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Veterans Lead at the Split

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Wins by Svidler over Nakamura and Beliavsky over Stellwagen put the Experience team back up to a two point lead over the Rising Stars at the NH Tournament in Amsterdam. (Official site round 5 report.) The showdown between the top-rated players, and the Russian champ vs the American champ, was a one-sided affair. As he did just a few weeks ago in San Sebastian, Nakamura played the Caro-Kann against Svidler. But unlike last time, a quick draw from strength for Black, things didn't go very well for Nakamura here. They followed a frisky modern sideline of the Advance Variation with 8..g5. Black varied from praxis with 12..Bxc5 when the few previous tries all went with 12..Be4. That funny-looking move looks less funny in hindsight, considering the numerous structural difficulties Black had in today's game.

It was always going to be tough to find a home for the black king, but the position did seem to have the sort of dynamic potential Nakamura thrives on. Yet it only took a few second-best moves to turn it into a positional nightmare against Svidler's calm and accurate play. The final lemon in the lemonade, according to Svidler, was Nakamura's energetic but anti-positional 19..g4, after which it's nearly impossible for Black to cover all his weaknesses. Just a few moves later Black felt he had to dump the g-pawn for a shred of counterplay, which wasn't much of a shred after Svidler's 24.e6! activated the white pieces to decisive effect. Nakamura put up about as much resistance as possible down the exchange without ever putting the result in doubt. The American let his time run out instead of resigning.

There's never any shame in losing to a player as strong as Svidler with the black pieces, but on-site reports make it clear Nakamura's still coughing and sneezing and in need of a longer rest than he's going to get with tomorrow's off day. Smeets has a full point lead over Nakamura and Caruana in the hunt for the golden ticket to Melody Amber 2010. He was in another interesting game today with van Wely, an interesting novelty at the start (11..g5!?) and a sharp four-rook endgame at the finish. Beliavsky won the battle of the tailenders against Stellwagen. Ljubojevic and Caruana shuffled around for a long time in a Hedgehog, delaying the action until the time control. A few moves later Caruana had an unusual winning move on offer, 45..Nc6!, trapping the white queen or winning a piece. But he missed his chance and 30 moves later it was drawn. Hou Yifan defended against Nielsen's Catalan with accuracy that impressed Larry Christiansen on Chess.FM


Nakamura is doing well for being sick.

Of course it is never fun a) to be sick, b) to play competitive chess under such circumstances. Yet it is a bit ironic that at San Sebastian some of Naka's opponents were sick (Vachier-Lagrave, Svidler!), and now it is his turn ... .

And it may be considered odd that in the earlier case the players' illness was just casually mentioned. Maybe a simple headache or fever is less obvious than throwing up, coughing and sneezing during the game - but it might also affect one's play or motivation (Svidler had played many short draws).

i just love this:
... [Nakamura] let his time run out instead of resigning.
it shows such class

Karpov always used to this you know.... plus I don't know where mig is getting that cause on the chessvibes/risingstar sites they say he resigned.

Actually no, it doesn't say he resigned at the nhchess.com site. And there's no report on yesterday's round at chessvibes.com that I can see. There's the video, which just shows the concluding handshake. (And they seem to be copy-pasting the text reports from the official site anyway.) So you're just making stuff up. On the other hand, I talked with someone who watched the end of the game at very close range: Peter Svidler. He wasn't complaining ("a point is a point") but it's uncommon enough at the top level to warrant a mention. I don't think it's a huge deal; I'm generally a fan of people who hate to resign. Though I prefer the Pono method of playing until mate instead.

Don't remember hearing that "always" about Karpov. What's your source, other than that famous book "everybody knows?" I've seen him resign plenty of times.

my source is Yury Shulman. He said he witness Karpov always letting his time run out in games instead of resigning. Karpov used to tell him it was so he could claim 'time pressure' caused the losing position instead of being out played.

And no i'm not making stuff up just got slightly confused when I read the nhchess.com Yes they do seem to be just copy pasting off there.

