Nakamura Wins Gibraltar Masters for Third Consecutive Year
ByParimarjan NegiFeb 03 — 7:00 PM
Image by Sophie Triay, Tradewise Gibraltar Chess 2017
The American grandmaster once again had to do it in a playoff
Hikaru Nakamura evidently feels right at home in Gibraltar. Thursday, the American grandmaster won his third straight Tradewise Gibraltar Masters title by first beating Yu Yangyi of China and then David Antno Guijarro of Spain in a playoff.
Gujjaro had led going into the final round, but he faced Michael Adams of England, who out-rated him by 100 points. Guijarro managed to draw, but that allowed Nakamura and Yu to catch up when they beat Romain Edouard of France Ju Wenjun of China, respectively.
As fascinating as those games were, the biggest news of the last day surrounded Hou Yifan of China, the Women’s World Champion. Hou was angry about her pairings earlier in the tournament. She had played seven women in the first nine rounds, which she thought was unlikely and not fair. She also thought that some other players had had unfair pairing advantages. After complaining to the tournament organizers and being disastified with their answers, she found a very unusual way to lodge her disappointment — she tanked her game in the last round against Babu Lalith of India:
Hou, Yifan vs. Lalith, Babu M R
Gibraltar Masters 2017 |Caleta ENG |Round 10.17 |28 Jan 2017 |ECO: A00 |0-1
I’m a little disappointed that Black did not play 1…e5. On a more serious note, as a spectator, I find such irreverent boldness refreshing. Here was her explanation about what she did in an interview afterward:
Returning to the drama on the chessboard, Guijarro, like Nakamura, has had a fair amount of success at Gibraltar. Indeed, last year he had an excellent run and would have won, except for a final round loss to Nakamura. This year, he again played tremendously, including stylish victory in the penultimate round against Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, the former World Champion.
Topalov, Veselin vs. Anton Guijarro, David
Gibraltar Masters 2017 |Caleta ENG |Round 9.2 |01 Feb 2017 |ECO: C96 |0-1
Ng6White doesn't seem to be doing too badly, but it is hard to come up with any good plans. Topalov was perhaps hoping for some exchanges leading to a quiet draw. But the game continued: 30. Qg3?!But after 30... Qf6!White had to make some hard choices about how to defend the pawn on c3. 31. Nf5Choosing piece activity instead of a passive move like Nd1, but now White becomes saddled with a bad bishop. 31... Bxf5!32. exf5Ne5A classic good knight vs bad bishop position. Guijarro demonstrates good technique in the next few moves: 33. Rb1h434. Qf4g5!I really like this move for its aesthetic quality even if it isn't necessarily that strong. 35. Qe3Nc436. Qc1Kg7Black's pieces have complete control of the position. 37. Bd3Ne538. Be4g4Mixing it up. 39. hxg4Nxg4+40. Kg1Qh6!A surprising and strong decision. The queen exchange seems paradoxical as Black was just launching an attack, but Guijarro correctly assesses that White's prospects in an endgame are much worse than in the middlegame, so much so that Topalov does not even try to defend! 41. Qxh6+Kxh642. Kf1Kg5Topalov just resigned rather than endure a long torture with such a sorry bishop.
Trying to find some resources in a really bad position is one of the worst ways to suffer in chess and Topalov was clearly not in the mood.
In his final round game, Nakamura played inspired chess to create an imbalanced position and then bamboozled Edouard in the chaos:
Edouard, Romain vs. Nakamura, Hikaru
Gibraltar Masters 2017 |Caleta ENG |Round 10.3 |28 Jan 2017 |ECO: E21 |0-1
Be6The position seems balanced, but I think Nakamura was very happy at this point. The White king is stuck in the center, which gives Black hope for an initiative. 20. h3?!Nh5!21. Ne4
( 21. hxg4Nxg3+22. fxg3Ne5 )
21... Nxg3+22. Nxg3Rad8!Centralizing his pieces. Black's kingside is oddly defended, but it is much more important that White's pieces are uncoordinated. 23. hxg4Ne524. Be2Bxg425. Bxg4Edouard overlooks Black's next move:
( 25. f3!Was a better defense. The main idea is to prevent the knight jumping to g3. But these lines were probably very hard to calculate during the game. I suspect Nakamura may have planned: 25... Rd2!?And now White has to find the only move: Rc2! That should keep the position balanced.
