Nakamura Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour Rapid

Nakamura Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour Rapid

| 43 | Chess Event Coverage

Halfway the Paris Grand Chess Tour it's Hikaru Nakamura who's leading the pack going into the blitz segment. As the only player to remain undefeated, the U.S. grandmaster won the rapid tournament today ahead of Magnus Carlsen.

We're only halfway, and the blitz will see 18 rounds, but still. If Carlsen was the slight favorite before the event followed by Nakamura, it is now the other way around. As a decent blitz player (to put it mildly), Nakamura starts tomorrow in sole first place.

“I did well, but congratulations to Hikaru who did even better,” said Carlsen at the end of the day.

Play resumed on Friday a bit after 2 p.m. local time as the world champion arrived late. But he continued the tournament where he left it and won as Black against Veselin Topalov. With Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So drawing, it was Magnus Carlsen who was leading.

Carlsen took an early lead, but couldn't keep it. | Photo Grand Chess Tour.

Carlsen had traveled to Paris with his coach Peter Heine Nielsen and his manager Espen Agdestein. Today two more team members joined him: his father Henrik and a good friend of the family, Bjørn Gunnar Nesse. As it turned out, they had come from Oslo by car!

That's one hell of a ride, but it helps if you can use your son's new Tesla. 

Poor Fabiano Caruana, who only scored two draws and three losses on Thursday, did even worse today. The fresh U.S. champion lost all four games — somehow speed chess isn't really his thing. Missing the following tactic was a bad sign.

A tough day at the office for Fabiano Caruana. | Photo Grand Chess Tour.

That was Vachier-Lagrave's third win with Black in the tournament, and at some point today he tweeted:

Anish Giri scored a very quick win over Laurent Fressinet, and admitted that it was mostly preparation. That involved the move 10.Bb5 which, by the way, was a deviation from a game Alapin-Janowsky from 1898! It wasn't too difficult to improve on that game though as White blundered on move 10.

The next round Giri held Carlsen to a draw very comfortably, in the same line where Topalov had beaten the Dutchman. Giri had looked at it and this time he got exactly the harmonious position of his pieces that he was looking for yesterday.

“Magnus is very clever in his opening choices,” Giri said. “I'm taking him more seriously from the beginning of the game. When the opening goes well, and you keep on playing good moves, your opponent may be Magnus Carlsen but he won't beat you. Although I've played such positions against engines and they tend to beat me!”

Giri remains a tough opponent for Carlsen. | Photo Grand Chess Tour.

Hikaru Nakamura faced his next opponent in's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. It was a big game for the tournament, as Nakamura managed to win it as Black and thus catch Carlsen again in the lead.

Right after the opening MVL didn't really know where to put his pieces, and this cost him. ”The opening didn't go well for him,” said Nakamura. “In classical chess you can just sit back and find a way to control everything. In a rapid game that's very difficult.”

Meanwhile Vladimir Kramnik was showing some powerful chess against Laurent Fressinet. Maurice Ashley asked Kramnik: “It looked like he was OK, but then he was not OK?” Kramnik: “Yes, that happens in chess quite often!”

A fish-eye view of the beautifully lit playing hall. | Photo Lennart Ootes for the Grand Chess Tour.

It was in the penultimate round that Nakamura grabbed the sole lead with a good win over Levon Aronian. The game always seemed very close to a draw, but Aronian took it perhaps too lightly. The rook ending looked like a draw, but turned out to be much more tricky.

Carlsen couldn't keep up the pace as he was held to a draw by Fressinet. The world champion played a good game but spoiled a winning position deep down in the endgame. Fressinet, who had missed 14...Nf4, pointed out afterward that the simple 56...Kxh2 followed by running with the h-pawn was probably winning. As it turns out, Carlsen missed another chance.

Nonetheless Carlsen was happy with this play today, especially since he won his last-round game against Vladimir Kramnik, the player he “wanted to beat the most” in Stavanger, so maybe also here. And he did it in style, not afraid of entering Kramnik's main defense against 1.d4 these days (the Semi-Tarrasch) and keeping a slight edge throughout.

“At some point I thought I tricked him and would win a piece, but it turned out he tricked me,” Carlsen said about the sequence just before move 40. The Norwegian also said he knew the endgame without rooks was winning, so that helped him to decide on the remarkable 41.Nb8.

Laurent Fressinet held his friend (and sometimes boss) to a draw. | Photo Grand Chess Tour.

Just when Carlsen was leaving the playing hall he noticed on the computer screen that Nakamura had also won his last-round game. That was a surprise, because Caruana had made a comeback in this game after a bad opening. However, just when he had reached a drawn endgame he blundered the game and lost his fourth game of the day.

“We both made mistakes but he made the last one,” said Nakamura.

After the chess, Magnus Carlsen, Espen Agdestein and Peter Heine Nielsen joined that other event that's under way in France. They were in the stadium to watch France-Romania, the opening game of the European Football Championship, and surely had fun.

Tomorrow nine rounds of blitz chess will be played, and also on Sunday. The time control will be five minutes plus two seconds increment. The amount of rounds is twice as high, but the games will count half compared to the rapid.

Paris Grand Chess Tour | Rapid, Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Nakamura 2846 2982 chesspawn.png 1 1 2 1 1 2 2 2 2 14.0/9
2 Carlsen 2878 2927 1 chesspawn.png 0 2 2 1 2 1 2 2 13.0/9
3 So 2652 2865 1 2 chesspawn.png 0 1 1 2 2 1 1 11.0/9 23.75
4 Vachier-Lagrave 2784 2850 0 0 2 chesspawn.png 2 1 1 1 2 2 11.0/9 20.25
5 Kramnik 2799 2808 1 0 1 0 chesspawn.png 1 1 2 2 2 10.0/9
6 Giri 2738 2777 1 1 1 1 1 chesspawn.png 1 2 0 1 9.0/9 20.50
7 Aronian 2739 2776 0 0 0 1 1 1 chesspawn.png 2 2 2 9.0/9 14.00
8 Fressinet 2695 2616 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 chesspawn.png 1 2 5.0/9
9 Topalov 2771 2556 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 chesspawn.png 0 4.0/9 8.50
10 Caruana 2829 2550 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 chesspawn.png 4.0/9 7.00

You can re-watch today's action here:

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

In the rapid, a win yields 2 points and a draw 1 whereas in the blitz it's the regular 1 for a win and ½ for a draw. An identical tournament will be held in Leuven, Belgium next week. The Tour also includes the Sinquefield Cup in August and the London Chess Classic in December.

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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