Rising Stars enter last round with four-point lead

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NH Chess Tournament 2010In the ninth round of the NH Chess Tournament the Rising Stars maintained their four-point lead over the Experience team as today’s match ended in a 2½-2½ tie. David Howell defeated Peter Heine Nielsen in a game with a unique final position, while Boris Gelfand levelled the score by slowly grinding down Fabiano Caruana.

The NH Chess Tournament takes place August 12-22 in hotel Krasnapolsky, in the heart of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. As always, the tournament is a confrontation between a team of five young ‘Rising Stars’ and a team of five ‘Experienced’ grandmasters.

Table of players

The two teams play a ‘Scheveningen’ tournament, which means that each player of one team plays against each of the players of the other team. They do so twice, once with the white pieces and once with the black pieces. The team that collects most points wins the tournament. The best player of the 'Rising Stars' team will be invited to the 20th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament in March 2011 in Nice, provided he or she scores over 50% in the NH Chess Tournament in Amsterdam.

Games round 9



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Round 9



Report by the official website

Hikaru Nakamura tried a relatively new set-up against the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez in his game against Peter Svidler. The idea of 12.Ng5 combined with 13.d5 has been tried by grandmasters such as Grischuk and Morozevich and is, as Svidler put it ‘still very fresh’. Svidler gave the line his own touch by playing 13…Na5 where most players go 13…Nb8. Black got a good game and Svidler admitted that in the course of the game he got ‘mildly interested’, meaning he started to think of winning. His optimism was understandable. For instance, in the position after 29…e4, Black is a pawn down, but it is clear that he has all the chances. Still, Svidler didn’t believe his advantage had ever taken on serious proportions and in the end he had to settle for a rook ending with two pawns each on the kingside and an extra pawn for him on the queenside, ‘which is a draw no matter how many rooks are on the board’. After 49 moves he proposed a draw.

NH Chess Tournament 2010

Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand played the longest game of the day, lasting almost six hours and 86 moves. These hours were not very pleasant for Caruana, as he was looking at a worse position for most of the time. In a Catalan Opening Gelfand came up with an important novelty, 13…a5, in a position where he went 13…Bc6 against Kveinys at the Dresden Olympiad in 2008 and played one of the craziest games of his life after 14.dxc5 Bxc3 15.Rh4!?. The new move somewhat unsettled Caruana, who offered a draw on move 16. However, Gelfand already felt he was better and on top of that he had ‘a very easy game’. After the time-control he liquidated to a knight endgame in which he had an extra pawn. Looking back he wasn’t sure if he played that ending correctly (‘I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point he could have saved the game’), but in any case he played it better than his opponent and on move 86 his f-pawn decisively touched base.

NH Chess Tournament 2010

Wesley So seemed determined to go for the win against Ljubomir Ljubojevic. Already on move 10 he sacrificed a pawn for which he got sufficient compensation, but probably nothing more. A long struggle ensued in which the young Philippine grandmaster kept trying to confuse his opponent, but in which in fact Ljubojevic got the better chances. Perhaps Black rushes things with 55…e4, where it seemed he would have had excellent winning chances after 55…Qe4. With queens on the board in a position where both kings were walking around without much protection, a draw nevertheless was a likely result and that is what happened after 67 moves.

NH Chess Tournament 2010

Anish Giri tested the knowledge of Loek van Wely in the Botvinnik Variation of the Slav, an opening in which the ‘older’ Dutchman is a specialist. At first he confirmed this expertise by reaching a satisfactory position, but when he didn’t continue 20…Kb6 and exchanged queens, he soon found himself in trouble. Van Wely had missed Giri’s idea of 22.Rh5 (he had looked at a similar idea with the rook on h4), which gave White a serious advantage. Giri reached a winning position and could have decided the game rather simply with 39.Rfxf8, but in his calculations he forgot that after 39…Bb5+ 40.Kd4 Bc5+ White can simply take the pawn on c3. White was still winning, but when he unnecessarily gave up his g-pawn his winning chances dwindled and soon he had to resign himself to a disappointing draw. Fortunately for Giri, his closest rivals didn’t profit from his missed chance and he left the analysis room with a smile saying, ‘I will survive, I guess.’

NH Chess Tournament 2010

The game between David Howell and Peter Heine Nielsen saw a unique final position, which we should add, the Danish grandmaster kindly allowed instead of resigning one move earlier. In the final position, White still had all his pawns and four of them were on the squares d4, e4, d5 and e5. In case you wonder, in recorded chess history this pawn formation had only been seen fifteen times before. [We counted only 30 in a database of 4,307,440 games - CV.] Howell defeated Nielsen with the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez, not a variation that tends to lead to sharp play, but in this line it does. The English grandmaster had decided to play the Exchange Ruy in the morning and had obviously looked at what his opponent had played against it before. Unfortunately for him, Nielsen had never played 5…Ne7 before, which forced him to delve deep into his memory, as he hadn’t looked at the theory for years. Apparently Howell’s memory is fine as in a complicated labyrinth it was Nielsen who was the first to go astray with 14…f4, a move the Englishman didn’t like. In his eyes the decisive mistake was 16…Bf5 (Black should have tried 16…Ne7, which is ‘pretty decent’ for White), which allowed 21.Nxc5 and now White got overwhelming compensation for the exchange he didn’t mind sacrificing. As the final position showed most convincingly.

NH Chess Tournament 2010

With one round to go the Rising Stars are leading 24½-20½ in the overall standings. In the fight for the ticket to the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Anish Giri is half a point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura. In the last round the Dutch grandmaster is Black against Peter Heine Nielsen, while the American grandmaster is Black against Boris Gelfand.

NH Chess Tournament 2010 | Round 9 Standings
NH Chess Tournament 2010 | Round 9 Standings


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