Just looked over the game. I can appreciate how Nakamura might well blow a long, unmusical note of grief into his handkerchief over that one.

As an exception, we're copypasting the NH round reports indeed - we're lacking resources for a full, technical report on a daily basis and for myself, much of my time is going into the daily video reports.

About the last phase of Svidler-Nakamura: I'm almost sure that I was interviewing Beliavsky just then - when walking back I met with Svidler, Macauley and Ian in the corridor and started recording Pete's take on the game. In the meantime my other camera was still running - at least it had captured the handshake, but the clock display isn't visible. We can ask the arbiters.

In his report at the USCF website, Ian Rogers wrote the same as Mig:
"Rather than resign, Nakamura deliberately let his flag fall, shook hands and walked from the hall a disconsolate figure."
Whether this is considered acceptable behavior, a small offense or a big insult to the opponent might depend on how much one is a fan of Nakamura. To me this and another recent incident (skipping the prizegiving ceremony at the Mainz rapid open) indicate that Naka hasn't quite grown up yet, even if he has grown on the ELO list.

And - with regard to Karpov (or anyone else) - I guess you can do so only if you have 1, 5 or maybe 10 minutes left on the clock. Spending half an hour just staring at the ceiling waiting for flag fall would be truly embarassing (you aren't even allowed to leave the board). And what if you end up in a hopelessly lost position just after time control?

Nakamura definitely let his clock run down deliberately. He waited for 2-3 minutes to ensure that this happened; that included playing one pointless move.
I was in the playing hall at the time and saw him look at the clock with about a minute to go and then 10 seconds to go. He waited until 0.00 and then, after immediately indicating non-verbally to Svidler that his time was up, extended his hand.
Svidler did not seem insulted at all - he had probably seen it coming.

Nakamura claimed at the US Championship that he had lost all fear of losing a long time ago - but he certainly finds it hateful, we can see! Somehow, that just doesn't add completely up....

I'm glad to see Ian mentioned it, too. Not because I think it's terribly important, but because it confirms my feeling that's it's unusual enough to mention. Radjabov sullenly watched his clock go down from eight minutes to zero once, which I'm sure isn't the record. And then you have your special cases, like Ljubo (mentioning this since he's there) simply walking away from his board with nearly 15 minutes left and not coming back. But he'd already had an altercation with his opponent.

@Thomas: Hikaru skipped the prizegiving in Mainz because he didn't think he'd won a prize -- he'd lost his last two games and thought he was off the podium. There were some autograph sessions he skipped there but I'm not sure if those were part of the prizegiving session or something separate.

The most likely reason for skipping the first autograph session in Mainz was that he overslept due to the differents time zones... I think, he did take part in the second session on Saturday
Actually, he did do his share of autographs afterwards (not only during the sutograoh sessions - as did the other players).

Anyone else catch Beliavsky in the video saying he "blundered" with Nxc7 against Nakamura? At least watching live that was the consensus killer that just about ended the game in White's favor! Even as it turned Black's way we thought White must have gone awry later, like with Ne6 or Ra4. Only much deeper analysis showed (as I mentioned yesterday) that maybe Nxc7 was actually losing. To hear it from Beliavsky is remarkable. Definitely shades of R.Byrne-Fischer, 1962.

As a side note, since Nakamura's resurgence this year I've been casually collecting the off-the-record opinions of elite players about his potential. At first I thought his arrogance would cost him in these evaluations. (Unlike some I don't mind using the word arrogant instead of euphemisms like brash or bold. Maybe it's from working with Kasparov for so long, but arrogance is far from unhealthy in a sport like chess (or in politics!) even if the close contact with have with players today make can make it unattractive. And as a blogger I admit I'll take a temper tantrum and trash talk now and then over bland 'no comments' and fluff. A world full of Euwes and Anand would no doubt be a better place, but it would also be a lot more boring.) I tried to get them to size him up relative to a few other sharp young players who shot up to the top 20 and faded, like Navara and Sasikiran. Everyone I talked to -- again, off the record so they had no reason to play politics -- said they thought he was above that class and had what it takes to stick around if he does the work.

