Nakamura At The FIDE Grand Prix: Khanty-Mansiysk

Nakamura At The FIDE Grand Prix: Khanty-Mansiysk

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I recently competed in the fourth and final event of the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix cycle in Khanty-Mansiysk. Not including the people who had finished their three events, here were the standings before Khanty-Mansiysk:

  1. Tomashevsky: 252 Points
  2. Caruana: 230 Points
  3. Nakamura: 207 Points
  4. Jakovenko: 170 Points
  5. Gelfand: 170 Points 

This essentially meant that in order to qualify I would have to finish ahead of Tomashevsky, and by a wide margin, somewhere from first through third (depending on his result). 

This leads to the first critical question: How is one supposed to go about such an important event with so much on the line? Is there a specific strategy to use?

In this respect, I approached the tournament much as I approach most tournaments these days: Use a game-to-game strategy and see what happens.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at a few critical games from the event. 

Round 1 Key Results:

Jobava-Tomashevsky 0-1

Caruana-Dominguez 1/2-1/2

Jakovenko-Giri 1-0


Let's take a look at my first-round game with Sergey. Knowing that I would be starting with two Blacks was certainly a bummer, but seeing as I was facing Sergey and Boris, I felt that I should try something against Sergey as my chances of creating imbalances were higher, which is why I chose the Sicilian Dragon!


Definitely a good start to the tournament, as I was never under any pressure. It's worth noting that I did see Tomashevsky turn around a completely losing position against Jobava, but in the end, you can only focus and control what is happening in your own game.

Round 2 Key Results:

Dominguez-Jakovenko 1-0

Svidler-Caruana 1/2-1/2

Tomashevsky-Grischuk 1/2-1/2



Photo Kirill Merkurev.


At the time, I was certainly annoyed that I didn't go 31...Nd6, but it was still only the second round. However, if I had failed to qualify, I would certainly be looking back and regretting a missed opportunity in this game.

Round 3 Key Results:

Caruana-Tomashevsky 1-0

Jakovenko-Svidler 0-1

Nakamura-Giri 1/2-1/2

Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Not much to really say about my first game in the event with White, as Anish was well prepared for my unusual Giuco idea and the game petered out to a draw very quickly, leaving me with 1.5/3 or three draws to start.

Round 4 Key Results:

Tomashevsky-Jakovenko 1/2-1/2

Vachier-Caruana 0-1


Photo Kirill Merkurev.

After this draw, I headed into the rest day with four draws (three with Black) and I was feeling pretty good about my chances. 

Round 5 Key Results:

Caruana-Jobava 1/2-1/2

Jakovenko-Vachier 1-0

Karjakin-Tomashevsky 1-0


Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Another game, another draw. While I did not win this game, I was still fairly upbeat as I had some chances, unlike my previous White game with Giri.

Round 6 Key Results:

Gelfand-Dominguez 1/2-1/2

Jobava-Jakovenko 1/2-1/2

Grischuk-Caruana 0-1


Photo Kirill Merkurev.

One of several super critical games. Going into this game, I wasn't completely sure whether to go for broke or just play solid. However, as this was only round six, it felt a bit early to go crazy, so I made the right decision in hindsight. 

Another Black, another solid draw. After this game, I knew it was time to start playing more aggressively as this was my last game in the event with White or Black where I didn't intend to start taking chances from the start.

Round 7 Key Results:

Caruana-Gelfand 1/2-1/2

Jakovenko-Grischuk 1/2-1/2

Giri-Tomashevsky 1-0


Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Going into this game, I wasn't quite at the point of going all-in, but it was still very important to beat one of the tailenders since one only gets so many chances against this level of competition.

Whew! A win after six draws was very nice and made me feel even more confident in my strategy of being solid and just taking my chances when I had them.

Round 8 Key Results:

Tomashevsky-Dominguez 1/2-1/2

Caruana-Jakovenko 0-1


Photo Kirill Merkurev.

One of the best parts about playing against someone as creative as Jobava is that you don't have to go crazy preparing, as you know the opening will be something new and original. As such, while I did some light preparation for this game, I mainly just relaxed and tried to stay as fresh as I could for whatever surprise I would see on the board.

What a win and what a crucial point considering that all the other results in round eight broke in my favor. Looking back, this was the game that was going to make or break my event much like Tomashevsky's fateful second-round game with Grischuk. 

Round 9 Key Results:

Jakovenko-Gelfand 1/2-1/2

Karjakin-Caruana 1/2-1/2

Svidler-Tomashevsky 0-1

Nakamura-Grischuk 1/2-1/2

Photo Kirill Merkurev.

There wasn't very much to say about this game as it was a Grunfeld featuring the 7.Qa4+ variation and although I had a very slight pull, the advantage was never tangible. More important, Jakovenko did not beat Gelfand despite reaching a completely winning position, as it could have forced me to change my style in the last two rounds. 

Round 10 Key Results:

Gelfand-Tomashevsky 1/2-1/2

Vachier-Svidler 1/2-1/2

Jobava-Dominguez 1-0

Grischuk-Giri 1/2-1/2

Jakovenko-Karjakin 1-0


Photo Kirill Merkurev.

I felt like I played fairly well in this game up until about move 26 when I went h5, allowing this extremely double-edged rook-and-pawn endgame. However, I found the best moves when I had to and moved within one game of qualifying. 

Many people wonder how top players deal with pressure. For example, I was aware of the site Chess By The Numbers, and although not paying overly close attention, I knew that in the last round there was some slim possibility that if I drew, Tomashevsky could overtake me. However, knowing that he needed something like five out of the six games to go a certain way, I stuck to my strategy of just being solid. 

Round 11 Key Results:

Karjakin-Gelfand 1/2-1/2

Giri-Caruana 1/2-1/2

Dominguez-Grischuk 1/2-1/2

Tomashevsky-Vachier 1/2-1/2


Photo Kirill Merkurev.



What a finish!

When all was said and done, I qualified along with Caruana. I don't think I've ever played in an event which felt so long, but at the end of it all, I did what I needed to do. 




GM Hikaru Nakamura

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