Monday, in the blitz competition, Nakamura, the No. 2 ranked blitz player in the world, pulled away from the rest of the field to win the tournament. He finished with 15 points, a point ahead of Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, and 1.5 points ahead of Viswanathan Anand, the former world champion from India.
Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi had been tied at the end of the slower part of the competition, but Nakamura scored five points in seven blitz games on Monday, while Nepomniachtchi’s final-round loss to Grigoriy Oparin, one of his compatriots, prevented him from keeping pace.
Nakamura earned his third straight title in Zurich thanks to consistent play throughout the event. He actually accomplished two distinct three-peats, as he won the opening blitz competition in this year’s event (tying with Boris Gelfand of Israel for first), shared the “new classical” title with Nepomniachtchi, and struck gold in Monday’s blitz finale.
Rustam Kalimullin and Georg Krandolfer / Kortchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge
Hikaru Nakamura watching the big screen to see how his rivals are doing.
Unlike the opening blitz tournament, which did not affect the tournament standings and had a time control of four minutes per player with two seconds increment per move, Monday’s segment was 10 minutes for all moves, with a five-second increment. This time control suited Nakamura just fine.
He kicked off the scoring with a technical win over Yannick Pelletier of the host country, who had a very rough event competing against much higher-rated opposition. As Nakamura soared, Pelletier floundered; the Swiss grandmaster finished in dead last.
( 59. Rc5Was the last opportunity to hold a draw. The problem for Black is that his king and rook lack coordination. 59... Ne2+60. Kf2Nxd461. Rc7+Kg862. Rc8+Kg763. Rc7+Is unavoidable. )
59... Rh460. Rc5Ne2+61. Kf2Nxd462. Kg3Rh163. Rd5Nf5+64. Kf2Rh2+65. Kg1Rg2+A nice finesse! 66. Kh1Rxg567. Kh2Nh4Another one! The knight is tricky, and threatens forks at every turn. Down a full piece, Pelletier resigned.
Rustam Kalimullin and Georg Krandolfer / Kortchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge
Ian Nepomniachtchi could not quite keep pace with Nakamura and finished second.
Nepomniachtchi fell half a point off pace by drawing Peter Svidler, another Russian representative in the tournament. In the second round of blitz, Nepomniachtchi defeated Vladimir Kramnik, the former World Champion from Russia, in the notorious rook-and-bishop versus rook ending, but Nakamura stayed ahead of Nepomniachtchi by demolishing Oparin.
63. Bxb5Kg5This ending is theoretically drawn, but in blitz it is nearly impossible to hold. It's just much simpler to deliver checkmate than to prevent it. 64. Rf2Re165. Be2Ra166. Bf3Kf467. Be4+Kg368. Rf8Ra4+69. Ke3Ra3+70. Bd3Kg471. Rg8+Kh572. Ke4Ra4+73. Kf5Kh474. Be4Kh3It's hard to blame Kramnik for this mistake considering he had no time.
( 74... Ra6is the only drawing move. It is hard to find with almost no remaining time. The point is to keep the rook within reach of the king. 75. Kf4Kh5Holds because the rook defends from the sixth rank. )
75. Kf4Kh276. Rg2+This precise move pushes the king to h3, lest it fall victim to a discovered check. It forces Black's 77th move, which costs him a rook. 76... Kh377. Rg1Ra2The only move (besides rook takes bishop) that prevents checkmate in one. 78. Rg8Kh279. Rh8+Kramnik resigned, since his rook is lost after Rh1+ followed by
The third round of blitz was peaceful among the leaders. The only decisive result was a win by Gelfand over Kramnik, but by then both players were out of contention. In Round 4, Kramnik suffered his third straight loss, this time at the hands of Nakamura. Nepomniachtchi could only draw with Gelfand, so Nakamura had a full point lead with three rounds to go.
( 39... Re4Seems more logical. White's pieces are tied down, which should provide Black sufficient compensation to hold a draw. However, it is likely that this would transition to a similar ending as in the game. )
( 44... a4Was a superior option. Black wants to keep his pawns connected, and now Kramnik's rook will support the advance of his a-pawn from either behind or beside the pawn. Nakamura would have much more difficulty winning the game. )
45. Ne3gxf4+46. Kxf4Rb4+47. Kf3a448. Ra6Rd449. Ng2Kg5This is the losing move. Kramnik cannot keep his king in an advanced position.
( 49... Rb450. Nf4+Kg551. Ra5+f552. Ng2Rb3+53. Ne3a354. Rxf5+Kh455. Ra5h5Looks extremely bizarre, but the point is that Nakamura can't defend his last
pawn because of the pin on his knight. Moreover, the checkmate configuration is only possible with the current setup. Kramnik can just wait a move before capturing on h3. )
50. Ra5+f551. Ne3Rd352. Rxa4Rd653. Ra5Rf654. Ng2Rb655. h4+Kg656. Nf4+Kh757. Rxf5Rb758. h5Ra759. Rb5Rd760. Ke4Rf761. Re5Ra762. Nd5Ra163. Re7+Kh864. Kf5Rg165. Nf4Kg866. Ra7Rf167. Ra6Kg768. Rg6+Kh769. Rg4Ra170. Nd5Kh871. Kg6Ra572. Rc4Ra6+73. Nf6Rc6Amusing, but Nakamura is not about to stalemate his opponent. 74. Rd4Rd675. Rd5Rd776. Nxd7
In their Round 5 matchup, Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi drew after just 19 moves. It was surely a disappointing result for Nepomniachtchi, who had the White pieces and would have caught Nakamura if he had won their direct encounter. Anand played a nice game against Gelfand, but the win was too little, too late.
The sixth round saw Nepomniachtchi narrow the gap. Nakamura’s blistering start to the blitz began with wins over Pelletier and Oparin, by far the two lowest-rated players in the field. Nepomniachtchi, an elite rapid and blitz player, faced them in the final two rounds, giving him legitimate chances for a comeback. So while Nakamura was held to a draw by Gelfand, Nepomniachtchi beat Pelletier, who erred with his seconds dwindling.
Entering the final round, Nepomniachtchi was half a point behind. Nakamura’s quick draw with Anand put all the pressure on Nepomniachtchi: he had to win his game to tie for first. Not only could he not accomplish that, he even lost the game to an opportunistic Oparin. Greed proved good for the Russian teenager.
Nepomniachtchi’s loss put the seal on Nakamura’s victory.
Robert Hess is a former United States Junior Champion, recipient of the 2010 Samford Award (the most prestigious in the United States for young players) and was runner-up in the 2009 United States Championships. A 2015 graduate of Yale University, he is the chief operating officer of The Sports Quotient, a statistically-based sports site that he co-founded. He can be found on Twitter at @GM_Hess.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players