Nakamura Blasts So's Preparation, Vachier-Lagrave Also Lurking

Nakamura Blasts So's Preparation, Vachier-Lagrave Also Lurking

| 46 | Chess Event Coverage

In round six of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup, the matchup of the leaders fizzled, but the race among the peloton exploded. Three players notched wins, but only one through resignation!

GM Hikaru Nakamura played in the recent style of GM Levon Aronian, or was it that Aronian was playing like Nakamura all along in St. Louis? Either way, the American became the live world number-two by throwing the kitchen sink (and all the other plumbing) to mate fellow American GM Wesley So

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won as well and knocked GM Veselin Topalov off his perch as the most recent ratings chaser to GM Magnus Carlsen, allowing Nakamura to fill the void. The Frenchman isn't completely altruistic to the home player of course; he joined Nakamura on plus one (3.5/6) and in joint second.

In the closing stages of the game, Nakamura paced on the balcony outside the upstairs kitchen.

Carlsen drew co-leader Aronian. Although they both remain ahead of the field (4.0/6), the gap has now been halved.

Nakamura has been single-handedly reviving the King's Indian Defense over his career and today he added another chapter. He denuded all of White's king's protection, eventually forcing it up the board to oppose his own. But this was never headed for an endgame -- Nakamura went into the confessional booth and prophesied he was going to checkmate So, which he did!

GM Wesley So now joins an elite club of players who've been beaten by Nakamura's KID: Kramnik, Svidler, Giri, Anand, Gelfand and Carlsen (in rapid!).

Audiences could see this coming, too. Nakamura's flotilla included every piece he could get his hands on, save the queen's rook, which often just serves as bait in this opening.

The only painful part of the day came when the commentary team pointed out a diabolical sequence leading to a minor piece mate! We present this as a puzzle with the caveat that you must find the fastest win. You may want to clear out the next hour of your life if you're intent on solving it:

The weekend crowds returned today. Can you spot which game they all wanted to see? (Photo courtesy Lennart Ootes).

Even the actual game was no let down (see below). Is this the "Immortal Sac" game? Consider: Nakamura offered two pawns, then a knight, rook, bishop, the rook again, another knight, and the other rook!

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

"Wesley, frankly, just needs to learn how to prepare better," Nakamura said. "He just really misunderstood the position." Nakamura said the computer evaluation can't be trusted and that White might be fine if not for 26...Nxe4!

His former coach agreed: spoke with Nakamura following the game; here's the video interview:

Vachier-Lagrave also played a strong attacking game, but lacking queens made his effort a different ilk. Looking over his game in the well-trodden paths of the Berlin, you'd be forgiven for guessing that 18. e6! came from his personal notebooks. Instead, MVL conjured the idea over the board.

Round five is a distant memory: GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was not going to give Topalov any ideas today.

"If White gets his shot at opening the position, things can get very ugly," he told

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

"I've been playing good chess so far," Vachier-Lagrave said. His statement is limited though -- it references only his play since Biel, which he won for the third time in a row. Before then he had some choice words for his play.

"I was playing like a moron, idiot, shithole," he told In round five the live commentary team feared he may have spoken with similar latitude in the confessional booth.

"In French we can say 'merdique'. Apparently here it's not very nice!"

The arbiter also gave him and others another rule: going forward, no more than one person in the confessional booth! Vachier-Lagrave and Topalov were in there together as we chronicled in our last report, but of course they were playing today so that wasn't an option anyway. Topalov heard the addendum to the rules before the round and held up three fingers to Vachier-Lagrave, joking that perhaps three at a time would be OK?

GM Veselin Topalov is slumping after his fast start, but he hasn't lost his humor.

Vachier-Lagrave didn't make too much of Topalov's admission that he was tiring. "He definitely missed a couple of shots," Vachier-Lagrave said. "You can somehow attribute this from transition from Najdorf to Berlin."

The Frenchman was actually more concerned with his own energy. "I have difficulty ending tournaments the last few years. When you are young you have a tendency to waste your energy [away from the board]."

He's tied with Nakamura for third, but doesn't care if he gets lost in the discussion for now. "Nakamura also gets more attention because he's American. I don't mind that."

Vachier-Lagrave's game ended by resignation, the only one of the round. Nakamura played mate, while Grischuk-Caruana ended on time. Before you go betting the house that Grischuk lost, set aside some money for your kids' college fund: it was Caruana who overstepped the time!

