Nakamura Wins 3rd Straight Zurich Chess Challenge
The third time is really quite charmed for Hikaru Nakamura. Today, he won his third Zurich Chess Challenge in a row. Additionally, he won all three formats in Zurich, the opening blitz, the "new classical," and the final blitz. In February, Nakamura also won the Gibraltar Open for the third time.
Lead photo courtesy of the official site.
Games via TWIC.
Today was the "blitz" tournament. Blitz is in quotations as the 10-minute time control with a 5-second increment seemed somewhere between blitz and rapid. The commentators deemed it "half-blitz." The players re-contested the eight-player round robin that they had just completed in the "new classical" time control of 45 minutes with a 30-second increment. Colors were reversed and whereas in the new classical format a win was worth two points and a draw one, in the blitz they were weighted traditionally, one point for a win and a half-point for a draw. Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi entered the day with 10 points, chased by Anand on 9 and Svidler and Kramnik on 8.
As in the "new classical" tournament, Nakamura faced the two lowest-seeds in the first two rounds, Yannick Pelletier and Grigoriy Oparin, while his co-leader Ian Nepomniachtchi played them in the final two rounds. As could be anticipated, the final rounds held plenty of intrigue as Nepomniachtchi gave chase to Nakamura.
Nepomniachtchi needed to catch Nakamura in the final round both today and yesterday. Photo courtesy of the official site.
Nakamura did his part by winning both of his games to start. His tactic against Oparin was particularly nice.
Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi each squeezed out dramatic wins from drawn but advantageous endgames against Vladimir Kramnik. Nepomniachtchi did so first in round two by winning rook and bishop vs rook. This drawn endgame never seems so drawn in practice.
Nakamura had a difficult road to climb as his opening position did not look so appealing, but he laid some traps and caught Kramnik out, picking up a piece. Kramnik got plenty of pawns for the piece and the advantage bounced back and forth in the complications. Under some pressure in the endgame, Kramnik followed the established strategy of trading pawns to secure a draw. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to get Nakamura's last h-pawn off the board. In the final position, he set up some amusing stalemate traps, but Nakamura navigated them deftly.
@OlimpiuUrcan) April 17, 2017
Kramnik seemed in good spirits despite these two difficult games. Photo courtesy of the official site.
Anand was persistently trailing Nakamura and Nepomniactchi. He started the day in third place, and he finished in third place, but he also had the pleasure of playing one of the most interesting moves in the tournament to overcome Boris Gelfand's difficult resistance.
Anand's subtle concept initiated by 46.a3 is what supreme blitz mastery is all about. https://t.co/bbNr7zGzBD— O.G. Urcan ( @OlimpiuUrcan) April 17, 2017
Everything came down to the final game between Nepomniactchi and Oparin as Nakamura took a quick draw against Anand. Nepomniachtchi needed to win to catch Nakamura. Unfortunately, things never really looked promising in this Sicilian for Nepomniachtchi, and Oparin soon grabbed the initiative and brought pressure against the uncastled white king. Some nice tactics ended the game, giving Oparin his first win in the tournament.
Grigoriy Oparin had a rough first outing against such illustrious competition, but he had many promising positions and got a nice win to close out the event. Photo courtesy of the official site.
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