Nakamura Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour With 2 Rounds To Spare | Update: VIDEO

Nakamura Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour With 2 Rounds To Spare | Update: VIDEO

| 43 | Chess Event Coverage

Hikaru Nakamura won the Paris Grand Chess Tour on Sunday. The 28-year-old U.S. grandmaster secured his victory two rounds before the end. Magnus Carlsen, who beat the winner in both blitz games, finished second; Maxime Vachier-Lagrave third.

Hikaru Nakamura arriving with his second Kris Littlejohn, and Levon Aronian behind.

Carlsen catches Nakamura in round 10

How important was that final blitz game on Saturday, where Nakamura was winning and then played on for a win too long against Carlsen? Well, even if it was only one of 18 rounds, there was something to it. On Sunday it took the world champion only one round to catch Nakamura in first place. Whereas the latter drew with Fabiano Caruana in a balanced game (and called his opponent's play “very precise”), Carlsen tricked Wesley So from a worse position.

That was a neat trick by the world champ.

For the rest is was a quiet round, with four draws. This is how the end of the game between Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik went:

Both leaders stumble in round 11

So far Carlsen and Nakamura had been absolutely dominating the blitz, but in a surprising turn of events they both went down the next round! The first to lose was Carlsen, against Caruana. The American was really taking that comeback seriously! 

Carlsen faced his own idea 8.Na3!? in the Giuoco Piano, and decided to just swap it off. That wasn't enough for equality though; Caruana won a pawn on the queenside and Carlsen's counterplay shouldn't have been enough. He got far though, but then erred.

Caruana finally playing on the level where he belongs.

Nakamura was actually fine out of the opening as Black, but when things started to get tactical he wasn't alert enough; something that can rarely be said about him! He missed two chances to play for a draw — or was he again playing for a win all the time?

Round 12: Carlsen & Nakamura less dominating

With draws for both Carlsen and Nakamura (against MVL and Aronian respectively), the two rivals again gave the rest of the field a chance to get closer, except that the number three in the standings was... Vachier-Lagrave. After this round they were on 21.5/12, followed by MVL on 17.5 and Aronian on 15.5.

Meanwhile Vladimir Kramnik, not a bad blitz player normally, was seriously struggling. First he lost to his nemesis Veselin Topalov, then he also went down against Laurent Fressinet.

An excellent result for the local hero.

Beating Giri, Topalov won his second game in a row, and very quickly. Somehow the Dutchman, usually Mr Solid, must have underestimated the strength of White's attack.

(Un)lucky round 13

According to GM Eric Hansen, who is part of the St. Louis team providing commentary on the tournament (which you can watch on e.g. also for the upcoming Leuven tournament!), this round was crucial for Nakamura. “The wheels have been coming off since his loss against Carlsen yesterday,” said Hansen. “He just got to start stabilizing.”

But just when the round was about to start, the organizers experienced some issues with the upload of the live PGN file. It proved difficult to solve, and so it was decided to move the half-hour break, schedule for after round 14, forward.

The players had barely returned to the stage (greeting each other with “hello again!”) when Fressinet lost to Giri. A gigantic blunder that was.

Giri, arriving at the venue with his new second Vidit Santosh Gujrathi.

And what about the leaders? After the technical hiccup, for whom would this 13th round bring bad luck? It might be a lucky number for Garry Kasparov, but certainly not for other world champions. Vladimir Kramnik also committed a horrific blunder in a drawn position after spoiling an opening advantage. A very welcome full point for Nakamura.

It wasn't lucky number 13 either for Carlsen, who got outplayed by Aronian. Certainly from a practical point of view it was extremely hard to play with that king and knight incarcerated in the corner, but amazingly the computer found a draw almost at the end. Nonetheless a great game by Aronian, who was pretty pleased with it. “You have to prove you are a good player, even if you're playing in a park!” was a nice line from him when talking to Maurice Ashley.

Aronian stopped Carlsen from keeping the pace with Nakamura.

After resigning, Carlsen stood up and immediately looked at Nakamura's board. To his horror, he saw the white king on d4 and the black one on e5, indicating a black win. Naka in the lead again, Carlsen back to square one.

