Hikaru Nakamura Last-Minute Substitute For Winning Italian Team

Hikaru Nakamura Last-Minute Substitute For Winning Italian Team

| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

Obiettivo Risarcimento won the Italian Team Championship on Sunday, but less convincingly than expected. A last-minute substitute worked out well: GM Hikaru Nakamura won an important game as Black in a King's Indian.

A number of top GMs are active in the Italian and Russian team championships this week, such as GMs Hikaru NakamuraMaxime Vachier-Lagrave, Etienne Bacrot (Italy), Vladimir KramnikLevon Aronian and Alexei Shirov (Russia). A separate report on the Russian league will follow soon.

The 47th Italian Team Championship took place April 29 to May 3 in Civitanova Marche, a town along the Adriatic coast, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Ancona. The tournament was a Swiss event with 18 teams, played over seven rounds.

Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave and Bacrot were all playing for the same team, easily making reigning champion Obiettivo Risarcimento from Padova the top favorite. The team did manage to retain its title, but not without some scary moments.

With seven rounds in five days, and teams consisting of just four players, there's a reasonable chance that something goes wrong if not everyone is in great shape. This is what happened.

In the first round Pizzato Elettrica Scacchi Marostica, a team with only IMs and FMs, was beaten 3-1 even though GM Daniele Vocaturo lost to IM Mark Quinn. On board one GM Etienne Bacrot beat IM Federico Manca, who missed a chance to force a draw just before the time control:

Bacrot also played in round two (held on the same day) when he was held to a draw by GM Luka Lenic. This match was also won 3-1, against SS Triestina 1904.

Obiettivo's top board was changed for rounds three and four: then it was GM Hikaru Nakamura who played. First he drew with GM Sabino Brunello (yet another 3-1, against WorldTradingLab Club 64 Modena), but the next day he easily set aside FM Christian Cacco:

Later on the same day (last Friday) Nakamura gave up his seat for yet another top gun: GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Coming to Italy right after the Shamkir Chess tournament, the French GM suffered a surprising loss to FM Nicola Altini.

The match with A.S.D. Arrocco Chess Club A Montesilvano ended in 2-2, but at the end of the day Obiettivo was still comfortably leading with two match points ahead of four other teams.

On Saturday MVL didn't get anything with White against GM Mladen Palac, and a draw was agreed as early as move 20. Normally that would have been fine against the much weaker Banca Nuova Palermo, but not this day.

GM Michele Godena and GM Daniele Vocaturo were both held to a draw by FM Piero Mazzilli and FM Andrea Amato respectively, and GM Danyyil Dvirnyy even lost, to the untitled Mario Ferro (2285)! How a grandmaster could take back on c6 with his queen is truly puzzling...

Suddenly the Italian league would see a very exciting final round on Sunday morning. Despite having three 2700s in its line-up, Obiettivo wasn't even in the lead anymore. The situation at the top, with one round to go:

Rk. SNo Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 3 A.S.D. Circolo Scacchi R. Fischer Chieti 3 3 0 9 17 0 119
2 1 Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova 4 1 1 9 16,5 2 115,5
3 2 WorldTradingLab Club 64 Modena 4 1 1 9 16,5 0 107,5
4 8 Banca Nuova Palermo 4 1 1 9 15 0 88,5

Obiettivo Risarcimento played the new leader, the Chess Circle R. Fischer from Chieti, and would have Black on board one. A big win was necessary, as only the number one of the Italian league gets to play the European Club Cup.

Vachier-Lagrave was supposed to play three games, but was substituted. “I wasn't playing my best chess to say the least. We discussed the issue the day before and I agreed it was better for me to rest,” MVL told

At the last minute — about 8 pm on Saturday night, with the last round starting at 9 am Sunday morning — Obiettivo's manager Gaetano Quaranta asked Nakamura to play. The American grandmaster was supposed to play only two games, but nevertheless accepted the challenge. 

And it worked out well. Nakamura used the King's Indian to beat Polish GM Bartosz Socko as Black:

Vocaturo drew but both Dvirnyy and Mogranzini won, to set the final score at 3.5-0.5. WorldTradingLab Club 64 Modena beat Banca Nuova Palermo 2.5-1.5 to finish on the same number of match points, but a board point fewer than the winners.

According to the regulations only one foreign player can play in an individual match, so that's why Obiettivo's three 2700s played in different rounds. Last year GM Fabiano Caruana still played for the team as well (under the Italian flag!) so back then it was still possible to come up with two 2700s.

However, recently Caruana switched to the Azerbaijani powerhouse SOCAR and because of the one-foreigner rule this was quite a blow for Obiettivo. 

Meanwhile the team has signed up more big names: GM Sergey Karjakin and GM Peter Leko. Even without Caruana they will be one of the favorites at the next European Club Cup, to be held October 17-25 in Skopje, Macedonia. 

2015 Italian League | Final Standings

# Team Games MP GP TB
1 Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova 7 11 20.0 163.0
2 WorldTradingLab Club 64 Modena 7 11 19.0 150.0
3 A.S.D. Circolo Scacchi R. Fischer Chieti 7 9 17.5 139.5
4 Banca Nuova Palermo 7 9 16.5 122.5
5 A.S.D. Arrocco Chess Club A Montesilvano 7 9 14.5 106.0
6 Partenopea Westend Napoli 7 7 15.5 92.5
7 C.S.B. V.I.P. The Sign Bologna 7 7 15.0 99.0
8 Pizzato Elettrica Scacchi Marostica 7 7 15.0 97.0
9 Euro Scacchi Perugia 7 7 15.0 71.0
10 Acqui Collino Group Acqui Terme 7 7 14.5 79.0
11 SS Triestina 1904 7 7 14.0 100.0
12 Società Scacchistica Milanese 1881 7 7 13.0 58.0
13 Il Grifone d’Arzignano 7 7 12.0 90.0
14 SS Torinese A 7 6 13.0 74.5
15 DLF Firenze A 7 5 12.5 63.0
16 A.S.A. 1985 Arzano 6 5 10.5 47.5
17 Libertas Nereto A 7 3 10.5 51.0
18 ZZ Assente 6 0 0.0 0.0
Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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