Nakamura Dominates Paris Blitz But Loses To Carlsen

Nakamura Dominates Paris Blitz But Loses To Carlsen

| 81 | Chess Event Coverage

For eight rounds Hikaru Nakamura dominated the first day of blitz at the Paris Grand Chess Tour, but then he went too far and lost to Magnus Carlsen who thus kept chances of winning tomorrow.

When doing an elite event, it's always an excellent idea to organize something for children as well. On Saturday a kids tournament was held close to the venue, and the Grand Chess Tour participants paid them a visit. Just one player didn't make it: Vladimir Kramnik. The exact reason was not given, but it's common knowledge that Big Vlad hates getting up early.

Another thing to mention, before we get to the chess, is the way the organizers are dealing with the broadcast. Interestingly, they have decided to give away not only the chess moves to all chess websites, but also the streaming video. Anyone is allowed to pick it up. This is in stark contrast with what Agon tried to do during the Candidates' tournament. Here's Grand Chess Tour organizer Malcolm Pein explaining this strategy.

More of the same in round one

The start of the blitz tournament just continued where we left the rapid with Hikaru Nakamura winning against a still suffering Fabiano Caruana. The opening was strange. “He played a drawing line but then didn't go for it,” Nakamura told

Magnus Carlsen tends to turn into some kind of Richard Rapport in blitz: he likes to try goofy openings. He started with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d3!? and a kingside fianchetto, but Wesley So's play was solid in the opening. Carlsen still seemed to get the upper hand if it wasn't for the amazing 19...Nf4!? found by So.

So and Carlsen facing the spectators before their game.

One more game needs to be mentioned here, and it's not pretty. But this his also blitz...

A peaceful second round

The second round saw a rarity in blitz chess: all games ending in draws. Caruana's losing streak was finally over, but to say that he was happy with that? Absolutely not. The U.S. grandmaster had nicely outplayed the world champion but then let things slip away.

Round three: Caruana's comeback?

It took him 11 rounds in total, but Fabiano Caruana finally scored his first win. Just when the position was about to fizzle out to a draw, Wesley So chose the wrong square for his queen and he wasn't going to win his piece back anymore. “I can't complain so far. Overall I think I'm thing I'm playing better than yesterday,” Caruana said, and he couldn't avoid a smile there!

Caruana was definitely playing better than yesterday.

Giri and Kramnik won their games vs Topalov and Fressinet in this round. The top game MVL vs Carlsen ended in a draw, and so did Aronian-Nakamura. Basically for the first time here in Paris, Nakamura was in serious trouble. “The endgame was probably winning but I shouldn't have rushed with the inaccurate move 53.h4,” said Aronian.

Nakamura almost increases lead in round five

Lots of action was seen in the fourth round, with, for starters, a quick win for Carlsen against Aronian. If trading the light-squared bishop and then putting all pawns on white wasn't instructive enough, Carlsen threw in a typical pawn sac and got winning attack. A splendid game.

A splendid game by the world champion.

Nakamura had a good chance to increase his lead even further as he outcalculated Kramnik in the middlegame to reach a promising endgame. The bishop ending was rather complicated for a blitz game though, and Kramnik got a narrow escape.

It's about time to give some credit to Anish Giri as well, who improved his blitz score to 3.5/4 with the following fine win over Laurent Fressinet. It's hard to pinpoint where the Frenchman went wrong; it looks like a very quiet, smooth and positionally pretty win for the Dutchman.

Giri, here with Maurice Ashley, had a good start today.

Nakamura still not stumbling in round five

The next round saw another big clash: an in-form Giri facing leader Nakamura. And again the American GM was a bit shaky, now with the black pieces. He went for a dubious plan on the kingside which was completely refuted by Giri, who was then haunted by a familiar imperfection: playing too cautiously in a winning position. Nakamura amazingly quickly found all the natural moves.

Another win for Nakamura, but Carlsen wasn't falling further behind. Like in the rapid he defeated Kramnik, this time with the black pieces in a somewhat messy game. Carlsen was better out of the opening, then Kramnik took over, than Carlsen again... But it should have been a draw if not for a big error at the end.

Even the DGT clocks are painted in Paris Grand Chess Tour colors.

