, Nakamura grabbed a pawn on a3 instead of Smyslov's retreat with 10..Bd6. White gets space, the bishop pair, and some initiative for the pawn, but 14.cxd4 looks a little funky. It gave Black two connected passers instead of just the passed a-pawn. Black kept improving, though it looked like it was going to be a very long slog to mobilize the pawns when San Segundo made things very hard for himself by letting the queens come off. He achieved an opposite-colored bishops position but with knights still on the board no blockade would work. 32..Rc4! is the sort of petite tactic that typifies Nakamura's games. The unexpected stabs and jabs keep coming in the service of an overall strengthening of the position.

San Segundo hung tough and put up enough resistance to give himself drawing chances thanks to those mismatched bishops and some inaccuracies by Nakamura. After 47.Nb6 it's not clear how Black is going to make progress. The white d-pawn is dangerous and the a-pawn is locked down. But once again Nakamura handled the complications better than his opponent and two weak moves were enough to return White to the critical list. Allowing a fork to remove his bishop removed many of the drawing possibilities. 51.Nf5 Be4 52.Ne3 was still a fight, it seems. Black allowed no second chances and finished cleanly.

An incredible run, but the tournament's not quite over yet. Nakamura has white tomorrow against one of his two closest pursuers, Ponomariov. He's already faced the other, Svidler, both on +2. Nobody else is even in the picture for the top spot, which is rather unusual. Svidler made beating the Petroff look easy today with the nice Nimzowitschian clearance sac 15.e6! Karpov defended quite well at first and a computer probably would have been happy with the black position even after the ominous 19.g5. But the veteran just can't handle these sharp positions these days and he went downhill fast. The wheels completely came off the Karpov ZIL with 30..c6? and 31..g4?, though it was probably already over. As fun as it is watching Nakamura's star shine so brightly in Donostia this past week, it's pretty painful seeing Karpov ripped up so badly. I knew it was going to be bad, but not this bad. Let's hope for a consolation win for him in the final four rounds.

Did Vallejo really play 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6 3.g4?!? against Vachier-Lagrave as the official site and score say? This comes a few days after I received the latest NIC Yearbook and its article on "White playing g4 against just about everything." But this? I would believe it was a typo and that he played the usual 3.g3 except for one thing. On move 24 (until then there as no real difference) Black could have played the strong 24..f5 if the pawn had been on g3 instead of g4. (Also ..f5 on move 25.) Wild. Granda-Movsesian was a congested King's Indian with a nominal advantage for White he couldn't exploit. Ponomariov was pushed back in his Catalan by Kasimjanov in an interesting game that ended too soon.

Round 6: Nakamura-Ponomariov, Svidler-Vallejo, Vachier-Lagrave-San Segundo, Kasimjanov-Granda, Karpov-Movsesian.

If Nakamura wins again just invoke the softball slaughter rule and hand him the trophy. Not to get ahead of things, but even if he doesn't win another game Nakamura could start the event barely in the top 30 on the rating list and finish it tantalizingly close to the top dozen.


Yes, he did play 3.g4!? I talked to his second and he told me that it was a surprise they wanted to keep for the next round (I guess, the next game with white, against... Karpov?), but for some reason Paco decided to go ahead as soon as he got the chance. That's an amazing novelty, isn't it?

All bets are off if he beats Pono tomorrow.

Oh man, it's really, really painful for a Karpov fan to see him in that awful condition. And later he goes against Kasparov...

Svidler was probably just taking out his frustration at missing England's miraculous draw (yes, draw!) against Australia on Karpov :)

Yes, he did play 3.g4!? I talked to his second and he told me that it was a surprise they wanted to keep for the next round (I guess, the next game with white, against... Karpov?), but for some reason Paco decided to go ahead as soon as he got the chance. That's an amazing novelty, isn't it?

A novelty on move 3! Chess is far from played out.

Hikaru is playing some amazing chess! I hope he stays focused.

Nothing yet on chessbase.com, the English version, but they do have an article with Pinocchio on the front page!

Oh well.

Keep up the good work, Mig.