I exclude Garry from this feedback report because as most know, he doesn't like getting bogged down into talent discussions that aren't equally based on work ethic and a fighting attitude. Which is why he's sympathetic to Aronian, a consummate fighter, even though he considers much of Aronian's chess unserious. And he liked Carlsen not because of his moves as much as because he played all over and WON instead of looking for Elo-gaining draws.

None of my respondents thought Nakamura would get a plus score at Corus 2010 (my other question), but that's understandable considering he'll probably be rated in the second half of the field unless there are a lot of no-shows from the top-tenners. Regardless, you can see in the fan base how much attention Nakamura brings by how they read so much into every game. A loss to Svidler supposedly shows he's not ready for the big time. A 960 win over Aronian and he's the next world champ, etc. Just let the guy play chess for a while! These are like the daily polls during an election when the truth is nothing matters but the day of the vote.

Anyway, I'm rooting for Hikaru in Amsterdam because I dearly want to see him trying to rip up the top 10 folks in rapid and blindfold at Melody Amber next year. Joel Benjamin reported on Chess.FM that Nakamura felt the quality of blindfold play at Amber was low, with a few exceptions! Love it! Seeing Smeets, a wonderful fellow I would be happy to have marry my sister, clocking in a routine -5 there isn't going to accelerate any pulses.

"Hikaru skipped the prizegiving in Mainz because he didn't think he'd won a prize -- he'd lost his last two games and thought he was off the podium."

If true, this is a new element in that story and, as far as I am concerned, a valid (though somewhat strange) explanation _and_ excuse. However, when this "incident" was first mentioned here, Deep Mikey (from Chesstigers, organizers of the Mainz event) replied and only stated that Nakamura "felt the need to go for a long walk after his two consecutive defeats in the final rounds". Further paraphrasing him, they understood ... and kept his prize money.
If Deep Mikey's comment was correct and complete, Nakamura's other explanation might have come only later on, hours to days after the tournament? Then it would be a smart but odd a posteriori justification. On balance, either Deep Mikey left out something, or Nakamura made up something - who am I to decide, I know neither of them personally?

Mig, is your sister looking?

So you think Nakamura would have preferred a walk over his prize money? I don't understand why the two things, wanting to clear his head and not believing he'd won a prize, are mutually exclusive. And I posted the above information here after talking with Hikaru the day after Mainz, adding that he later apologized directly to organizer Schmidt.

"Anyone else catch Beliavsky in the video saying he "blundered" with Nxc7 against Nakamura?"
I didn't catch him, which video do you mean? But this comment was obviously made soon after the game, under the impression of Naka's continuation and the final result. Beliavsky may have been unaware that he still had defensive resources later on, at least better ones than what he played.

As lwolf (in another thread) questioned my "!!" for 28.-b5, this is John Nunn's comment on Naka's response to 27.Ra4? : "a really spectacular and unusual combination, sort of tactics you see in chess problems and not over the board." The opinion of a former world top player and KID specialist ... .
So no, I wasn't kidding. It may be debatable if 28.-b5 is THAT difficult to spot (in any case, Beliavsky missed it). I cannot judge for myself: I didn't watch live but 'consumed' the game after it was over - and I didn't stop at any move to think what I would have played.

It is none of my business but Mig, your coverage of Nakamura in ICC comes across as more than a bit partisan.

The two things are not mutually exclusive. But if Nakamura had told Deep Mikey (minutes to hours after the fact?) "I didn't attend the prizegiving ceremony because I thought I wouldn't get a prize", Deep Mikey would/should have mentioned this rather than merely saying "he went for a long walk"?!
So I have nothing to add to my previous post, still two possibilities:
1) Deep Mikey left out/forgot to mention this aspect, or
2) Nakamura realized "the day after" that his behavior was rude, and made up a plausible explanation.
The discussion is in the "Aronian and Mamedyarov rule rapidly" thread posted August 4th. Tassie Devil was the first to mention it - either he was personally present at the prizegiving ceremony or someone else told him. BTW Mig, either you posted "the above information" somewhere else, or you meant to post it but didn't do it in the end? No big deal though ... .