For once GM Alexander Grischuk had crooked numbers on his clock when someone lost on time. (Photo courtesy Lennart Ootes).

Recall that Caruana's time adventures already cost him one game on move 40. Today had a marked difference -- he was lost anyway.

With 37 seconds to make seven moves, Caruana only made six. His 40th move was played on the board, but his hand hit the clock just as the final second ticked away. He didn't complain -- the clock clearly read "0:00" and he likely wanted the game over with anyway. The DGT board registered the move, but the explanation is needed for historical accuracy.

"You may not believe me, but it's not the first time in my life that my opponent is in time pressure!" Grischuk joked.

"I prepared like 10 hours yesterday," Grischuk said. He had that luxury -- it was a rest day. But he almost prepared too much. "I woke up half an hour before the game."

Like Nakamura, he said the computer evaluation should not be trusted in his game. "My preparation was very tricky...The computer says big advantage for Black but it's not so clear...He attacks but the thing is his king is worse than mine."

Grischuk intimated that he finally found his groove. "For the first time, the move I liked first I was finally making."

The showdown of the top players didn't produce anything of substance. GM Levon Aronian didn't press at all and the world champion held the draw with ease.

GM Magnus Carlsen before the round, apparently aware not much would happen today.

"It seemed that by playing 1. c4 he just wanted to get some kind of position, not get too much from the opening," Carlsen said.

Aronian said he liked his position but couldn't figure out where his perceived advantage evaporated.

"I don't have to win [as White]," he said, "but I have to press."

GM Levon Aronian lost his advantage and couldn't find it no matter where he looked.

Carlsen gets two Whites from his final three games.

The players were polled by the production crew whether or not studying with another elite player is proper. Most agreed that they don't like playing their friends. The subject became felicitous when Carlsen revealed to that there was some chess played when Aronian hung out with him in New York.

Carlsen explained that a technicality existed: "As a rule I don't think it's appropriate that players who are both in the top 10 work together, but now Levon's out of the top 10, so it's OK."

It's looks like the partnership is over.

One the the key matchups tomorrow. (All Images courtesy Spectrum Studios)

The final game saw the ultra-solid GM Anish Giri deny GM Viswanathan Anand his first win against him.

GM Ian Rogers: "When are you going to beat the kid!?" Anand pointed out that unlike him and Carlsen, some players in the field like Aronian have a good score against Giri. "If I had known [the secret] I would have done it myself! He's had a great leap since last year."

Giri told a little more about his progress. "I had a tough period after I lost five games in a row in Wijk aan Zee (in 2012)," he said. "I was overrating myself. I wasn't as good as I thought I was."

What's been the biggest area of improvement? "I'm a much better defender since then."

GM Anish Giri: loves top 40 but loves being in the top five even more.

When asked about Nakamura's game, he said he can't play that way. "I tried playing King's Indian a couple of times. It didn't go so well. Sometimes when [Nakamura] plays people he thinks he can beat, he plays aggressively. He's played some brilliant games in the King's Indian. I never did!"

Giri said he doesn't have a lot of outside focuses beyond chess. He paused and thought before saying, "I have a wife -- shopping and groceries. I lead a normal life. Like all young people, I like to hang out online and listen to music." He favorite is top 40. His preferred playlist is just listening to the countdown. "Dutch people have very simple taste."

2015 Sinquefield Cup | Round 6 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen 2853 2902 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 0 1 1 4.0/6 10.75
2 Aronian 2765 2909 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 1 1 4.0/6 10.50
3 Giri 2793 2858 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ ½ 3.5/6 10.50
4 Vachier-Lagrave 2731 2865 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ 1 3.5/6 9.25
5 Nakamura 2814 2848 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 0 1 ½ 1 3.5/6 8.00
6 Topalov 2816 2799 1 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 0 3.0/6 10.00
7 Grischuk 2771 2796 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 0 3.0/6 7.50
8 Anand 2816 2669 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 2.0/6 6.00
9 Caruana 2808 2686 0 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 2.0/6 5.75
10 So 2779 2597 0 0 ½ 0 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/6

Games will be played daily from August 23-September 1 except for a rest day August 28. Games will start at 13:00 local time (21:00 Moscow, 19:00 London, 14:00 New York, 11:00 Los Angeles). is streaming the official live commentary of all rounds at, with GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Check for listings. Games via TWIC phpfCo1l0.png

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