I will like to bet that the Nakamura vs Ponomariov game will be drawn. Talking of bets, many have now lost on Vachier-Lagrave. Gambling?!

What's up with the garbage Donostia website?


* An actual schedule
* A crosstable

How about cutting them a little slack? It's their first time running the event and it seems to be going fairly smoothly.

If you want a standard cross table and schedule TWIC is best, as usual: http://www.chesscenter.com/twic/twic.html#donostia09

Nakamura's performance in Donostia is amazing, but what's even more shocking is the combined run starting with the French League. I was having trouble digging up all the results, but it was something like:
* French League 5.5/6
* US Championship 7/9
* French League 4/4
* World Open 6/7 (not counting the byes)
* Donostia 4.5/5

So, something like 27/31 (87%!) against opposition that must have been rated at least 2550 or so on average. I would love to know his performance rating across these events.

Hikaru's Performance Rating in his past 4 events, only in FIDE rated games:

French League: 3012 (/10)
US Championship: 2807 (/9)
World Open: 2850 (/2) [Not counting the rapid games for two reasons, one being that they're not FIDE rated, and the other being that he played a few 2200-2300 players]
Donostia: 3035 (/5)

So basically, since the Spring, over his past 26 FIDE rated games, Hikaru has been playing at a...

wait for it...

2933 FIDE performance.

It is really amazing , his games helped me to survive the short draws of Dortmud , very nice games.

g4 may be a TN in that exact position but Duncan Suttles played some early g4 instead of g3 in closed Sicilians.


John, thanks for calculating Naka's performance. To put it in perspective, the best tournament performance of all time is considered to be Karpov's 2899 at Linares in '94. And he only had to hold that level for 13 games.

The link below lists the best performances in history:


Haven't there been 3000 performance ratings in various events, though, Antfarm? (Sofia Polgar in Rome comes to mind, as does Moro in some of the events he absolutely nuked back in the mid-90's.)

Of course, I am pre-emptively posting this before all the whining about Nakamura's draw today comes. :)

The Chessbase article is necessarily outdated, what about Ivanchuk at MTel 2008 (8/10, TPR 2977)? Like Karpov's result at Linares 1994, this was against the absolute world top. At the same time, this suggests that one cannot conserve such a high level 'forever' ... .

And for the sake of argument(?), you neglect Nakamura's result in the Austrian League (5.5/11, TPR 2569). I concede those games were played over a longer period, even though all of them were rated for the July 2009 list.

I do not want to diminish Naka's recent achievements in any way, but still cut down on the hype that develops ... . He is not, at least not yet, (far) stronger than Anand or Topalov ,:).

Antfarm, that article uses Sonas' own method of calculating performance, which differs from FIDE's. Karpov's FIDE performance rating in Linares 1994 was actually close to 3000 iirc.

"It is really amazing , his games helped me to survive the short draws of Dortmud , very nice games."

Perfect timing again, Manu :) Draw in 14 moves and Nakamura down to a "mere" 2952.

Talking about tournament performance - I can't see Karpov's performance at Linares in 1994 being beaten any time soon(whether or not others have a higher rating performance). The point is that it was far and away the most important tournament of the year at the time and had all the top players - and he scored +9 in 13 rounds! You can see the cross-table here: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5266 I can't resist posting that link for the photos of the young Kramnik, Kamsky, Svidler and others :)

Thomas, the M-Tel 2008 players had a high average rating, but it was only a 6 player tournament and included Radjabov, Cheparinov and Bu Xiangzhi, not to mention an Aronian in astonishingly bad form (out-of-form players have a much greater influence in double round robins). So it couldn't really be considered the "absolute world top".

p.s. I just saw Acirce's comments and actually if you check the TP for Ivanchuk and Karpov it's exactly the same (2977) - and in fact they both had the same rating at the time (2740). Spooky :)

Nakamura makes short draws whenever he thinks it suits him, as far as his opponents oblige, of course. He doesn't differ much in this from any top player. Of course, I don't think Dortmund, for instance,saw ANY draw of today's Nakamura-Ponomariov kind, drawn very early while well inside theory. Carlsen-Kramnik was also all theory but not as well-known.

