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Nakamura Lights Up Amsterdam

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The NH Tournament in Amsterdam has three rounds in the books. Today there was a game that had more excitement in it than the other 14 played so far combined. I don't know how today's battle between Beliavsky and Nakamura looks to those going over it at home after the fact. But watching it live on ICC Chess.FM with Nick de Firmian today was a remarkable experience. As so often happens in the King's Indian -- something of a surprise from Nakamura, who last used it against Karpov a year ago -- just when it looks like White is completely winning Black lashes out with spectacular tactics to turn the tables. At least that's the way it goes when Black does well, of course. Often enough White really is completely winning and Black's tactics are just a funeral pyre, as in Stellwagen's brief, doomed flurry against Nielsen in the first round.

I'm not sure if it's good news or bad that Nakamura is on +1 after coming very close to wins in his first two games. As the missed wins would attest, he's actually not in very good form after an insane few weeks of world travel. (You can follow him on his blog.) Sick enough, in fact, to have gone to throw up during today's game. (Not actually on the board. That would be the dreaded Bon Scott Attack, or maybe the George Bush Sr. Gambit.) But today the US champ played what some were calling the game of the year by the time Beliavsky resigned. Actually, what marred the game was Beliavsky's unsurprisingly weak resistance toward the end. He'd gotten into some time pressure and must have been reeling from the sharp turn of the game.

By move 20, Beliavsky had achieved the type of queenside domination and breakthrough White dreams of in the King's Indian. Nakamura's choice of the traditionally suspect 9..Ne8 line had been questioned throughout and it looked like Big Al, who was crushing the KID back during its 80s Kasparov-led renaissance, was about to show the whippersnapper how to break it off old school. The computers had buried Nakamura and put flowers on his grave, hitting +2 or higher for white. And when the speedy Nakamura finally took a long think it was seen as a sign he was finally realizing he was in trouble.

As it turned out, that was all pretty much crap. The stunning clearance sac 21..Nxe4!! flipped the script and put White under terrible pressure. Not only do the comps miss this, the mating tactics are so deep they continue to misevaluate it for a long time. Beliavsky tried to bail out with 22.Ne6 and to give back as much material as he could to break the black assault, but he just couldn't deal with the multiple threats. And getting hit with moves like 28..b5! doesn't help either. From some brief analysis it looks like White can fend off the attack with the computer-cool move 22.Qc2!, ignoring the knight on e4 and the rook on a8. It's a wild mess after 22..gxh2+ 23.Kxh2 Ng3 24.Nxa8 e4. Probably even stronger for Black is the thematic 22..Qh4 22.h3 Bxh3 24.gxh3 Ng5. It may well be White is almost lost at the very moment it looks like he's crashing through with an easy win after 21.Nxc7. Amazing. Maybe 27.Ra2 saves?

Just when it looked over, GM de Firmian and I were surprised to see 30..Qh1+ when it looked like 30..e3 was a clear-cut crusher. Was Nakamura's hasty play going to cost him another win, as against Ljubojevic in the first round? (A fascinating game by the way, full of aggressive and original ideas from both players. It only went sideways in the endgame.) There was further consternation when Black passed up another attacking continuation to grab material with 33..Nxf1+. But the joke was on us when just a move later Beliavsky resigned, both players having seen clearer than the gobsmacked commentary team. The quiet killer in the final position is 34..Qg1+ 35.Ke2 Rc3! and the black rook and queen are deadly after many checks. Still, a little surprising Beliavsky didn't force Nakamura to play till time control, though the American had plenty of time against Beliavsky's 3-4 minutes.

Whew, what a game! Seriously, if Nakamura takes up the KID regularly he deserves to double his appearance fees. Thrilling stuff. Blowing up the 55-year-old Beliavsky isn't the same as beating Kramnik, obviously, but this was really something to see from a very difficult position. I thought Radjabov was the only person who could pull this sort of thing off. We had to ignore the other four games and admittedly didn't feel like we missed much. Nakamura is now tied with Smeets on +1 for the golden ticket to the Melody Amber tournament next year. Ljubojevic, apparently a new rising star himself at 58, beat Stellwagen to lead all players with +2. I know a certain inky who is very very happy right now. Viva Ljubo!

Reports, video, and more on the official site. The ICC Chess.FM live audio is free to all from there, come check us out. Non-members can even listen to the Game of the Day analysis recap by the GM at chessclub.com and participate in the trivia competition for a $75 gift certificate to House of Staunton every round.



I was just complaining that no one seemed to have any commentary on what I thought was a ridiculously beautiful game. Even TWIC's Mark Crowther didn't even comment on how beautiful it was in passing.

Thanks for this post - it's well past midnight, but I came to your blog to complain that no one had written anything about the game. Thankfully, you proved me wrong.

Thanks, Laj. I'll be getting five hours of sleep before round four radio with GM Benjamin, but your comment made it worth it!

Use fritz or ribka , same stuff , it looks like a glitch in the matrix ...

"Ljubojevic, apparently a new rising star himself at 58, beat Stellwagen to lead all players with +2. I know a certain inky who is very very happy right now. Viva Ljubo!"

Thanks, Mig. I am indeed thrilled.

Ljubo is not a new rising star; he has been the brightest star in the chess sky for many years!

Beliavsky-Nakamura was indeed 'memorable' - whether it is THE game of the year is a matter of taste. For example, Anand-Aronian at Linares followed a similar scenario: white seemed to outplay his opponent by positional means, black sacrificed and got the full point in the end.

