Nakamura Wins 2nd Straight In London

Nakamura Wins 2nd Straight In London

| 23 | Chess Event Coverage

After opening with back-to-back rounds with three out of fives games decisive, the 2016 London Chess Classic has cooled off. That is, for everyone except for Hikaru Nakamura.

After a slow start, for the second day in a row Nakamura won the only game of the round. Today's round four largely resembled round three. He again had queen for rook-plus-minor, this time against Veselin Topalov.

The conversion was quite a bit more messy as Topalov acquired even more material for the lady, but in the end, the Bulgarian couldn't develop his pieces quickly and the American joined three others on shared second.

Photo: Lennart Ootes.

"I felt that I was making a lot of good practical decisions throughout the game even if perhaps some of the moves weren't the best moves," said Nakamura, who started the game with a little surprise for his opponent: the Caro-Kann.

The game got interesting from the very start as another small surprise followed: 3...c5 in the Advance variation. Right after Black's new move 9...Nd7, Topalov neglected his development with 11.c4?!, then created wild complications by sacrificing his queen but eventually couldn't create a fortress.

Nakamura also continued to close the gap on Wesley So for first place in both this event and the Grand Chess Tour overall classification, but said he's "not overly optimistic" just yet.

Nakamura needs to stay hot, but after opening with a loss in round one, it's clear he still needs some help. So, like all the others today, drew. Not that he's attempting it, but it's quite possible that five more draws from So would still be good enough for a top-three finish, which would clinch the tour.

A black win against Anish Giri would have continued the "Wesley So show" and it was certainly possible. The Dutchman surprised with the London system in London, as So himself joked, but went wrong as early as move 12—right after So had made some atypical moves on the kingside. 

A young chess player suggested 1.e4, to which Giri said: "Not against Wesley!" | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

"I was not sure if I am happy to provoke it," said Giri about 11...f5. Since there were two ways to refute his response 12.Ne5?! perhaps a question mark is enough for evaluating the move. "I didn't really feel the danger. If we're talking about laws of chess, he's probably better developed here," said Giri.

But whereas the commentators gave Black excellent winning chances in the endgame, So himself was less optimistic. "I don't think I was winning this endgame." And he also gave credit to his opponent. "He defended very well today after losing a pawn in the endgame."

A draw in the fight of the blue suits. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

The other three games were drawn as well, with Vladimir Kramnik and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave battling out the longest fight. Also here the opening was very interesting, and after lots of complications a bishop-vs-knight endgame was reached. Kramnik was always pressing, but like Giri, MVL defended well.

Vachier-Lagrave can be satisfied about this one. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Viswanathan Anand seemed slightly annoyed when he noticed a computer suggestion in his game with Michael Adams. He had played a good game, won a pawn, but afterward he felt that Black had enough compensation in all lines. Except for one, as the engine told him right away.

Those damn engines! | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

And also in the quickest draw of the day, between Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian, there was one critical moment. It seems Caruana made the right decision there. "Good positions or winning chances in this type of event don't really come along very often," he said. "When they do you just have to take them. (...) It's very difficult to win a clean game from start to finish."

Caruana: "It's very difficult to win a clean game from start to finish." | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Here are the pairings for round five, which is Tuesday at 4 p.m. local time (11 a.m. New York, 8 a.m. Pacific).

During the round the news came out that Caruana has a new manager:  Chicago attorney Rhonda S. Coleman.

Caruana's current manager IM Lawrence Trent said on Twitter that he is still involved but "just concentrating on commercial side of things."

Peter Doggers contributed to this report.

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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