Nakamura Beats Anand In Armageddon, Wins Zurich Chess Challenge (VIDEO!)

Nakamura Beats Anand In Armageddon, Wins Zurich Chess Challenge (VIDEO!)

| 194 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura emerged as the winner of the 2015 Zurich Chess Challenge after beating GM Viswanathan Anand in an all-decisive Armageddon game (see video below!). 

Nakamura had caught Anand in first place, scoring one point better in the five rounds of rapid on Thursday. Somewhere in the middle, the organizers decided that a blitz playoff would decide matters in case of a tie, which was later limited to just one game — won by Nakamura.

Five rounds of rapid chess were scheduled for Thursday. The players would play with reversed colors compared to the classical games. The time control was 15 minutes plus 10 seconds increment. 

Nakamura immediately started the day with a win. He had beaten Caruana in the classical game, and he did it again in the rapid. In a complicated middlegame from an English Opening, Caruana decided to sacrifice an exchange but failed to get enough compensation. 

At some point, Black looked close to having a positional draw, but Nakamura found the winning idea of putting the rook on e4 and the queen on h4.

A good start for Nakamura.

Aronian, the winner of the blitz tournament on Friday evening, had a good start as well. He outplayed Karjakin as Black in a King's Indian Attack — also played by Kramnik against Anand in the same round, which ended in a draw.

It was exactly the same exchange sac (Ra8 for Bg2) that gave Black much more play in this game. Still, the game should have ended in a draw, but one mistake and Black was suddenly winning, as Aronian showed with some very tricky play.

Lots of spectators enjoyed five rounds of rapid plus an Armageddon.

Nakamura had come half a point closer in the standings. Anand then suffered a terrible opening tragedy in round two. Against Aronian he mixed up something in the Meran and was in trouble as early as move 15. A pawn grab on e4 then proved to be too dangerous.

Something clearly went wrong in the opening for Anand.

This meant that Nakamura could have taken over the lead from Anand, but this didn't happen. Despite reaching a promising middlegame position, the American GM got himself intro trouble and then blundered in a difficult position.

In the audience: GM Ljubomir Ljubojevic and GM Genna Sosonko.

A small tragedy was seen in the game Caruana-Karjakin, where Black was doing very well the whole game but then blundered as well, in a winning position:

In the third round things went Anand's way even more. The Indian won his game easily, while Nakamura drew with Karjakin.

Caruana's Pirc Defense didn't look great; White got everything he wanted and quickly won a piece. It was one of Caruana's worst games in recent years.

Caruana: not in great shape.

Meanwhile Kramnik wasn't doing well in an ending, from a Ragozin, against Aronian. The Armenian avoided a move repetition and rightly so: 10 moves later he was winning.

However, he chose the wrong plan and allowed Kramnik to come back in to the game. Aronian then even lost in what was one of the most dramatic games of the day.

Still a point behind Anand, Nakamura really had to try and win their mutual game in round four — and he managed. His English Opening wasn't a great success, but at some point he started to outplay his opponent, who then also blundered.

Sponsor Oleg Skvortsov and his wife Natalia, almost permanently in the audience this week.

Anand and Nakamura were now sharing the lead, and Kramnik could also join them! Wouldn't that be something: half of the field sharing first place with one round to go? But it didn't happen. Kramnik missed a beautiful win, then erred again and even lost:

Kramnik misses the playoff after an unfortunate loss.

And so Anand and Nakamura went into the final round tied for first place with 8.5 points, while Aronian and Kramnik were out of contention with 6.5.

Before the start of the final round it was announced that, contrary to what the regulations stated, there would be a blitz playoff if the two leaders would finish on equal points. That was good news for Nakamura, whose Sonneborn-Berger score — originally the first tiebreak rule — was worse than Anand's.

In that final round the two players did draw their game, and so the tournament was going to be decided in a playoff.

A change of the rules during a tournament is never a great idea, but on the other hand, a playoff made sense. However, one can imagine that someone like Garry Kasparov would have protested in such a situation — after all Anand had won the tournament on tiebreak according to the original regulations.

2015 Zurich Chess Challenge: Rapid | Results

Round 1 19 February 13:00 CET   Round 2 19 February 14:00 CET


Anand   Nakamura 0-1 Kramnik


Aronian   Caruana 1-0 Karjakin
Nakamura 1-0 Caruana   Aronian 1-0 Anand
Round 3 19 February 15:00 CET   Round 4 19 February 16:00 CET
Kramnik 1-0 Aronian   Karjakin 1-0 Kramnik
Anand 1-0 Caruana   Nakamura 1-0 Anand
Karjakin ½-½ Nakamura   Caruana ½-½ Aronian
Round 5 19 February 17:00 CET        
Kramnik 1-0 Caruana        
Aronian ½-½ Nakamura        
Anand ½-½ Karjakin        


2015 Zurich Chess Challenge | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Anand,Viswanathan 2797 2928 phpfCo1l0.png 20 20 11 9 20.75
2 Nakamura,Hikaru 2776 2856 01 phpfCo1l0.png 10 21 9 18.50
3 Kramnik,Vladimir 2783 2784 11 phpfCo1l0.png 11 10 11 20.25
4 Aronian,Levon 2777 2715 01 10 phpfCo1l0.png 11 7 15.75
5 Karjakin,Sergey 2760 2719 11 10 phpfCo1l0.png 10 6 16.00
6 Caruana,Fabiano 2811 2709 10 00 10 11 phpfCo1l0.png 12.50

Nakamura appeared at the board first and sat there for about five minutes, but Anand didn't enter the playing hall. Then Nakamura was asked to join the organizers and Anand for a chat in a back room.

When they came out again, the arbiter announced that “because the players were tired, only an Armageddon game would be played.” Another change of plan! But the game was on.

A coin had been tossed in that back room, and choosing “heads” Anand ended up playing with the white pieces in the Armageddon game, with 5 minutes on the clock. Nakamura got 4 minutes and draw odds.

The Armageddon game that decided the tournament.

Although he needed only a draw, the American number-one won rather easily as Black. Anand didn't seem too keen on playing that playoff in the first place, which was understandable. The Indian couldn't find his normal level of play, while his opponent was fully concentrated.

Here it is in our regular game viewer, and below also in a video:

It was another excellent achievement for Nakamura, who won the Gibraltar Masters earlier this month. Talking to, he said he is in favour of a playoff in general:

Any time you have a mixed format, I think you almost have to have a playoff. If it was just classical I would totally understand Sonneborn-Berger, or Buchholz, or one of these tiebreaks.

“But considering that it was classical and rapid I think a playoff was fair. That being said, they made their decision so that's just how things went.”

A group photo with organizer Christian Issler and sponsor Oleg Skvortsov on the left.

He also likes the idea of mixing rapid and classical: “In this day and age, the game has become so much about preparation that in many ways, when you include rapid, it makes it much more interesting for the fans.

“And certainly today, you know, Levon lost this very tragic game to Vladimir but if he had won this game, I think he would have been on the same number of points as me, and I think he would have had a good chance to win outright. Every time you can add some of that suspense, it's definitely more fun for the spectators.

After Gibraltar, Nakamura scores his second tournament victory in 2015.

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.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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