Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi Top Zurich's Classical; Tight Race Entering Blitz Tomorrow
Entering the final day of the "classical" portion of the Zurich Chess Challenge, Hikaru Nakamura and Peter Svidler held the lead. Svidler had earlier beaten Nakamura in great style, but today Nakamura drew as White against Viswanathan Anand while Svidler found himself contesting a barnburner with the Indian legend and came out the poorer for it.
Meanwhile, Ian Nepomniachtchi capitalized perfectly on his final day pairings against the two lowest-rated players in the event, winning both games and catching Nakamura. Tomorrow the players move to the blitz portion of the event, replaying the tournament at a unique time control of ten minutes with a ten-second increment.
The blitz games carry half the weight (traditional scoring versus two points for a win and one for a draw in the classical) so the one-point lead held by Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi over Anand and the two-point lead they hold over Svidler and Vladimir Kramnik, will be difficult but not impossible to surmount.
Games courtesy TWIC.
The most important game of round six was also the most exciting. Anand and Svidler engaged in a typical Sicilian thrust and counter-thrust (no time for parrying!) duel from which the players entered an imbalanced endgame that may have been tenable for Svidler, but it was certainly more difficult to play. As Anand's pawns crept up the board, Svidler could find no counterplay and eventually fell victim to some fine promotional tactics.
Svidler was in the co-lead to start the day, but he couldn't hold a difficult Sicilian against Anand. Photo courtesy of the official site.
Nakamura's victory over Boris Gelfand lacked the sparkle of Anand's victory, but it was no less impressive. In a seemingly very dry and drawn position as Black, he somehow applied pressure against Gelfand, seizing space and eventually inducing a key error. Clock management played a vital part of the game as Nakamura had over 40 minutes and Gelfand under 20 as they emerged from the opening.
Nakamura seemed quick and confident in both games today. Photo courtesy of the official site.
Nepomniachtchi's win was the cleanest of round six as he played a Maroczy Bind against Yannick Pelletier's Hedgehog. He secured pressure on the d- and f-files and planted a knight on d5. Pelletier could soon only hold f7 by surrendering an exchange after which White was comfortably winning. Kramnik tried to massage an advantage against Grigory Oparin, but things went wrong, and Oparin grabbed a big advantage with the bishop pair. Kramnik then equalized by popping a knight into c8, and he even grabbed a near winning position thereafter. Only tenacious defense by Oparin held the draw.
Sometimes the only important thing in chess is that you win your last game. From that perspective, Gelfand could be quite happy with round seven as he both won and won in style. Gelfand had the pleasure of playing the classic bishop sacrifice against Pelletier and driving the white king to h3. Pelletier had to resign six moves later with the king still on h3.
Most remarkable about this game is that the Pelletier-Gelfand blitz game, on the first day in Zurich, also saw ...Bxh2+ in an almost identical position.
The other decisive final round game was Nepomniachtchi's win as Black against Oparin. Nepomniachtchi played a trendy Dragodorf-style setup against the unique Qd3, and Oparin seemed unsure of how to secure play. Ultimately, he wasn't able to, and Nepomniachtchi made things look all too easy.
Nepomniachtchi should see some of the "blunders" YHR has made Photo courtesy of the official site.
Anand successfully pressed as Black against Nakamura, but opposite-colored bishops allowed Nakamura to hold. Svidler and Kramnik played a relatively simple Berlin draw as Svidler proffered the same line that Hou Yifan used to defeat Fabiano Caruana yesterday in Grenke, however Kramnik did not permit anything like the play that Hou got in that game, and the position was entirely symmetrical in the final position.
The tournament featured a special visitor today, Dr. Alexey Gromyko, grandson of the former USSR foreign secretary, visited to enjoy the chess and spectate. He spoke of his memories of Skvortsov, describing telex matches between Soviet and U.S. students that Skvortsov organized when he was a school boy. As a spectator, Gromyko was pleased to see Skvortsov continuing as an innovator, introducing new time controls and tournament formats that seek to appeal to more spectators.
Correction: This report originally stated Nakamura had Black against Anand, but he had White.
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