Round six: Nakamura dodges a lethal bullet

After a half-hour break play resumed for the sixth round, and both Carlsen and Nakamura kept on winning to continue the two-horse race. 

The way Nakamura got the full point was highly dramatic. He started a remarkable kingside attack which seemed risky, but eventually led to the win of material when Topalov chose the wrong square for his king. However, Nakamura misplayed it and got into a lost position.

So how did he win? Well, because of an illegal move by his opponent! Topalov later claimed that he didn't know this, but putting a pawn on a promotion square and pressing the clock counts as an illegal move, and so Nakamura also won this game!

Yesterday Giri stated how important it was to get a good position out of the opening against Carlsen. This time he didn't. The Dutch number one lost a pawn quickly, and never saw it back.

This time it didn't work for Giri vs Carlsen.

Meanwhile Caruana finally was getting the hang of it. He won an excellent game against Kramnik to wash away some bad memories from the first two days. As one of the two players in his 40s (with Topalov), he might have started to feel some fatigue, but with Korchnoi on everyone's mind, he can't yet use that as an excuse until decades from now.

Nakamura increases lead in round seven

He took half a point from Nakamura, and now Topalov did the same against Carlsen in round seven. This allowed Nakamura to increase his lead with a with against Fressinet. This game seemed to be heading for a draw, but taking some more risks because it's blitz ("I would never play 34...f5 in classical chess” - Nakamura) the U.S. player managed to win it.

A 1.5 point lead for Nakamura after round seven.

Caruana continued his good run with a black win against Giri, who lost three game in a row after that good 3.5/4 start today. “I used to play this variation in the Sicilian as a kid,” said Caruana. “I still feel comfortable playing it.”

Caruana, still comfortable in the Kan Sicilian.

Round eight: a French playing the French

In a tournament that had seen a huge number of 1.e4 e5 games, it was now a Frenchman to play the French in France. It didn't bring Fressinet any luck though as he played weakly afterward and was completely crushed by the world champion.

No French luck for the Frenchman.

But yes, Nakamura won another game as well! These two players were just rolling and rolling. In this case it was a beautiful display of endgame technique in a Berlin vs Wesley So. Not the infamous Berlin Wall, but something that looked like it. The way he handled that rook ending was exemplary. (Well, except for one moment, but a computer needed to point that out!)

Round nine: Nakamura goes too far

The tournament finished today with a wonderful final clash between Nakamura and Carlsen, the two horses who are ahead of the pack so much that “we can't even see the other players,” as Maurice Ashley put it. With a 1.5 point lead, it was more or less a must-win for Carlsen but that didn't seem to happen. Nakamura was in full control from the start, and the Norwegian could barely hold it, until the position was repeated a few times. 

But... Nakamura decided to play on, got lower on time and the position became better for Black. Playing several moves on increment (with three seconds ticking away each time!) Nakamura failed to defend it, and lost, to his bitter disappointment.

“I really really really needed this one,” said Carlsen. “If I would have lost it, that would have been it. The last phase wasn't about chess, it just came down to nerves.”

Meanwhile Caruana finished a “Fabilous” comeback with a fourth straight win vs Fressinet, but he still shares last place place with Topalov who beat MVL in the final round. The Frenchman is still best of the rest though, but the margin with Carlsen is huge. More tomorrow!

The Paris Grand Chess Tour takes place June 9-12 in the Maison de la Chimie in Paris, France. First there are two days of rapid (Thursday and Friday, nine rounds), then two days of blitz (Saturday and Sunday, 18 rounds).

In the rapid, a win yields 2 points and a draw 1 whereas in the blitz it's the regular 1 for a win and ½ for a draw. An identical tournament will be held in Leuven, Belgium next week. The Tour also includes the Sinquefield Cup in August and the London Chess Classic in December.

You can watch the action at with live commentary by grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Eric Hansen and WGM Jennifer Shahade streaming from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis with Grandmasters Maurice Ashley and Alejandro Ramirez reporting directly from Paris. chesspawn.png

More from PeterDoggers
Gender Bias Research Shows Parents, Mentors Shortchange Girls’ Chess Potential

Gender Bias Research Shows Parents, Mentors Shortchange Girls’ Chess Potential

Nepomniachtchi Repeats Levitov Chess Week Victory

Nepomniachtchi Repeats Levitov Chess Week Victory