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Caruana Beats Nakamura: Is The Grand Chess Tour Decided?

Caruana Beats Nakamura: Is The Grand Chess Tour Decided?

In an all-American grudge match, Fabiano Caruana defeated Hikaru Nakamura, sacrificing a queen in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf. Now it's hard to believe that Wesley So won't win the Grand Chess Tour as he beat Veselin Topalov as Black today in London.

To win the Grand Chess Tour, Nakamura needs to win the London Chess Classic with So finishing in fourth place or worse. But, with three rounds to go, So is still leading in London whereas Nakamura is now 1.5 point behind the leader.

Photo: Lennart Ootes.

The tournament in London hasn't been decided yet, but the Grand Chess Tour virtually has—in Wesley So's favor. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Today Wesley So was helped a lot by his opponent, who made a big mistake on move 18.

"I guess my brain is just not working," said Veselin Topalov, who felt that White was doing OK out of the opening. "I believe White has very good chances but around move 15 I completely collapsed."

The big mistake was 18.Be2 instead of putting the bishop on d3, and after 18...Qg5 White has big problems.

"It was just a complete collapse. Maybe by the time it will happen more and more!" said Topalov with a wry smile.

"I wasn't sure if White was better or if Black was holding," said So about the early middlegame. "I knew that Topalov is really, really dangerous with the initiative."

About White's 18th move he said: "It's surprising that after just one mistake the tables have completely turned." 

A sudden collapse for Topalov. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

In a crucial game for the 2016 tour, Hikaru Nakamura decided to play the Najdorf Sicilian. "He seems to go for the Najdorf when he wants to play for a win," Fabiano Caruana pointed out afterward.

But Caruana himself didn't shy away from complications either, and went for the sharp old main line with 6.Bg5. The players bashed out many more moves and eventually deviated from the game Giri vs Vachier-Lagrave, Stavanger 2016 on move 15.

They continued to play fast for five more moves, with White giving up his queen for two minor pieces along the way, until the following critical position was reached.

No doubt Nakamura had looked at 21.Nc6 here, the first choice of the computer. Instead, Caruana went 21.Nf5! and explained after the game that his second Rustam Kasimdzhanov had found it.

"Rustam played Nf5 over the board. I pretty much stopped my analysis. The position is a nightmare to play for Black and probably objectively just lost."

Caruana elaborated that engines will initially favor Black after 21...Bxf5 22.Bxf5. "It's one of the saddest positions I've ever seen for Black. It's just complete domination with my bishop and knight."

He went as far as saying that Nakamura had been "over-relying on the computer's evaluation."

A spectacular win for Caruana vs Nakamura. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

The fans were treated well today. There was even a second Najdorf, in the game between Vishy Anand and Anish Giri. And although this one saw the more positional 6.h3 line, eventually the players castled on opposite flanks anyway and a rather standard Sicilian appeared.

Standard, until Anand suddenly went for 16.b4 and 17.Ndxb5—a concept few amateurs would have dared to play! Giri himself was surprised as well. "I was completely perplexed, to be honest."

The five-time world champion soon realized that he might have misevaluated things, and "panicked" (Giri) on move 21. Things were getting really probablematic, but the Dutchman failed to deliver the knockout blow.

After the game Giri explained why had mentioned Anand's possible retirement the other day—not to make fun of Anand, but of all the journalists who keep talking about this topic. As it turned out, Anand didn't mind a bit of trash talking either, and asked "when is Giri going to win a game?" 

Anand didn't mind a bit of trash talking today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave seems back on track thanks to his win today, although he still wasn't too happy about his play. "I have to play better than I have shown so far" he said, despite reaching 50 percent by beating Levon Aronian, who thus dropped to 50 percent as well.

"The opening didn't go great," said MVL. "At some point I was playing for two results but not the good two!"

The Frenchman explained that Aronian missed the 34.g4 move, and over-pressed in the final phase. "With the situation changing, he couldn't adapt," said MVL. 

Like Topalov, a rather sudden collapse for Aronian today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

A game that wasn't too relevant for the standings was Vladimir Kramnik vs Michael Adams. The Englishman wasn't too impressed with his opponent's modest opening setup and played a solid game.

Image: Spectrum Studios.

Here are the pairings for round seven, which is Friday at 4 p.m. local time (11 a.m. New York, 8 a.m. Pacific).

Image: Spectrum Studios.

Image: Spectrum Studios.

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