A crazy round 14 

Another crazy round! First, poor Kramnik lost his fourth game in a row against Carlsen, and it happened in his beloved Berlin. It had nothing to do with the opening though, and not with the middlegame either. It was hard to imagine that it was possible, but the 14th world champion made an even bigger blunder than before. Just unbelievable. Only allowing a mate in one against Deep Fritz a decade back tops this.

And Nakamura? He managed to keep his lead with a win over Giri, who reached a super solid endgame but should simply have kept his knight on d6, where it's definitely not worse that the white bishop. In the rook ending white has an edge, and although it should still be a draw it was just a bad decision from a practical point of view against someone like Naka. Carlsen observed the end on stage, with a wry smile on his face.

Round 15: That Giri again

In this round things really started to look grim for Carlsen. Nakamura drew a solid black game against Topalov, but the world champion didn't do well against Giri. After a crushing loss yesterday, Giri returned to his old self of being a difficult opponent for Carlsen.

Giri played an important role in Nakamura's victory today.

Meanwhile Kramnik's sorrow continued with a fifth straight loss (to Caruana). MVL took a great step on to becoming the best of the rest with a black win over Aronian.

Round 16: We have a winner

And so Nakamura was back to a 1.5 point lead over Carlsen (24 vs 22.5 points) with three games to go. Since Carlsen would still play his rival in the last round, he needed to score at least half a point more in the next two rounds than Nakamura, who, on his turn, could theoretically win the tournament already in this round.

And... it turned out to be not just theoretically! Carlsen lost, Nakamura won, and the tournament was suddenly decided.

Nakamura wins with two rounds to go!

The world champ's loss was surprising as he played the tailender, Veselin Topalov. But it was Topalov who played an excellent game, and Carlsen not. His opening didn't really work, giving up the a-pawn wasn't great and the piece sac was just incorrect.

Nakamura, on his turn, scored a Carlsen-esque win over Laurent Fressinet from what was only a slightly better endgame. Even the knight ending should probably be a draw, but Fressinet couldn't keep it. The first to congratulate Nakamura? Magnus Carlsen.

Nakamura was all smiles, and rightly so.

Round 17

The first of two rounds that didn't matter anymore was slightly delayed because Nakamura was congratulated by many more people! He then drew very quickly with Wesley So. Carlsen got half a point closer by winning a losing position against Fressinet. The two pals left the stage laughing about the slapstick they had just produced.

Kramnik's losing streak finally was halted with a draw against Aronian, but there was more to come in the final round.

Round 18

If Carlsen had played a bit better, his game with Nakamura in the final round would have been an absolute cracker. Now it was just for the books, but still interesting since obviously Nakamura would love to take revenge for that unnecessary loss 24 hours earlier. But that wasn't meant to be.

Carlsen vs Nakamura in the last round.

In yet another Anti-Berlin, the most popular opening in this event, Carlsen managed to put some pressure in an endgame, and then Nakamura missed a mating net possibility for his opponent. Just around that moment some extra light appeared on stage, then it was switched off and then back on again. This small glitch in an otherwise well organized event certainly distracted the players, but Nakamura didn't use it as an excuse.

“I'm happy that I won the last two because now at least it looks kind of close,” Carlsen said afterward. “Now I get whining rights and can complain about some of the games. To win such an event you really need three good days. It all came down to today and I wasn't good enough.

Video: Nakamura on winning the Paris Grand Chess Tour

Kramnik's last day was just a complete disaster. Also in his last game he blundered tragically, this time creating a mating net for his own king.

Carlsen eventually finished one point behind Nakamura, followed by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave trailing by 1.5 points. An especially good result was scored by Wesley So, who kept his good blitz form that he showed in St. Louis last month.

Now the whole caravan will move to Leuven, Belgium to play an identical tournament, starting Friday the 17th. Will that one also be a two-horse race? Well, maybe Vishy Anand can do something about that; as a Grand Chess Tour regular the five-time world champion will play instead of Fressinet.

Image courtesy of Spectrum Studios.

Nakamura holding his winner's trophy.

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

In the rapid, a win yielded 2 points and a draw 1 whereas in the blitz it was the regular 1 for a win and ½ for a draw. An identical tournament will be held in Leuven, Belgium 17-20 June. The Tour also includes the Sinquefield Cup in August and the London Chess Classic in December.

Also next week for the Leuven event 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

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