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!
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