Nakamura Takes Early Lead In Zurich

Nakamura Takes Early Lead In Zurich

| 22 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Fabiano Caruana was doing well, but then completely spoilt it and so GM Hikaru Nakamura was the only winner in the first round of the Zurich Chess Challenge. 

GM Levon Aronian missed a good chance in the final position and went for a perpetual instead against GM Sergey Karjakin. GM Vladimir Kramnik's Queen's Gambit was too solid for GM Viswanathan Anand to gain an advantage as White.

All photos courtesy of the Zurich Chess Challenge.

On Saturday the elegant playing hall on the first floor of the Savoy Baur En Ville was pretty crowded during the first round of the Zurich Chess Challenge. Dozens of chess fans had gathered to join the prominent guests, and they could enjoy three rather interesting games.

The playing hall during the first round, with the positions visible on a big screen.
Lots of local chess fans in the audience...
...but also Vladimir Kramnik's wife Marie-Laure & daughter Daria, next to Ljubomir Ljubojevic.
The first game to end was Aronian vs Karjakin; a classical Meran where Black didn't have many problems to solve out of the opening. After the game it was even suggested that Black could have castled queenside. Karjakin: “[That's] hard to play as Black. Maybe in rapid, not in classical!”
On move 18 Karjakin decided to trade the light-squared bishops before castling, which turned out to be somewhat risky later on. Aronian moved his queen to the kingside and then sacrificed a piece, all of which was approved by the computer.
Aronian's attack could have led to a big advantage.

However, in a promising position Aronian decided to take the draw as he had missed a certain tactical idea — or rather, the correct move-order for that idea. Karjakin had seen it as well but “couldn't make it work.”

Soon after, Anand-Kramnik ended in a draw as well. For 15 moves the game Aronian-Kramnik, Candidates’ (Khanty-Mansiysk) 2014 was followed, and Kramnik continued with the same plan as in that game.

At some point Anand had planted one of his knights on c5, while the e5 square looked very attractive as well. The mini-plan Nc5-d3-e5 was described by commentator Nigel Short as the “Scarlett Johansson Plan” because, as he argued, White is as close to achieving it as him making love to the famous actress!

Commentators GM Yannick Pelletier, GM Nigel Short & IM Werner Hug
— not the moment when they spoke about the “Scarlett Johansson Plan” :-)

Black's position was solid from the very start, and when Kramnik found the unorthodox Nf7-h8!? it was clear that he wouldn't be getting in any serious danger.

“It's a very solid line. Maybe a bit boring but if you're playing Black in the first round you want to play solid,” said Kramnik.

Anand-Kramnik, a draw without any mistakes.

The third game of the day ended in Hikaru Nakamura's favor, but not before Fabiano Caruana had spoilt a big advantage.

In a 6.h3 Najdorf, the Italian GM played in positional style and kept some pressure. Nakamura decided to sacrifice a pawn, and around move 24 he thought he “was drawing very easily,” but that was not the case.

However, just when he started to get serious chances, Caruana just... collapsed. He first gave away his advantage, then got himself into trouble and missed the most tenacious continuations. Nakamura on his turn was very sharp during that phase, and grabbed every chance he was offered.

“I think it was just that Fabiano wanted to win right away, but it didn't quite work. Magnus would just trade, play an endgame with an extra pawn and play forever. Fabiano tried to win a bit more forcefully,” said Nakamura.

With this victory Nakamura achieved his highest live rating ever: 2797.6.

Zurich Chess Challenge 2015 | Pairings & Results

Round 1 14 February 15:00 CET Round 2 15 February 15:00 CET
Anand 1-1 Kramnik Kramnik - Nakamura
Aronian 1-1 Karjakin Karjakin - Caruana
Caruana 0-2 Nakamura Anand - Aronian
Round 3 16 February 15:00 CET Round 4 17 February 15:00 CET
Aronian - Kramnik Kramnik - Karjakin
Caruana - Anand Anand - Nakamura
Nakamura - Karjakin Aronian - Caruana
Round 5 18 February 13:00 CET
Caruana - Kramnik
Nakamura - Aronian
Karjakin - Anand

The tournament consists of five rounds of classical chess played from Saturday, February 14 till Wednesday, February 18. On the last day, Thursday February 19, the players will play five rounds of rapid chess with reversed colors.

During the first five days, a winner of a classical game earns 2 points for the overall standings; the loser 0. In case of a draw each player earns 1 point. In the rapid games the winner earns 1 point, by a draw each player half a point and the loser 0.

On Sunday at 11am the two living legends Viktor Kortchnoi (83) and Wolfgang Uhlmann (79) will start their 4-game rapid match. phpfCo1l0.png

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