Was Mikey quoting him?

Weird, I know I wrote something about it. Another Mainz organizer talked to me about it and then I chatted with Nakamura about it and he said he didn't think he'd won a prize and that he'd later apologized to Hans-Walter. I thought I either added it as a comment somewhere or mentioned it in a post, but I can't find it either. It was moving week so things were hectic, but I have the feeling it's around here somewhere.

I love the way every breath of Hikaru's is treated like the Kennedy assassination. I hope he figures out a way to monetize all this attention.

"It is none of my business but Mig, your coverage of Nakamura in ICC comes across as more than a bit partisan."

If it's none of your business, why are you mentioning it? Mig already posted

"Anyway, I'm rooting for Hikaru in Amsterdam because I dearly want to see him trying to rip up the top 10 folks in rapid and blindfold at Melody Amber next year."

I've been a chess fan and player since Petrosian was champ and I'm also a writer and editor. Mig is a great writer, he's very knowledgeable and informed about the chess world, he sees the game well (If he had a FIDE rating, I think he'd be an FM), he provides a great free chess blog, and this is not a news site such as Chessbase or TWIC. I love it here. Color me a fan.

Mig presented "the above information" in the "Good Luck With That" entry as a comment.

It is his blog and he is entitled to his opinion. However, on ICC he is expected to be reasonably impartial.

Mikey's slightly cryptic comments are here:


(it's impressive how quickly Chessninja gets indexed by Google!)

I also hope Nakamura can qualify for Melody Amber, plus I'm rooting for Hou Yifan to push above 2600. She had a shaky start but her win against Beliavsky was almost as spectacular as Nakamura's effort.

On the arrogance of Nakamura, he's outspoken of course, but if arrogance means totally lacking in humility, I'd say he doesn't quite fit the bill. Witness his blog and the outspoken criticism of his own play.

Yes, he says out loud what some other players are only thinking. As Mig implies that makes good copy, but it's also less hypocritical.

By the way, I haven't heard him say he's better than everybody out there, just most of them, so far.

Re Chess.FM, I don't think it's possible or even desirable for the commentators to be robots without opinions or preferences. Nakamura is an ICC legend, so it's something of home turf in that regard. And he's American, as are most ICC members and all the regular ICC commentators. And even if that doesn't mean a rooting interest, and it shouldn't, it means we know a lot more about him and so will tend to talk about him more when he's playing.

Overall we tend to be very complimentary toward all the players, usually taking an "if you can't say something nice don't say it at all" attitude. The exceptions are usually directed at specific incidents of debatable behavior. We're not too pollyanna of course, but being negative the whole time would be a drag.

RAY ROBSON SCORES SECOND GM norm!! with a 6.5/8 score tonight he has secured his second gm norm regardless of result in the last round! (Thanks to an 8th round win over IM Sam Shankland).

Hijack aside due to your clearly being sincerely overwhelmed, is there an official site for wherever this miracle is occurring?

Mig, Thanks for the nice comment about Ljubo. :-P What was that you said just now?...
"Overall we tend to be very complimentary toward all the players, usually taking an "if you can't say something nice don't say it at all" attitude."

He is playing Hikaru tomorrow. I hope you will take care to say some very nice things about my Ljubo. Btw, he has mellowed a lot since his top playing days, and I'm sure Hikaru will too.

I've always said that if the organizers really cared about the players, they would have a special person whose only job would be to take care of the players peculiarities (I couldn't think of a better word) so that there wouldn't be any problems.

You once told me that Hikaru never smiles. Well, he smiled for me and my camera quite a bit at the World Open, and even spoke very nicely to me. (Maybe he felt sorry for the old lady)?

yes sevan just submitted a brief thing to the uscf website and will probably put a more detailed version on his site as soon as the rest of the round 8 games finish.

Sorry for the hijack... but it is news... and it is a chess blog that desires news I would think.


It's *probably* true, but still unclear whether Robson has clinched norm #2. Organizer Sevan Muradian confirms that Robson beat Shankland, and definitely stands at 6.5 of 8.