But Mig's "express" report (i.e. just a few hours after the end of the game) leaves me a bit confused. Was Naka's win
1) deep opening preparation? This seems unlikely as Beliavsky had come up with a novelty (says the tournament site), and Naka spent lots of time on the knight sacrifice (says Mig).
2) a combination of over-the-board calculation, improvisation and tremendous belief in the opening?
3) a fantastic swindle? Once white was lost on the queenside, he might as well go all or nothing on the kingside - as 'normal' play would lose in any case.

According to the tournament site, "Nakamura admitted that he had been lost at some point [where?]." The rest of the sentence should also be cited: "... but he felt that this win made up for the two missed wins in the first two rounds."

BTW, the idea of -Ne4: in the King's Indian is not new, it appeared as recently as Gelfand-Nisipeanu, Bazna 2009. But it would be unfair to request something "completely new" in such an old opening.

Enough said - of course another option is just to enjoy the game without asking any of the questions I asked ,:).

Why is it news to everyone that computers get confused so easily? This is old stale news especially in the KID.

"3) a fantastic swindle? Once white was lost on the queenside, he might as well go all or nothing on the kingside - as 'normal' play would lose in any case."

Uh, doesn't that describe every win by Black in the King's Indian? Just sayin...

The only time I could beat (a much older version of) Fritz was in the KID. It underestimated the attacking potential of the Black buildup sometimes. Of course the newest version just kills me every time.

Lol, you may have a point - though another way for black to win is white blundering in time-trouble (Ivanchuk-Radjabov, Corus 2009).
But my suggestion was based on
1) Nakamura saying that he was lost at some stage (was he really lost? or did it just feel like a losing position, even for him?).
2) Mig calling it a "very difficult position". Of course this could mean objectively worse, optically worse, or difficult to play for both sides.
And both statements were made soon after the game.

"Uh, doesn't that describe every win by Black in the King's Indian? Just sayin..."

Lol. Agreed. It's not exactly as solid as the Slav as 2 other games in this tournament proved. ;)

The game was exciting to watch and made more exciting by the commentary and analysis of Mig and GM DeFirmian. Who saw 21...Nxe4 coming? Naka showed a lot of courage and class by perservering while sick, and one can empathize with Big Al. Who hasn't had a cozy position with white evaporate before their very eyes? He may be 55 but he's no slouch. And thank you Dirk Jan ten Guzendam for making this a great tournament, and ICC for making it available worldwide. Fantastic!

You may not believe this but this game was following my game with IM Jay Bonin....which I lost. I saw Ne4., its a common idea which i learned by studying one of my favorite players Xie Jun!!!
[Event "Boris Spassky Open"]

[Date "1995.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Bonin, Jay"]
[Black "Beatty, Robert"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E97"]
[WhiteElo "2485"]
[BlackElo "1900"]
[Annotator "Robert Beatty"]
[PlyCount "69"]
[EventDate "1995.??.??"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5
Ne7 9. Nd2 Nd7 10. b4 f5 11. f3 Nf6 12. c5 Rf7 13. Nc4 f4 14. a4 g5 15. Ba3 Ng6
16. b5 {Lubomir Ftacnik v Ognjen Cvitan went 16 b5 dc 17 Bc5 h5 18.a5 g4 19.b6
g3 20.Kh1 Nh7 21.d6 Qh4 22 Bg1 Bh3!!! 23 bc7 Bg2 24 Kg2 Qh3 !!! 25 Kh3
Ng5 26 Kg2 Nh4 0-1} Bf8 (16... dxc5 17. Bxc5 h5 18. a5 g4 19. b6 g3 20. Kh1
Nh7 21. d6 Qh4 22. Bg1 Bh3 23. bxc7 Bxg2+ 24. Kxg2 Qh3+ 25. Kxh3 Ng5+ 26. Kg2
Nh4+ 27. Kh1 g2#) (16... dxc5 17. Bxc5 h5 18. a5 g4 19. b6 g3 20. Kh1 Nh7 21.
d6 Qh4 22. Bg1 Bh3 23. bxc7 Ng5 (23... Bxg2+ 24. Kxg2 Qh3+ 25. Kxh3 Ng5+ 26.
Kg2 Nh4+ 27. Kh1 g2#)) 17. b6 dxc5 18. bxc7 Rxc7 19. Nb5 Rg7 20. Bb2 a6 21.
Nba3 Nd7 22. d6 g4 23. fxg4 Qh4 24. Nc2 Nf6 25. Nxe5 Nxe5 26. Bxe5 Nxg4 27.
Qd5+ Rf7 28. Bxg4 Qxg4 29. Rxf4 Qe6 30. Rxf7 Qxf7 31. Qxc5 Bg4 32. Rf1 Qb3 33.
Nd4 Qa2 (33... Qe3+ 34. Kh1 Be2 35. Qd5#) 34. Qc7 Bh6 35. d7 1-0

I played the lemon ..19 Rg7 which seems logical but doesn't speed up g4 which is necessary.

Yes, (repeating myself) the sacrifice Ne4: in the KID is, at the very least, not unprecedented. Then _two_ exclamation marks might be exaggerated!? Would the Sicilian exchange sacrifice Rc3: ever get "!!" ? 'Every Russian schoolboy' is aware of this possibility.

If any of Nakamura's moves deserves "!!", it might rather be 28.-b5 - this "looks impossible", but it is correct and decisive.

And I am still wondering where "Beliavsky introduced an interesting novelty" (says the tournament homepage). It seems that Bonin-Beatty was either missing from their database, or move transpositions were not recognized. In any case, I consider it 'not very helpful' to mention a novelty but not saying at which move ... .

"If any of Nakamura's moves deserves "!!", it might rather be 28.-b5"

You are kidding, right?

I visited this page first time to get info on people search and found it Very Good Job of acknowledgment and a marvelous source of info......... Thanks Admin! http://www.reverse-phone-look-up.net

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 23, 2009 12:45 AM.

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