Mind you, I don't blame him. Given the tournament situation and given his great opponent, draw was fine. Obviously, it's absolutely possible that he really wanted to go for more, but didn't know the line well enough, so decided in pragmatic fashion to be satisfied with a draw. How much time did they use?

In any case you'll see much more of this when he regularly plays against top opposition. I don't mind it at all but for those who hail him as the shining knight of Fighting "No Point In Taking Draws" Chess, be ready to be disappointed.

That said, Svidler's 12-move draw with White, if correctly reported, I don't understand at all from any perspective. For all we know he could be sick or something - I certainly hope not but otherwise I don't get it.

More interesting than the short draws: Karpov-Movsesian is a strange position. I don't understand it, but Rybka still likes White a bit. I fear Karpov will go wrong in time trouble again, though.

Was Svidler's game also theory?! (I kind of doubt it) If not, a 12-move draw is pretty ridiculous, not to mention fan-unfriendly. Nothing in the position seemed to indicate it was necessarily heading towards a draw, & it's not like his opponent's Anand (or even Nakamura). Was Svidler feeling ill...?! (maybe being depressed about beating up Karpov yesterday) Or was there a big cricket match he had to go watch? Inquiring minds want to know...

Nope, Karpov doing very well so far. But, still, the clock is the problem.

And of course Karpov lost. Sad but no shock.

I'm sure Svidler didn't feel happy about that position, but I'm not sure it's impossible to beat Vallejo from it. But of course it could be worse than it looks for a patzer like me. I don't know about the clock situation either, may obviously also have played a role.

From Vallejo's perspective, there is not much to say. Easy draw with Black against Svidler = good. With his 50%, he had very small chance of overall victory anyway. Harder to guess why Svidler agreed to a draw there.

Nakamura draw Ponomariov in 14 moves of a Najdorf that is pretty much a forced draw.

Kudos to Mig. The Donostia web site is using his write up as an update.

Here is an update of something I posted last week.

Nakamura's Streak (+18 =8 -0)
San Sebastian
DRAW vs GM Ponomariov 2727
WIN vs GM San Segundo 2570
WIN vs GM Vallejo Pons 2693
DRAW vs GM Svidler 2739
WIN vs GM Vachier-Lagrave 2703
WIN vs GM Karpov 2644

World Open
WIN vs GM Najer 2663
DRAW vs GM Smirin 2650
WIN vs FM Gorman 2282 (quick time)
WIN vs Francisco 2215 (quick time)
WIN vs FM Gulamali 2338 (quick time)
DRAW vs GM Yudasin 2554 (quick time)
WIN vs IM Hungaski 2401 (quick time)

French League
WIN vs GM Hamdouchi 2589
WIN vs GM Fontaine 2540
WIN vs GM Krasenkow 2631
WIN vs GM Bauer 2602

US Championship
WIN vs GM Friedel 2547
WIN vs IM Brooks 2478
WIN vs GM Akobian 2626
DRAW vs GM Onischuk 2699
DRAW vs GM Kamsky 2717
DRAW vs GM Shulman 2648
WIN vs IM Hess 2560 (now GM)
DRAW vs GM Ehlvest 2614
WIN vs GM Shabalov 2580

What a pity for Karpov, especially when he seemed to have been outplaying Movsesian throughout the game. 35...c3 probably came as a surprise to him in time trouble seeing his reaction to it. Time trouble does that, getting surprised at the worst possible moment and reacting to it badly. Instead of 37.Ba3?, Karpov could have played 37.Nxc3 Qxc3 38.Be3 with at least some advantage. Also, was giving up the exchange with 33.Rfxf6 the best he had? Seems like he could have continued without such extremes.

That line should be 37.Nxc3 Qxc3 38.Ba3

The Agony and The Ecstasy

With apologies to Rex Harrison and Charlton Heston, this is an apt description of Donastia so far.

Hikaru Nakamura is potentially making a triumphant mark on history and Anatoly Karpov is potentially hitting a disastrous, personal low. It's both wonderful and terrible to behold.