Robson would earn a norm if he draws tomorrow, but Muradian wasn't positive that Robson would score a norm if he lost--his opponent might be relatively low rated.

I can't imagine I've ever said anything about Nakamura not smiling. He was smiling a lot the first time I spent any time with him, when he won his first US Ch in San Diego.

@. (would it kill you to make up a handle?): What site is that?

It's a definite maybe: here's your source.


grouchy mig!

fine I took a name just for you mig darling.

Pairings just went up! http://www.nachess.org/

IM Mulyar - IM Robson

also interesting should be Thaler and Molner's games since I think they have an IM norm shot.

IM Shankland - Molner

Thaler - FM Kleiman

Sevan has posted the update on his website confirming that Robson scored his Gm norm already regardless of result. Same for Molner's IM norm.

Thaler needs to win to get his norm.


I was talking about 4 years ago when I every time I pointed my camera in his direction, Nakamura frowned. You told me he does that to everyone with a camera.

I guess he's changed quite a bit since then. :)

His behavior seems acceptable enough...

1. Naka sat at the board. (Rather than home, force opponent at board alone.)
2. Naka shook hands.
3. Time ran only one minute ten seconds.

And that's assuming intent. In dead-lost online games I sometimes flag innocently. (In the last seconds I try to find saving tricks... no point playing a dead-lost move, anyway.)

Didn't this happen in the classic Steinitz Von Bardeleben (spelling?) game where the loser just left the hall rather than walk all the way through the mating sequence?

Wow. His win over Naka today was vintage Ljubo. I can't even imagine what realms of limitless bliss Inky resides in now.

( ) I am from U.S.
(x) I don't like Nakamura

A wonderful game by Ljubo, though I can't imagine what Nakamura was thinking when he played 8.Nb3 and 9.Bd3, handing over a pawn to Ljubo. But I do love Nakamura's attitude towards the game: exhaust all possibilities before resigning. Chess is about posing difficulties to your opponent. People are fallible and have the annoying tendency towards eventually making the wrong choice when confronted with a series of problems.

Stupidities like 8.Nb3 and 9.Bd3 makes one suspect Nakamura remains vomitously ill. Because those are 1400-level mistakes. He simply lost a pawn down position.

I didn't see the early part of the game, so if people think that Nakamura played stupidly, I have no opinion. I started watching around the 15th or 16th move, and it seemed mostly equal to me until Nakamura apparently decided to avoid the automatic draw 29.Rxc8+ Bxc8 30.Rb8. At least I think it draws very easily, almost by force.

Giving Nakamuras illness as a reason for his performance is tiresome. I seriously doubt Nakamura would allow his opponents to use such excuses. Anyway, "speculative" opening moves are not at all unusual for him. He did not lose todays game just because of the opening.

No way 8. Nb3 is home preparation.

Naka must've been in a state of near-total delerium, that most unpleasant phase of fever where you can hardly sit up. Pushed wood until loss of pawn drew out his natural competitiveness.

Interesting hcl, you must have a direct feed from his brain or something, hmmm.

As a matter of fact, Nb3 has been played 114 times according to my database, so it is theory - it just happens to be bad as well! I go with the "speculative opening moves"-theory.

I was watching on-site today: according to the commentary by IM Delemarre (ELO2433), Naka's 8.Nb3/9.Bd3 is a known pawn sacrifice which yielded mixed results in the past. So it was not a 1400-level mistake. It probably wasn't home preparation either: if I remember correctly Nakamura spent quite some time on 8.Nb3 [maybe he didn't expect this opening from Ljubo?] whereas 9.Bd3 came a tempo - 9.Nd2 was an alternative.

BTW, the commentary was at a high level (unlike Corus, where it is - my impression - mostly aimed at ~1600 players, who of course exist and have the right to exist). Otherwise I was a bit surprised how "invisible" the tournament is: even inside the hotel, I had to ask at the reception to find the tournament, let alone any announcements outside or elsewhere in town. Maybe the main sponsor Joop van Oosterom doesn't care for or bother about much publicity?

