Nakamura Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour
30-year-old Hikaru Nakamura in front of a graphic Canal+ forgot to update from last year. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nakamura Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Jun 24, 2018, 9:36 AM |
116 | Chess Event Coverage

Hikaru Nakamura won the $37,500 first prize at the Paris Grand Chess Tour after a dramatic day with more blunders than ever. Sergey Karjakin collapsed a few rounds before the end, while Wesley So drew too many games.

On the fifth day in Paris, the number of big mistakes, blunders or howlers, however you want to call them, was rather high. It was probably a combination of starting two hours earlier, and having played four days of chess in a row, shortly after the Leuven tournament and Norway Chess. 

Many of the participants, who made a somewhat groggy impression at the end of the day, will be happy to stay away from chess for a bit after this!

Later, Nakamura pointed out to Chess.com that it was actually 72 games in 29 days if you include the Norway Chess Blitz tournament!

The 10th round of the blitz immediately saw the clash between the new leader, Sergey Karjakin, and runner-up Hikaru Nakamura. Playing the white pieces, the American was definitely hoping to be able to play for a win here.

The players played no less than 21 moves of theory in a Queen's Gambit, after which White had a slight edge in the endgame. 36.g4, however, was a big mistake by Nakamura, when he was in a bit of trouble in the knight endgame.

Nakamura vs Karjakin Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018The two main rivals playing in today's first round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Wesley So, who started the day as the number three in the standings, won his first game. He outplayed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave as Black in an endgame and caught Nakamura in second place, still a point behind Karjakin.

Wesley So  Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Wesley So, in an excellent mood early in the day. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Fabiano Caruana gloriously won the blunder of the tournament trophy with a move that many amateurs in e.g. a pub crawl tournament wouldn't even make while being heavily intoxicated. The American had 12 seconds on the clock (and three seconds delay) when it happened. This is what blitz can do to a super GM...

Caruana Anand Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Caruana could still smile afterward. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Vladimir Kramnik wasn't fully awake yet either, but his mistake in his game with Levon Aronian was not as easy to spot. 

Like he had done yesterday against Nakamura, So went for a super quick draw, again with the white pieces, against Aronian. That allowed Nakamura to catch up half a point as the American beat Anand with the black pieces. The latter went astray in an equal middlegame.

Karjakin kept a half-point lead as he escaped from a lost endgame against Grischuk. Note that this happened with both players down to five seconds on the clock. Grischuk was visibly very upset about this.

Grischuk Karjakin Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Another amazing escape from Karjakin, who seems to be bewitching his opponents sometimes! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

At the start of round 21, something odd happened. Nakamura sat down at So's board and the players shook hands, but then So said: "But we play in two rounds from now!" A confused Nakamura then sat down at Grischuk's board, still bewildered. He drew his game, and so did So.

Karjakin's lead increased back to a full point as he once again had the strongest nerves in the crazy time trouble phase with Kramnik. With just second on the clock for both, this happened:

Karjakin Kramnik Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

This time Karjakin even apologized a bit. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the recurring theme "missed opportunities to draw a lost game with a nice tactic," here's Aronian vs Caruana where Black could have sac'ed a rook to reach a perpetual:

So and Karjakin drew their game in round 22 without much ado, but Nakamura didn't manage to get closer. There was a chance though, in his game with MVL. In the sequence given in the annotations, he had missed that the g3-pawn was also hanging after ...Qc7.

Round 23 had Nakamura playing tail-ender Kramnik, and so a win was important and likely. It went even easier than expected as the 14th world champion once again showed in what horrible form he was here in Paris. His 18th move must have been one of worst in his career.

Kramnik  Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Kramnik stretching before his game with Grischuk. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nakamura must have cursed his compatriot Caruana for not winning his endgame against Karjakin. An incredible blunder dropped a full rook, and to make matters worse, Caruana had missed a win earlier in the game as well. This way, Karjakin still kept his half point lead.

The next round, Nakamura drew quickly with Aronian and this time it was (finally) enough for catching Karjakin in first place. The Russian GM lost his first game of the day to Anand, who was clearly more familiar with the tactical middlegame finesses that appeared from this 6.d3 Ruy Lopez:

Anand Karjakin  Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Anand was the turning point for Karjakin's tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

With three rounds to go, Karjakin and Nakamura were on 20.5 points, while So had 19.5 by that point. Aronian and MVL were on 18 points.

The next round saw the same scenario, with Nakamura again drawing quickly (with So), and then Karjakin again losing! He messed things up in an endgame, and MVL played the technical phase well. A tough setback for Karjakin, and fantastic news for Nakamura.

Meanwhile, Aronian was actually playing the best chess, scoring 5/7 with this win against Mamedyarov:

Aronian Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Aronian would score 6/9 today, half a point less than Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

For the third round in a row, Nakamura took half a point more than Karjakin. Whereas the latter drew with Aronian, the American GM beat Mamedyarov, with a bit of luck. "I'll take it!" he said.

This meant that Nakamura was going into the final round with a full point lead. He wasn't there yet, as a tie with Karjakin would lead to a playoff.

Nakamura played Caruana as White, and it actually was a very tough game. So tough, that there wasn't a single moment for him "to relax for five seconds," as he put it himself, and see about the result of Karjakin-Mamedyarov—that game had finished rather quickly.

Nakamura Caruana Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

A tough battle between the two Americans. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Only after his win against Caruana, Nakamura found out that they had drawn, which meant he was already the tournament winner while still playing!

For the spectators, this lack of knowledge led to an epic battle between the Americans:

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Nakamura Caruana Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Caruana resigns a game he should have won. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

After Norway Chess (Caruana), Leuven (So), Paris is the third top tournament in a row won by an American player.

"It was really about being consistent and trying not to lose too many games. I think I did that quite well, up until the very end," said Nakamura.

He admitted that his games with Mamedyarov and Caruana weren't great, and called these last two wins "very fortunate." 

"It's quite nice to win. It's good to have a pretty decent blitz score as well, so I am pretty pleased."

Chess.com's interview with Nakamura.

Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018 final standings

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So sunglasses Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Sporting sunglasses, So drew his last eight games today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nakamura Ahsley Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Nakamura interviewed by Maurice Ashley... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nakamura prize giving Paris

...and attending the closing ceremony of a children's tournament elsewhere in Paris right after his own tournament... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nakamura Paris

...where he even had energy left for some more blitz. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.


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