Black's idea is that after 26. fxg4Nxg4Black's pieces are well positioned and there is little White can do about the mate on f2. )
25... Nxg426. Qc2White's position would have been almost ok, but: 26... Bb4!And Rd2 is an unstoppable threat. 27. c5Qa6+28. Kg1Be1!Another finesse. 29. Rh3Bxf2+30. Kh1Re1+31. Rxe1Bxe132. Nf3Nf2+33. Kh2Nxh334. Nxe1Ng535. Qc3Qg6
Yu’ victory over Ju was much more routine. That set up an exciting rapid tiebreaker for the top spot. In the semifinals, Nakamura took on Yu. The match was very close until the last moments of the third blitz game:
Nakamura, Hikaru vs. Yu, Yangyi
Gibraltar Masters TB |Caleta ENG |Round 1.3 |02 Feb 2017 |ECO: A14 |1-0
57. Bc5Bxc5Cool calculation by Yu, but it wasn't necessary.
( 57... Nd6+Should be easy enough to hold for Black. )
58. Nxc5+Kc659. Ne6
( 59. Nxa6Nd6+60. Kf4Nb7!The White knight is stuck. Now Black can easily repeat moves by playing Kb6 and Kc7 if White doesn't do anything. White can try: 61. Ke4Now Nd6+! repeats the position and is an easy draw. It is cool to see the line after 61... Kb662. Kd5!Kxa663. Ke6Which seems dangerous for Black, although perhaps he can still draw the game. 63... Kb664. Kxf6Kc6!65. Ke6Nd666. f6Ne467. f7Ng5+68. Kf6Nxf769. Kxf7Kd770. Kg7Ke771. Kxh7Kf7!With a typical setup to draw the game. The extra pawns on the queenside don't matter! )
59... Nd6+60. Kf4Nf761. Nf8Nxh662. Nxh7Kd5Alas, Yu continued to do more than he needed to do. He missed that the knight could return in time to secure his queenside. 63. Nxf6+Kc464. Ne4!Nf765. f6Kb366. Nc5+Kxa367. Nxa6The knight on a6 can't be touched by the Black king. It is hard to spot such things during a game. Now White won rather easily.
Alas, the missed opportunities were too much for Yu Yangyi, and he failed to recover in the next game. Nakamura then demolished Guijarro in their second rapid tiebreaker:
Nakamura, Hikaru vs. Anton Guijarro, David
Gibraltar Masters TB |Caleta ENG |Round 2.2 |02 Feb 2017 |ECO: E18 |1-0
Be8The position looks quite balanced, but from this point on, Nakamura demonstrates very, very nice technique: 25. b4axb426. axb4Nd727. Nc4Black needed to be more proactive. Perhaps it was time to play exf4, though releasing the tension in the center is always a very hard decision. Guijarro continues to play normal moves: 27... Nf828. Na5Rba729. f5!A surprising switch to kingside play. Meanwhile, Black is blocked for a while on the queenside. 29... g630. g4h5In the next few moves, there were inaccuracies on both sides, which was not surprising as it was the final stages of a tiebreak game, but I liked the way White's pieces all flowed to the kingside, while Black's pieces remained stuck. 31. Bf3Qh732. Kh1Qh633. Rc3Nh734. fxg6Bxg635. gxh5Bxh536. Qf2Bxf3+37. Rxf3Kh838. Rg1Ra639. Qf1R6a740. Rh3Very nice. 40... Qf441. Qe2Rg842. Rxh7+Kxh743. Qh5+Qh644. Qxh6+Kxh645. Rxg8And it is all over.
A disappointing loss no doubt, but by tying for first, Guijarro collected more prize money this year (16,000 pounds) and he certainly had a very good result. Meanwhile, Nakamura earned 23,000 pounds.
Fabiano Caruana, Nakamura’s teammate on the team that won the gold medal at the last Chess Olympiad, had a couple of hiccups, notably a lacklustre loss against “senior” citizen and former World Championship challenger, Nigel Short of England. Caruana almost recovered after that to be contention for the top prize, but he was held to a draw by Nakamura in the penultimate round.
Ju had an exceptional event. In addition to taking home the top prize among the women (15,000 pounds), she cemented her ranking as the world’s second-best woman player by crossing the 2600 rating barrier.
Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 77 in the world, he is a junior at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.