And I guess we (both Europeans and Americans) have to start adapting to the idea that Smeets will get the Amber qualification spot. With four rounds left, he is now 2 points ahead of a sick Nakamura, and 1 1/2 points ahead of a healthy Caruana. Apparently he takes the tournament seriously, his second is Vallejo Pons (currently 60 points higher-rated than Smeets himself). BTW, Smeets' 6/13 at Corus might imply that he could do a bit better than a -5 score in Nice next year? On the other hand, he is most probably too old already to "follow the footsteps of Carlsen, Karjakin and Wang Yue" (Amber qualifiers from previous editions).

All complaints aside...the NH tournament has had some instructive games. Beliavsky/naka of course, but Stellwagon/van Wely endgame round IV was excellent, as was Beliavsky/Stellwagon piece is trapped in round V. So wonderful to see Ljubojevic playing so well, and Smeets...can he do it?

The Naka haters are battling the Naka fans, audience attendance at the venue finaly picked up, and those of us on ICC are highly entertained while receiving Grandmaster lectures. It doesn't get any better. Thanks to John Henderson, Dirk Jan ten Guezendam, Mig and all the GM's.

Thank you r. :) I am very happy always when Ljubo wins. It reminds me of the old days when I watched him play and watched him win.

I like Hikaru Nakamura. He is a very talented and kind person. It must have been really devastating to him to lose to Ljubo. He doesn't remember Ljubo - he wasn't even born when Ljubo was in his prime. I think he tried everything he could to save the game - that's why he played on so long.

I hope he is not still sick. Either way, anyone can have a bad day or a bad tournament. Look at Ljubo the past two years. Only one win.

I do hope we can see Hikaru smile a little by the end of the tournament, but in any case he is still a big talent and a nice person. I was sorry to see him lose, even if it was to Ljubo.

Sick eh ? lol
quite funny excuse they come up with , when Peter Svidler or that kid Vacher-Lagrave went sick at San Sebastian last month , no one mentionned it cause Naka the American won .

When Kramnik had severe health problems , was forced to decline many events but still made remarkable performances for months and years , nobody was talking about his sickness , but rather how he didn't "perform" and made enough victories for a WC ..

Seems like if i teach a monkey to be a GM and give him an American passport , he'll make the headlines more than the much stronger Radjabov , Karjakin and so on , and everytime he'll loses , we'll have the excuses prepared .. lol

If nobody mentioned it, how did you find out about it? Same with Kramnik, whose health issues were covered and subsequently referenced regularly in regards to his poor results at that time.

And where are Radjabov and Karjakin playing right now so I can cover them instead of the tournament Nakamura's in?

As I wrote before, the illnesses of Svidler and Vachier-Lagrave in San Sebastian were mentioned, but only once or twice as a rather casual "BTW".

As far as Kramnik is concerned, his illness became known only some time after his bad results, when he talked about it and announced that he had to take a temporary break from chess to undergo major long-term medical treatment. Then many people reacted "ah, now we understand ...". He was already ill when he had those bad results, but didn't talk about it himself ... and his illness wasn't obvious to others as it didn't show by coughing and sneezing.

In conclusion: While the tone of his post is unnecessarily aggressive, low riderz has a point - by comparison, Nakamura's illness gets much more attention.

Hmm , yeah i went a bit far , i was tired , sorry , cause re-reading my post , some people could misinterpret and think i'm racist or aggressive , i should have said "my cat" instead of monkey.

the truth is i really like Nakamura , what i wanted to say is that some players gets the headlines and encouragements while some others of smaller countries rarely get a mention while they perform at the highest level consistently and contribute greatly to the theory and spectacle , cheers

If you teach a monkey to be a GM, I'm sure he'll make the headlines regardless of nationality. I'm sure he'd get a few comments here too, if he makes it above 2750 before age 21, and has chances of becoming World Chimp.

yep spot on lol . again i apologize for my display of stupidity , i was drunk and tired

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 24, 2009 9:33 PM.

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