Hopefully Anatoly Yevgenyevich can somehow pull himself together and notch a win vs. someone before this is mercifully over. And hopefully Hikaru will win one or two more and run away with a sensational victory.

Note to Anatoly Yevgenyevich: Play only blitz or traditional FIDE time controls (40/2, 20/1, etc.).

Mishanp, now I agree that Karpov's performance at Linares 1994 was unique - didn't check and didn't remember that he had such a monster score (and the Sonas rating is misleading, as acirce pointed out). Concerning the Chessbase link you gave: while Karpov's 11/13 is unique, it is amazing that in the early 1990's every winner had a huge plus [currently, +2 or +3 is enough to win this tournament]. This largely reflects the dominance of Karpov and Kasparov, only Ivanchuk twice 'spoiled' things - also back then, he could 'surprise' every now and then but wasn't stable enough to really challenge K&K?

That being said, I wouldn't take Ivanchuk's result at MTel 2008 _that_ lightly. Radjabov, Aronian and (last but not least) Topalov are top 10 players, he won all three mini-matches.

All this compared to Nakamura: yogibear's list looks (and is) impressive - but taken game by game, I would say only the wins against Vachier-Lagrave, Vallejo Pons and, to a lesser extent, Najer are 'major' achievements. Reliably beating somewhat weaker opponents and drawing three other 2700 players still has to be done. But Antfarm sort of implied that Naka's results are more impressive than Karpov's (the younger Anatoli!), I dare to disagree.

Gawd .. can Chessbase be more blatantly biased? Nothing on San Sabastian or recent World Open, but pictorials on a 2300 avg rated event, and front page for the Canadian open.

Seems like the 90/30 time control has been a huge advantage for Nakamura and a huge disadvantage for Karpov this tourney.

Chessbase is covering the Canadian Open Chess Championship complete with photos and even analyses of games Shirov, Hua, and Adams played against some lowly patzers. To devote space to this open tournament and say absolutely nothing about San Sebastian speaks very poorly of chessbase. I do appreciate a lot of chessbase's coverage and all the photos they add to their articles, but not to say anything about Nakamura's amazing winning streak or even Karpov's disaster in a Category 18 tournament is totally absurd.

Why do you think Naka has anything to do with Chessbase articles? Maybe there was trouble with the organizers (won't be the first time). Must everything be some kind of conspiracy against Nakamura? Is there any evidence of any kind of dispute that they ever had with each other? I'm not aware of any evidence of that. So the only evidence is that he rarely has appeared there? SO what?

What's even more amazing is that ChessBase is not covering the ladies tournament in San Sebastian. Hats off to the organizes, they really assembled a pretty bunch!

Chessbase is probably biased toward events from which folks are willing to send reports for which they charge little or nothing, preferably including photos of attractive women.

On his blog today, Nakamura writes: "...onwards as I try to push for world champion." I am impressed. This is a distinctly different tone from the earlier: "I want to go where the weather is nice and I have a good chance of winning," and "Work!? Me?!" I really like his creative play, his fighting spirit, and his chances at a serious run for WC.

Fight, Hikaru, fight! Just say "NO!" to slackerdom (and continue to say it out loud, as you did with your recent blog comments).

"What's even more amazing is that ChessBase is not covering the ladies tournament in San Sebastian. Hats off to the organizes, they really assembled a pretty bunch!"

You've obviously missed the one article they did publish in English: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5566

It has such gems as: "Fascination: Ruslan Ponomariov listening to some girly conversation" :) The author, Anastasia Karlovich, is sadly firmly routed to the bottom of the women's event.

As I pointed out before, the Spanish version of Chessbase has reports on each round and links to Spanish live commentary (http://www.chessbase.com/espanola/index.asp), so trying to claim bias against Nakamura (why!??) hardly seems justified. Perhaps their translators are on holiday just now. For what it's worth the coverage of Dortmund wasn't exactly first rate either, and Chessbase are always a bit hit and miss with their editorial choices.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 13, 2009 1:21 AM.

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