Nakamura and Robson win St Louis matches

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Nakamura and Robson win St Louis matchesHikaru Nakamura and Ray Robson won their matches held this week in Saint Louis, Missouri (USA). Nakamura defeated Ruslan Ponomariov in the last classical game to score 3.5-2.5, and won the rapid games 3-1. Robson defeated Ben Finegold 4-2 in the classical games and in the rapid he was the strongest with 2.5-1.5.

General info

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (USA) hosted two 10-game matches (6 classical, 4 rapid) from May 16th till 25th, 2011. One was between Saint Louis Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, ranked No. 7 in the world, and GM Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine, ranked No. 11 in the world. The other was a match between GMs Ben Finegold and 16-year-old Ray Robson. More info in our previous report.

Classical games 5-6

After four classical games, the match between Nakamura and Ponomariov had a 2-2 score on the leader board. The fifth game was another 7...Na6 King's Indian. Although he had won the third game, Nakamura wasn't happy with the opening phase so he deviated himself at move 10. This time the American was in his preparation until move 17 and said his position should have been fine. However he thought 19...a5 was not accurate. “I simply forgot after 19...Qc7? I lose immediately to 20.e5,” he said.

"32.Re1 and 33.Rh1 seems very unpleasant for me,” Nakamura said. “After 32.Kg2, it goes to where I am much worse to where I have crazy notions I might win.” “My position was slowly, slowly improving, and I had some hope,” Ponomariov said. “But he calculated some variations better than me.”

The game between GM Ben Finegold and GM Ray Robson went a epic 137 moves, with Finegold pressing for his first win. He had two pawns, on the f and g files, and a knight against Robson’s dark-squared bishop and g-pawn.

Finegold-Robson Saint Louis 2011 Diagram 2

The latter part of the game focused on Finegold trying to get his king to f5 in attempt to gain Robson’s pawn on g5. But Robson’s king kept his opponent’s king from the square. The game ended in a draw after no captures were made under the 50-move rule.

In the classical part, victories went to Nakamura and Robson who won their 6th match games with White on Sunday. Nakamura again played the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined and already at move 8 the queens were traded. Ponomariov said he didn’t expect Nakamura to go for the ending. “I just made normal moves, and I suddenly realized there are no more good moves,” Ponomariov told commentators WGM Jen Shahade and IM John Donaldson. “I was just simply outplayed.”

Despite the result thus far, Ponomariov said he likes this type of match. He said he did not think he was showing his best chess but wants to talk to the Ukrainian Chess Federation about setting up a similar match in return. “I really got what I wanted out of the opening for the first time,” Nakamura said after the game. “All my moves were natural.”

Robson and Finegold renewed their battle in the Sicilian Dragon. Robson went all the way, trying to mate his opponent in classical style. After the game he said 10.h4 was “the only good deviation I could find.” “Before 27...Re2 I think I was winning,” Finegold said about his 27th move. He thought Robson’s 26. g5 “seems suspicious.”

Robson-Finegold Saint Louis 2011 Diagram 1

The computer confirms Finegold's comment, and comes up with the pretty move 27...Re5! that is just winning for Black. In the game, 27...Re2? lost instantly to 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Qxg7+!

Rapid games

The two Saint Louis residents prevailed on the first day of rapid chess, last Tuesday, each notching a win with White and holding with the black pieces. After drawing a Leningrad Dutch with Black, Nakamura played 1.b3 in game 2. About this, Ponomariov said: “rapid is more for fun.” The former U.S. champion said he had played the resulting positions “millions of times on ICC.” He lost a pawn but said it was hard for black to come up with a plan. With 36.a5 he took some risk, but with little time on the clock it worked out well.

Robson continued the match against Finegold by again using more time in the opening. In the first rapid game Robson quickly fell behind on the clock, spending 9 minutes for his first 11 moves. Finegold still had 24 minutes, and after the game said Black's 14...Nd7 was a mistake.

Finegold-Robson Saint Louis 2011 Diagram 3

15.Ng4! Nf6 16.Nh6+ Kh8 17.Ne5 Nd8 18.a5 a6 19.Ra4 Rb8 20.Rh4 Qc7 21.Bf4 and White won quickly.

The second rapid game in this match ended in a draw.

The final press release had 'Whirlwind Rapid Play Ends International Match' as the headline. Tornado warnings sent the four grandmasters to the basement more than once at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis on Wednesday. Luckily the games could still be played.

With Black, Nakamura switched to the Slav. Ponomariov may have been thrown off his game briefly as he had never experienced a tornado. As the games were halted, he joined others and watched as the weather maps lit up red, which signified tornado warnings. In the meantime, seconds GM Ivan Salgado Lopez and GM Alejandro Ramirez played blitz during the delay. Once play resumed, Nakamura was able to quickly dispatch the former FIDE World Champion.

Ponomariov-Nakamura Saint Louis 2011 Diagram 4

In a slightly worse position Ponomariov decided to give two pieces for rook and pawn, to complicate matters, and played 19.Nxe6? Qxe6 20.Bg4 - can you see why this is a mistake?

Robson won with Black as well in one of the most interesting games of all, recommended for replay in the viewer below!

Ponomariov provided tornado action in the final rapid game, busting out the Volga/Benkö. “I wanted to have some fun because I already lost the match,” Ponomariov said. “Why not have fun?” He said he thought it would be an easier line for him to play since he knew it.

Nakamura-Ponomariov Saint Louis 2011 Diagram 5

In the final game Ponomariov calculated better. He went 29...Qc5! 30.Bd2 Rc2! which forced a draw in spectacular fashion after 31.b6 Qd4 32.b7 Rxd2 33.b8Q+ Bf8 34.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 35.Kh3 Qe2 36.Qc8 h5 37.Rb8 Kh7 38.Qxf8 Qf1+ 39.Kh4 1/2-1/2

“Somehow even in this game, Hikaru played faster than me,” Ponomariov said. The young Ukrainian expressed thanks for “such an opportunity to play such games.”

Discussing about what he learned from the match, Ponomariov talked about Nakamura’s play. “It’s interesting to see Hikaru fights in every game and finds ways to put pressure on the position,” he said. Ponomariov also will talk about his experience and the organization of the match when he returns to Ukraine. He asked about DVDS “to show, not just tell” about the club and the event.

Nakamura also complimented the former world champion on his play. The Saint Louis grandmaster noted he was usually the one dealing with jet lag and time zone changes to play such matches. “I think Ruslan was better prepared than me in general,” he said. “I think I was a bit fortunate, especially game three.”

Finegold said the weather break gave the GMs a rare opportunity. “We got to chat a little bit,” the club’s resident GM said, and obviously an important topic was the Candidates matches “The players should be ashamed of themselves,” Finegold said about several short draws. “Hikaru played for wins, Ruslan played aggressive chess and Ray played for the win.”

Each day commentary for the live games was provided by IM John Donaldson and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Online spectators could watch the action live at You can still follow much of the action thanks to the video archive - all material produced by Macauley Peterson.

Video archive

Classical games 5-6 + rapid games

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Reports based on press releases by Ken West | Photos © Saint Louis Chess Club


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